Halo 3 was fun, but let's not see halo 4. (the agitated rants of an opinionated and easily frustrated gamer)

Halo 3 is an enjoyable experience and a decent rounding out to the series. Still i was hoping for a different direction then i was given and got that 'something is off' feeling that i got with halo 2 dispite it working hard to feel more like halo 1. Spoilers ahoy for what is basically me bitching about halo 3 in it's entirety. Keep in mind i still have fun with the game and by no means consider it bad. I merely bitch because i love.

In numerous instances in halo 3 i felt the storyline was confusing and iffy, but mostly because it was making compromises for storyline problems previously in the series or compromises for limited storyline space in the game, which was a bit unavoidable in the grand scheme of things but does detract from the overall experience. Examples of this would be the fact that gravemind in halo 3 is a faceless entity with tentacles that occasionally harass you because too many people disliked the 'audrey 2' style design from the second game. Another example would be the rushed brutes from the 2nd game suddenly having a completely different structure, weapon set, and armor classification that we are supposed to believe they always had according to the latest book.I would have much rather they had the brute's style change be a side effect of their new place in the covenant then have the books and game basically say 'oh yeah...they always had that, you just didn't know about it.' Let us not even mention the dizzying confusion surrounding sarge Johnson. All of these things were ultimately compromises that were made to patch up things that were considered flaws in the game universe that i personally think they would have been better handled by more subtlety.

Also i feel like the story came close to tackling some themes and issues i wanted to see taken care of and then had to back off because of matters of scope. For instance the fact that Cortana was supposedly going insane and horribly damaged by gravemind throughout halo 3. Then when you rescue her she operates perfectly normally and nothing is mentioned of it ever again. Also when master chief goes into cryo in the ending sequence noone seems at all worried that he probably isn't going to be awake before whatever complications of Cortana's already limited and substantially shortened 'lifespan' come to pass. (this of course is mostly a complaint about the continued and rather marked disconnect between the halo book continuity and the halo game continuity so is a minor quibble for the game storyline taken by itself.)

Another complaint i would have is that i find it hard to believe many things that you had to accept at the end of halo 3 in order to not consider Cortana and the chief idiots for how they reacted to the end of this chain of events 'it's finally over blah blah'

A. The destruction of gravemind and the flood infestation on high charity means that the flood are no longer a tangible threat to the galaxy...despite the fact that the flood are a 'a single spore survives and a planet could be lost' style virulent threat that is suspected to have at least some infestation on EVERY halo ring as well as other forerunner structures.

B.The fight that you carried out in 'the covenant' where you pushed into the control room and killed truth constituted every last resource that the covenant had left, no ships retreated and the covenant power structure has no plans for the eventuality of the death of it's heirarchs.

C. despite the fact that a relatively small detachment of the elite species came to humanity's aid every other representation of the elite species is going to leave humanity alone.

D. There are numerous halos still potentially ready to fire individually and have a relay system to fire with each other, no indication was made that the ark was needed intact for them to fire.

E. dispite the fact that all it takes to fire a halo and unleash hell on the stars is a single human hand no one will ever plan ever again to either use a human to fire the halo rings or attempt to destroy the entire human race to make sure their are no humans left to fire it.

This is understandably not tackled in the game because of time constraints and a wish to bring the story arch to a close with a third game. Still having the main character's be naive enough to completely detract from these potential threats is a bit of a 'but what if their's a sequel?' BUM BUM BUUUUM sort of moment that i worry about. There's probably going to be sequels to the halo storyline in some shape form or fashion down the road as it's too popular for fans to let die. I don't want to see those however because i think that the series has been falling apart storyline wise under the weight of it's own inability to explore it's own ideas ever since the books started coming out. The first halo game simply was to straitforward and had too wide open of an audience to support the kind of in depth themes that lay hidden in the background of the series without losing some of it's marketability but if it didn't retain some of it's complexity it would alienate the hardcore fans that arguably keep the community Bungie has made from being swallowed into the mainstream fans and losing it's personality. It's a hard situation to manage and you could hardly expect them to do it perfectly.

Taken as a simple action game storyline halo is for the most part a strait forward three game series that while flawed is still cleverly written and emotionally presented. It follows a comprehensible sci fi storyline arch and provides the ups and downs people expect while keeping them teased for more. Perfect for selling a game and entertaining for fans.

Taken as a work of art halo is a series that has many ambitious ideas and a love of giving it's fans in depth detail but is suffering from both a too many cooks spoil the broth style approach to the continuity that is reminiscent of, but hardly as bad as, the comic book industry as well as trying to play to the mainstream fanbase who basically only picked up the game for it's multiplayer component. (i have seen people who are majors online and haven't played a single second of campaign, not to mention ones who haven't played it above normal or easy. Also we already got into the fragmentation of the fanbase that comes from people wanting more cohesive support for the books) The series has often been compared to star wars in recent months. I think the comparison is apt because like that series halo has suffered at least a minor breakdown of it's artistic integrity through being marketed as a multifacted story across many mediums and becoming so big that it's owners feel it has to be mainstream and easy to understand to avoid backlash from consumers less interested in in depth plot analysis.

Gameplay wise I personally feel that the series feeling like it has to have extra bullet points on it's box each time 'dual wielding, biggest halo levels ever!, new weapons and vehicles!' has also been a detriment.

As far as multiplayer goes in the halo series while i play it religiously because i happen to be just good enough at it to feel egotistical when i'm not losing it's still frustrating for me to play. They openly admitted that dual wielding pretty much unseated the statis quo that was set up in halo 1 and the fact that halo 3's weapon setup is still of course more based off of halo 2's weapons then halo 1's it means that the pacing and style of play in halo 3, while more like halo 1's is still halo 2's baby. while i hardly consider halo 1 to be perfectly balanced in hindsight i do think that over the last 2 games multiplayer balancing for the series has mostly seemed like a tug of war between warring factions that want the game to be completely based off of individual skill versus people who want the game to be based off of overwhelming teamwork. I personally think a balance between the two is fine and i like where the halo series sits in that balance in theory. I'm just sick of gameplay being controlled by power weapon emphasis and chafing under the social gaming restrictions of not having a custom game browser or hopper, which is not going to change too much since power weapons have been a staple of halo play for it's entire existance and a custom game system is a bit too large to be offered as downloadable content. Halo 1 was considered the multiplayer benchmark for the series mostly because people just didn't notice problems as much in halo 1 because you basically spawned with a power weapon and due to a lack of in box online support few people played the game with anyone who had much practice playing against high level people or whom they couldn't punch in the arm for being cheap.

The single player game's limitations for me mostly stem from the latter 2 games using very frustrating means to up their difficulty.Halo 2 introduced much too large of a disparity between player health/damage vs enemy health/damage at higher difficulty levels and the advent of enemies picking at you with dizzying accuracy from severe range. These two things drastically limited your choices in how you play the game. Thus limiting the sandbox sort of feel i had with halo 1. Also vehicle segments in halo 2 were far too corridor and wave spawn based.

These were all issues that were tackled in halo 3's attempts to improve things but halo 3 ran across new problems. Covenant vehicles were too hard to take down due to a relatively less plentiful and reliable rocket launcher and a drastic upping in vehicle small arms fire damage. (the turret on the wraith and the guns on the ghost in my first playthrough on heroic often made me feel like if they got close i had no chance of survival no matter what I did unless i was driving a tank.) Also the wraith tank had suddenly become relentless and perfectly aimed at range, basically forcing you to be in a vehicle or be planning your movements very very carefully to survive. Neither of which felt possible with some of the harsh infantry support those wraith's had in two or three points in the game. I was told by bungie to play the game on heroic because i was experienced and they designed it to be the most fun for experienced people on heroic. When i played through the game the first time on heroic in three seperate instances in the game i was pinned down by a wraith tank and died countless times in a row no matter what i tried. only getting by because of luck or because i somehow managed to find the pity missle launcher or rocket they laid off in a corner somewhere and gave me little indication of. I understand halo 1's weapon spawns of 'oh a few dead marines landed here with everything you need strewn around their corpses' wasn't realistic but at least I could find them in a pinch. My final complaint about halo 3 is of course the level Cortana. Many people called it halo 3's library. I personally liked the library better however. The library was repetitive for sure but at least in the library i had room to manuver, i could clean out the infection forms after each fight with melee attacks (that magically seem to not work at all in halo 3 against infections due to decreased melee range or something similar.) to save ammo, i could clear out groups of flood handily by using exploding flood sacks and the supreamly powerful grenades to my advantage, and when something was shooting at me at range it had only mediocre accuracy and it didn't take me a clip and a half of god damn carbine ammo to kill it! Not to mention their weren't three of them at once!! (yeah i hate those spine shooting wall climbing asshats. By far the worst addition to the enemy roster in halo's history and a true sign of lazy 'difficulty over fun' game design.)Halo 3 did plenty of things right overall but it ultimately feels like a game that punishes you a bit too much for not playing it their way. Like the scene in two betrayals in halo 1 where you trigger one of the pulses and right as your shields are taken down the room is rushed by a nearly impossible to survive wave of flood that includes the ever so uneccisary and bitchy rocket flood, only repeated throughout the entire game a few times too many.

Halo 1 was a lightning strike that resonated with players on both a gameplay and storyline front. The fact that many things that worked so well with it were because of limitations the game makers were working under and improving on existing ideas particularly well. While it was a game with flaws those flaws often seemed to give it a personality all it's own (go library).

The other two games in the halo series have left me both happy and indifferent. Both are good games but neither ever convinced me that they did what they set out to do. Which is follow up halo. They both feel like completely different games that tried too hard to improve halo and just ended up breaking it in different ways. I think this is because the creative teams changed over the years and just because of the limitations that expectation and the known quantity of what 'did' or 'didn't' work in the first game guided their hand too much. At the end of the day i believe that halo 3 was for me a marked improvement over halo 2 but just reminded me how far away from halo 1 the series has gotten over the years (i miss you, easy to kill hunters)and made me decide that the best way for bungie to recreate the feeling i got playing halo 1 is to start over and make a new IP and make another quirky and flawed new game with it's own personality and fun factor. These days it feels like some of the people in Bungie think that way too.

halo 2 and halo 3 basically meant for me that i'm not really a die hard halo fan anymore, but the halo series on the whole has made me a die hard bungie fan and i can't wait to see what comes next.

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Comments

Just to respond to your specifics:

[quote=Meyeselph]

A. The destruction of gravemind and the flood infestation on high charity means that the flood are no longer a tangible threat to the galaxy...despite the fact that the flood are a 'a single spore survives and a planet could be lost' style virulent threat that is suspected to have at least some infestation on EVERY halo ring as well as other forerunner structures. [/quote]

This is the one major weakness that I see. If we are expected to believe that ALL flood forms in the Galaxy came with Gravemind to the Ark, they should have worked harder to give this impression. It's not just a question of a few spores or infections around; Delta Halo was infested and left intact.

[quote=Meyeselph]

B.The fight that you carried out in 'the covenant' where you pushed into the control room and killed truth constituted every last resource that the covenant had left, no ships retreated and the covenant power structure has no plans for the eventuality of the death of it's heirarchs. [/quote]

I don't really have a problem with this. The entire Covenant power structure was prepared for a rapture that would usher them into heaven. It didn't happen. Faith in that power structure is doubtless going to be severely shaken. The backbone of the Covenant was the Elites. The Brutes replaced them, and the Elites defeated the Brutes. I seriously doubt that Covenant remnants made up largely of Jackals, Hunters and Grunts are going to take initiative against humanity. Or, rather, whether or not they do so is a relatively normal event; a threat for which conventional forces are prepared for. It's not the end of the world.[/quote]

[quote=Meyeselph]

C. despite the fact that a relatively small detachment of the elite species came to humanity's aid every other representation of the elite species is going to leave humanity alone. [/quote]

That was set up in advance; see "Conversations With The Universe". Basically there were Elites who were very suspicious of the fact that humanity was never offered a place in the Covenant. I think it's likely now that the Elites would re-invent the Covenant as a new organization, include all the remaining extant species (except perhaps Brutes, depending on whether they and their leadership would be willing to accept the idea that the Prophets were wrong and the Brutes followed them in error) and humanity as well. That seems sensible to me.

[quote=Meyeselph]

D. There are numerous halos still potentially ready to fire individually and have a relay system to fire with each other, no indication was made that the ark was needed intact for them to fire.[/quote]

This I think hinges on A. We run into three Halo installations. All with monitors. In each case, the firing is facilitated by a human, the index, and a monitor. The monitor is in agreement (in principle) about the firing.

It seems logical to me that a Reclaimer would not be able to fire a ring arbitrarily, in the absence of a Flood threat. We don't know that for sure because that situation never happens in the games, but it seems logical to me.

[quote=Meyeselph]
E. dispite the fact that all it takes to fire a halo and unleash hell on the stars is a single human hand no one will ever plan ever again to either use a human to fire the halo rings or attempt to destroy the entire human race to make sure their are no humans left to fire it.[/quote]

See above. I don't think a human can fire an installation without a reason. Reclaimers, in this case, are a check on the judgment of the monitors. If a monitor thinks the array needs to be fired, a Reclaimer is needed to agree before activation can take place. I don't think a human can get on a Halo and ust activate it for any reason.

However, it is a good point that other species might be unaware of this distinction or perhaps unwilling to believe it, and that alone might constitute a reason to exterminate humanity as a species.

However, from a narrative perspective, since that's just what Truth spent the last three games trying to do, to continue in that same vein with new enemies would be a bit boring to say the least.


Rampant for over se7en years.

*nod nod* seems to be reasonable points. Many things are just hard to comment on with any authority because they fall into the grey areas.I suppose my biggest problem is that so much of this stuff wasn't dealt with in general on the storyline front so it makes the ending of the game more of a 'well...i guess we won' rather then a 'yeah that's it, we won'.

[quote]For instance the fact that Cortana was supposedly going insane and horribly damaged by gravemind throughout halo 3.[/quote]

I agree wholeheartedly with this point. From the end of Halo 2 and throughout a large portion of Halo 3 via those immensely annoying, paralyzing flashes we were led to believe that Cortana had gone rampant, with nearly an impossible chance to redeem her.

However, when we find her it seems that all those cries for help were merely aesthetic, and in fact she is in perfect condition, with no side effects and instantly ready to continue Halo 1-esque.

I was expecting at [i]least[/i] a short cutscene highlighting the internal battle she faces to shrug off Gravemind's influnce. Yet, there is nothing, nadda of the sort

I really think halo 3's biggest storyline failing was not expoloring the whole Cortana/rampancy issue to it's fullest. They kind of got stuck on the whole 'love' storyline and glossed over it in favor of working on giving people the warm fuzzys for halo 1.

Trained in guns, not doors!