The first thing I'll discuss with Halo 3 is the campaign. I was a bit disappointed with how short the main story was. It's nine chapters, or levels, one of which, I, along with many others apparently, found annoying and didn't really enjoy it. So about eight of the nine levels are what you'd expect out of a Halo game. But if there's only nine levels, Bungie should have made absolutely sure that each and every level, nay, each and every second of the game holds the player by the throat.
Thankfully, most of the campaign is a blast to play through. The levels have more variety than Halo and Halo 2, which was a major complaint gamers had due to the lack of variety and backtracking through areas already explored. The story, while engaging and absolutely has elements and moments of epic-ness, ultimately fails to deliver a sense of an all-out war between the human race and the Covenant. The battles are little more than skirmishes, and even though some time has passed since the Covenant began their assault on the little blue planet while Chief was off saving the galaxy in Halo 2, it still feels as though Earth should be putting up more of a resistance. It's the home world for crying out loud. I know much of the UNSC forces was destroyed trying to hold Reach, but you'd think there would be a bit more UMPH behind their struggle to keep Earth. But that's just me. Most of the campaign will have the player running Chief around with the Arbiter in an almost buddy cop kind of movie experience as they do their darnest to stop the Covenant advance and keep the resistance alive. That's all I'll really get into with the campaign so as to keep this review spoiler free-ish.
Halo 3 Trailer
Halo 3 Graphics
The graphics of Halo 3 are superb. However, even when Halo 3 first hit the market, the graphics were shadowed by some of the other shooters out there. I won't name names, I'm sure most if not all of you know the games I'm talking about. That being said, the graphics in Halo 3 are lush, vibrant and appropriate to the setting as well as providing an excellent tone for the plot. Some of the voice-syncing is off or looks a bit stiff and once in a while you'll run into a few texture problems popping into frame or just not presenting the detail it was meant to. Also, it can be inconsistent. For example, I played a level once and experienced no problems with textures whatsoever. The second time around textures were popping in and out like crazy if I so much as turned a bit. The vehicles, guns, soldiers on the UNSC and Covenant forces, and environments have all seen tremendous improvements, which is to be expected since Halo 3 is on the 360. Sometimes you just can't help but look out into the distance and admire the incredible sets. Just be warned, sometimes you may think, "I wish I could fight over there instead of here...".
Halo 3 Gameplay
Thought Halo 3 is a fairly old game for the 360 by now, I highly recommend those who haven't played Halo 3 and are thinking of purchasing Halo 4 should do so. The controls will most certainly be similar in execution, probably with a few tweaks here and there, but in general, Halo 3 should give players a solid foundation before jumping into Halo 4. And believe me, most pople playing Halo 4 online are loyal fans of the franchise and have been dealing head shots in their sleep for about a decade. You'll need the practice if you haven't played a Halo game.Gameplay has also taken some tremendous strides. Any veteran of the previous Halo games will be able to dive right in and get in the fight. The main controls are basically the same with a few exceptions here and there, such as the reload button, but one quickly adjusts to these minor changes. Combat feels smoother and even more fast-paced than in the previous Halo games. Master Chief can now kick some Covenant you-know-what with new grenades such as the spike grenade which latches onto organics and inanimate objects alike. And whats more fun than throwing a grenade and incinerating a crowd of Covenant? As a bonus, Halo 3 gives the player new items to assist Master Chief in combat. The player can employ a Bubble Shield to protect Chief from projectiles and even explosives provided the point of impact or detonation is outside the shield, or, he can utilize a shield re-generator right before his shields go down for a quick pick-me-up. Along with those, there are energy drains to stop vehicles in their tracks, deployable cover the Covenant seemed so fond of in the last two games, and now, Master chief can detach turrets and nail the covenant with the makeshift Gatling gun. A new favorite is the Spartan Laser, a one-shot kill no matter where you hit provided you can hit the target and charge up the shot to full capacity. The Brute Hammer is essentially like a... grenade attached to a hammer. No really! You can smash Covenant foot soldiers and vehicles alike without skipping a beat. And finally, the new vehicles. There's the Brute Chopper, which is like a faster tank used to ram other vehicles and and make them explode, a Covenant version of the Warthog, and a few others I won't give away, because frankly, I've given away too much already. All the new weapons, vehicles, and items are easy to utilize to their full potential thanks to easy game mechanics and a smart controller layout that, to be blunt, many shooters don't seem to have.
Halo 3 Gameplay
Halo 3 Online
Halo 3's online multiplayer. Kiss your social life good-bye. First of all, co op will have you and a friend playing this game for hours and hours. And hours. Hours. No sleep. More play. The first player plays as Chief, and the second player takes on the role of Arbiter. Do yourself a favor. Get together with your best bud, whether in person or online, online may actually be easier as you won't have to put up with a split screen, just make sure your mics work, and let the game do the rest. Perhaps what might be even more fun is testing your skills online against players from all over in free for all, team death match, king of the hill, capture the flag, and more. Take the points and achievements you earn and customize the look of your online Spartan with different colors, armor plating, sigils, and more. You'll spend hours, HOURS playing online. Bungie continues to set the bar for a multiplayer experience with arguably the best online servers of any online game out there. On top of all this, there is a new map editor called forge mode in which the player can edit and customize any map available online and turn it into pretty much anything they can think of. Check out youtube to see what gamers have done with forge mode. Some is just amazing, others will have you laughing until your sides hurt. Then you and your friends will try to make something cool or gut-wrenchingly funny. Also, with the new options to snap pictures and even create videos, think Red vs Blue, you'll find this game has even more value for your hard-earned cash .
Halo 3 Online Mutliplayer
Halo 3: Martin O'Donnell
The musical score in Halo 3 is among the best, and arguably, the most iconic sound to go with a video game since Super Mario. Everyone knows the Halo music, whether you own it or not, love it or hate it, team 360 or team PS3, Martin O'Donnell just nails it once again in Halo 3. The music just rushes into your very bones and you get that adrenaline pumping. Honestly, the Halo Series would be so much less were it not for the amazing sound track. It's just perfect, sets the tempo just right. The music gets your heart pounding during a firefight, evokes emotion during the more sentimental and intimate parts of the story, and creates a perfect balance of wonder, mystery,and intrigue when exploring and discovering the secrets of the ring worlds known as Halo, among others which I won't give away. Thank you, thank you, Martrin O'Donnell for your hard work and flawless execution.
Halo 3 Martin O'Donnell Interview
Where Halo 3 Drops the Skull
Now for the hiccups, of which I have mentioned a few already. Again, the textures and overall graphics can sometimes lag behind some of Halo's FPS shooter competitors. The AI in the game can be downright frustrating at times. There were times when an enemy starred at a wall while I blasted it in the back with my Battle Rifle. Arbiter is almost useless in a fight, firing a few shots here and there but just flat out dying as soon as you start a mission on the harder difficulties. Don't expect anything from him when playing on Legendary settings. He's just cannon fodder, a two second distraction at best. And despite Halo 3's best efforts, it just falls short of that epic "Final Battle" feeling it should have. Oh, and the final "boss", if you will, is so disappointing, I was almost mad at the developers. Yeah, think about it. You'll know once you go out and buy the game. *Sigh* You'll know. You'll fight the final "boss" and think... "The heck? Well, that Gamer Monkey guy warned me...." This is one of the few times I'll take absolutely no pleasure in saying I told you so.
Halo 3 Closing Thoughts
Halo 3 is almost exactly what it should be. The gameplay and online multiplayer set the bar for first shooters everywhere. The story is pretty satisfying all things considered, if a bit short, and it's a blast to play through Legendary settings with a friend. The problems with the game, such as texture pop-ins, incompetent AI, and failure to create the feeling of backs against the wall full scale war for the survival of the human race, are actually minor set backs when you take everything that Halo 3 does right.
Halo 3 Final Verdict
The final verdict for Halo 3 is an 8 out of 10 for those without an X Box Live account, and a well deserved 9 out of 10 for those lucky enough to play online. It's an older 360 game by now, but if you haven't bought it, it's well worth the purchase price. Even if you weren't a fan of the previous two, give this one a shot. You won't be sorry.