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Halo 3 review
Average joe sci-fi shooter.


A first person shooter; a lot of hype; 10/10's right up the ass; rent-worthy campaign length... Is this what you would imagine in a "game of the year" competitor? To be frank, yes, it is. Halo 3 is a first person shooter which gets a lot of high scores from paid reviewers, even though when you actually get around to playing the game, it's...playable. Yes folks, Halo 3 isn't a total shitsucker, but it's not as good as what's been said. The campaign is fairly inconsistent as I either fall asleep or really get into the action, and the multiplayer, while far from perfect, is pretty fun to play, provided the field isn't filled to the brim with 12 year olds abusing old internet memes and singing Dragonfoce. In short, it's playable enough to enjoy.

To begin the review, here's an overview of the Halo trilogy. It revolves around a war between the Covenant and the earth forces, and in an attempt to dominate the Covenant, the earth forces find Master Chief, unfreezes him and he then helps fight the Covenant. That was the story for Halo 1, and the fight continues in Halo 2 with no big twists. The ultimate truth is that Halo 2 was inferior in every way to Halo 1, outside of multiplayer options. So non-fanboys anticipated Halo 3 to be horrible, while fanboys anticipated the second coming of Jesus. Well, the fanboys sure got what they wanted, but non-fanboys like me...found Halo 3 to be better than Halo 2 (or to be Halo 2.5, whatever). Essentially, everybody wins.

So anyway, Halo 3 hosts two modes of play; campaign mode, which is your single player mode, and multiplayer, which...well, you know. For this review, I'll explain how they work; campaign first, multiplayer last.

Campaign mode is nothing short of redundant. Sure, the gunfights sound interesting, but that's probably all that will keep you awake. Other than that, you'll probably need to pull out some all-nighters or caffeine pills, because the rest of it pulls you right to sleep. You're pretty much flipping through a romance novel; while there are mentions of dirty words and sexual situations, but then you have a whole bunch of crap nobody cares for, and that's how Halo 3's campaign is best summed up. Hell, I think the gunfights tend to get boring after going through wave upon wave of the same shit over and over again. And the flood? *bleep* them.

Before you begin campaign mode, you select a difficulty mode, which is basically easy, medium, hard-difficult and legendarily-difficult (named Legendary for short). Easy shouldn't need to be considered even for morons who can't press a few buttons, because the difficulty of Halo 3 is laughably easy on medium and hard, but Legendary is a whole 'nother story; in Legendary, unless you're good at first person shooters (notice I said good, not excellent, just good), you'll be *bleep* by enemies quicker than you can gorge down a behemoth burger, provided your mouth is gigantic.

So anyway, to best explain the setting of Halo 3's campaign mode, pay attention to the cliffhanger ending of Halo 2, where (ZOMG SPOILERS) Master Chief jumps off a ship and lands onto earth. What could come out of a sequel here? Well, surprise surprise, Master Chief is still alive and well. He gets found by marines and some alien known as the Arbiter. Meanwhile, the Covenant, the evil alien race of the trilogy, are still around to destroy the earth.

In other words, it's Master Chief's army VS the Covenant, and the fate of the earth rests on the army that survives. Nothing innovative nor too captivating, as that was basically the plot for Halo and Halo 2 (and Perfect Dark if you want to get technical), but the difference is that this, much like the first Halo, takes place only on earth. The setting makes sense, considering that the Halo trilogy is a sci-fi themed first person shooter, and it's nice that the story doesn't get in the way of the gameplay, because anybody who plays a first person shooter...plays for the carnage and onslaught of being a badass.

Throughout the campaign, you'll be given missions to do. Most of these require getting from point A to point B, while doing some tasks like collecting objects and destroying objects, and killing aliens, until you're done with beating one of the game's nine levels. It's nothing special, other first person shooters like Perfect Dark and Goldeneye has this, the first two Halo games had this too, but the way that they're presented is alright, except for instances where lengthy backtracking is required, and the entirety of the eighth level (which they call Cortana, but I call Hell, as you're swarmed by legions of flood soldiers).

Halo 3's gameplay consists of shooting, exploring and driving. Not much else to point out, huh? Well, Halo 3 may seem shallow on the outside, but when you get into it, it's...middle of the road. It's not quite shallow, but it's not remotely deep either. In a sense, it's just another first person shooter that allows you to drive vehicles.

The assault of weapons that the game allows Master Chief to use sounds awesome in theory. There are many weapons at your disposal; however, the problem is that you'll only find a few of them useful. You have your usual rifles, pistols, rocket launchers and swords, and much like in the last two Halo games, you have the alien equivalents. The differences are that the human weapons are like the sort of guns you would see in other first person shooters, while the alien weapons are lasers, plasma-oriented, and such. You can dual-wield certain weapons, but that's mostly because about 70% of them suck on their own. If you use them on their own, you might as well start digging your own grave, because they are piss weak and will get you killed in the long run. Oh, and don't forget grenades.

To separate itself from its predecessors, Halo 3 incorporates equipment – pressing the X button allows you to use any of the equipment you find on the way. Varieties include shields and turrets and mines, among some others, as there are ten different sorts. However, the only real use that this has is to occasionally save your hide while you're screwed in the heat of battle. Unless you're playing in the Legendary difficulty setting or in multiplayer, you can go an entire campaign without even BOTHERING to use any of this stuff. There are other uses for equipment, but as we're talking about the campaign, I'll come back to this later.

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to drive the land-oriented vehicles in real life. You should see the suspenders of them; they are so bloody bouncy, you could almost mistake the tires for bouncy balls. You think that's bad? Apparently, landing isn't all that easy with the flying vehicles either, as they seem to bounce a bit too! Seriously, are they spring loaded or something?

But unfortunately, to guarantee survival, you must drive the vehicles. See, while the AI is alright when they're shooting the Covenant, they can't drive to save their lives – or yours, for that matter! The instant they get behind the wheel, their intelligence lowers to a single digit, as they constantly crash into walls and, eventually, destroy the vehicle. These shit-for-brains drivers should've been canned out of the army, because, if I can recall correctly, you should have some coherent driving ability before joining the army. It's a problem that has plagued the trilogy, and it's rather annoying to put it simply.

Speaking of aggravating AI, the flood return, and they're as annoying as they've always been. Its one thing to have bad driving AI, but it's another when you haven't yet fixed the AI of this sort of enemy. To explain why the flood fails so badly, they are the polar opposite of the other big enemies. The flood is boring to fight and annoying to deal with. I actually did not mind this too much in Halo 1, it felt a little stimulating having an onslaught of enemies just rush in and *bleep* me to death, but after six years, this is inexcusable. *bleep*, after TWO YEARS, ITS RIDICULOUS! Bungie fails at realizing that the flood IS NOT FUN TO FIGHT!

And that's quite sad, because the other enemies are none too shabby. I wouldn't call them the most intelligent enemies this side of the Xbox 360's ever expanding library of first person shooters, but nonetheless, they are fun to fight. Well, the bigger enemies and higher-ups on the list, anyway, for every time you defeat a brute or whatever, all of their little buddies run off, or suicide bomb your ass by rushing towards you while holding plasma grenades. Now, I wouldn't call brutes awesome either, but they at least put up a fight. They at least shoot at you, raise their shields, or rush towards you much like a typical flood troop would.

Now, I haven't complained about much yet, haven't I? Well, even if the vehicles weren't so bouncy and the flood were actually a good enemy to fight, that still won't save the campaign from having problems, because once you get a good deal into it, you realize how stale, repetitive and boring it gets... It gets boring as you pretty much do the same thing over and over again... get to a point... kill some aliens... been there done that, can I go home now?

Bungie realizes this, so to add more insult to insult, the campaign lasts about 7 hours, give or take an hour, depending on skill level and how quickly you dispatch of flood troops and how much level 8 pissed you off. You can add more to the replay value of the campaign by looking for the hidden skulls (which are supposed to give you abilities), hunting for terminals and getting the achievements regarding those and combat ability, but you may as well be sucking that dead horse's tits dry, because you can't squeeze much out of the campaign outside of the main story. If you're going to squeeze some life out of Halo 3 after finishing with the campaign on Legendary mode, check out the multiplayer mode.

Multiplayer mode is densely layered, with many options to choose from, should you choose to host a game. But who cares if you host a game or not; either way, you're on the field, shooting people. That is to say that those who lack Xbox Live, get it RIGHT FRIGGIN NOW! Halo 3 is boring without Xbox Live, because what keeps you playing right after the campaign is the multiplayer. It manages to keep itself fresh, it allows social activity, and most of all, it allows you to just kill some intelligent (or stupid) people without heading over to their houses and bombarding them with eggs. With that said, multiplayer does have some issues, like lag, glitches and cheaters. The former two, understandable, but the latter, they can get *bleep*ed.

To begin this section of the review, the map selection is decent enough. Some maps are brimming with totally awesome elements of strategic places and what-not, but some maps leave a lot to be desired, as some of these maps just look and feel like hell. The best thing to do is to get a feel for all of them, just in case of some hosting problems where you end up playing on an annoying map and nobody else vetos it.

Speaking of veto, the veto system is a little out of whack for some people. To put it simply, majority rules! Its tough titties if you're playing on a map you can't stand, but everybody else likes (why they do, I don't know, maybe they want to annoy everyone...). Whatever the case, get ready for the ride if you're playing on a server, as opposed to hosting your own game.

One thing that gets at me, is when you want to play with some customized rules and customized maps (which you make with Forge or the Legendary Map Pack), the only people you can play with are the people who live around you or are on your friends list, unless you use the party invite system or are connected to Xbox Live and it can find you some people with the same amount of skill as you (at least according to the game). Sounds organized and all (o rly), but I prefer to play with just anybody. This is why I don't host custom-made matches. I prefer the default, so people can play with me. I prefer to join somebody else's game anyway.

When you actually get onto the battlefield, you have to shoot other people dead, while keeping yourself from dying. In other words, whoever dies the least and kills the most, wins. This is either done in teams or in a free-for-all battle. Unless you happen to be surrounded by complete twats who are either sore losers or can't play the game to save their lives and feel the need to yell and scream at you and use cheating methods to win, you should have a lot of fun with this.

Of course, there is more to multiplayer than just killing each other. There are modes like capture the flag, where you capture the flag from your opponent team's base and get it to your base before they take your team's flag to their base. There's also king of the hill, where you have to keep control of an area. There are other modes, and they all fun as a whole, especially when you're playing with random people.

Here's my honest opinion; if you're not having fun with the game's multiplayer features, just...just sell your copy. Maybe somebody else will enjoy it.

I mentioned Forge, didn't I? Well, Forge is basically a map maker or map editor where you can edit a map on the fly, within a budget. I haven't experimented too much with it, but it seems like a neat little thing. The only reason I don't really make much use of it, is because I'm not much of a fan of this sort of thing, though if you are, more power to you. This has a lot of objects and such to use at your disposal to edit yourself the perfect map.

So what's one thing I haven't mentioned yet? How the game controls... Well, in short, Halo 3 controls pretty well. Far from perfect, though. Master Chief moves a bit too slow and the jumping is too floaty (which makes no sense since Halo 3 takes place on earth, not a different planet), but they're nothing more than big nitpicks compared to some SLIGHTLY sensitive aiming controls and that they respond straight away. The only time that controls get bad, is when the game lags, and that's mostly done in multiplayer.

Looking at the game itself, the graphics look nice. Mostly lifelike and immersible enough to really get the feel for them. You could almost say that it's a graphic-whored first person shooter, although you're dead wrong, because this looks more like a late-PS2 game than it does an Xbox 360 game. Those familiar with the Halo series would think "oh great a graphic whored game", and initially, you think "OMG THIS IS AMAZIGN!!!", but unfortunately, graphics-wise, this isn't all that good. Textures are missing from parts and only look good from afar, despite the constant vibrant color schemes throughout. One thing I'll point out is that Halo seems to be the only shooter games that can pull off having a gritty sort of story and vibrant color schemes without appearing foolish...hmm... Awesome!

I hate how levels tend to repeat themselves visually during the indoor levels, though. In the levels that seemingly have linear progression, you're often bombarded by enemies and have to kill them all. Sounds fine and dandy, but you're forgetting one thing... THE HALLWAYS ALL LOOK THE SAME! I mean, seriously, WHERE THE HELL AM I MEANT TO GO AT THIS POINT!? From there on, you're just walking around, hoping to get somewhere other than backwards... Damn!

At least when you're outside, it's not nearly as bad. There's the occasional "oh shit I'm lost" moment, but at least it doesn't all look and feel the same. The draw distance aspect of the graphics is where some of the exterior designs really stand out, as everything looks best from afar. Sure, many things look great up close, but about 10% of the trees, birds and bees are better off seen from afar, as they look more like something ripped right out of a mid-PS2 game not named Final Fantasy X-2.

When dealing with the audio aspects of Halo, you have to admit; they're pretty damn good. I'd love to know what those chanting monks are being paid, because they do an excellent job of enhancing the atmosphere whenever their chanting is being played. The orchestra, as usual, manages to create a strong atmosphere in the soundtrack of the game. While playing, you really feel it. However, it's just while playing it, because it's a bit on the forgettable side of things.

Voice acting is something to marvel at. The in-game banter between NPC players is particularly well written - which doesn't say much, as Halo 3 isn't exactly as well written as it should be. If the campaign is putting you to sleep, the NPC's will probably keep you awake with their banter (that, or the pills, I don't know), as they are interesting to hear and..oh come on, they sound awesome! Their voices bring them to life, basically! I'm not saying that the cutscene voice acting sucks - in fact, it's good also - but it's just that the NPCs do an excellent job during the heat of battle, as opposed to some random cutscene that pops up to break up the action. Oh well.

In conclusion, Halo 3 is the sort of game where Xbox Live is required if you're going to purchase it. If you lack Xbox Live, this is rent-only, as the campaign is disappointingly short and not all that good to begin with. Trudging along paths gets boring, yet most of the gunfights are pretty good, so it's more or less a double-edged sword. The game handles well enough and provides at least some fun for the offline player, but seriously, get Xbox Live to have near-endless fun. If you prefer to remain offline or don't like first person shooters, rent before you buy, or just ignore this.

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