I remember the months leading up to the release of Halo 2 still clearly. The date of release was firmly entrenched in my mind. After playing the Halo 1 campaign for three years all I could think about was that date. To be frank I was sadly disappointed. Thankfully for the third installment I had low expectations and now I am very glad of that.
When it comes to Halo 3 I don’t really know how to explain my feelings about the campaign so first I will just explain the way I feel the story was constructed. I can see the creative team sitting at the round table at Bungie. Each member asked to brainstorm for ideas. One by one they recount what was good and what was bad about the last two games. What worked and what didn’t. New ideas are floated and a general feel of the content is established.
Let’s put in some scarabs, they were cool. It would be great if we could take down drop ships. New and unique vehicles are a must and so forth. My problem with this is that I really believe the story was negatively affected by Bungies willingness to try and appeal to YOU. Yes you, the Halo fanatic, you know who you are. Bungie did what they thought you wanted and most probably did. With each mission they added what you want. Not original content just reprocessed content and story elements that mimicked the first two games.
Now this isn’t all bad. After all it’s Halo 3. Bring back Guilty Spark. Throw the flood at us in greater numbers. Do all that and more. However in the end the game is to full of plot twists or rather villains that change sides and come and go as they please. I can see clearly why the casual or first time Halo players are so confused.
My second run through the campaign I played co-op with a friend who played both Halo 1 and 2. He almost gave up playing because of this. I almost gave up playing because of his questions and the lack of my ability to answer them. The cut scenes needed to be three times as long to explain the story in all honesty.
One thing I was looking forward to was the way the new AI affected game play. I saw the interviews with the Bungie team. All that talk about Brute behaviour. If one throws a grenade the other do etc. The only intelligence I saw were Grunts retreating when they were alone. The rest of the Covenant brings nothing new. Brutes might as well be entrenched in concrete. They move only when devoid of their armor. The encounters seem scripted with pockets of enemy scattered here and there. More often then not watching on as their Covenant brothers get killed from the safety of the next rock.
In the end the icing on the cake was the last mission titled Halo. The final Hog run was simply too much for me. I don’t know if I was more offended by the mimicking of the original or the falling tiles that looked like place holders. For a moment there I thought I accidentally got an unfinished French beta version of the game.
I've decided I need time to play more multiplayer and access the balances and features before judging anything but the campaign. Perhaps there I will find what I'm looking for or rather what I have lost in terms of fun from this series.
I’ve probably given you the impression that I didn’t like the game. I’m sorry if that’s the case. For you see I did enjoy it. Much more then Halo 2 and more then a lot of games I hand over hard earned cash for. Perhaps that’s my problem, I’m a harsh judge. I almost always expect more then I get. Even when I have little to no expectation.
Put Lancaster Online on the list of sites that thought campaign was too short and that multiplayer is the real reason to buy Halo 3-- not to mention the reason to buy an Xbox 360 if you don't already own one.
GamesFirst thought the gunplay was excellent and the story "nonsense" but gave Halo 3 a score of 4 stars out of 5 anyway.
Something Awful reviews Halo 3, and for once, it's a real review (sort of) and not just an excuse to crack some poop jokes. Except, there are a few poop jokes.
Generally the review falls into the "single player is crap but multiplayer is good" except they also hated multiplayer. What do you expect? It's Something Awful.
They do manage to slip in a couple of the PC-centric prejudices that seem to characterize many of the reviews, such as:
The weapons feel like toys and don't have the responsiveness or feedback of a game like Half-Life 2.
I don't know what kind of forced feedback controller they're using on their PCs, but I really fail to see how the words responsiveness and feedback apply to weapons in Half-Life 2 (also a very good game) any more than Halo 3.
Brian Szabelski at Blogcritics.org gives a thumbs up to Halo 3:
Halo 3 is just about everything we've been led to think it would be. It falls short in some areas of campaign, where things seem like the generic FPS cliché of "here's a room full of bad guys, kill 'em!", but it absolutely shines in multiplayer modes. And guess what? The game's difficulties aren't just cosmetic changes like in some other titles - it's insane on Legendary, but you're rewarded more for it. No 360 owner's collection is complete without this title.
Check out the complete review for his list of pros and cons.
The Zero Punctuation videoblog at The Escapist proves that it's much easier to be funny when criticizing something than praising it, and their review of Halo 3 is indeed funny. I just can't figure out if it's funny for the sake of it, or whether the reviewer honestly dislikes the game as much as the review says and being funny is just a byproduct of that.
However, all I can think of watching the recycled criticisms (the game is short, the story is incomprehensible) is that I don't see the basis for them. At all. Estimates of game length are all over the board, from 8 to 20 hours. And yet all of these are called "short". Compared to what? Oblivion? Are all games supposed to deliver the same number of hours of play for a single price point? Is it fair to hold Halo 3 to that standard while saying "I don't give a flying shit about multiplayer"?
Would this stuff be deemed funny if someone lampooned the plot of The Return of the King from the perspective of someone who had neither read nor seen The Fellowship of the Ring or the Two Towers and therefore didn't know anything about these wacky short people called
Grunts Hobbits and this all-powerful Halo Ring everybody is on about?
Inside Pulse reviews Halo 3, and in the process, invents more subcategories to assign ratings to than I could possibly imagine would be relevant or useful, including truly subjective things like Appeal, Originality and Miscellaneous. As the kids say, whatever. They liked the game:
It's Halo 3. It fixed everything that was wrong with Halo 2, which was in its own right pretty damned stellar. I'm a little sad to see it go, but I know there will be more. Microsoft isn't stupid. Having said that though, the fight has been finished. For now.
Hard to disagree with that unless you try real hard. After all the dust settles, Halo 3 gets a solid 8 from Inside Pulse. Must be the new math.
It's tired cliché that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Despite rampant accusations of having a story that's derivative pulp, the first half of Halo 3 is not a tired cliché, nor does it need a second chance to make a first impression.
Hearing from a number of reviewers and community members who played through the game in a single sitting under Bungie's purview, I've decided to play no more than two campaign levels a day in order to savor the experience. To get my Halo 3 fix the rest of the day, I watch films of those levels, hunt for skulls, or play around in Forge. I understand why those people wanted to get through the game right away, and why Bungie wanted reviewers to play the whole game. Community members knew they wouldn't be able to go on much longer without someone spoiling the ending for them. Bungie knew it would be best for reviewers to have a complete experience-- at least, the most complete experience you can get from 8-15 hours of a game that probably has as much if not more replayability value as Halo 1 and 2 combined. However, I refuse to be rushed.
About.com's only real complaint about Halo 3 is that 12-year-olds play it. They gave it five out of five stars in their Halo 3 review.
Calling it the best Halo game yet, Australia's Herald Sun gave Halo 3 a rating of 4.5 out of 5 points.
Let's hope the reviewers at TechTree weren't inebriated when they gave Halo 3 a score of 4.5 out of 5.
Stuff.co.nz calls Halo 3 a masterful conclusion but does, of course, have to add some obligatory, if odd, caveats:
Halo 3 isn't perfect. It's obvious more of the scenarios this time have been designed for their potential for online play rather than to advance the story.
Reviewer Tom Cardy gave the game five stars out of five.
No pun intended, 411.com thought Halo 3 met expectations:
Though it could easily have been swamped by the hype and buried by unrealistic expectations, Halo 3 weathered the storm very well. The game, even with the few flaws, is as close to the perfect FPS as you can expect to see this console generation. Not only does it have a very solid single-player campaign that improves on every aspect of the past two, but it takes real steps forward in both multiplayer and additional features. It's quite possibly the best all-around game that the 360 will see this generation, with features that other games will be forced to imitate and gameplay that will still be entertaining far down the road.
They gave it ten points out of ten, a "virtually perfect" rating.
Halo 3's strength is in its multiplayer, they say:
If you're looking for an outstanding, unstoppable multi-player FPS, then Halo 3 is the game for you. Gears of War has a large and dedicated multi-player fan base and it looks fabulous, but the controls are not intuitive and so it's not pick-up-and-play easy like Halo is. Sure, the bumper and X buttons might throw people off for a little while, but Halo set the standard for where FPS gameplay was going, and H3 continues that legacy.
They rate it just short of a "Geek pick" because they ascribe much of the interest in the game as nostalgia for the original Halo.
GameSpy stops playing Halo 3 just long enough to wax lyrical about the game. There are viewpoints from several staffers, but here's one that stands out. Associate Console Editor Sterling McGarvey was bitten by the bug that disables the Resume feature when moving a hard drive from one console to another:
It's not all rotten in the state of Denmark, however. After jacking a Wraith to Gabe's amazement, I proceeded to mow through legions of Brute forces with alarming ease. That was because I'm playing on Normal. What can I say? I can't organize enough guys on my schedule to burn through four-player Legendary. Yet. I'm sure that I'll be far too green to play well online in time for Wednesday's upcoming 'Spy-Hunter, but what else is new?
Playing on Normal because you've no help or time for Legendary? There's a solution to that problem. It's called Heroic.