Halo 3 Review

by Mike Shea on 11 October 2007

The Halo franchise likely single handedly saved Microsoft's attempt to dig into console gaming and we're better off for the success. Halo accomplished many things within a single game. It proved that first person shooters could exist and thrive on consoles. It made the Xbox worth owning. It built the foundation for one of the longest running multi-player games in the history of consoles.

As console gamers, we are better off because of the Halo series. It paved the way for some excellent games that might have shied away from consoles due to the inaccurate perception that console FPS games couldn't be any good.

Halo 3 keeps the flag held high. It is an excellent game with four main components that will likely keep it in our systems for the next couple of years. First, it has a top notch single player campaign with a great story, amazing science fiction cinematics, and great gameplay. Second, it has a very strong and entertaining free-for-all multiplayer game. Third, it has a deep and rich team-based multiplayer game. Fourth, it has a co-op mode that will have you battling through the campaign again and again.

There are a couple of ways I can study my own behavior to tell if a game is really really good. If I go back to certain action scenes in a game simply to play through them a few times for fun, than that game has gone way above trying to put obstacles in my way to keep me from the game's conclusion. Many games, even some good games, use the gameplay to keep the player from getting to the next thing. You get through a challenge and you go to the next one. Very rarely do you want to go back and do it again. Puzzle games, such as Tomb Raider, rarely make you want to go back and shove some ancient blocks around again once you've done it. Max Payne, Stranglehold, and now Halo all have me wanting to go back and try different scenes again. When you finally reach and defeat one of the Scarabs, you will know what I mean.

Another way I can tell if a game is any good is whether or not I skip the cinemas. Halo 3's cinema cut scenes are so good that I never skipped them. Beyond that, I found myself wanting to watch the scenes again or show them to my wife as examples of how powerful science fiction in a game can be. Alas, I found no way to view the cinemas once I had seen them. I couldn't exactly tell you the ongoing plot between all three Halo games, but each cinema is big enough in scope to keep your eyes on the set.

A lot of people consider the single player campaign to be but a small part of a much larger game. They're right. Halo 2 was a huge multiplayer game on the Xbox and even the Xbox 360. They released new maps for Halo 2 nearly two years after its release. Halo 3 will likely be the top multiplayer game for a long time. When I logged in and tried it out, over a million people were playing it. That's before the Christmas rush puts it in even more hands.

Halo 3's multiplayer got a lot of things right that previous games did not. I found it very difficult to get into a Gears of War multiplayer game unless I knew the people I was playing it with. In Halo 3, I can get into a "Lone Wolf" free for all game extremely quickly and get shooting. The maps are very well designed with a lot of powerful weapons and a lot of interesting places to fight.

I have three tips for the few readers of this fine blog that will greatly help hone your Halo 3 skills. First, learn the maps. Play them over and over until you know all of the hot spots, all of the secret tunnels, and all of the areas where you are most or least likely to be killed. Second, learn how to butt people with your gun. Next to the other melee weapons, the gun butt is extremely powerful and probably causes more kills than any other weapon. You can tell the newbies from the vets by how well they use the gun butt. Third, stick to the default assault rifle. You will always have it and it is balanced enough with the other weapons that there is no reason to go running around looking for another. Sure, double spikers might do more damage and you might consider grabbing them if you see them, but don't go out of your way for a weapon. Weapons that look very powerful like the brute shot really end up being weak compared to a few shots with the assault rifle and a gun smack.

The Halo 3 multiplayer is what makes this game worth $60. Otherwise you might go through the campaign a few times on your own and then sell it on ebay. Halo 3's multiplayer game, however, will keep it on our shelves until the next generation of consoles - perhaps longer if Halo 2 is any indication.

Halo 3 is an excellent game worthy of the hype it received. No doubt it is another first person shooter, although one blessedly devoid of crates full of health packs. It has a strong single player campaign and three excellent multiplayer modes that will keep it alive and playing for a long time. I highly recommend it.

Also worth noting, Halo 3 has the absolute best advertisement campaign I've seen for a game. The "Believe" series really shows how serious they take their own game.