One of the best for the Xbox 360
I'll focus on several aspects in my review which I feel are important in any game, So let's begin.
Continuing on from the end of Halo 2, which was very much disappointing, Master Chief had just arrived back at Earth to 'Finish the Fight', we see his ship crash into Earth's atmosphere and down in the jungle. You then find out that the Covenant have been excavating a huge hole in a part of the earth near New Mombasa. They've uncovered a huge Forerunner device, The Ark. This Ark is the key to activating all the other Halo rings in the Galaxy and it has the power to destroy everything.
There are two main focuses on the story in Halo 3, one is the Ark and its connection to the Halo's in the Galaxy and the other is Cortana. Cortana keeps sending you messages, which keep giving you hints of the things to come. I felt that the story in the first few levels was lacking, there wasn't any real sense of threat on Earth until the Ark opened up and then we leave Earth. Its hear that the ball really gets rolling and you get sucked right in.
With the ending I did feel satisfied and especially with the part after the credits. It really makes you feel like we're back where we started, ready for a new adventure. The pacing of the story once you leave Earth was fantastic. I played through the entire none-Earth part of the campaign in one sitting because it flowed so well. Overall looking at Halo 1 through 3, the story was very well crafted, simple in nature and excellently executed. It's almost like how Star Wars Episode 3 makes Episode 1 and 2 watchable again. For story, I give 9/10.
Halo 3 plays almost exactly the same as Halo 2 apart from a few tweaks and additions of new weapons and vehicles. The main change comes with the button layout. They've changed it up quite a lot, changing reload to the bumper buttons and adding an equipment button to X. I found myself on a few occasions deploying my equipment while trying to reload in a hurry. The X button has become almost the universal reload button in all games and it throws you slightly having it placed differently.
Once you've gotten used to the controls, you've got a huge selection of weapons available, one of which returns from Halo 1 after an absence in Halo 2, the Assault rifle. The AR is more powerful than the Battle Rifle for a few reasons. One is that it has a greater rate of fire which is essential during the many fights with the Flood, also wherever there are dead marines, there is AR ammo, the BR is powerful against flood but the ammo is very rare and so you don't end up using it much. I found myself using the AR for most of the game and swapping between the Spiker Gun and the Gravity Hammer usually.
The new grenades were also a big element to the combat, now you have 4 grenade types to choose, you have the standard Frag, the Plasma and now two new ones. The Spike Grenade, which is only really powerful when it hits someone and the Flame grenade which is great against the flood. Turrets are one of the best new additions, in the fact that you can now detach them from the mount and walk around with them. You get Machine Gun Turrets, Missile Turrets, Covenant Plasma Turrets and Flame Throwers. You walk quite slowly when carrying them but you're deadly with them so it's a fare trade off.
There's two main new Marine vehicles, the Hornet, which is a flying craft with VTOL controls, which is quite slow and clumsy in the air and the Mongoose which I prefer over a Warthog, its a small ATV with a space on the back for a passenger who can fire their weapon as you drive. The Covenant also has an awesome new vehicle called the Chopper, which is like a giant spiked wheel with a carriage built around it. The turning circle on them isn't so great, but I find them more useful than the Ghost, especially in collisions. With all these new additions and tweaked Gameplay, Halo 3 plays better than the previous two and is just a smooth pleasant ride. Gameplay gets 9/10.
Normally graphics shouldn't mean anything, but this is 2007 and we're living in the HD era, if you're game looks like crap, it looks like super-crap on a HDTV. Halo 3 however, looks quite amazing. Master Chief looks superb. I've spent countless time admiring his armour and the effects of the visor and his battle scarred chest plate in the theatre playback mode. But the same cannot be said for the Marines, they have quite blurry textures on them and since they spend a lot of time in front and around you, they could have looked better.
The enemies look quite amazing. The brute's armour shines without looking like the cheap gloss effect that all games seem to be using in the last few years, their armour actually looks metallic. The grunts also look great with all their different colours. The Phantom ships are one of the best examples of this metallic shine effect, the entire top half is covered in it and when you see it in one of the earlier jungle levels on Earth, it looks quite special. Speaking of the jungle level, the environments look stunning. The way the leaves look waxy and 'leafy', the water glistening and the shadows from the trees above all make it look beautiful.
The lighting is probably the best I've ever seen in a game. From the way it shines through the trees above, glaring as you move around; to explosions and plasma effects which you can really see the benefit from when you view back a film in Theatre mode. But the biggest problem is the consistency. There will be glorious bump mapped textures on a wall and right next to it a really low-res, recycled looking texture, which can give the effect of a cheap user mod. But it was very rarely I noticed blemishes or defects and I felt my whole graphical experience was a treasure. 8/10 for graphics.
Sound & Music.
I won't spend too much time on the sound of Halo 3 because I don't have a full 5.1 set yet, I'm getting one this week so I'll update my review when I post it properly. The thing that stood out to me after a while in this game was the amount of chatter, from both allies and enemies. I heard a grunt on several occasions scream out "You Killed my Buddy!" which made me chuckle, also hearing the female marine who sounded remarkably like 'Starbuck' from BSG (that's because it is, Katie Sackhoff) was great. Coming to the weapons, you can always tell what weapon an enemy has usually by the sound it makes, each weapon has its own effect, even the marine weapons. The best sound though is still the low bass grumble of the Assault Rifle as you fire away sounding like 100 spiders with little boots on running around inside washing machine. One final point to touch on about the sound was the sound the Gravemind makes when he screams at you, I actually flinched a little as it was so loud and angry, chilling!
The biggest point to make about the sound in Halo 3 is the music. Marty O'Donnell is now one of my favourite composers. His music is superb. I wouldn't call myself a diehard halo fan, I never play online as I hate the community, but when I hear the Halo theme, I get Goosebumps. So when you're in the thick of a battle with some atmospheric generic battle music playing and then you come to a major point and the Halo theme kicks in, you're thinking "YEAH!" and you play better. If only the entire game was played to variations of the Halo theme, you'd kick a lot more ass. For me the sound gets a 10/10 as I can't see any way it can get any better.
After finishing Halo 3, I felt warm and fuzzy. I felt like I just watched Return of the Jedi, I had that same feeling of closure and knowing that even though this story was over, there were plenty more adventures out there just waiting to happen. Halo is based in a big universe and there's plenty of things out there to explore. Let's just hope that they don't include The Flood in the next one, worst...enemy...ever! My Overall rating for Halo 3 is: