Before I’d played any of the Halo games, I’d actually purchased a copy of a Halo art book. Paging through, I was stunned in awe of my first glimpse of the ring, fading off into the distance with the surface of Halo in the foreground. From that moment onwards a mental note was stored in the back of my head to one day investigate the games of the Halo franchise, and to find out what the hype was all about. Since then, I have researched and played the first two Halo games, discussed them with other gamers and written reviews on Halo Combat Evolved and Halo 2. I’ve had many things to say, and I have to admit, despite a few frustrations, I’ve had a damn good time playing these games. And this was all before I got to Halo 3.
Halo 3, simply put, is a masterpiece, a true work of art in the world of gaming. From the very first logo screen to the credits this game is a phenomenon, and I can finally see why the Halo franchise has grown into such a massive beast of gigantic proportions, why Halo has rocked this world, why Halo is definitely one of the most successful game franchises of all time. As soon as I was plunged into the cut scene in the jungle with the Arbiter joining forces with the humans, quickly followed by the first mission, I knew I was in for a ride. Once again the presentation of Halo is excellent, with brilliant visuals, absolutely stunning graphics and a ridiculously huge amount of detail. There is such great diversity in the landscapes, from sun-dappled jungles, to sandy deserts and gruesome flood-infested spaceships. Although the voice actor cast has changed slightly, it is still a shining example of what can be done when stellar talent add their voices to one of the best loved games of our time. The soundtrack of Halo 3 is another great addition to the game. Though I’m not sure it can beat the glory of Halo 2, having not heard the soundtrack independently, it is still an example of masterfully composed orchestral excellence.
While Halo 2’s story was a little confusing, the story of Halo 3 is once again gripping, compelling stuff. It is the material legends are made of. Bungie have put in the time and effort to not only make a great game for the fans, but also tell a really good story. It is one of heroes, and courage, of strength, and of nobility. Like any good story, it has its epic conflicts, awesome battles and heartfelt tragedies. It is very fast-paced, and it is here that my only real criticism of Halo 3 surfaces. The campaign is much too short, and while this doesn’t detract from the game as a whole, I can’t help but feel that the game would’ve been so much better by having a longer campaign. Still, the story is a beauty to behold regardless, and I wasn’t going to let Halo 3’s only flaw ruin my experience. Not to spoil anything, but there is a satisfying ending too, which is essential for the last chapter in a trilogy.
Halo 3’s gameplay is just as good as it was in Halo 2, if not outright better, as it builds on the controls of the previous game. It is still that tight, smoothly transitioned first person shooter you are used to from the previous game, with dual wielding, and vehicle combat. However this time there are a few additions to the weapons and vehicles that really ramp up the Halo experience. The Brute Spiker is truly an awesome gun, spitting out rapid fire, blood-red thorns making it my equal favourite along with the needler. There is also the Spartan Laser, a massively powerful super laser that takes a few seconds to charge up but when it fires, it unleashes hell. Plus there are also several large support weapons. While very cumbersome they do pack one hell of a punch in terms of firepower. Additions to the vehicles include the Mongoose, a light, unarmed vehicle that allow a second player (or AI) to get onboard as a gunner. Although it doesn’t have weapons I very much enjoyed driving the Mongoose around letting the AI do the shooting; this is probably just me but on that note the AI is still at its best, some of the best in video games it has to be said. This time the player also gets to use a Hornet, which was sweet! It would’ve been good if there had been more opportunity to use it though. But of course these additions pale in comparison to the Brute vehicles. The Chopper is a massive, brutal-looking bike which is a pleasure to ride, if a little unwieldy at times due to its huge, bludgeoning size, which is not really a bad thing. And then there is the intimidating and deadly Prowler, which seats no less than four characters – driver, gunner, and two side carriages. Once again the other vehicles are also present, and once again I loved driving the Ghost, I guess I have a thing for anti grav craft.
The really new addition to Halo is Equipment. This is great addition to Halo – there are various different pieces of equipment available, and although you can only carry one at a time, some of them are really neat. Among them are the Bubble shield which gives you complete safety from fire for a limited amount of time, and the Flare which sets off a flash of light that temporarily blinds enemies. Multiplayer again is excellent in Halo. Sadly I have not had many opportunities to play in multiplayer, but what I can say is that there is a great variety of exhaustively detailed arena levels and also included is a greater range in the customizations to your character.
And so ends my review of Halo 3, one of the legendary games of our time. With a great story, excellent gameplay, awesome visuals, a ton of new equipment, weapons and vehicles, brilliant multiplayer and impressive sound and audio, Halo 3 tops its predecessors in almost every way. Bungie have certainly succeeded in their goal of dominating the universe, and my response to that is: congratulations, Halo 3 rocks. I’m giving it a 9.5.