Halo 3 is arguably the biggest title this year. Launching Microsoft's stock up several points on release day, and having millions of gamers playing already, it is a huge success. But how big is it? Here is Newsvine's first Halo 3 review. IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS, DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
The story is what has always made halo as powerful as it is, and H3 is no exception. Dropping some of the story strategies used in Halo 2 that fans did not appreciate, Halo 3 goes back to a story line similar to that of Halo 1. There are several levels that seem to be improvements on the first halo's levels, such as Assault on the Control room, The silent Cartographer, and the Halo level. The series seems to tie directly into that of a previous bungie game, Marathon, with Master Chief stepping into a Cryo-tube. at the end of Halo 3, and at the beginning of marathon, with a character stepping out of a Cryo tube. Bungie studios seems to start a large number of their games in such a manner, with the first halo involving Master Chief stepping out of a tube.
Overall, the new levels were a good dose of the original halo, and far more entertaining than those levels of halo 2. They keep fans interested, and remain entertaining for a long period of time.
Halo 2 introduced the concept of Skulls, and in H2, skulls were more of a niche item. Players had to play through levels on legendary, then fly somewhere to pick up said skull. The skull's features would then be activated untill the xbox was turned off. In halo3, this is much improved. Skulls can be picked up in any difficulty mode except Easy, and once picked up, become an option in a menu that can be toggled on or off. Some skulls also add a score multiplier when campaign scoring is on, and permits people to get ridiculously high points.
Every aspect of Halo 3 is now multi player enabled, from the fabled Theater feature (more on that later), to the entertaining campaign game.
Matchmaking is an Xbox live feature that automatically connects players of a similar skill level to each other in games of varying types. In Halo3, there are 2 main types of game
playlist, Ranked and Social.
The ranked gametypes do not permit guests on an xbox, and are generally more serious. In ranked playlists, players are assigned a numerical rank, along with their service rank, to denote skill. Matches are made based off this rank. These numerical ranks are unique to each playlist, so a player can be a level 30 in Team Slayer (Team deathmatch, where 2 teams face off against each other in a battle to get the most kills), and a level 10 in Lone Wolves (normal deathmatch, every player against every other player). Overall, this new system will deter cheaters, as the rank is less cumulative.
In addition to the Ranked Playlists, there are social playlists, that are designed to be a little less competitive, and more entertaining. Generally the matches here are larger, and vary more. The biggest gametype avalible, Big team battle, features 2 teams of up to 8 players, giving a game 16 players total. The social playlists permit guests on an xbox.
Experience rank and Service Rank
In addition to the numerical rank of ranked playlists, there is a cumulative rank that comes from all matchmaking playlists, and that is Experience points. The experience point system works like this. Win a game, and you get a point, loose, you don't. Quit a team game, and you loose one point. These experience also lead to a Service rank, like Private or Gunnery Sargent. Eventually, players must get a matchmaking numerical level to reach some ranks.
The new custom games interface in Halo 3 is radically different than that of Halo 2. In halo 2, to create a new gametype, players had to go to a completely separate menu, set options, save them, then launch a party. Halo 3, this is all streamlined into an interface that is available on the custom gametypes main lobby. This replaces the "quick options" in halo 2. With this new interface, party leaders can create new gametypes without having to save to test, and then save later, or play a gametype that was played online previously but not saved.
Forge is Halo 3's map object editor. It is NOT a map geometry editor. It is merely an object (think weapons, barricades, turrets, powerups, vehicles, etc) editor. WIth this interface, it allows players to not only play the map, but call up an editor mode, and then fly around as a floating
monitor (think 343 Guilty Spark), with the ability to place a number of objects. The player is not permitted to place an infinite amount, rather, they have a "budget" to which they must match. The budget is based off of each map and its design, and varies.
A feature which bungie showed off early, the theater is a place to view all your other halo exploits, from any angle at any speed. It allows you to play through a match, like a video, except much more interactively. You are not restrained from following your one character, rather you are free to follow anyone, or fly around in free camera mode. The theater also allows players to snap film clips or take screenshots, which appear on their Bungie.net profiles. Players can also save the complete film, which is a very small file, as it stores data as text, not as images or movies, to their Xbox360 hard drive, as to prevent it from expiring. A player is limited to a history of 25 recent films.
Halo3 features an improved version of the halo 2 and 1 co-op story mode. In the previous 2 games, co-op was limited to 2 players. The players would both be the same character, so instead of one character, there would be 2. Halo 3 changes this. In halo 3, there can be 4 players in any game, and they take the role of Master Chief, The Arbiter, and 2 elites. There are no duplicate characters. In the previous 2 games, co-op was limited to one xbox. In halo 3, co-op can be on one xbox, or up to 4 on system link or Xbox Live. Co-op also now has an option called scoring, where players can earn points for particularly hard kills or just long lives. The skulls mentioned earlier multiply the number of points earned, allowing a player to get very high scores.
Halo 1 let you change your name and color. Halo 2 let you change your name, 2 colors of your armor, Your class (Spartan or Elite), and your emblem and its 2 colors+background. Halo 3 lets you do all the stuff halo 2 let you do, plus allowing you to change a third color of your armor, change your service tag (a little 3 character identification tag that appears over your head in multiplayer), and change your head, body, and shoulder armors. This allows players to almost completely change the way they look in multiplayer, and leads to far more interesting gameplay.
Overall, halo 3 is a tremendous game. There are a few small bugs, and some missteps, but for a large launch title, there are relatively few. The biggest are likely the grenade timer being too long, and some issues of lag over xbox live, but other than that, the game is amazing. The graphics are crisp and clean, and the effects mentioned behave like they are supposed to.
I have to give Halo 3 a 5/5. It is a plain good game.