Halo 3 Review: Finish the Fight
Halo 3 is the final game in the epic trilogy that made the Xbox a serious contender. Halo 3 continues the story of the series and of Master Chief but it makes some mistakes that the previous 2 games did not. Halo 2 ended with Master Chief having boarded the ship of the Prophet of Truth, and though it ended with a cliff hanger it did leave the way open for a great opening for Halo 3. Amazingly, Bungie squander this opportunity and for some inexplicable reason the game begins after the Chief has left the ship that he was trapped on and has already landed on Earth. What happened on the ship and how the Chief got off it is never explained in the game, and it is holes like this that damage the story telling of Halo 3. While some plot elements are not explained in the game, the story telling quality of Halo 2 has also been somewhat diluted here. Instead of making the Arbiter more interesting, his story arch is just abandoned altogether, and we play solely as the Chief this time around. While Chief should be the centre of the game, there was no need to completely abandon the Arbiter as a plot device, and with the loss of that plot we also lose insight into the Covenant that really enriched Halo 2’s plot.
Despite these issues, the plot of Halo 3 is a strong one. Strong characters and a series of events that have been building up over the course of the franchise come to a climax in this game, and it is thrilling to see it happen. The story has been greatly simplified from Halo 2, but it is still an intriguing one to see to its conclusion. Its a cinematic and fairly straight forward narrative that is raised by the quality of characterisation that Bungie have achieved with the core cast. The script enhances the experience, and it strikes the perfect tone for the story that is being told here, and the Chief is done justice in this final chapter.
Halo 3 uses the same graphical style and game engine from Halo 2, but the visuals are still quite striking here, and the game still looks lovely. There is a subtle shine to everything that makes the environments really attractive and stylish. The details are good, with each level having a unique feel and ambiance. Particle effects look great, and smoke and dust all look good. The levels have a great amount of details in them, such as opposing fighters in the sky above the ground troops battling it out. The lush vegetation, the flow of river streams, the flashes of weaponry and the dust clouds thrown up by movement are just some of the small details that make Halo 3 a visually excellent experience. While polygon counts are not as high as the best looking games, and the textures do leave something to be desired, this game is still perfectly serviceable graphically.
Halo 3 boasts an incredible soundtrack. The score is powerful, cinematic, and at times moving. It perfectly creates and enforces the emotion of the individual scenes and moments, and the orchestral sounds and hyms are close to unmatched in gaming. While there are times when the music can envelop and overly dominate a scene, its still damned effective and getting the player pumped for action and making the game all the more fun to play. The voice work continues to be excellent, with all the main characters continuing to be voiced by the same actors from the earlier games. Master Chief continues to be a badass, and the dialogue and interactions between the cast is all dead on target. Cortana, Guilty Spark, even Johnson are all great and are characterised surprisingly well.
Halo 3 retains the excellent combat and gameplay of the series. In fact, it makes almost no mechanical changes to the series, but it does add a new ability: items that you can use to alter combat. There is a of force field that you can deploy to protect yourself, a health regenerator, a jump pad and other abilities. These can be picked up during gameplay and used at will. There are also some significant new weapons, like the brute mauler and the Spartan laser. There are also new vehicle additions, like the brute chopper and the Hornet. These significantly alter the balance of the game, and create a whole new layer of fun to the combat as there are a plethora of weapons to use and prepare for. The combat is still classic Halo, with regenerating health and lack of iron sights, but this is exactly what you want in the final part of the trilogy. The enemies are still intelligent and utilise tactics, though the brutes are lesser opponents than the elites of the old games. The campaign has 9 levels, which are mostly well designed and paced. They disguise their linearity with their sheer size and scope, and the campaign has some fantastic set pieces, though boss fights are absent. The penultimate level however is a terribly designed corridor crawl to match the library level of Combat Evolved for its ill thought out path of progress. Besides this, the campaign is a fun one with plenty of gameplay, battles you can approach with any tactics you wish and plenty of set pieces. The allied AI is not so great, especially when asked to drive but this is a minor gripe. You can tackle a situation in any way you like, use any weapon and take an opponent from any angle. The game is not holding your hand and restraining you constantly, like the Call of Duty series.
The difficulty curve is unusual in the game, with a massive difference between normal and heroic to account for different types of players. This gulf in difficulty adds re-playability to the campaign. The multiplayer is the meat of the long term experience here. The campaign can be played in 4 player co-op, and with dlc the game has 24 online maps for its multiple competitive modes. While not all the maps are good, some of them are truly great, and the game is still a blast to play with a strong online community.
The game also has a mode called forge mode, where you can alter levels and partially design your own within the templates that Bungie have set out already. There are replays so that you can record your triumphs online or even in the campaign. The forge is fun to mess around in, and some players will completely fall in lov with its level of customisability.
There are some minor cases of slow down and texture pop in but when you look at the massive amount of content that Halo 3 contains, these flaws are easily forgivable. The game does have an issue striking a set tone, as in some levels you face comedic foes who shout jokes and then in others you face survival horror like foes and environments, but this helps to add to the individualised feel that each level has.
Halo 3 rounds out the trilogy in fantastic fashion. While it does have some issues with the way it tells its story and its narrative direction, the actual events of the game are amazing. The design and variety of the levels and the enemies are great, with some fantastic replayability in the game. The pacing is effective in the main, with exciting moments contrasted beautifully with the theme of the last stand of humanity against a terrible foe. The game could have used greater numbers of troops in some of its fights, but still manages to convey a fantastic sense of scope, and smartly uses its cut scenes to progress the story. The selection of weapons is great, with a strong sense of balance while also making the most powerful weapons seem awesome. These changes are integrated into the core classic Halo formula in a way that will preserve it and keep the fans happy. The selection of multiplayer maps is also fantastic, and while the game is not quite as memorable as Combat Evolved and not as well told or innovative as Halo 2, It is still a massive and complete piece of content that ranks as one of the most successful games in history.
- Tactically flexible battles which are not locked by script
- Greatly differentiated levels which have unique feels
- A great attention to detail that livens up the game world
- Solid combat mechanics with small changes integrated into the game nicely
- Large weapon selection and variety along with some great new and old vehicles
- 24 Online maps with the dlc
- The forge adds huge customisation to the game
- Emotive and stunning sound track
- Smart and challenging enemies
- Well designed levels
- Story has had key events left out of the game, to be told instead in other expanded media
- The Arbiter storyline was dropped poorly, leaving a gaping and obvious narrative hole
- Some minor texture pop in and slow down
- Ally AI is not great
- Very long load time when you start the game up
- The level Cortana
- You don't show us what happened onboard the Prophet of Truths ship at the end of Halo 2, you just skip that entirely!