Halo 3 – Xbox 360
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: September 25, 2007
Genre: First-person Shooter
Nerd Rating: 6/10
Reviewed by: Paladin
“I need a weapon.”
These words, calmly and deftly spoken by Master Chief, make up one of the greatest quotes of the Halo franchise. In the calm before the storm, our hero steps up to his latest challenge without batting an eye. It’s a great set up to a great first level of one of the greatest first-person shooters ever.
Too bad that quote is from Halo 2.
We all remember when the first Halo came out for the original Xbox, changing not only online gaming but the FPS genre forever. With its responsive dual-joystick controls, revolutionary graphics and an epic, sweeping storyline, this game enveloped us in a universe unlike any we had ever seen. It seemed impossible that Microsoft could top its own masterpiece; yet it did with the eagerly awaited sequel. At this point, the computer giant’s fledgling system was on a roll and showed no signs of stopping, due in large part to its flagship franchise. Anticipation for a third installment only grew over a long three year gap. Finally, Halo 3 arrived on the new Xbox 360 and the reaction was…eh.
Why such an underwhelming response?
It certainly starts off promising enough. Menu screens have received an updated look, the alluring vocals of the iconic theme song accompany us throughout the selection process, and the game wastes no time in throwing the player right into the action. Picking up exactly where the second game left off, Master Chief awakens to find himself back on earth surrounded by friendly marines, ready for the next mission against the fanatical Covenant. The first level features a beautifully rendered jungle complete with cliffs and cascading waterfalls. Minute details such as leaf patterns and specific adornments on each character made us all too willing to get lost in these improved graphics. There were times when I just wanted to wander around and admire the scenery. No joke.
Working through the first level we found that graphics were not the only improvement. Along with all the old favorites, Chief has a whole new arsenal at his disposal including energy shields, never before seen vehicles and even the massive hammer of the Brutes (and you thought the plasma sword was fun). However, there may be one new weapon too many. In the heat of battle I rarely found myself scrolling through the different options to see what I hadn’t used yet for fear of dying.
Two things that need no mentioning (but I’m going to anyway) are the controls and the voice acting. They’re both just as good as they’ve always been if not better. What else needs to be said? The fact that every marine has their own distinct voice and personality has always been one of my favorite aspects of the franchise.
The subsequent levels followed suit, begging the question; what didn’t people like about this game?
The problem lies in the area that made the first two entries such standouts: the story. After a massive quest across two different Halo rings, the surprise entrance of the Flood, Covenant conspiracies, and a heart-wrenching goodbye to Cortana, expectations were high for Halo 3. “Finally!” we thought, “an FPS franchise with more than just great gameplay and graphics!”
For most, the realization that something was amiss came with the discovery that there were no Arbiter levels. One of the best features of Halo 2, gaining control of the Arbiter for half of the game made for extra intrigue; with different weapons came a different way of playing, with a different story came clashing characters to become invested in, and so on. The Arbiter levels were more than just a change of pace; they added a whole new dimension to the game that worked perfectly. In Halo 3, we saw very quickly that the Arbiter had been reduced to the same status as Sergeant Johnson; a sidekick that can’t die and lends some credence to the plot here and there.
Along with this massive letdown, the rest of the story, so expertly set up in the first two Halos, seems to speed along and get wrapped up way too quickly in the last act of the game in a disappointing clash with the massive Gravemind and a forced deus ex machina death of one of the main characters.
All in all, Halo 3 isn’t an awful game by any means and has many enjoyable moments. But after getting so invested in this story and its characters, it was an anticlimactic end to an otherwise amazing trilogy.
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