Halo 3 Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Bungie
I could open this review discussing the huge impact that the Halo series has had on the gaming industry in addition to the fact that Halo 3 has already made well in excess of $300,000,000 and that it has caused a large upsurge in sales of the Xbox 360 but suffice to say that the game is huge and has been awaited ever since the release of the Xbox 360. Halo 2 concluded in such a fashion that it left far too many questions unanswered and with Halo 3 being the conclusion to the epic saga, there is a need for them all to be answered. Let's take a look at what will surely be the biggest game of 2007.
Halo 3 picks right up from where Halo 2 left off. Halo 2 ended with the Master Chief jumping from the ship and Halo 3 begins from the moment he lands on the planet. One of the first characters the Chief will see, and hold a gun to, is The Arbiter. The Arbiter, a disgraced Covenant Commander, who was a second playable character in Halo 2, has had his role dramatically reduced in Halo 3. In fact you won't control The Arbiter at all and he simply runs about as an AI companion. To a certain degree this is disappointing but I can understand the shift to place the focus solely on the Master Chief. Of course, there were a lot of loose ends to tie up from Halo 2 and Halo 3 does a pretty good job of doing so.
The single-player campaign in Halo 3 (which offers four difficulty settings) is very enjoyable and provides a fitting conclusion to the story (we're not going into any detail, so as to keep the review as spoiler free as possible). Much of what made the campaigns in Halo and Halo 2 enjoyable has been retained with a few new features added. Perhaps the biggest inclusion is the new combat equipment. Equipment such as the Bubble Shield, Trip Mine and Grav Lift are items that can be carried and used when required. The Bubble Shield provides a transparent bubble which you can stand in and be protected from weapons and grenades. Enemies can walk into it and fire at you however. You will see the AI make use of this equipment but they don't use it as effectively as they should (although the AI is better in this respect on Heroic and Legendary difficulty settings). The equipment is actually far more effective in multiplayer games. Some of the old faults are still here from the previous Halo games. For example, the AI still can't drive for toffee and you're better off taking the wheel of the vehicles yourself rather than relying on the haphazard AI which is more likely to wreck the vehicle and get the Master Chief killed.
Halo 2 saw the Halo series become a multiplayer phenomenon. Halo 3 manages to continue this trend and goes all out to make sure you keep coming back to the game long after you've finished with the single-player campaign. Offline multiplayer caters for up to four players whilst System Link and Xbox Live allow up to 16 players to take part. The single-player campaign can be played co-operatively. There are nine different multiplayer game types including: VIP, Oddball, Juggernaut and Territories. You can even create your own game variants and play these on Xbox Live if you wish. Halo 3 includes an editor known as The Forge which basically allows you to edit one of the existing multiplayer maps. You're not allowed to edit the structure of the map but you are allowed to add and alter the placement of the items in a map. These items include weapons, vehicles, explosive items etc. You can even edit the map's objectives and so forth. Obviously there are some restrictions on the quantity of items that can be added to a map (for performance reasons) but it's possible to create some stunning and quite hilarious variations of the included multiplayer maps. Your creations can even be shared with other gamers and played online.
You'd expect Halo 3 to look significantly better than Halo 2 seeing as the series has now moved onto the Xbox 360 and, to be fair, it does. The graphics probably aren't as impressive as they could have been however. Halo 3 certainly doesn't look as good as Gears of War for instance but it looks good enough. As with the previous games, Halo 3 uses a front loading system so you don't have to sit there looking at a loading screen except for between chapters. This helps to keep the action flowing and helps to keep you immersed in the game. Thankfully the frame rate is fairly smooth throughout (you might notice the odd frame rate stutter during some of the front loading sequences) and there's not much of that unsightly texture pop-in that we had to endure with Halo 2.
Halo was one of those games that just didn't give a fig for deaf gamers. The game offered no subtitles at all and proved to be a crushing disappointment for Xbox owning deaf gamers. When Halo 2 was announced it was hoped that Bungie would have learned their lesson (after all Valve had gone from showing no support for deaf gamers with Half-Life to superb support in Half-Life 2) and actually bothered to consider deaf gamers. Sadly this wasn't really the case. The cutscenes were subtitled but that was about it really. You could check what your objectives were though, which was something I suppose. Is Halo 3 any better for deaf gamers? No! Sadly, Halo 3 is just as disappointing as Halo 2 in regards to its deaf gamer friendliness. Subtitles can be enabled for the cutscenes and you can press the start button to access your objectives. The main objectives are shown in text. This may seem like a functional if disappointing way of catering for deaf gamers but it has to be said that there's an awful lot of dialogue that a deaf gamer is going to be unaware of. During the game there are a lot of communications directed at the Master Chief. These communications explain exactly what is going on at all times and really add to the game's ambience in that they convey the idea that large scale warfare is going on. Deaf gamers will be completely unaware of all of this and they will also be unaware of the communications from Cortana that are littered throughout the game. Directional arrows show which direction an enemy is firing from. Your health bar is shown at the top of the screen and any items, grenades and the amount of ammunition that you have for your current weapon is also shown in the HUD. In short, deaf gamers will be able to play the game but will rightly feel as though they've missed out on quite a bit of the game's dialogue.
Halo 3 is a successful conclusion to the Halo trilogy and fans of the first two games will really enjoy what the game has to offer. The single-player campaign is enjoyable and if you like to play over Xbox Live it's pretty much guaranteed that you're going to enjoy playing through the campaign in co-operative mode. The online modes are just as impressive as they were in Halo 2 and are more than capable of keeping you busy for months, especially with the ability to create your own game variants. The Forge editor is also something that could keep you occupied for a while, if only to mess around with things to see how humorous you can make the game's multiplayer maps. Essentially then Halo 3 is a pretty comprehensive package. Where the game falls down is in its support for deaf gamers. Once again it feels as though deaf gamers have been left out in the cold. Maybe Bungie concluded that as the previous two games in the series had been so poor for deaf gamers, it wasn't worth putting in the effort for Halo 3? Whatever the reason, it's disappointing that once again Bungie have miserably failed deaf gamers.