Halo Review

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There will not be any spoilers, whatsoever, in this thread. I read through this three times and skimmed the pictures to make sure that I will not ruin the game in terms of story and characters. This write up will feature all of the new weapons and vehicles, basic information on the bad guys and their tactics, and so forth. I will not mention any story elements other then what was already confirmed, or pretty much would be common knowledge in the Halo universe, so do not ask for spoilers. I am not going to spoil, nor be responsible for it.


Your first experience introduced you to the Covenant, a collection of alien races. On an alien structure in the middle of the galaxy, the final stand of soldiers of the Pillar of Autumn is played out. While all the time, something darker and more dangerous stirred under your feet, something that could wipe out everything. Through battle after battle, the Spartan 117, the super soldier and secret weapon of the Earth forces, stood alone, victorious, the day won. The war, was still to be won.

Three years later, and the fight was brought to the home front. The alien forces found Earth, and you were once again thrown into the fray, the only thing that stood a chance against the impossible odds. Ally's, both new and old, stand at your side as you face the leadership of those that want the extermination of all mankind, and one that was scorned by his masters take arms against them. True horrors are unveiled as the galaxy sits on the edge of a knife.

Ever since, questions have been asked, speculation has run rampant, and for a little over a year, excitement has built. It is time to finish the fight.

Without a doubt, Halo 3 is one of the most anticipated game's in the history of the industry. Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, will line up outside several retailers for midnight launches, hoping to be one of the first to experience the final chapter of Master Chief, and of the war with the Covenant. With the power of the 360, Bungie has promised a much larger single player experience, with scale that we have yet to see in a first person shooter to this date, which includes up to four player coop play. The much more enhanced Xbox Live will add to the sequel of the most played XB Live game, testing the stress that the servers as millions head online. The recent announcement of the Forge, the video recording built into the game, will ensure that there will be many moments or carnage and hilarity floating all over the Internet. In the end, the majority of people purchasing the game want to know how will the story wrap up, and the single player handle during the journey, and it is safe to say, that very few will be disappointed.

The controls change up a bit for this game, as there are now six different options to choose from, depending on what you want your bumper buttons to primarily be used for. While the Default style is still the way to go, the Walkie Talkie set up, with team chat located on the left bumper, is a very nice style to use for online games. For ease of explanation, all controls will be talked about as if the Default setting was in place. The main changes are that there are individual reloads for your right and left weapon. When dual wielding, you no longer have to wait until all your ammo is spent in both weapons, you can now reload the weapon that is empty while continuing to fire away. When you are not duel wielding, the left bumper is used to select which type of grenade you want equipped. Inverted is the default for the left stick from the get go. The basic things like sensitivity for the two sticks can all be adjusted to your play style.

As with the previous games, the controls work very well for what Bungie has in store for you. With small tweaks to the sensitivity, it is very easy to find that comfort zone of moving and aiming. The new look to the button layout does nothing but help out, as the two sets of shoulder buttons makes things much easier, no more breaking a finger to turn on a flashlight.

The interface has been through an overhaul. At the top of your screen is the energy bar for your shield. Like in the second Halo, you get a finite amount of life after the shield depletes, not knowing how many you can take, and waiting the seconds it takes to recharge after taking some shots. As the firefights get fierce, managing your shield as you fight is a major component to the game. The grenades are shown in the upper left of your screen, the equipped weapon and ammo is shown in the upper right, with your back up shown with a smaller icon under it. When you collect ammo and grenades, there no longer is a text pop up telling you this, instead the number of ammo you pick up is show as a number that overlays your current ammo amount. So when you pick up 100 rounds of ammo for the assault rifle, a +100 will show over what your current ammo shows. In the lower left hand corner is the proximity radar, which shows your allies, locations of known enemies, and objection points. The radar works far better then in previous Halo's, as it does a wonderful job picking up every ally unit in your area, with bigger dots used for vehicles. It is a very uncluttered interface, with nothing that covers up the action on the screen.

The weaponry returns with a mix of the old and new. All of the weaponry of Halo 2 returns, minus the Covenant sniper rifle, and the old Halo assault rifle marks its return to the series. New to the lineup is the Spartan Shot, a charged up beam capable of massive destruction, the Spiker, the Covenant answer to the SMG, and the Gravity Hammer, favored weapon of the most elite of Brutes. Every one of them has it's uses, and you'll find that different fire fights will require different types of firepower to get through alive. The grenades have gone under an overhaul as well, no longer can you carry four of a type anymore. There are four types, the two returning the frag and plasma, and two new ones, Brute grenade and incendiary. Ever see the Fifth Element, and Bruce Willis' character threw a grenade that has needles and stuck to the bottom of the walkway? The Brute grenade works similar to that. Unlike the plasma, it will stick to just about anything, and is the most efficient way to deal with heavily armored infantry and light armor. The incendiary is a fire bomb, once it hits something, it will explode into a fireball that will last for a few seconds, torching anything that touches it. A very nice surprise for a bunch of bad guys in a crowded hallway. They do not drop like candy anymore either, so you have to pick and choose the best time to deploy your explosives, as you can find yourself facing an entrenched foe with no way to smoke them out. Deployed turrets also return, with an added feature, they can be torn from their stands and carried around. When you tear off a gun from its emplacement, the camera switches to a third person view, similar to what happens when you hop into a vehicle, and you have a finite of ammunition to tear through whatever stand in your way. Sometimes, this is the best choice for clearing a room.

The vehicles also see some new, welcomed additions. The Warthog returns, with the choice of machine gun or Gauss cannon, but now there is one that features extra seating, letting up to four allies to hop aboard for a ride. New to the field for the Marines is the Hornet, an aircraft that comes with machine guns, rockets, and two spots for allies to hang off the side as you fly around. Some of the funniest lines out of the game comes from the Marines that grab on to the sides as you tear off. New to the Covenant side is the Chopper, a one manned controlled speeder that features a giant grinder for a front wheel, and bullets that cause a sonic impact. Also, any vehicle in the game, with the exception of the large capital ships, can be destroyed with small arms fire and explosives. This includes the Covenant drop ships.

A new feature added to the overall arsenal is the different equipment you can use. These pieces are different from you weaponry, and range from shields to guard you from enemy fire, to devices that sap dry personal shields, and trip mines. For personal protection you have the Bubble shield, a sphere shaped shield that protects all inside from attacks, Deployable Cover, a forward covering energy shield that the Covenant use, Flares, bright flash bombs that blind all in range, Jump Pads, gravity lifts that propel you to high places, and Deployable Turrets, gun emplacements that can be laid down for defensive purposes. There are also two types of area of effect devices that sucks dry shields, the Power Drain, and quickly recharge and lost shield energy, the Regenerator.

In Halo 3, you are playing the final days of the war with the Covenant, with the Elites leaving the ranks of your enemy has to be reformed. The Grunts make up the majority of the cannon fodder, but now have a mean streak to them that causes them to be a little tougher to bring down. Jackal's return as the snipers and defensive forces, now wearing a little armor to go along with their shields. Drones are back, and in greater numbers to swarm the battlefield. The bulk of your enemy are the Brutes. In Halo 2, they were a force to be reckoned with, armed with the best plasma rifles and the Brute Shot, charging at you when you kill their teammate. In Halo 3, they are armored behemoths that are equipped with a wide range of devastating weaponry, and charge at you when you crack their armor casing. On the bright side, it no longer takes a few clips of ammo to bring them down. The enemy is smarter then in previous games. They will attempt to flank you, they will use grenades liberally to weed you out, and they will rush you when their armor moves in.

Most firefights in Halo 3 involve a combination of these units, with the little guys in front, Jackal's holding flanking positions or in sniping range, and Brute's firing from behind lines. The difference is in scale. While in the previous Halo titles you faced off against, at most, a dozen enemies in a single sequence, Halo 3 throws over 20 at you while pumping in reinforcements. Many a time you will turn a corner and see a couple dozen guns pointed at you, with gun emplacements and ships ferrying in more troops. The real awe striking feature is that you are not always the only center of attention. All around you there are several firefights going on at different fronts, with Covenant and Earth forces spread out over large areas. While you may be facing a dozen troops, there may be another dozen engaged with a Marine unit hunkered down in a house, and at any time you can interact with to centralize your offensive. Add to that, the potential of an air battle that could start above you, with Banshee's and Hornet's buzzing around, firing at each other and down at the ground. With all of this action going on, you might miss Covenant drop ships from landing reinforcements as you try to cut through their ranks.

Also returning, are the Flood. The parasitic organisms introduced in the first Halo have evolved a lot since the last game. They attack in massive groups, usually with the little buggers leading the way, followed up by weapon fire and the big ugly's leaping at you. This time around, they learned a few tricks. They now take cover from weapon fire, and use swarm tactics to bring you down. A new wrinkle in their attack is the speed that they turn bodies in to Flood, which is literally seconds. Killing the little spore creatures is just as important now, they will find a dead body to turn, sometimes leading to you getting surrounded. To balance this, it no longer takes a shotgun to kill them fast, most small arms fire will bring them down in reasonable time.

To help you counter this massive enemy threat, the Marines return to give the Master Chief some much needed help. Of the two previous Halo games, the most Marines you seen was in short bursts, like the beach run in The Silent Cartographer level, and in the first couple levels of Halo 2. In Halo 3, from the start, you will have a small squad that could number as many as eight solders, and can reach into the high teens. The key is keeping them alive, but they are able to take cover, lay down suppression fire, and throw grenades where needed on their own. You also get a buddy that is at your side, the Arbitor. Usually armed with a Carbine, Plasma Rifles, or an Energy shield, he is the most effective teammate that you will have. Just like the Covenant forces, you will see Marines be shipped in via Pelicans almost constantly, or manning heavy armor to hold off their armor as you are in a fire fight.

Overall, the gameplay has seen an incredible overhaul and features some nice shine to it. This game combines incredible open environments with heated battles, and some intense firefights in close quarters. Never once does the game slow down due to monotonous level design or monotonous battles.

Ranging from the large, open spans of the African Plains, to deadly urban combat in ravaged cities, the environments are always changing to mix up the experience. While the game is still linear when going from point A to point B, there are sub-paths that you can take to flank your opponents, or provide cover for the rest of your allies. One of the advantages of having people to fight with, being computer or human controlled, is the new level of depth the fights take. Each of the nine levels in the game has a different feel to the environment, and that could change mid-level.

Graphically, the game looks amazing, but it is not in the upper echelon of games like Gears of War and Bioshock. Each area is beautifully detailed, and the lighting effects are stunning, but there is still that lack of interaction with your surroundings. Fired shots do not leave marks and very few things are destructible, but it does not detract from the game much, if any really. One awe inspiring feature was the draw distance, you can see for what may seem like miles in some cases, scouting ahead to see what may be your next fight is almost commonplace in the open environments. There is also a lot going on in the background during your travels. Ships flying around, storms raging in the distance, unknown explosions, among others will add to the overall immersion of the levels. There is no surprise pop in, something Halo 2 had issues with, nor is there any major loading issues while in the game. In fact, the loading screen is one of the coolest loading screens I have ever seen in a game. Outside the game is a little different. Levels can take up to 20 seconds to load for the first time, my first game took about 15 seconds to load before the opening cinematic to start.

The audio team put their time into the game, and it shows. The sound of the game has always been a major feature in the Halo games, ranging from the Marines calling out orders, to the sound of the atmosphere. It only gets better in this installment. The battlefield chatter has increased with what sounds like a much larger script, it was rare to hear the same line said twice in the same level. The Covenant forces will once again spit out their hatred of you, with the Grunts saying some of the dumbest insults that will crack you up. All of this is possible through incredible voice acting all around. There has been some noticeable changes, Miranda Keyes and the Prophet of Truth (the E3 trailer monologue was him speaking) are done by new voices, but it has all been done for the better. Hearing Truth's voice coming what may seem out of nowhere, spelling the doom of the human race is very haunting and chilling, the dialog just sends shivers down your spine. Overall, this is some of the best voice work I have experienced in a video game.

The soundtrack also never stops to amaze. What almost seems like a compilation of the previous two games, the music does an incredible job setting the mood. Whether it is the classic Halo theme while messing around in a Warthog, or something slow and creepy for when traversing dark corridors, the music always fits with what is going on in the screen. Easily, one of the best original soundtracks of any game.

Clocking in at about 7-8 hours on Normal mode for a person that is proficient at first person shooters, there is never a moment that you wish you can simply skip. Every second you will be on the edge of your seat, wondering what the next room will bring, or how will the story pan out. I can only speak for myself in this regard, and no one else. I was more then happy when I finished the single player campaign, both gameplay and story wise. Without a doubt in my mind, this game is a day one purchase for anyone that enjoys video gaming, and with its robust multiplayer that I have yet to touch, will be one of the games in the upper echelon of Xbox 360 titles.
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Adam said:
All of the weaponry of Halo 2 returns, minus the Covenant sniper rifle

Umm... are they 100% sure on that? I've seen video and pictures on the Covenant Beam Rifle, as have probably most the people here.
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There were a couple of spoilers in there, unless this is me having hidden under a rock - Hornets confirmed as flyable and regularly used in campaign, and has the 'Deployable Cover' and 'Deployable Turrets' - are they new?
Did anyone else get hugely frustrated at the bad grammer? it should be ALLIES, not ALLY'S, JACKALS, not JACKAL'S, GRUNTS, not GRUNT'S, BRUTES, not BRUTE'S, and ITS not IT'S.
IT'S means IT IS, not belonging to IT
BRUTE'S means belonging to BRUTE (as a proper noun, like John), while BRUTES means more than one BRUTE.
Sorry for that, but I'm really pedantic and poor punctuation made that review look unprofessional.
As for the covie sniper, in the latest bungie podcast they're always mentioning jackal snipers, and what else are they armed with? seems unlikely to me. I think it even mentions the beam rifle at one point.
i used the beam rifle in the beta. and what else would the jackal snipers use?i highly doubt they would somehow aquire and use the human sniper
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