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1. The Story

While hardly anything was revealed in the E3 2006 trailer, we do know where we left off. The Covenant are now in the middle of a civil war. The Master Chief has stowed away on Truth's Forerunner ship. Tartarus has been slain by the Arbiter. The Elite faction on Delta Halo has begun a truce of sorts with the UNSC. All of the Halo installations are on standby mode, ready for remote activation. Cortana is stranded on High Charity along with the Gravemind, and the Flood now have free reign to scour the galaxy. And of course, Earth has finally been overrun by a full-scale Covenant invasion. Everything is set for the final climactic battle.

There are of course many questions to be answered. Why did the Forerunners devise such a roundabout way of killing the Flood? Was the "Let's take them down with us" approach really the only thing that would've worked? If so, then why were the Halo installations ineffective at eradicating the Flood? Just who were the Forerunners anyway, and how exactly are they related to humans, and what is the history between them and the Covenant? What exactly does Truth know that the other Covenant don't? Does he even know what Halo does? Why did he betray the Elites, thereby instigating the Covenant civil war? Does he have ulterior motives? Why are the Prophets so hell-bent on exterminating humanity anyway? What impact will Tartarus' death have on the Brutes? Will the Elites form a permanent alliance with the humans? After all, it is suggested in the "Conversations With the Universe" booklet that some of them desired the addition of humans into the Covenant. How far does their current alliance extend? The Elites on High Charity still attacked the Chief even though they were fighting the Brutes, so apparently some parts of the Elite faction still regard the UNSC with the same degree of animosity they always had despite the development of the Covenant civil war, and they are obviously no less zealous in their religious fanaticism. Is there any way such a permanent Elite-Human alliance could work, given the history between the two? What are the origins of the Gravemind and the Flood? What will they do with Cortana, High Charity, and the numerous Covenant vessels they undoubtedly control? What role will the Arbiter, Sergeant Johnson, Miranda Keyes, Rtas "Half-Jaw" 'Vadumee, 343 Guilty Spark, and other Elite and UNSC forces stranded on Delta Halo play? Will the Arbiter be able to convince the rest of the Elite faction of the truth of Halo and the Great Journey? Was what we saw in the E3 trailer the Ark? If not, what is it, and what/where is the Ark? Will the other Spartans or Dr. Halsey show up in the game? Will we get to see the Chief's face? Will he ever see Cortana again? Most importantly, how will he stop Truth's invasion forces and prevent the activation of the Halo network? The latter poses another problem in and of itself, as the Chief has no clue that the Halo installations are all on standby. Of course, these are not the only questions yet to be answered, and there are a lot of plotlines that will hopefully be resolved in the next game.

Finally, there's also the ending. Not only is there the question of how everything will end, there's also the question of how long the ending will last. The endings of Halo 1 & 2 were rather brief, only being a couple of minutes in duration not including credits. Since this is the last game of the series, there should be a grand finale waiting for us when we finish the game, with an ending that will last 5 to 10 minutes, not including the credits.

You have proven your ability to create games with compelling stories, as evidenced by the first two Halo games. I of course will expect nothing less than an epic story in Halo 3.

2. Campaign Stages

Since Halo 3 will most likely take place primarily on Earth, the stages in Campaign should encompass a wide variety of terrain: arctic regions, thick forests, deserts, jungles, plains, swamps, mountains, islands, cities, and so forth. Since the UNSC High Command is supposed to be located in Sydney, perhaps there could be a stage set in a futuristic version of said city. Glittering towers of steel and glass suddenly being reduced to rubble by a Covenant assault as the stage progresses sounds like a cool idea. I also understand that there's supposed to be huge facility called The Hive underneath the UNSC HighCom base. Of course, there could also be stages in other cities or military bases from the Halo-verse, such as Boston, Songnim, or Diego Garcia. The terrains and environments should be even more varied that what was in the first two games, and should more closely resemble what we'd be more likely to see in real life, and should include stuff like hills, streams, waterfalls, and so forth in addtion to larger-scale features and whatever foliage there is. Some of the suggested terrains could also make use of the various specialized Warthog models that were developed but never made it into the final version Halo 2. A desert scene like the one in the "Desert Brigade" wallpaper at would be another possibility. It would be cool to lead a large squad of UNSC vehicles on an assault of a Covenant base stationed in the middle of a desert. A mission that takes place on the Moon would be a neat idea as well, if for no other reason than to give the player more opportunities to fight in a low gravity environment (there was some low-G stuff in Halo 2 on Cairo Station, but it wasn't much). There should also be a stage that takes place on a Covenant vessel, a la Truth & Reconciliation. Such a stage might take place in orbit around Delta Halo, where the Arbiter, Johnson, Keyes, and 'Vadumee commandeer the Brute vessel stationed near the Control Room (IIRC, that's what 'Vadumee was on his way to do at the end of Halo 2). This would give you the chance to show what Covenant architecture & ship design would look like rendered with the 360's graphical abilities. Also, since the Chief is currently a stowaway aboard Truth's ship, perhaps the first mission could take place there. There are of course many other possibilities. Finally, the stages should take place in various times of day. There should be daytime, nighttime, and dawn/dusk missions. Having to fight Covenant in the dead of night with very low light conditions would be awesome. Whatever the final result, we should see a wide variety of terrains and environmental conditions. After all, it'd be quite dull if every mission with the Chief took place in the ruins of New Mombasa and the surrounding environs.

There should also be more emphasis on mission objectives. In Halo 1, you usually had to accomplish certain objectives, albeit rather simple ones, to finish a stage, e.g. escorting Captain Keyes off of the Truth & Reconciliation (if he died, you'd have to start from the last checkpoint), finding the security room on Silent Cartographer, disabling the phase pulse generators on Two Betrayals, and having to destroy the Pillar of Autumn's fusion reactor and then escape in time on The Maw. In Halo 2, you really didn't have to do much other than blast your way through the enemy forces and make your way to the end of the stage. About the only required mission objective that wasn't simply blowing away a bunch of bad guys was when the Arbiter had to cut the tether holding up the Threshold installation on Oracle. Even then, there was no sense of urgency. You were in no rush to catch the Heretic leader before he could escape, nor did you have to worry about the installation getting destroyed (and thus killing the Arbiter) as it plummeted further into Threshold's atmosphere. Also, the last stage in the game, The Great Journey, didn't have the same balls-to-the-wall intensity of the climatic escape sequence in The Maw. You didn't have to worry about actually guarding Johnson's Scarab, because it was invincible, and you didn't have a time limit when you fought Tartarus, so no worries about stopping Delta Halo from firing before it's too late. Even on Cairo Station, you didn't have to worry about getting to the bomb in time.

Some possible mission objectives for Halo 3 could include:

  • Having to call in a squad of Longswords for a bombing run against enemy artillery in order to pass.
  • Having to infiltrate and enemy stronghold (capital ship, base, or whatever) and destroy a reactor or plant a bomb, and then escape within a certain amount of time before it explodes, in a similar fashion to The Maw.
  • Having to destroy some other large physical object that has some sort of strategic value.
  • Locating and stopping a convoy of enemy armor before it reaches its destination, giving you the chance to box them up inside a narrow pathway, or, failing that, having to fight them the hard way out in the open.

Of course, there are other possibilities as well. Whatever you decide on, there really should be more to the game than a simple "fight enemy, get to the end of the stage" formula.

As for the stage designs themselves, they should be huge. The stages in Halo 2 were supposed to have been really big. In fact, it was claimed that you could fit the entire Halo 1 Campaign into a single canyon in Halo 2 -- an obvious exaggeration. However, due to the huge draw distances upwards of 13 or 14 miles made possible by the 360's graphics capabilities (see below), there's no reason that the stages cannot span a rather huge distance. Most of the larger stages in the previous games were only a couple of miles long from beginning to end, so I fully expect the stages in Halo 3 to be two or three times as long as that at the very least. Furthermore, I expect the outdoors stages to have parts that are much more wide open than even what was seen in Halo 1. It'd be neat to test your sniping skills against enemies that are a kilometer away. I want to see something that gives the effect of Assault on the Control Room or Two Betrayals, but on a much grander scale.

There should also be a lot more stages than what the previous games had. If this is going to be the last Halo game, then it needs to be big, big, BIG! There should be at least a dozen or more distinct maps, as compared to ten in Halo 1 and seven in Halo 2, and each stage should on average dwarf those found in Halo 1 or 2. If you can have draw distances of over 10 miles, then the stages should be at least 10 miles in size. To paraphrase you guys, all of Halo 2 should literally, in terms of physical scale, be able to be fit into the largest stages of Halo 3. Give us a Campaign so huge, grandiose, and fun that we'll still be playing it 20 years from now. We know you can do it.

Finally, try and refrain from any crazy stunts during the cinema scenes like the Chief's kamikaze dive from Cairo Station (I'm talking to you, Joe). There were just too many coincidences in that scene, all arranged just so he could destroy a single ship and get to the In Amber Clad. It seemed too much like something out of a big-budget Hollywood action flick, and seemed rather over the top compared to what we're used to seeing in Halo. Other than that minor complaint, keep up the good work. The rest of the cut scenes in both games were really good, and I expect nothing less than the best in Halo 3.

3. Multiplayer: Classic & New Maps, etc.

In addition to whatever new maps there are going to be in Multiplayer, there should be a return of some classic maps from the other Halo titles, especially those from the first game since it was never an Xbox Live game. It would be neat to see some of those old maps rendered in the Xbox 360's graphics. The stages I'd most like to see return are Hang 'em High, Chill Out, Sidewinder, Boarding Action, and especially Damnation, the best Multiplayer map in the entire Halo series. I also expect another Blood Gulch clone to appear. I'd also like to see all of the maps from the PC version of Halo 1. They all look pretty neat, especially Gephyrophobia, Danger Canyon, and Infinity, and there are a lot of people who have never had the chance to play them. As for Halo 2 maps, I liked Containment, Relic, Headlong, Waterworks, Terminal, and Zanzibar. Even if none of these are offered in the initial release of Halo 3, they should at least be offered as part of a series of "Classic map packs" (e.g. Halo 1, vol. 1, Halo PC, Halo 2, vol. 1) some time shortly thereafter.

Whatever classic Multiplayer maps are brought back in Halo 3, they should be left structurally identical to the way they were originally. No drastic changes like Longest had made to it when it was re-released as Elongation. The only differences should be greatly enhanced & detailed graphics.

Also, I've seen quite a few interesting looking fan-made multiplayer maps for Halo Custom Edition while browsing the internet (thought I could do without some of the kooky custom-made weapons and vehicles I've seen in a few). Maybe some of those could be adopted for Halo 3 as well. Perhaps the people in charge of Multiplayer could, once or twice a year, review fan-made designs for multiplayer maps -- or maybe even subjecting them to a popular vote at --, and offer for download those that are approved. Just a suggestion.

As for the new MP maps that will be in Halo 3, the only suggestion I can think of is having at least a few stages that have unusual environments, such as nighttime and very low-light conditions, low gravity (i.e. a stage that takes place on the moon), or varying weather conditions (see subsection 8 below). Other than that, I can't really think of much beyond ensuring that there aren't any problems like those mentioned in the Multiplayer section of this letter. They should be playtested to make sure that there are no easily exploitable campsites, and the weapons setup (including spawn times) should be more balanced.

Furthermore, glitches like superjumps and the BXR & other buttom combos shouldn't be in the game at all. The game should be tested to make sure they don't make it into the final version. Despite what some "gamers" out there might say, neither I nor anyone else should have to spend hours on end trying to learn and perfect some glitch in order to play the game on even ground (plus the use of said glitches has already been called cheating by paid Bungie employees).

Finally, as this will likely be the last Halo game, the game should have extra maps -- whether they are original Bungie-made H3 maps, classic maps from the first two games, or fan-created maps -- available for download from the Xbox 360 Marketplace or as part of a Map Pack disc (or both) at regular intervals in addition to whatever the game has from the outset. Whether the game starts with Halo 2's original count of 12 or its current count of 21, it will get stale playing the same stages over and over in a few years. A limited selection of stages is the biggest problem with Halo 1's otherwise superior multiplayer mode. The addition of new maps every now and then will help keep things fresh for a long time. Three new Bungie-made maps and one or two player-made maps once every 6 months sounds good, though if you can release more maps more frequently, then by all means do so. This is of course in addition to my suggestion of releasing several "Classic Map packs." Such support should last at least until the end of the Xbox 360's life cycle (early 2010s), or until the off chance that some other game in the Halo universe gets created. By that time, I hope to see 40+ multiplayer maps, both new and classic, and possibly also fan-made. Like I said, this game needs to be big and should have tremendous replay value even greater than the first two games.

4. New Covenant Species & Other Baddies

Now that the Elites, Grunts, and Hunters have apparently made an alliance with the humans, we are left with only the Brutes, Jackals, and Drones as the only regular Covenant enemies to fight. Since this is half of the number of enemy Covenant in Halo 2 and one less than in Halo 1, I think it would be a good idea to create a couple of new Covenant for Halo 3. Perhaps the Drinol beast, which never made the final cut of Halo 2, could be introduced into Halo 3 as the Prophet faction's answer to the Hunters. Or how about introducing that "Sharquoi" we've heard about? Also, a new generic foot soldier should be made as well. The Jackals and Drones are rather specialized enemies, and thus don't serve as a fully suitable replacement for the Grunts. Finally, there should also be a new enemy that is equipped with a shield like that of the Elites. Otherwise, plasma weapons would have greatly diminished importance in Campaign. Also, if at all possible, try to fit the Engineers into the game. They may be non-combatants, but it'd still be nice to see them. As for non-Covenant enemies, the Flood Juggernaut that never made it into Halo 2 seems like it'd be a nice addition. Finally, it seems likely that the Forerunners left some sort of defense mechanisms in that facility shown in the E3 trailer. I'd like to see something new here, such as older but more advanced types of Sentinels and Enforcers.

An expanded roster of enemies would be greatly welcome since we might not get to fight Elites, Grunts, and Hunters in Halo 3. Then again, there's no telling how far the UNSC-Elite alliance extends. After all, you and the Marines still had to fight the Elite faction on High Charity even after the Covenant civil war began. So maybe we will get to fight the Elite faction members when playing as the Chief.

5. AI

As tough as the enemy was in Halo 1, their AI was not particularly sophisticated. It was smarter than those in many previous FPSs, to be sure, but it was still not that bright. And of course, the friendly AI had a reputation for being rather stupid and unhelpful. In Halo 2, the AI was supposed to have been more advanced. Marines flipping tables for cover, Covenant troops taking cover when one of them gets sniped, Jackals walking in formation, and so forth. While the Marines' AI seems to make them a bit more useful this time around, they're still rather incompetent in combat. Same for your Covenant allies whenever playing as the Arbiter. Falling victim to friendly fire is still a rather common occurrence. When playing against the Covenant, they still use the same tactics as before, mainly just running at you and shooting you, though they were more aggressive in Heroic and especially Legendary. Also, while it was great that you could have an ally drive a vehicle for you, their driving skills definitely leave something to be desired. They never drive as effectively as the enemy; they often drive slowly, get stuck on obstacles, and whatnot. There were a couple of aspects of the AI that were pretty neat, though, such as when Elites climb up on things like boxes to try to gain the high ground. Also, there was one occasion when an Elite flipped a Warthog over onto its side, obviously in an attempt to keep me from using it. I thought that was a nice touch. Overall, though, there isn't much difference in AI between the two games.

I'd also like to point out that the AI in Halo 2 sometimes felt, well, glitchy. For example, enemies would every now and then get stuck continuously running into walls or corners, or would act as though they forgot that they were engaged in combat, and sometimes even ignore the player.

In Halo 3, the more advanced Xbox 360 will likely make more advanced AI possible. The enemy forces should be able to form tactics, strategize, fight in formation, etc. For example, an escaping Drone or Jackal could run away to alert a Brute, who would bring in reinforcements. Also, we could have a squad of Jackals lined up in formation while a Shadow stationed behind them provides covering fire, just like in the E3 2003 trailer. Enemies should notice dead bodies and react appropriately. Allies should be better at what they do as well. The ODSTs in particular should be made at least somewhat smarter and tougher than regular Marines. In fact, I think it'd be cool to have something to where you can give basic orders to your allies -- move out, retreat, provide cover fire, form up, etc. -- by using the D-pad (then again, this could turn H3 into just another squad-based shooter, so maybe that's not really a good idea). Finally, allies should also have greatly improved driving skills.

Whatever the end result will end up being, I really hope I will feel like I'm actually fighting an intelligent enemy that won't just simply outgun me, but can outwit me as well, and that I have allies that have some common sense in battle.

6. Graphics & Special Effects

We've all seen the trailer for Halo 3, which uses the actual in-game graphics engine. What was shown was quite impressive. Thanks to the power of the Xbox 360, the graphics were far more detailed and had higher-resolution that what was seen in the first two Halos, and the draw distance and size of the objects was impressive as well. We were treated to a huge Forerunner facility that was 3 miles in diameter, and the draw distances were stated to be upwards of 14 miles or so. This is far larger than anything in Halo 1 or 2. Furthermore, this allows for backgrounds that are actual stage geometry rather than static 2-D painted backgrounds. In other 360 games, I was surprised to find that what looked like a static background in the distance was actual stage geometry that you could get up close with. Such games were also highly detailed on smaller scales, with more realistic looking people, plants, buildings, vehicles, mountains, and other things. Colors seem more vivid as well. I've also seen some pretty badass looking flame and spark effects in several 360 games. It'd be cool to see a Covenant vehicle erupt into orange flames and blue plasma mixed together when they get destroyed. I also like the more realistic lighting effects made possible by the 360. It's been stated that Halo 3 will be using HDR lighting, self-shadowing, and other effects such as real-time reflections on the Chief's visor. Finally, I'm glad we won't have to deal with the on-the-fly rendering that marred Halo 2's otherwise excellent graphics. We all know what the 360 is capable of, and we know what you guys are capable of, so we all know that Halo 3 will end up being one of the best, if not the best, Xbox 360 titles ever in terms of graphics, and the E3 trailer seems to confirm that expectation.

However, there are a couple of little details I need to mention. For example, there were some awesome spark effects in Halo 1 whenever a wall or other non-living object was shot, especially those created by the plasma scoring left by Covenant weapons. The plasma pistol's charged shot in particular left a large, bright scorch mark that spewed a shower of sparks and debris. It even resulted in spray of sparks if it struck an enemy, which looked quite painful for the victim. Shots from a fuel rod cannon would similarly leave a trail of green sparks in their wake. Sparks would even fly from vehicles that ground up against a wall or other surface. In Halo 2, however, there are hardly any sparks from gun blasts & vehicles collisions, and hits from plasma weapons look more like a glowing bug splattered on the wall rather than the result of a hot, energetic plasma bolt. Plasma attacks in general also seem rather weak and tenuous, instead of looking like searing, electrically charged gas like they did in Halo 1. Even bullet holes are hardly noticeable whenever a surface is shot. Certain small objects (e.g. ammo packs) also lacked a lot of the detail they had in Halo 1. Also, large explosions don't cause the screen to shake as much, which makes them seem less potent. Given the power of the 360, I honestly hope these details missing in Halo 2 make in into Halo 3. Other weapons-related graphical details include the appearance of the energy sword and the explosion from a cluster of needler rounds. The sword should look more like its made out of hot plasma rather than the glowing, crystalline appearance it currently has. The needle explosions should look more like the damaging explosion in Halo 1 rather than the weaker-looking glassy burst seen in Halo 2. Remember, every little detail counts and adds to the overall depth of the game.

As far as other graphical effects that could be in the game and that weren't in the other games, I don't have much in the way of suggestions. Perhaps there could be a heat shimmer/mirage effect on desert stages or other places you'd find a really hot surface. Clouds of smoke or dust that obscure vision would be nice, too. Small light sources should cast more realistic glows. Also, shooting out lights should properly affect the level of light in the room, causing AI to react appropriately. Dust and debris should be thrown around more realistically by vehicles, explosions, and bullet impacts. Water and water-related effects should look more realistic as well. And of course, the core gameplay-related graphics -- explosions, weapons effects, blood sprays, etc. -- should all look more detailed & realistic as well.

7. Physics & Interactive Environments

Halo 2 had far more interactive environments than the first game thanks to the new physics engine. While the only things you could interact with in Halo 1 were enemies, allies, vehicles, glass windows, and stray weapons, in Halo 2 you could interact with practically anything that wasn't bolted down. It was even possible to use loose objects offensively, since it was possible to get a "splatter" award for an object hurled into someone by an explosion. There were even some parts of the environment that were destructible, but these were uncommon and really never factored into gameplay that much.

Halo 3 should expand further on the interactivity found in Halo 2. Not only should you be able to interact with any loose object -- crates, vehicles, equipment, fusion cores, etc. --, the stages as a whole should give the feeling of being in an actual, living environment. Environments should have a higher degree of destructibility, perhaps to the degree of figuring into gameplay rather than simply being for cosmetic purposes. (Not that I'm arguing for totally destructible environments like in the game BLACK, but they should be somewhat more destructible than they were in Halo 2.) Ice patches should be introduced into gameplay again if snow/arctic stages are planned. Lights should be able to get shot out, affecting the light level in a room. IIRC, this was supposed to have been in Halo 2. Even glass from shattering windows should fall more realistically.

Finally, the ragdoll death animations should be even more varied and realistic looking. Furthermore, enemies should recoil more realistically whenever they get shot or otherwise injured, and should be thrown through the air by explosions in a more realistic fashion, and Flood gibs should be more varied and realistic as well. In Halo 2, the initial parts of the death animations were still rather limited, though the ragdoll physics made up for it by giving added realism. Also, there was a glitch of sorts with the death animations in Halo 2 that should be fixed. Dead bodies commonly clipped stage geometry in such a way that caused them to flop around like a fish or reappear on the ledge they just tumbled over, sometimes several times over. Other than that, I really liked Halo 2's death animations, and I hope we get newer and improved ragdoll death animations again in Halo 3. Related to the death animations are the vehicle destruction animations. Vehicles should suffer damage and blow apart in more realistic and varied ways, with more persistent shrapnel and debris. They should also flip, crash, and fly through the air with more realistical physics. Even plants should blow around realitically in windy environments, or when a fast-moving vehicle passes them, or when they are subject to the blast effects of an explosion.

8. Dynamic Weather

Related to the issue of interactive environments is the weather conditions found in the stages. Something that was strangely absent in both Halo games was any form of weather than could affect gameplay. We had light snowfall (Two Betrayals and Lockout), light rain (343 Guilty Spark and The Great Journey), and fog (343GS and Backwash), with the fog being the only example of adverse conditions. Heavy rain, wind, thunder & lightning (with appropriate light sourcing), heavy snow, thick fog, and so forth should play a larger role in Halo 3, and should affect gameplay by affecting visibility, interfering with vehicle maneuverability, and so forth, as well as making the game more atmospheric (no pun intended). Furthermore, weather conditions should also transition during gameplay. For example, it could start pouring down rain in the middle of an outdoor portion of a stage.

This should also factor into Multiplayer gameplay. Certain outdoor stages should either have adverse weather conditions as a default, or give the player the option to change the weather conditions. Time of day should also be variable/adjustable. This would greatly add to the degree of variation to be found in the game.

9. Music & Sound Effects

The music. What can I say? Marty O'Donnell did an incredible job with the music in Halo 1, and he surpassed himself with Halo 2's outstanding award-worthy score. I've seen the announce trailer for Halo 3 and heard its music, and it looks like Marty's poised to outdo himself yet again, which is a feat unto itself. The piece he composed for the trailer was nothing short of perfect. I can't wait until the day that I can hear H3's complete score, and I will definitely be getting the soundtrack when it is released.

As for the sound effects, that's a different matter entirely. While certain things, like the drowned out sound effects in the parts of Cairo Station that took place in the vacuum of space, sounded pretty damn cool, other things could've sounded better. I think they could use a little improvement over what was heard in Halo 2. The weapons in particular sounded toned down compared to the loud, often vicious sounds they had in Halo 1. The shotgun now sounds all muffled and metallic. The explosion that results from filling an enemy with Needler rounds now sounds like a light bulb falling on the floor, as compared to the violent crashing sound heard in Halo 1. The plasma rifle has a high-pitched, "laser-y" sound to it, while the lower-pitched sound it had in Halo 1 sounded far more intimidating. The frag grenades sound like they're made of plastic rather than metal whenever they bounce off of something. Even the explosions from grenades sound quiet and muffled. As for new weapons, the Carbine could have sounded better as well. I think a deeper sound would work better. Even the vehicles sounded differently. The Warthog sounds higher-pitched, the Ghost sounds less like an alien hovercraft, and the Banshee has lost the loud howling sound that gave it its name. Also, whenever a Flood Carrier Form explodes, they now make a wet, squishy sound rather than the loud pop heard in Halo 1. There are a couple of exceptions, though. The plasma pistol and sniper rifle sound almost just like they did in Halo 1, and the Battle Rifle sounds pretty cool. I also like the sounds the vehicles make whey they crash into things or when the player melees objects or parts of the environment.

While it may not be integral to gameplay, improving the sound effects would definitely improve the overall quality and auditory atmosphere of the game, which in Halo 2 was still great but could have been better.

10. Putting the Game on Multiple Disks

Like I said, this game should be BIG. The Campaign should have more stages than the other Halo games, and each individual stage should be much, much bigger in physical size. There should be a large selection of Multiplayer maps as well. In the off chance that things prove to be too big to be put on one disc, then put it on two: One for Campaign, the other for Multiplayer. Don't scrimp on anything just to get the entire game on one disc.

11. Gamer Achievements

Another detail lacking in Halo 2 was the little icons in the Campaign stage select screen that indicated which stage you completed and on what difficulty. Beating the game on a given difficulty level doesn't give you anything to show for it. For example, not having the alien skull icon means you have no way of proving it when you tell someone "I beat Halo 2 on Legendary" or just having it there for your own personal satisfaction.

Related to this is the player's Xbox 360 Gamer Score. Some achievements are obvious, such as awarding larger amounts of points for beating Campaign on tougher difficulties. Also, points could be awarded for achievements in Multiplayer such as accumulating a certain number of wins, kills in Slayer, medals (sniper kills, plasma sticks, double kills, etc.), headshot kills, and so on. The multiplayer achievements should only be able to be unlocked in Matchmaking, since people could simply play system link or split screen matches or custom games on Live to get them the easy way. I don't have much in the way of suggestions as to how many points should go towards one's gamer score for a given achievement, but they should be close to what is seen in other games. For example, you could award 300 points for beating Legendary, 25 points for accumulating 100 of the easier-to-get medals such as beatdowns or sniper kills, or 50 points for getting 1000 of them or for getting some of the extremely difficult medals such as a Killamanjaro or Overkill.


One of the main reasons we were given as to why so many things -- new vehicles, new enemies, certain new gameplay features, and various other things -- never made it into the final version in Halo 2 is that there simply wasn't enough time. While we were told, "It'll be done when it's done," I wouldn't doubt it if there was pressure from higher-ups in Microsoft to get the game out by the 2004 holiday season, and you didn't get the time you needed to finish the game. Otherwise, the game would've been better than it already is, rather than the seemingly unfinished product we were given. Whatever the case may be, I know that you guys can make damn good games given the right amount of time. If it had come out in Q1 of 2005 after a couple more months of work, I believe that the final version of Halo 2 very well could have been just as good as Halo 1.

That's why you really, REALLY need to take your time with Halo 3. "2007" is a pretty non-specific release date. This gives you guys anywhere from about half a year to about a year and a half to bring us the final version of Halo 3. That's plenty of time to make sure that everything you plan on putting into the game actually ends up in the final product. Don't leave anything out. If a weapon is imbalanced, tinker with it until it's balanced. If a vehicle is hard to control or flips too much, work on it until it handles well enough to be added to the game. If everything is done satisfactorily early enough for a Q1 2007 release, then great. However, if you can't get it done the way it needs to be until near the end of next year, that's fine too. I don't mind waiting until December of next year so long as I get the complete version the way it was intended. Better that than getting another game where, when we finally get the game in our hands, it turns out that numerous features we though that were going to be in the game end up being left on the cutting room floor with little to no advance warning and the excuse, legitimate as it may or may not be, that "We ran out of time." Don't let the Microsoft higher-ups push you into releasing the game before you're finished, either. You've got them by the balls. Halo sells Xbox consoles. Without you guys, Microsoft's foray into console gaming would most likely have been a disaster. They owe you. I know you can make a good game. I and many others like me just want you to take your time so we can get the best possible quality of work from a great video game company.


I've been a fan of the first Halo since it came out in 2001. I've spent countless hours playing it on Campaign and in Multiplayer. It was a total blast being able to play via system link, and it was the first time I had experienced something like that on a console, having only played Quake on a LAN several years before. When I first heard about Halo 2 back when it was announced in August of 2002, I was ecstatic, as were countless other gamers. Then the E3 2003 demo simply upped our anticipation. When the official release date was finally announced, I was quick to reserve my copy, putting down the extra $10 for the Special Edition (nice "Making Of" documentaries, BTW). Like hundreds of thousands of others, I sat in the freezing cold on the night of November 8, 2004, waiting in line to get my hands on the copy that I had pre-ordered.

Now that over a year and a half has passed since its release, I have mixed feelings about the game, as you can plainly see from the above critique. Like I've said, there are just so many things that changed, most of them not for the better. However, this doesn't mean it's a bad game. Not by a long shot. Halo 2 is a damn good game, to be sure, and there were a lot of things I liked about it, most of which I mentioned near the beginning of this letter. It's just that I and many other Halo fans feel that the bad changes outweigh the good. For many of us, Halo 2 will not have same replay value and staying power of the original. While I still play Halo 1 all the time to this day, I have doubts as to whether I'll be picking up Halo 2 on a regular basis 3 or 4 years from now except maybe to play Campaign every once and a while, and I'm pretty sure there are many others who feel the same.

Like other Halo fans, I am simply comparing it to the first Halo. Neither game is perfect (no game is), but many of us, including myself, a lot of my friends, many people in the online fan community, and even a lot of complete strangers I've talked to regard the first one to be the better of the two games. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Halo: Combat Evolved a 9.5, while I give Halo 2 a 7 or an 8. However, this is saying a lot coming from me, considering that I would give most games that come out these days less than a 5. Like you guys, I am part of the jaded crowd. I've been playing video games for over 20 years, and with each successive generation of consoles, I find that the number of great games continues to dwindle, and that style and trendiness has become more important than substance and quality gameplay. I believe that what defines a good game can be asked by the question "Is it fun to play?" Does it combine outstanding gameplay, excellent replay value, reasonable difficulty, and, depending on genre, excellent graphics, sound, characters, and story? And that's all that matters. Not what platform it is on, not how popular it is, not whether it is original or not, but simply whether or not it is fun to play. If it isn't fun, then it isn't worth playing. Of course, what constitutes "fun" is subjective. I just don't find as many newer games to be as fun as I did back in the late 80's and early 90's. There have been a few standout titles over the last few years, though, the Halo games being among them. However, these are becoming fewer and farther between. When it comes to video games, with each passing year I become more and more convinced of the truth of Sturgeon's Revelation that "90% of everything is crap."

The purpose of this letter, as well as the various other critiques of Halo 2, is to make sure that you guys never fall into that 90%, or even into the lower parts of the good 10%. Not that I find this likely, but I do have my worries. There is after all a very good reason why this letter is mostly a critique of Halo 2. I feel that it is my duty to speak up on the changes that I feel have detrimentally affected the game, as I'm concerned that these changes might become part of a trend, albeit a short one, as Halo 3 will likely be the last in the series. As Daniel Barbour said "Is it not in the best interests of the immediate community to question these things? To provide honest feedback in the hopes of holding the game's creator's to a higher standard? We would like to think this is our responsibility as players and, in a more general sense, as consumers." They may be "just games," but they're something we enjoy a lot in our spare time and have spent our hard-earned money on.

The release of Halo 3 will be a crucial juncture in the history of Bungie. Depending on how it turns out, it may end up alienating a substantial portion of the Halo fan community. Halo 1 was widely considered to be a game geared towards a more hardcore audience of gamers. It did very well with them, but it also found a place as a mainstream hit, selling millions of copies. Rightfully so, I'd have to say, given how great of a game it was. Halo 2 already had the success of the first game and the huge hype surrounding its release behind it, and we all knew it was likely to be a huge seller as well, and it was. However, I often get the feeling that the hardcore Halo players were, whether intentionally or not, overlooked in favor of a more general audience this time around, all while thinking that the former would have no problems with the changes made to the gameplay. Whether this is the case or not, I don't know. I'm not going to pretend to know your motivations. What I do know is that a lot of people who were devoted Combat Evolved fans were put off by the sequel. Personally, I'd be completely flabbergasted to find out that the changes made to the game were intentionally implemented to appeal to wider audience. Such changes would have been unnecessary to get the game to sell. Halo 2 could have had the same basic engine as Halo 1 with just a few minor changes, such as a couple of tweaks to the physics (i.e. more interactive environments), improved graphics, and a few extras (new enemies, vehicles, & weapons), and it still would've sold millions of copies. People were going to buy it regardless.

Halo 3 is "make or break" time for you guys, at least with regards to the more devoted members of the fan base, many if not most of whom like Halo 1's gameplay more than Halo 2's. I've already heard from quite a few players that they have reservations about getting Halo 3 on launch day, and that they may rent it or play it at a friend's house first. Some have even gone so far as saying that they won't buy it at all if the gameplay is like Halo 2's. (Personally, I want to get the game just to play Campaign and see how the story plays out.) There's no doubt that the game will be a huge blockbuster, and this places Bungie in an interesting position. You still have the opportunity to make a game that will appeal to the hardcore Halo fans that have been your most loyal fans since day one and still manage to sell millions of copies among the general public. So, will you make Halo 3 the game that most of your base wants, or will you have a game that, whether intentionally or not, is designed for the lowest common denominator of gamers? Halo 1 did well with the latter despite not being tailored especially for them, and so can Halo 3. I know you guys can make an awesome game that will satisfy everyone, from the hardcore Bungie and Halo fans who prefer Halo 1's gameplay to the casual gamers who will buy the game regardless of how it plays simply because it's a Halo game.

Well, there you have it. All my thoughts on the Halo games, both the good and the bad, and my suggestions and prospects for Halo 3. It took me several months working on and off to finish this letter, and I've made several revisions and additions to account for the announcement of Halo 3 and some recent Halo 2 playlist changes. I had originally intended it to be only a few pages rather than the sprawling monstrosity it is now. The fact that I was able to write so much is a testament not only to how deep the game is despite its flaws, but also to how devoted I am to the Halo series. I wouldn't have written this if I didn't care. I know a lot of people out there will disagree with my points in this letter, and I'll deal with their opinions as they come, time allowing. I hope you take this and the various other critiques out there to heart. I'll be looking forward to seeing what you'll have in store for us once Halo 3 comes out next year. Give us a game we'll be proud of. Good luck, and thanks for bringing us the Halo series. Even with its flaws, I believe it will stand the test of time and, like Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and other series before it, it will be regarded as a classic that gave us many fond memories, and the Chief will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the all-time greatest video game characters.


Concerned and devoted Halo fan