Microsoft Halo 3
- It's everything that we've all been hoping and waiting for. A flawless shooter in every way.
- Some of the graphics are occasionally ropey, slightly short single-player campaign.
Halo 3 is going to sell a gazillion copies regardless of what we say. It's therefore just as well that the game fully deserves its phenomenal sales -- one of the best shooters we have ever seen, period.
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Let's All Go To The Lobby
The Theater also has a lobby which supports numerous players. This is the perfect place to let all of your friends see your Halo 3 highlights, but you can also hunker down with your clan and game-plan strategies the way professional sports teams do.
The best part is that you don't even have to hit 'save' at the end of each match: Halo 3 will store your last 24 played games, whether it's in the single-player campaign or online. There are also so-useful viewing options: When watching a saved film, players can slow down and speed up time, detach the camera from first-person view and roam freely around the entire battlefield, edit clips, and even take screenshots. It's also great for trying to find those pesky Skulls.
The one oddity is that there is no rewind function in single-player films -- this is especially confusing because a chapter rewind function exists when you view multiplayer films. It's pretty frustrating when you want a specific frame for a campaign screenshot, and if you miss it you'll have to reload the clip. Did I mention certain campaign levels can take more than an hour to finish? Hopefully, Bungie can add rewind functionality via an Xbox Live update down the road.
Regardless, when you add it all up, there's no denying that Bungie has yet again created the slickest and most versatile user interface possible. Each mode, from online co-op all the way down to the Forge, is considered an independent lobby. If you have a full party watching a saved film and everyone suddenly feels inspired to kick some butt in multiplayer, you can simply switch lobbies and take your party with you, which eliminates the need to reinvite everyone.
No More Beta
Now that I've thoroughly given you a rundown of all the multiplayer options, you can start to see that Bungie knows what it's doing. With all due respect to the single-player campaign, it's multiplayer that has been the meat and potatoes of the Halo franchise. The first Halo got it started with system-link parties, Halo 2 helped turn Xbox Live into the top console online service that it is today, and now, Halo 3 is here to raise the bar even further. I predict the lifespan of Halo 3's multiplayer will be twice that of Halo 2, meaning it'll be viable long after the game's release. Hell, it's not too far out of the realm to think that we'll all still be battling each other online when the successor to the Xbox 360 is released.
Pimp My Equipment
One thing that got lost in all the talk about the single and multiplayer modes is the equipment. The addition of deployable equipment -- along with armor permutations and Xbox 360 Achievements -- gives online Halo 3 players even more incentive to keep logging on. Customizable armor is split between helmet, shoulder pads, and body armor. Brutes are not playable, but Spartans have ten different customization options and Elites have seven. Armor pieces are unlocked by getting Achievements and by doing "random things," to quote Bungie. Here's a hint: Playing a large number of online matches may be one of those random things.
While some players seem to be ambivalent to the new equipment, I personally love the tactical options that it allows. Each piece of equipment is unique in its own way and some are great while others don't work how you'd expect them to. The Flare, which blinds everyone within a large radius, and Radar Jammer, for example, affect everyone in the vicinity including yourself, which seems to be counter-productive. It's a little frustrating, but there are ways to get around it: you can chuck the Flare and pick your opponents off from afar, for instance.
So that's it. That is what I have to say about Halo 3 as a game -- for now, at least. As the weeks go on, I'm sure I'll keep discovering more details about the game that warrant discussion, such as the Halo 3 profile pages on Bungie.net. Halo 3 is as complete a game as I've ever played, and it feels good to finally get a sense of closure from the Halo series. It's going to be really exciting to see all of the coverage over the next couple months for Halo 3, and even more exciting to see the types of custom games and maps the hardcore players come up with in Forge. I'm also excited to see what sort of saved films are going to pop up in the Theater. I'm sure we'll see some great frags, tutorials vids on how to make some killer jump and amazing speed runs of the single-player campaign. Anyway you slice it, Halo 3 more than lives up to the high expectations set by gamers everywhere. It's solid gameplay, immense replayability, online functionality and incredible production values will ensure its place in video game history, and it is, without a doubt, a satisfying and fulfilling close to the beloved trilogy[?].
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