I finally have converted to XBox-360 and picked up a copy of Halo3 about a month ago. I was looking forward to playing this game since the first Halo, which was one of the greatest games I played. I didn't buy the first one, renting it at Blockbuster again and again, so when second one came out, I decided save some money and buy the game.
Halo 2 - a look back
I bought Halo 2 in one of those crazy midnight meets November 2004, with a Hummer painted Warthog, live Master Chief in full body armor and dozens of fans playing Halo 2 with frozen fingers in a slightly heated tent in front of a BestBuy in Mississauga.
Halo 2 was a good solid game that provided hours upon hours of play time, although I was a bit disappointed that Bungie lost some weapons and made some of the remaining ones less usable, slowed down Warthog and didn't make graphics nearly as good as those of other games released around that time, like Ninja Gaiden.
Game ending in Halo 2 really didn't live up to the expectation. In the first Halo, the ending was a crazy Warthog drive along a bunch of surfaces of a spaceship that was about to explode. In Halo 2, the end of the game was to run for half an hour after an invincible brute wielding a devastating battle hammer, who was open once in a few seconds for a couple of shots. The whole scene reminded me too much of a bad arcade game. It was fun, though, to drag a Banshee into the final scene and shoot the brute with a cannon. It seems that Bungie plugged this hole by making the Banshee disappear after the cut scene.
From the very first scene, Halo 3 reminded me of the first Halo by reintroducing the original M6D pistol that was a very powerful weapon against Hunters and then was replaced in Halo 2 by a less-powerful Magnum. However, in Halo 3, for some strange reason Bungie introduced a significant delay between shots, which made the pistol much less usable.
Bungie also reintroduced the MA5C assault rifle, which works fine on Normal, but is fairly useless on Heroic and Legendary levels, as it takes half a clip to just kill a grunt. It's hard to believe that 7.62mm rounds would do such little damage. Has anybody at Bungie ever heard of AK-47?
The assault rifle, however, can be used in combination with a battle rifle to fire almost entire MA5C clip into a brute to take off his shields and then flip to the battle rifle and finish the brute. This technique conserves precious battle rifle ammo.
The most striking similarity was the ending in Halo 3, which is almost a carbon copy of that of the original Halo - you drive a Warthog across a Halo ring that is about to fire and annihilate everything in the 25 light year radius, while everything explodes in your way and scattered groups of the Flood and the Sentinels fight, oblivious of their imminent death. Sounds familiar?
Do we or do we not fire the ring?
Oh, yeah, speaking of firing the Halo ring. The first Halo was a fight to prevent Covenant from firing the ring. You know, not to kill everything in the 25 light year radius. In Halo 2, you fight just as hard to prevent firing of the damn ring. In Halo 3 things change and, boom, everybody thinks that may be it's a good idea to fire a ring, after all, and you fight some more to fire one! The plot conveniently is changed so that firing is done in the neighboring galaxy, so no species close to Earth were put in the harms way. What about the other galaxy you say? Oh, well, I guess you just cannot save everybody!
Like driving? You'll love Halo 3!
I always thought that Halo games didn't have enough driving. Halo 3 certainly changes this - there is more driving in the shorter Halo 3 than in the first and the second combined. Bungie added a bunch of new types of vehicles - a three-seater helicopter, Hornet, a new type of Warthog that seats four marines (imagine each of them wielding a fuel rod gun!) and a Mongoose, a fast ATV, which seats one marine, and two types of brute choppers, one with a turret and one without. I particularly liked that marines would use abandoned vehicles, be that a human vehicle or a Wraith or brute chopper.
And the award goes to...
Visually, Halo 3 looks almost cinematic - foliage moves when marines are running through, brutes are yawning before the battle, textures are very detailed and physics are very realistic, be that a water splashes or empty ammo shells flying out of a mounted Warthog gun.
However, Halo 3 is more explicitly restrictive of what other characters do and what they don't. In Halo 2, it was possible to push marines through the invisible barrier and they joined you on the next mission (e.g. after the sniping jackal valley). In Halo 3 marines are just stuck on their preset mission. For example, in mission 3, Tsavo Highway, it is possible to knock down a couple of concrete barriers with a Warthog and jump over the gap in the broken highway ramp. However, the marines just ignore the Warthog.
The contraband Warthog comes in quite handy on Legendary against multiple waves of Phantoms and brutes, especially if backed by a couple of marines armed with fuel rod guns.
In places where a vehicle could drive through a doorway, but not allowed by the script, it just hits an invisible rubber-band barrier in the doorway, which is a bit of the in-game mood spoiler. It's also inconsistent from a mission to a mission. For example, you hit the wall in mission 7, The Covenant, when you cannot drive a Mongoose through the doorway, but can drive one inside closed quarters in mission 6, The Ark, when you lead the armor to the other side of the wall.
Less Flood, more Covenant
Bungie finally has realized that they started to become like hundreds of other zombie-shooters and concentrated their game on fighting the rogue Covenant species - the prophets, brutes and grunts, which made Halo 3 much more interesting to play.
But I want to play some more!
One thing that surprised me after I finished the game was that it was very short. Apparently, Bungie targeted online gaming more than to continue the story line, so they duct-taped the story and cut it short.
However, I have to say that the short Halo 3 was worth its sticker price. The game has a huge replay value and I ended up playing the game again and again. One of the tricky challenges is to pass an entire level without dying once. I tried to accomplish this in a couple of evenings on Legendary and failed - I kept making at least one mistake in the middle of a mission! So, more gaming ahead!
He's Ok. Really!
The game ends with a memorial service dedicated to the fallen heroes. At the end of the ceremony the camera zooms in on 117 scratched on the wall, ending the game on a sad note, hinting that Sierra 117 is no more. The movie is followed by a long, long list of credits that makes most people turn off the console. But wait, there's one more cut scene at the end! The part of the frigate with Master Chief and Cortana slipped through the wormhole and is drifting through the space, waiting to be found. Who knows, may be there is Halo 4 in the making...