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Jeremy Jastrzab
24 Sep, 2007

Halo 3 Review

360 Review | Final verdict.
It's been just about three years since gamers were left with one of the rudest game endings ever, and they are now finally able to go out and finish what was started on the 9th November 2004. With the help of hindsight, it can be seen that a lot of the early critical acclaim for Halo 2 probably came from the largest hype machine ever seen for a game. Still, one could hardly fault the success of Halo 2, as it was easily the most successful game on the Xbox and it created the largest online gaming community ever seen on a console. Dubbed by Microsoft as 'the biggest entertainment release of the year', Halo 3 is here now, and we have our final verdict.

What we’ll say about the single player campaign in Halo 3 is that the story indeed comes to an end, and ties the trilogy together quite well. We won’t give any of it away, as it still has some twists and is presented in the wonderful cinematic style that the series is known for. The excellent presentation helps immensely, as the story (on the surface) doesn’t do that much more then your typical 'bald-headed space marine' flick. Any references, insights and nuances are thrown at you a little too quickly to be immediately apparent and some fall on their face, though there is a brilliant one at the absolute beginning. Whereas Halo 2 provided roughly three-quarters of a story, Halo 3 provides another three-quarters, so you’re left with some rather obvious filler material. That, and Halo 3 is really just finishing off what Halo 2 started. It’s good and it works well, but its not as fleshed out as you’d expect from a stand alone release. In a way, the Halo trilogy is akin to the Matrix trilogy. If you’re memory is a bit hazy and you haven’t played through Halo and/or Halo 2 in while, it may be a good idea to take them for a spin just before going through Halo 3. If you’re late to the party, you really should play the predecessors first.

As mentioned, the single player kicks off where Halo 2 left things. Master Chief and the Arbiter finally get acquainted and the two are off to cause a whole lot of havoc. The first thing that you’ll notice is that the environments have been spruced up really nicely. Throughout the game’s nine missions, there is a much greater variety among the levels than has been seen in the previous games. The areas are much more luscious and vibrant, yet still manage to maintain the scope of the previous games, so expect plenty more ogling at the sky. The first mission is actually very well designed, as you’ll get to a complex that has at least four ways of being approached, all well enough designed that the player never gets lost.

Dream team.

Dream team.
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Unfortunately, the experience degrades slightly from there, as the rest of the eight missions are actually quite linear in comparison, though to an extent this works well. The design and environment variety means that you will no longer get lost as easily, though you’ll still be required to backtrack on occasion. On the other hand, the linearity is particularly noticeable in the middle of the game. Things pick back up a little bit in the third quarter, only to be thrown out the window in the penultimate level, which we found to be quite poor actually. In terms of grandeur and scope, there are moments where Halo 3 succeeds in surpassing its predecessors, but at other times it feels like the same game that we’ve now been playing for nearly six years. That’s not really a surprise, as Bungie's Marathon games were quite similar across the board as well.

There have been some new additions to the game in the form new weapons and vehicles. There aren’t many new vehicles though, and you’ll probably end up spending most of the time in Warthogs either way, but there are some good additions to the weaponry. Our favourite was the Gravity Hammer, wielded by Elite Brutes (but not accessible to the player in Halo 2), which sends anything that you hit with it flying into the never-never. The Spartan laser is quite robust as well, though it does require some mastery. You’ve also got some items that were first introduced in the multiplayer beta, these include the bubble shield, cloak and radio disrupter. They don’t revolutionise the gameplay, but they do add a little something else to think about.

At it’s best, Halo has been about the close quarters combat against tough AI. A lot of the enemy patterns have improved, and new behaviours include Grunts sticking plasma grenades to themselves and going kamikaze. The same can’t be said for your allies, as their AI is borderline useless. Four will jump on the Scorpion with you for a short trip; none will make it to the other end. Throughout the single player, you’re often left to play Rambo, as your AI partners are too slow to catch up, or dead. Riding the Warthog is about the only time they can shoot straight, but they sure as heck can’t drive to save themselves. The Arbiter is the only one that can hold his own but even then you’ll probably be seeing him re-spawn a lot. All said and told, the campaign is not particularly long. As mentioned above, its really finishing off what was started in Halo 2 and a lot of Halo veterans are likely to clock it in under 10 hours (it took us under 8 on normal difficulty).

Single player starts off with a bang.

Single player starts off with a bang.
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So the single player doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does do what its meant to do very well. We felt that it was exceedingly better than Halo 2 but didn’t quite have the same impact as the original Halo, despite the streamlining. You’ve also got a couple of extras such as 'skull hunting' and the option to turn on a scoring mode (where kills and whatnot add up to give a final score). And as much as we may argue about the failings of the friendly AI, it was clear that the campaign was meant for you to play with a buddy in two-player co-op. It’s about combating the enemies through tactical communication, and now you can even have two more buddies jump in for the whole ride, all available across Xbox Live. The only gripe with having four-player co-op is that the game doesn’t make any concessions for the extra players. Where the single player will be difficult, the co-op makes it much easier, particularly if all the players are Halo veterans. Not only that, but fallen allies respawn much quicker, and there are some portions in the game where four players can make the rooms pretty crowded. Still, it’s tremendously enjoyable to blast through with friends, even if it is a little tight sometimes.

Moving on from the campaign, we get to the multiplayer. As mentioned, Halo 2, for all its campaign flaws, housed the most comprehensive and populated multiplayer experience found on a console. Sure, if you joined late, you we’re likely to be subjected to a lot of punishment from experienced players and a whole lot of smack talk from prepubescent punks. If you were not American, you were also subjected to lag. Hopefully, these have been rectified with what Bungie are touting as an “excellent” network code and player’s ranking system. The ranking system will now apparently be able to cater for those who play 24-7 and those who just want to kill an hour or two after work. Still, the best experience will be if you can get together some friends (or at least acquaintances) and blast away until the early hours of the morning with people you know.

While there are only eleven maps, most of them are well designed. A couple were seen in the recent multiplayer beta, and two are really just re-names of old maps. On top of good designs, you have a plethora of modes to choose from. While you certainly can’t complain about the variety, past experience would suggest that even with a large selection, players will tend to stick with the familiar modes anyway. Apart from the weapons, items and vehicular additions, there isn’t much that has been changed in the conventional multiplayer. It felt a bit more polished and a few aspects of the balance felt a bit tighter but overall it’s a very familiar experience. It’s still blue versus red. One noticeable change was that when two light swords collide, they’ll both take some damage and be forced to face off again.

So far, you have a well-built and solid experience in the campaign and multiplayer, but apart from the ending, you won’t see anything that hasn’t been done before. We now get to the newest additions in Halo 3, that of the Theatre and Forge. Long before these modes came along, you could find a lot of home movies of people playing around with the Halo physics engine. Bungie have decided to take advantage of this and the burgeoning community and provide something that has never been seen on a console FPS. PC enthusiasts have been doing these sorts of things for years, but this is one of the first times that such a feature has been accessible to the casual side of the FPS market.

Gravity Hammer = win.

Gravity Hammer = win.
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First off, the Theatre records pretty much every session that you spend in the game. It stores in immediate memory roughly the first 25 or so and covers the campaign, multiplayer and Forge. So if you play a mission, you’ll then find that a movie of your playtime is stored in the Theatre. Within these movies, you have the freedom to choose of which angle you want to view the action from. It really allows for an appreciation of what is going on in the big picture. Furthermore, you can capture movies and screenshots of all the crazy and brilliant moments, stunts and stuffing around that will undoubtedly be going on. Not only are the movies amazingly small in size (a couple of megs at most) but they can be uploaded onto the internet for all to view. That’s community for you. However, there is one crucial flaw in this mode. That is, the rewind and fast-forward really don’t work that well. It’s a real pain to navigate through movies, particularly through long movies. It’s something that’s likely to be addressed in an update, but why it wasn’t rectified beforehand we don’t know.

This brings us to Forge. As most will have probably read by now, Forge is the mode that has the potential to ‘make’ Halo 3. In short, Forge does make Halo 3. Essentially, Forge is a map editor. You may think, well so what? Map editors have been done before. Yes, but Forge can edit on the go and literally in the middle of a game. So effectively, you can play it as a map editor or as another game mode entirely. While you can’t change any of the fixtures in the level i.e. walls and buildings, you can remove, add and change anything that isn’t a part of the groundwork. That is, you can add any weapons into the map, vehicles, teleporters, spawn points and even explosive barrels and the like. Later, you can also customise pick ups and goals. Not only can you sit back, fix up a few maps and then upload them online for all to enjoy but you can get together with buddies and come up with a whole lot of shenanigans with the physics engine.

Basically, this mode opens the floor to a plethora of gameplay options. For example, one player could be providing the team with weapon drops or hazards to quell the opposition. Given the amount of items that are there to be dropped, there certainly are a large number of options at the player’s disposal, but players who are 'forging', will still be vulnerable to attack. While modes like this have been around for a while on PC’s, again, it’s one of the first times that it’s been available so freely to everyone and certainly one of the first to be played on the fly, though it will take a little getting used to. There are a lot suggestions for user-made gameplay modes already out there and there are sure to be many more in the coming days, weeks and months. We suggest a combination of the Mongoose and Gravity Hammer. The only concern with such a mode is that it will eventually be cast aside as a novelty. Regardless of this, Forge and the Theatre add the edge that Halo 3 needed to lift it from being Halo 2.5, to a community-rich online gaming experience.

Just when you thought it was getting quiet.

Just when you thought it was getting quiet.
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The most bittersweet aspect of the game is the graphics. While they are an improvement from what we saw in the multiplayer beta and they certainly look good, they will be surpassed in the lifetime of the Xbox 360, if they haven’t been already. We were pleased with the newfound vibrancy, life and variety in the environments and the design is among the strongest of the series. Certainly, the design in most buildings is great, but some of the more organic fixtures look like they need a little something extra. Thankfully, the game manages to retain its scope, though it’s not fully realised until the latter half of the campaign. Some aspects, such as some of the character models, texture work and animations seem to have needed more work or have been ported over from the Xbox. That said, while we can understand that Halo 3 isn’t a graphical revelation, at least it manages to remain consistent with the rest of the series. Still, despite the minor graphical hitches that were common in previous games, it’s very good looking game in both the single player and multiplayer. It’s got good explosions, so that counts for something!

On to a consistent highlight of the Halo trilogy – the sound and music. Bungie would be foolish to change this aspect too much, but even though it’s familiar, it works a charm. The music is an outstanding mix of old, new, and remixes of the old, and the musical pieces are unlike anything else ever heard in an FPS. It’s a shame that they’re only intermittent. The dialogue is reasonably sharp, and even though it doesn’t always have a lot to work with other than army speak, it gets endearing when it needs to. The voicing is solid, though a few seem out of place. Funnily enough, it’s the Covenant that deliver the best in-game dialogue, as they get some rather deep conversations as you get close to them. Sound effects haven’t changed much since Halo but then again, they didn’t need to.

In conclusion, if you were to take the campaign and basic multiplayer of Halo 3, you’ve got an experience that is rather similar to its predecessors. It’s certainly better in parts but there are still areas that it could have been improved on. The Halo gameplay is certainly not as infallible as its critically made out to be and if you didn’t ever like it, there’s little chance of Halo 3 changing you mind. Despite the short campaign (at least it finishes this time), breezy co-op and same-y multiplayer, taking Halo 3 as a package reveals what its meant to be. The Forge and Theatre modes redefine what it is to make a game “for the fans”, as they are substantial and influential additions to the game and have the potential to build Halo 3 even further then it has ever been before. It's obvious that Halo 3 is about satisfying the community that has been built since 2001 on as many levels as possible. Be they casual or hardcore, Bungie certainly got it right. Halo 3 certainly won’t be the greatest game ever released and it won’t fulfill its premise without an Xbox Live connection, but as a game and multiplayer package for those who just want Halo, Bungie have hit the nail on the head.
The Score
While it still has shortcomings, as a game and total multiplayer package for the Halo community, Halo 3 is a resounding success. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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24 Mar, 2009 Within the next few weeks.
76 Comments
6 years ago
Nice review Jeremy. Perfect primer for those going to a midnight launch tonight or picking it up sometime tomorrow.

Its funny, the review seems to hint that it isn't that great, then it gets a nice score.

Obviously deserved though.
6 years ago
Nice review. I'm looking to forward to seeing if I agree with you.

Having not played this and only going off reviews, it seems the sheer amount of content shipping in this game is amazing. If it were a single player game alone, I could see the warrented negatives (aka Heveanly Sword just released on the PS3). But what bungie are giving us is amazing.

Can't wait till midnight icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
Great review!

Its good to see PALGN getting games early and on time for the release.
6 years ago
The review is pretty spot-on.

The single player has some excellently epic scenarios, and is much better than the campaigns in the previous HALO games.

However, it really isn't anything amazing especially having just beaten Bioshock, which is infinitely more...well...interesting.

That fact, and the fact that there is a segment at the end of the game which is just plain AWFUL (trust me, you will know it when you play it), means that HALO 3 is basically 'just' a very good first person shooter.

Well worth playing, but nothing to get in a frenzy over.

P.S - Oh, one more thing, the music simply ROCKS! When the Halo music theme kicks in, it's simply awesome. Truly the best part!
6 years ago
I'm confused whether I should pass on this game or not. Having played the other ones, and I'm not too much into Halo.
6 years ago
If you didn't much like Halo or Halo 2, you will not like Halo 3.

It is literally MORE of the SAME, but slightly better, slightly prettier.
6 years ago
If you like multi-player get it
but if you didn't like the single player in the other games and thats all you would play, then probably don't bother, or wait till its cheaper
6 years ago
I was hoping that the campaign would have been a big leap over Halo and Halo 2. The world of FPSes has moved on a lot since 2001.

After playing Half Life 2, Gears of War and BioShock, I went back and played the first two Halo games again recently. I remembered them being fairly simple, but I had forgotten how simple they were. I didn't finish re-playing through either.

I was hoping that this iteration of the series would at least borrow some of the innovations in FPS gaming that have come about since 2001, but it looks like it's still the basic Halo gameplay. Which is what a lot of fans want, but doesn't entice me. I just can't get excited about what is essentially just a few more levels and a graphical upgrade.

I'm not really unhappy about the game... it will make a lot of people very happy. But I really want to see what Bungie can do when they try to create a modern FPS.
6 years ago
How do you know they will try create a modern FPS?
I would rather see them continue with Sci-fi
6 years ago
sidzed2 wrote
That fact, and the fact that there is a segment at the end of the game which is just plain AWFUL (trust me, you will know it when you play it), means that HALO 3 is basically 'just' a very good first person shooter.
I'm VERY curious which part you thought was awful? Could you hide it or PM me? I've been through the whole thing and honestly can't think of ONE thing that would be considered awful compared to the rest of the game/series. I can take one stab at the dark as to what it is but if it's that... should have been used to it by now.


POSSIBLE SPOILERS (especially if you're pedantic):
Edit to add my thoughts on the review/game. Good review and as far as the game goes the campaign is the best Halo campaign yet. The levels are WAY better thought out: more to do, more to see, better designs, etc. This is no Halo1 hallway crawl with repeating scenery at all. The gameplay is very tight and every new addition (new weapons, new vehicles) are ALL good and worth adding. While the enemies are mainly the same some of the returning cast are much less annoying and better designed.

The friendly AI is absolutely stupid and more hurtful than helpful half the time (especially when they steal your damn vehicles!) but luckily they are hardly around (or dead before they can get in the way too much) so that's not such a big deal. The length is by far the biggest shortcoming for me. Bioshock was so long, even Gears of War is longer, it's just a shame we can't have more. Having said all that - it's still the best Halo campaign experience yet. Cannot WAIT to grab my Legendary copy tomorrow morning!
6 years ago
puddingfork wrote
How do you know they will try create a modern FPS?
I would rather see them continue with Sci-fi
By "modern FPS", I mean something with deeper gameplay. Something that takes after the Half-Life or System Shock style of play, rather than the Doom style of play.

I'd consider Half-Life 2, BioShock, and (to some extent) Gears to be modern FPSes. They incorporate intricate puzzle solving, deeper gameplay, and a much more complex story.
6 years ago
puddingfork wrote
How do you know they will try create a modern FPS?
I would rather see them continue with Sci-fi
I think he means 'modern' in regards to the gameplay innovation, not the actual context/setting of the game.

ppjim3 wrote
sidzed2 wrote
That fact, and the fact that there is a segment at the end of the game which is just plain AWFUL (trust me, you will know it when you play it), means that HALO 3 is basically 'just' a very good first person shooter.
I'm VERY curious which part you thought was awful? Could you hide it or PM me? I've been through the whole thing and honestly can't think of ONE thing that would be considered awful compared to the rest of the game/series. I can take one stab at the dark as to what it is but if it's that... should have been used to it by now.
NO SPOILERS - but I despised the first part of the game's final mission. It is basically just ridiculously frustrating and graphically ugly. And yes, I think you know which part I mean, and I know I should be used to it by now, but I still thought it was a lowpoint.
6 years ago
Ahh I understand now, and also agree to some extent
Its not like I want them to stop making these style games I just think we don't need so many, and the ones they do make should be close to perfection (by the sounds of it, Halo 3 will easily meet my standards in Multiplayer which is what I love these games for) because they are simpler to make.
6 years ago
sidzed2 wrote
If you didn't much like Halo or Halo 2, you will not like Halo 3.

It is literally MORE of the SAME, but slightly better, slightly prettier.
Then def not getting it all. Thanks. I'll buy Half life 2 instead.
6 years ago
STOP
Get orange box instead its not long now icon_wink.gif
6 years ago
sidzed2 wrote
If you didn't much like Halo or Halo 2, you will not like Halo 3.

It is literally MORE of the SAME, but slightly better, slightly prettier.
I would call that a flop
6 years ago
Im on my war to pick up the game right.........................now
6 years ago
sidzed2 wrote
NO SPOILERS - but I despised the first part of the game's final mission. It is basically just ridiculously frustrating and graphically ugly. And yes, I think you know which part I mean, and I know I should be used to it by now, but I still thought it was a lowpoint.
SPOILERS:

I think they did it better than HALO and HALO2 - a lot better in fact - and it's for one simple reason: The little ones don't try and attack you nearly as much, if at all! The larger ones are the same (but much better designed graphically) by being powerful, fast and annoying, however the little ones were always the worst as far as I'm concerned and they just seemed to not be bothered with you 90% of the time which means the shotgun was your best friend.
6 years ago
puddingfork wrote
by the sounds of it, Halo 3 will easily meet my standards in Multiplayer which is what I love these games for
Yeah. That's the thing. Halo 3's multiplayer and community features sound great, but it's the single-player campaign that interests me. I don't have enough spare time for much online gaming anymore. icon_sad.gif

Halo and Halo 2 had good single-player campaigns for their time. Their vehicle physics were fairly innovative, and they finally brought a polished PC-style FPS to the console world. However, things have moved on, and the standards for single-player FPSes have increased dramatically since then.

Halo 3's campaign sounds like it is a fantastic a warm-up for the multiplayer component, and I'll probably buy the game when it's cheaper just to see how it all ends. But I was really hoping they would go all-out on the single-player campaign, rather than just focusing on the multiplayer aspect.
6 years ago
renegadesx wrote
sidzed2 wrote
If you didn't much like Halo or Halo 2, you will not like Halo 3.

It is literally MORE of the SAME, but slightly better, slightly prettier.
I would call that a flop
Aw, I definitely don't think it is a flop of a game; it just doesn't achieve stunning heights - nonetheless, it is a supremely playable game and gets alot right in terms of making you feel like you are a cog in a massive, epic war. Plus, the music is amazing and the controls are perfect.

It's just that I played it right after playing Halo 2, and I swear some of the textures and weapon models look exactly the same but in HD.

I'm not a graphics whore, but I mean, Perfect Dark Zero had infinitely better weapon models than Halo 3, which is kinda weird when you consider that you arestaring at the damn guns the entire time!

Basically if you in any way enjoyed Halo or Halo 2 you will enjoy Halo 3. But it definitely isn't winning any converts.

I think, in terms of single player experiences (my focus), Bioshock is the more interesting and compelling game.


SPOILERS:

I think they did it better than HALO and HALO2 - a lot better in fact - and it's for one simple reason: The little ones don't try and attack you nearly as much, if at all! The larger ones are the same (but much better designed graphically) by being powerful, fast and annoying, however the little ones were always the worst as far as I'm concerned and they just seemed to not be bothered with you 90% of the time which means the shotgun was your best friend.[/quote]


Oh I definitely agree with you that it was done better, but the sad fact remains that as soon as these 'parts' occurred, I would sigh and groan because I don't find these segments any fun at all. Especially the climactic one, which is just a stupid gauntlet run which is sort of luck-dependent; sometimes they don't want to attack you, other times they have perfect aim even when you're sigzagging or jumping or whatnot. Yuck.
6 years ago
Guys, put your spoilers inside a quote tag so they're white-on-white, not white-on-grey, which is still slightly readable, especially for picking up random words while moving your eyes past. Not that I personally care in this topic, but won't someone please think of the children?

eg.
SPOILORZ wrote
halo am teh sux!111oneone1
6 years ago
Holy crap, I just played through the first level. I wasn't expecting the graphics to look so hot. The opening cutscene is jaw dropping. Why is everybody complaining? The animation of the enemies is great.

Played some games online. Having not played the beta I'm stuck how smooth and tight it is.

Wow, I think I am really going to enjoy this game. I'm totally blown away as I wasn't expecting everything to be this good.
6 years ago
LeonJ wrote
Holy crap, I just played through the first level. I wasn't expecting the graphics to look so hot. The opening cutscene is jaw dropping. Why is everybody complaining? The animation of the enemies is great.

Played some games online. Having not played the beta I'm stuck how smooth and tight it is.

Wow, I think I am really going to enjoy this game. I'm totally blown away as I wasn't expecting everything to be this good.
I agree wholeheartedly. I found the game to be immersive, exciting and epic beyond any other game I've ever played. I'll admit that the friendly AI was somewhat dissapointing, but other then that I fail to see where all the other negative feelings are coming from.

Personally, I think people like to be anti-Halo because it's so popular. If I had $1 for every time I've heard it called 'just another generic sci-fi shooter' I'd be richer then Bill Gates...

Halo is never going to be Gears of War or Half Life 2, those games have their own style. Halo has it's own style. You can't expect Bungie to change that completly because they don't want to be just another sci-fi shooter.

But I must say, in a totally happy and bemused way (ie. I'm saying this with a smile on my face, not flaming someone) that I've never read a review that's given something such criticism and yet still scored it 9/10.

If you ask me, I think Halo has set itself a much higher goal to live up to then most other games.
6 years ago
eh, ill just wait for Killzone.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/09/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  8

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