By Steve Boxer
So - armed with unprecedentedly high review scores and a fearsomely expensive marketing campaign, not to mention a bewildering array of merchandising - here it is then. 2007’s biggest game (now that GTA IV
has slipped). But, as a game, does it live up to the hype? Here are Steve Boxer’s first impressions, based on a sustained assault on the single-player campaign.
The first phrase that one would use to describe Halo 3
is “reassuringly familiar”. Right from the off, it provides that comfortable Halo
experience which we all know and love – which could, perhaps, have been expected to lead to something of a backlash from those quarters that prize originality above all. If I was voting for the game of the year, I’d feel obliged to put efforts like BioShock
, which truly break new ground, above it. But then again, it’s easy to see why the Halo
hype-machine has gathered such steam; and you can’t blame Bungie for sticking to such a ridiculously successful formula. But in terms of the feel of the controls and the general look and tenor of the game, it doesn’t deviate from the first two members of the trilogy.
Graphically, the jump to the Xbox 360 doesn’t initially seem as big as you might expect, although the detail in the environments and the general texture-work are noticeably better. Of course, it still has that unmistakable Halo
look, so that probably doesn’t help with the general visual ‘Wow!’ factor. The bubble shields, though, do look very next-gen. The next-gen elevation, however, has clearly allowed Bungie to add new levels of AI sophistication: the Covenant, noticeably, behave in a much more coherent manner, and make full use of all the objects in the game, so you have to take a much more tactical approach.
The other instantly noticeable aspect of Halo 3
is that considerable tweaking of weaponry has taken place. Covenant weapons pack much more of a punch than they did previously. This is just as well, as lack of ammunition becomes an issue very swiftly; and bear in mind that even in the early stages of the game, you have to pick up and use Covenant weaponry. In Halo
and Halo 2
, you’d sigh when forced to do that, due to the general weediness of Covenant weapons, but this time around, you actually enjoy experimenting. In fact, it’s not long before you start finding things like Gravity Hammers, which pack a serious melee punch but must be wielded with more precision than you’d expect. There are also cupboards containing Covenant weapons and ammo, so it’s not just a case of picking up battleground litter.
I briefly touched on the objects you can pick up and use (by pressing [X]); oddly enough, only three of which are mentioned in the manual. In fact, there are vast numbers of objects you can pick up and use, and you find yourself wishing that you could carry more than one, perhaps even picking your favoured one using the D-Pad? But you can only carry one; if you have one already, you can swap it as if it was a weapon (by standing over it and pressing and holding the right bumper). This is all a bit frustrating, as you find things like Energy Drains, which curiosity demands you to pick up and use. To be frank, it’s often difficult to see what items actually do. So, if you’re in a hectic situation, you often wish you hadn’t swapped that Bubble Shield, say, for something that sounded exotic but proved useless. But that’s all stuff that becomes irrelevant once you get used to the game.
Vehicle-wise, there is some great stuff in Halo 3
. I am particularly keen on the Choppers, big bike-like Covenant vehicles with split front-wheels - they are really great all-rounders. They’re almost as manoeuvrable as Ghosts, but pack much more of a punch thanks to a high-calibre machine-gun. They will mow you down, though, so you have to be careful when jumping into them.
Then there are the tanks. The first time you come across one of these giant, mech-like beasts (that could transport hundreds of players) is one of those awe-inspiring moments in the game. This is particularly so since you have to jump into them from above and find out how to blow it up.
In general, you feel that Bungie has nailed the best aspects of Halo
and Halo 2
, and dispensed with the worst – at all times, the gameplay is deeply satisfying, and you find yourself cackling with pleasure as you progress. The storyline is as great as ever, too. Halo 3
may not innovate, or throw any curve-balls at you, but it’s pure gaming Viagra, and that’s what matters.
Don’t forget to read the First Part of SPOnG’s Halo 3
review right here