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Review: Halo 3 outlives the hype!

Halo 3 is the third and maybe the final game in the Halo Trilogy and provides an adrenaline pumping conclusion to the events that began in Halo: Combat Evolved.


28 September, 2007

The world was waiting for it. No other game in history has seen so much hype, or built-up anticipation (maybe be Quake II in my opinion, but that was age ago, and we were still kids) – I am talking about 10 million dollars in advertising alone. What is again more surprising (for those who didn’t know it yet) that this game is a Microsoft Corp’s gaming unit (You heard that right, I DID say Microsoft)? What I do mean to say is that for once, Microsoft has hit gold, and they are going to mine it for a long time to come, if the initial reactions are anything to go by.

Let’s face it; the Xbox 360 was not selling many units, before Microsoft started the hype on the third installment of the game. The sole reason was that most of the games available on the 360 platforms were either not available elsewhere, or were not too exciting to start with. This was, till Halo made its debut, and made history. And with the hype built around Halo 3, it became the sole reason for users to buy the Xbox!

So, does the game live up to its hype? Or does anything over and above its predecessors? Well, because it has set an opening-day US sales record of $194 million, outdoing any video game or movie debut, the answer seems to be HELL, YES!!

I have this sneaky feeling that Halo 3 is going to boost up the declining sales of Xbox 3; which is to say, that people who are intrigued enough by Halo 3, would end up buying the game with the console (obviously!) If you are already familiar with Halo and Halo2, you already know what and why of the game.

Even if you are not, the game is easy enough to pick up, if you have played first person shooters like Medal of Honor, or Farcry, or even any version of Quake. But of course, must people who clicked on this link have played far more than the above-mentioned games! No, an extensive knowledge of the game is not necessary; what indeed is necessary is though, is a keen eye, and insanely quick hand-movements.

The Game

What I knew was, that the game will not disappoint, and it does not. Yes, I have high expectations, and expect more from sequels, and even more from trilogies (Half Life, Quake, Doom, to name a few golden oldies). Yes, I was a bit worried after the less than pleasing performance of Halo 2, but Halo 3 surpasses even the first game and delivers, living up to the hype.

When the beta version was released, many people complained that it was just a rehash of the Halo 2 engine, with minor improvements in the graphics. But then, it was the beta, and this is the real thing.

The developers Bungie Studios have given this one if not a complete, but a thorough makeover. Okay, calling it a makeover would be wrong, since they have added so many new elements, that if I do start recounting them, it’ll spoil the overall gaming experience, and I’ll end up writing a full-featured manual. So, I’ll be the game reviewer and get on with it.

Needless to say, Halo 3 incorporates even more eye-popping graphics than its previous two avatars, but that was a taken anyway. The opening sequence starts in the jungles of Africa, under a canopy, with light rays shining through it, and the level of detail is so good that you can see the light reflecting off the foliage, individually.

The water effects are breathtaking – imagine the water reacting to every step you take towards it, and every shot, which covers the water body. Its realistic physics everywhere – especially when you blow up things, the high definition particle physics come into play, and takes your breath away. So you end up blowing up some more eventually. Still, they did miss out on some character details and some structures look like they were carved out of mud.

If we ignore these little flaws, the level design had my jaw drop, and roll on the floor. It is MASSIVE! Every frame, and I mean every frame is full of activity (if we leave out the indoor battles, where the game architecture is ho-hum), the jungles twist and turn, and high in the sky you see gigantic sized space ships being taken on by mosquito sized ships, all in real time. Even if you die at this point, the space ship would have changed position, and the number of its opponents would have increased or decreased, depending on the situation.

The Weapons and Vehicles

In addition to the existing weapons (including the assault rifle which was missing in Halo 2) new big, bad assed weapons have been introduced, (which essentially means that they can spew more firepower, hence more brutal kills).

In addition to that, the animation sequences have been changed too – when you are carrying the bad assed weapon, you have to keep it in a backpack, and the smaller weapon in an ankle holster, which also means that you cannot sneak up on the enemy while you have the Big mamma gun. This also makes the movement cumbersome, but if you have a knack for a death matches, and blowing up things in general (strictly gamewise) you don’t really give a damn.

The vehicles too have got a makeover, well, most of them anyway. You can still use virtually any vehicle available in the particular map, with the exception of dropships. As before, all the vehicles come with their own weaponry, and counter-measures. There are light vehicles, heavily armored vehicles, transport vehicles, and even spaceships!! We have indeed come a long way from Duke 3D where the only vehicle available was a golf cart!

Multiplayer Mode

I can go on, and on, and on about this, since the Halo 3 engine mostly comprises of multiplayer modes. Yes, there is a single player mode, but it is not enough (if you have grown up on games like Max Payne) to last you a long time. True, if you are a die-hard gamer like me, you wouldn’t mind playing that particular level again, and again.

Halo 3 introduces something totally new, and revolutionary, called Forge. Simply put, this tool allows the player to add, or subtract elements from an existing map. With this mode on, you can still be in the game (you wouldn’t do that though, unless you want to get fragged by other players). You can record your entire game-play, and share it as a video with your fellow players. The videos are encoded with the halo code, so you still can’t view it in your normal movie players (which wouldn’t take long for the hackers to decode), but the advantage here is the movie size – you can record an entire hour of game-play under 6 MB!!

True, we who live in India may not be able to play the game in its full-featured mode, for example the wireless Ethernet mode (or co-operative mode) where you can play with others who have bought the game, since not many of us own a Xbox or any other console for that matter, and secondly, the lack of great internet speeds. Having been an avid multiplayer fan myself (chiefly Counter Strike and Half Life), I know, like the other LAN-gamers, that it is more fun playing such games as a team, rather than playing it all by yourselves.

Multiplayer gaming in India is mostly confined to PCs connected over a LAN, mostly in a college dormitory, or more recently, building complexes. You miss out on all the team play, shouting death, and maiming threats, and the overall euphoria.

Anyway, if you DO own an Xbox 360, DO buy this title, (availability in India from as soon as first week of October 2007). This is a game you’ll play again and again, and never tire. As I said earlier, this game very well may play the deciding factor if you don’t have an Xbox. It is already topping the charts as the highest entertainment release of all times, and Master Chief (the lead character in the game) is well on his way to become the most well known video-game characters, after the likes of Sonic, Duke Nukem, and Gordon Freeman.




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