I binged on Halo 3 to review it for the paper, so here’s what it’s going to look like come Saturday. For extra effect, I thought I’d toss in a trailer. The review follows.
If youre going to ask me if Halo 3 lives up to the hype, Ill tell you no.
But take this into account: At the L.A. midnight release, a guy dressed as the Master Chief showed up. Amidst the cheers, a fan standing in line trembled and then kneeled, were-not-worthy style, in front of him. Youd have thought the Chief walked on water to get to Universal CityWalk. No game can live up to that kind of worship.
But while Halo 3 isnt a religious epiphany on disc, you can certainly count it as one of the better total first-person shooter experiences you can find on a console.
I started with campaign mode, which attempts to wrap up the story of the Master Chief and his battle with the alien race called the Covenant. Like the previous two installments, the game visually plunges you into a variety of rich, vast environments. If youre not shooting Covenant foes in a subterranean base, youre blasting apart creepy-crawlies in a slimy space cruiser.
The game does a pretty good job of flexing some of the 360s graphic muscle, especially in large-scale battles your first confrontation with the walking Scarab tank is one to remember.
I also liked some of the new weapons, my favorite being the gravity hammer, good for one-hit deathblows and the occasional sight of the enemy flying into the air. I also liked rolling around in the Brute Chopper, a motorcycle with a huge front wheel that can annihilate things it runs into at full speed.
The series storytelling and atmosphere have been a little underrated, but I was genuinely entertained by most of the Halo 3 dialogue and cutscenes. Theres some particularly solid voicework done by Keith David, reprising his role as the Arbiter.
What I didnt like in the campaign mode was the backtracking. For some missions, I kept having to return to areas I already visited, either to kill some more enemies or hit some kind of button that activated something important. That took a chunk of the rush away for me.
I also couldnt help but be constantly reminded of other first-person shooters that came out before this one.
For instance, there are times when a voice invades the Chiefs head, reminiscent of The Darkness.
When you step into the gooey hallways of the crashed ship of the Flood (a race of infected biological freaks), the appearance of organic, orifice-like doorways and pulsating stuff conjures up memories of Prey. I was halfway expecting some random hole in the shop to vomit on me.
While the campaign was just OK, the games online options are superb.
You can send photos and share movies of your exploits (like highlight reels) with the rest of the Xbox Live community with the theater feature. Theres also the forge option, which lets players customize (not build) the games maps, giving them control of everything from spawn points to the kinds of weapons that are available (and where). Players can then hop online and give the retooled map a spin. You could literally spend a day just messing around with this with your friends.
However, I ran into some issues when it came to just simple online fighting. Im not sure if it was the heavy traffic of opening week, but I was fighting lag every time I was out there.
I tried the much-anticipated online co-op feature. While it was mostly fun (theres really nothing like playing together), I fought some lag here as well. I also didnt like the fact that if one person in your party has to jump out of the game, the game ends for everyone you cant press on without him or her. That hurts it can turn any party member into a potentail buzzkill, and thats no fun.
As far as the total package goes, few games come as fully stocked as Halo 3. Die-hard fans will probably look past its flaws. I will keep playing it, and keep enjoying it but my knees are staying off the ground.