Parents all over the world must be wondering what’s happened to their kids? Sure, little Johnny has a nose piercing and a devil’s head tattoo, but last night we heard him listening to orchestral choir music. That’ll be the latest version of Halo then…
Yes, the Chief (that’s Master Chief to you) is back and ready to kick Covenant butt once again. While atmospheric church-style tunes resound around the room, naturally. We have to admit Halo 2 – despite being a good game – didn’t knock our socks off because it was just two samey as the original. Sure you got to stick two guns in the face of your enemy, but where’s the real evolution?
Halo 3 doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to gameplay but it does do enough to impress us a little more than its predecessor. That’s helped by some top-notch computer intelligence. Whether your opponents are getting angry and pushing everything out of their way to take out the human “Demon”, calling in reinforcements, or turning tail and realising they should run, the AI operates very well.
That also adds into the gameplay, which can be blimmin’ hard in places if you play on the harder settings (and, we wimpily admit, even sometimes on Normal). Troops hiding behind their own defences in a siege formation, being told to hold their position in transmissions from the Covenant leader, are tough to break down. But Halo’s system allows the coward to conquer as much as the hero. As ever, when you’ve taken fire it’s normal practise to seek cover until your shield regenerates. But that sense of attack and retreat also works on a grander scale. Many’s the time we start our troop of marines off on their way towards the enemy, only to sit back and use our bigger vehicle weapons or sniper rifle to pick off the big foes as they massacre our men. We wouldn’t be first choice commander on a real battlefield but this save-your-own-skin tactics can really pay off. Sometimes, though, it’s worth fighting alongside them to store up their sacrifice for the next checkpoint…
This being a Halo game, big guns and vehicles are the norm. We wouldn’t have it any way. This time around you get a lot of the classic equipment to move around in but our favourite mode of killing is the ability to drag a huge gun off its turret and walk with it. The unlimited ammo is forsaken if you choose this option, but the right gun can take out a whole room full of Covenant in one easy strafe. Second only to that weaponry is the ability to deploy kit such as mobile shields. Their defensive capabilities can help you take particularly well-fortified positions and we think our occasional use of them is the only reason the other marines still follow us. Of course, what you have access to so does the enemy…
When it comes to vehicles, the Chopper warrants a special mention for being so quick and so useful in tearing around a battlefield blasting its laser fire. The Mongoose is a close second, only pushed off the top by the fact you don’t really aim or fire its rocket launcher. If you’re like us it’ll take a while to get used to these two quick machines but it’s well worth the effort.
As for the story, the single-player campaign plays out like a standard sci-fi actioner. Chief takes centre stage – rightly so, he is the first games character to get his own waxwork in Madame Tussauds after all – but at the expense of the Arbiter, who featured so prominently in Halo 2. While the nine levels of this campaign are worth playing through (even if the last one is a bit disappointing), where it really comes alive is multiplayer.
You’ll already know if you like Halo 3 multiplayer as there haven’t been so many tweaks that it’s a new system. But what has improved is fantastic. The game comes pre-loaded with 11 maps but it’s the ability to edit and change these in The Forge that’ll have you reviewing and revisiting them over and over again. The arenas can even be changed mid-game to really mess with your opponents’ heads! Maps can be shared with other gamers and it is this social-networking function that should see Halo 3 still being played in years’ to come.
The other fun addition is the video function. Every time you play, whether it’s a single-player or deathmatch game, the action is saved to your Xbox hard drive. This can be reviewed, shared, even screengrabbed! What better way to wind up an opponent than by sending them your video of the sniper bullet that killed them?
So, while it doesn’t break startling new ground, Halo 3 has enough innovation about it that you should be out there right now spending your money on it. Not that, judging by the massive pre-orders, Legendary Edition sell-outs and sales records, you need our recommendation. Happy hunting.