ActiveXbox.com: Halo 3 (Xbox 360) - Review

The Active Network

ActiveXbox Active Network | Announced Titles | FAQ | ForumNews 

  *  

 

Halo 3
Company:
Microsoft / Bungie
Website: Official Site
Estimated Street Price: $59.99
Review By:
Brian Kvalheim

First person shooters are nothing new to the gaming arena. In fact, many will say that first person shooters are saturating the gaming market on console and PC. The reason for the abundance of these titles? Billions of dollars in worldwide sales. The Halo franchise is a trilogy of this genre, and proof that gamers will eat this type of game play up. What Kleenex is to facial tissue, Xerox is to copies, Halo is what people think of when they hear about a console game. Young, old, gamers and non-gamers alike, everyone knows that when they hear the word Halo, it’s a game.

Microsoft saw a success story with the Halo 1 IP development, and bought the small company named Bungie that was creating the Halo title. Microsoft wanted a flagship title for their up and coming console, and the talent they saw in Bungie was an easy win gamble for them to take. Halo 1 and 2 brought in hundreds of millions in dollars sold in Halo video games, accessories, digital content and more. Halo has won the hearts of millions and millions of users around the globe. So it comes to no surprise that Halo 3, making it’s debut as a next generation console exclusive on the Xbox 360, has the attention of critics and gamers.

Features

The epic saga continues with Halo® 3, the hugely anticipated third chapter in the highly successful and critically acclaimed Halo franchise. Master Chief returns to finish the fight, bringing the epic conflict between the Covenant, the Flood, and the entire human race to a dramatic, pulse-pounding climax.

Halo 3 represents the third chapter in the Halo trilogy—an international award-winning action series that grew into a global entertainment phenomenon, selling more than 14.5 million units worldwide, logging more than 650 million hours of multiplayer action on Xbox LIVE®, and spawning action figures, books, a graphic novel, apparel, an upcoming film adaptation, and more.

  • Epic story: The thrilling conclusion to the epic Halo trilogy.
  • Next-gen advantage: Taking full advantage of the power of Xbox 360™, Halo 3 expands on everything that has made the Halo franchise great, adding a wealth of technical and gameplay advancements.
  • Evolution of design: Next-generation high-definition visuals, enhanced A.I., an advanced real-time lighting engine, and new weapons, characters, and challenges are just a few examples of Halo 3's evolution of design and technology.
  • Unparalleled experience: Ultimately, these improvements provide gamers with an unparalleled experience and, in the end, tell an even more compelling and engrossing story.
  • Online multiplayer: The most complete online multiplayer experience ever conceived.
  • Only on Xbox 360.
  • Players: 1-4, Players Co-op: 1-4, System Link: 2-16
  • Dolby 5.1 Surround, HDTV 1080p
  • Live: Players 2-16, Co-op: 1-4, Marketplace Downloads, Leaderboards, Voice Support

Gameplay

Review Quotes
" The chopper, a space/dune version of a motorcycle, is about as fun as it gets. Flying around a Pelican over the detailed maps is draw dropping, especially when having battles on the mountain sides over the top of the ocean.."

Whether you are familiar with the Halo series or not, Halo will be very easy to pick up and play. There are numerous reviews, websites, and endless Google links that describe Halo’s epic saga. We won’t rehash that here in this review. This is all about a story line that involves some U.S. Marines, a Spartan named Master Chief, and a beautiful digital character named Cortana. A trilogy of a story of war, which can be followed by playing the game and watching the cinematic scenes that transpire through out the missions.

Game play in Halo 3 equates to the game play in Halo 1 and Halo 2. Follow the 3rd episode of the Halo trilogy, drive vehicles, pick up and drop weapons, shoot aliens. If you are expecting anything different, don’t. What you can expect is more of the exciting game play you have already come to know in love. Halo 3 brings some improvements to the campaign mode as well as multiplayer game play experience however.

The Xbox 360, arguably the most powerful next generation system, brings some extra resources to the series. The power of the Xbox 360 has given Bungie the ability to express themselves and their goal of the game even better. Throughout the campaign, you will find mind boggling attention to detail. Master Chief displays tattered armor, with dust speckled helmet. Every joint, movement, and accessory on Master Chief is visible, highly detailed, and completely operational. The draw distance is astounding, showing you snow capped mountain tops miles in the distance, as well as funnel clouds miles high in the sky. What does this have to do with game play you might ask? Everything. This detail and extra resources literally pull you into the game. This enhancement to the game play is very welcome, and shows what Bungie wanted with Halo 1 and 2 had the resources been available then.

The game starts out with its usual cinematics as you, Master Chief, crash into a lush forest. Working with your Marines, the game takes you through a linear path of destruction. You will find that, as expected, the game remains linear through out. Don’t expect any over sized sandbox missions, though some levels do expand beyond a single path. Halo 3 gives you options for approaching different scenarios from the left or right, or even center, but with the same outcome.

The AI (artificial intelligence) this time around is simply amazing. This AI includes not only the enemy, but your fellow Marines as well. The Marines actually participate in your battles, give you direction, and even hit the enemies. It’s crazy, I know. The enemy knows how and when to take cover, and they are not afraid to do so. The AI is really kicked up when you go from playing in the Normal mode (Easy, Normal, Heroic and Legendary are the available difficulty levels) to Heroic. This improved intelligence was requested by loyal Halo fans to Bungie fans ad nauseam. While typically it seems most games just add more AI for more difficult settings, Bungie elected to make the AI even smarter, along with adding more aliens to slaughter.

While not a big complaint, it does seem worth mentioning. As usual, be prepared to take out a “boss” or two on each mission. The boss’s could be either alien or ship, all of which give you a challenge. The problem on a few of the missions is a redundant return along your linear path you just took to reach the boss. You have endured countless enemies along the path to the boss, only to have to return back the same way you came, enduring additional enemies, which you already thought you had cleared out. This is not the case for every mission, but a select couple. This could have been avoided with a little extra time and level editing.

As you progress though the campaign, each level gets a little more difficult, and enemies become more densely populated. With this, Bungie conveniently and strategically places new and useful weapons for you to swap out during each mission. Placing laser weapons where only a laser weapon will take out a certain enemy seems almost cookie cutter, but it still plays well. One of the more exciting weapons you still stumble across shoots balls of fire. The blue and orange flame at the end of your looks so real, it resembles the flame on a gas burner coming from a propane grill. Even better is watching your enemy run towards you as they burn to a crisp.

From dual wielding to the hammer, there are weapons galore. This is yet another request by Halo fans that the developer reacted to. Another requested feature was the addition of more vehicle types. Again, Bungie listened and responded. The chopper, a space/dune version of a motorcycle, is about as fun as it gets. Flying around a Pelican over the detailed maps is draw dropping, especially when having battles on the mountain sides over the top of the ocean.

With so much detail, resources and power in Halo 3, long distance battles are more common this time around. I was able to make use of the sniper rifle substantially more this round. Far off in the distance you can see the enemies in tree tops, mountain sides, as their shimmer from the shields and plasma shots can be seen clear across the sky. Zooming in your sniper on the enemy shows full detail of their facial features, even at a great distance.

I would recommend that you charge up your controller before playing this game. Bungie took advantage of the rumble features of the Xbox 360 controller to the extreme. While rumble works with weapon use and receiving hits from enemies, you can also feel it with near by crashes and some of the more frequent cut scenes (avoiding a spoiler here). It was great at first, and I understand why the cut scenes used it, but towards the end it got a little old. Consider having to do a checkpoint over multiple times, only to have to start the checkpoint with the same rumble cut scene over and over.

Graphics and Sound

And now we get to the highly debated graphics of Halo 3. The first question many ask after inquiring about the game play is whether the graphics are “amazing”. Bungie never intended this game to be “real life” photo realistic in appearance. That just isn’t the demeanor of this scifi shooter. Compare a comic book to a Maxim magazine, where Halo 3 is the comic book. How impressive can the graphics in a comic book really get? Having said that, the graphics are substantially improved over the previous Halo titles. While many may not see the improvements by passing by, spending 12 hours in the campaign reveals what I mentioned earlier in this review. Attention to detail. Halo 1 and 2 may have shown the Master Chief with his green armor, but not to this extent. Now the Master Chief displays his war scars, full weapon engagement, smoke filled chambers in the weapons, as well as the reflections of the environment off of his helmet face. Almost every weapon has a brilliant brushed/gun metal black finish, including those that are strapped to Master Chiefs back.

I also recommend that once you clear a level, walk back through and take in all the scenery. The water looks exactly like, water. Some of the rivers that lead to falls contain some dirty water, similar to the water than can be found my some of my local lakes, unfortunately. In other missions, you have clean clear water with some snow caps. An older game title, FarCry, had previously set the bar on water realism and clarity. Halo 3 water took that to the next level. Even Master Chief enjoys the occasional swim during the campaign.

The game has the full 5.1 Dolby Surround, and takes full advantage of it. Be prepared to hear footsteps behind, side and front of you. Enjoy the sound of your feet walking through brush, or hearing the leaves on the trees as they blow in the wind. At any instant, you can hear an enemy and immediately determine where they are, 360 degrees around you, by sound alone. Crashing of the water falls, the engines in the vehicles, and the sounds from each weapon give a complete sense of realism.

Multiplayer

At the time of this writing, Bungie had only opened the multiplayer matchmaking floodgate for a couple hours. During that window, I was only able to put in two matches. Those who are familiar with the Halo 3 beta this spring, would feel right at home on the Snowbound map I was in during both rounds. The Xbox Live features of Halo 3 are simply phenomenal to say the least. Without question, the absolute best use of a Live connection for console or even PC. Bungie has set the bar with the live functionality in this game so high, words can’t do it justice.

Matchmaking lobbies are familiar in color, UI and Haloesque feel. The options for playing with the community are endless. You can set up options to play in an open forum (which everyone in Halo 2 is familiar with day in and day out). You can also set up matches specific to only those on your friends list, recent players list, or set to friends your friends. With a gratuitous amount of maps (and surely more to come as premium content is released), the excitement is unlikely to end for nearly a decade down the road.

Every game you play is saved to your hard drive. Big deal right? Well it is a big deal because you can go back and review those games in the Halo 3 Theater. You can watch the entire match to see what happened on that headshot that you argued about in the game. You can use the features of the theater to take a birds eye view of the entire map and watch the entire round from above, seeing what every friend or foe was doing. You can even change camera view to any person that was playing that map. Find a particular cool section of the post video review you want to share with others? The Halo 3 Theater allows you to cut out video clips of the review (or just screenshot if you desire), and share them with friends over Xbox Live. My testing of this feature (screenshots posted here in the review) proved that it’s very simple to use, and very intuitive. Camera controls are easily found by pressing the start button on the Xbox 360 controller.

Bungie also added another new feature to the Theater. Called Bungie Pro, this is a premium feature. By default, the game gives you 6 slots to store sharable and uploaded video clips and screenshots. These 6 slots are combined with a maximum 25mb of storage. If you have an extra 750 MS points in your wallet, you can now waste spend those points and up your storage to 250mb, and 24 slots. Micro-transactions are here to stay, and I believe Bungie introduced a new one that will become more popular with other developers and future titles.

As seen in Halo 2, you can also customize your online Spartan armor. Choose from a pallete of colors, a number of helmets, and countless logo’s to tattoo on your Master Chief.

One last multiplayer feature, which I was unable to test (no friends with Halo 3, no Halo 3 servers), is a feature called Forge. It’s loosely described as a map editor. No, you can't edit the maps directly. However, Forge does allow you to customize the map objects. You can place weapons and vehicles where you choose. You can choose which weapons you want, and on which map. When using Forge, you play in Forge only matches, available from the multiplayer menu in Halo 3. One of the best parts to Forge is that while you are in a Live Forge match, you can designate a teammate to be a map editor during game play. Each object and move is associated with a dollar value, allowing you only a certain number of moves and objects (you are given a balance of money). During live game play, your dedicated forge teammate can place weapons or vehicles in front of you or next to you when you need them. Placement can be deadly too. Feel free to place (read..DROP) a warthog on an enemy, at any time, in any place. Seriously, what will they think of next.

 

Final Comments

 

How It Grades

Controls: 90%
Gameplay: 85%
Presentation: 95%
Graphics: 90%
Multiplayer: 100%
Sound: 95%
Interface: 100%
Lastability: 100%
Price/Value: 95%
Overall: 95%

To put it bluntly, Halo 3 is a must have title if you own an Xbox 360. The multiplayer ingredients of this game give it the most playtime and longevity of any game to date, hands down. This coming from a gamer whom is not an avid Halo fan (though I own all three). The game does exactly what games set out to do, and that is to provide you with hours of entertainment and fun. In the case of Halo 3, hours will turn into years.

Halo 3 takes first person shooters to the next level, on PC or console with its multiplayer features and deserves the high ranking I anticipate it will receive by millions of gamers worldwide. Set aside your online prejudices of Halo 2 matches being overrun by 12 year old pimpled kids swigging Mountain Dew Game Fuel, and get all your friends to join you in some friendly matches in Halo 3 on Xbox Live. You simply won’t regret it.

 
Specs & Package
Overall Score 95%
Version Reviewed Halo 3 Standard Edition (NTSC)
Release Date Sept 25, 2007
In The Box? 1 Halo DVD-ROM, 1 Set Of Instructions, 1 48 Hour Xbox Live Trial, 1 Weapon Poster
The Good Points Multiplayer, 1-4 Co-op, Interface, Sound
The Bad Points Checkpoint save slow down, short campaign
HD Resolutions 480p
720p
1080i
1080p
Widescreen Support Yes
Xbox Live! Online Play Enabled? Yes
PAL 60 Support (Europe) Yes


Return To The Xbox Section

 

  *  
  *   *