Hmmmmm…. Bungie has been nestled in its hole for 3 arse numbing years working feverishly on Halo 3 and our dear Microsoft has been at the game for the last six months trying to spread the word about the existence of these deadly rings and the tear-jerking fate of the Chief.
I so wish they’d stop tinkering with the idea of apocalypse. It’s really getting on my nerves, but 14.8 million people would like to disagree with me. So at this crucial juncture I shall continue on with my hands on with the final game that the globe calls “Halo 3”. Yeah, the wait is finally over and I managed to play a “bit” (MS gave us a measly hour’s time) of the single player campaign from the final game. So read on and find out whether this installment polishes off the trilogy in a spectacular fashion or makes the whole game as redundant as Kung Fu Chaos.
I started out on in the jungles of Sierra 117 the first chapter of the game. It begins with a dark sky, lighting up at the horizon (sounds poetic). Subsequently we see two meteor like objects entering the atmosphere, with Cortana’s voice echoing in the background, she seems to be talking like a giddy young girl in love talking about the good old days, starting out from the Spartan program, with a poignant symphony being played in the background, she speaks-
“I was young…and I chose you, for you had something they didn’t…. Luck”(Is it just me or the dialogue actually sounds real kinky) as the symphony ends and we see the Chief crash land in the jungle, the next scene cuts to Sgt. Johnson and his crew running a check on the chief…“Sir he’s down and out because of the impact” hollers out a marine…Johnson looks mournfully at the horizon and sighs, “Why did you have to do that Chief”…his voice quavers as he bends to pluck out the chip which contains Cortana from the chief’s head.
The Chief looks like an action figure frozen in an awkward position because of the tremendous impact throughout the cut scene. As the crew is about to leave Johnson rants out orders to pick the Chief up so that they can give him a proper burial, and that’s when it all begins. Master Chief suddenly rises to grab Johnson’s arm, although there is nothing particularly great about the scene. I had an instant flashback of Arnie pulling out the Iron rod from the T2. This particular scene gives players and fans a feeling that no matter what happens a Hero never dies, for he like Atlas has to bear the weight of humanity no matter how sinful and wicked it might be. Johnson asks the Chief about Cortana’s whereabouts and Chief looks silently at the sky, asking her to hold on for her Savior is on his way and thus begins the great journey.
So down to the actual gameplay, since this particular post was a week away, when I initially started writing it, thanks to the restrictions that MS laid on us with their NDA policy, I’ve decided to speak out my hearts content about the game. I started out with my assault rifle and started traversing through the thick jungle along with my squad and my trusty companion the arbiter. As we started out, the first thing I noticed was the foliage. Yeah the game did its HDR really well the sunlight was filtering out into my canopy. The effect was pretty neat and the scale was just humungous, I could see as far as my eye could look out and then all the action started out. My party was ambushed by a bunch – the brutes, jackals and grunts and before you know, the whole screen was screaming with chaos…there were bolts of plasma flying here and there…and I was heading out for cover but something really strange happened. I blasted the shit out of them in a matter of seconds, cover just seemed something secondary, it was just too easy. As I continued on I found myself staring at a brute punching the intestines out of a Human marine.
A few well time shots and the marine was on our side. I nudged my mind on the level of difficulty and moved forward as I encountered my first phantom of the game (this is where the E3 trailer begins)…I sooo wanted to take the ship down but lacked the appropriate artillery to do so. As I went frantically hunting to yank a chaingun off I started to notice the glitches in the game. The draw distance was atrocious. I could actually see objects forming in front of me as I drew closer to them. I had seen tons of this last generation but I really did not expect this out of a game of this generation, especially a game of such a stature, which had been riding high on such a hype wagon and was crucial to Microsoft’s success.
As the phantom drew closer I saw textures form on the ship, I was starting to feel numb. I continued on with the game. The second ambush was better; the Brute used a Bubble shield as I started to dish out grenades. But again within a matter of seconds I was done clearing the horde and I was actually well into the game. Was it just me or the game seemed way too easy for my tastes, I began to wonder, and then the most unexpected thing happened! Remember how ALMA from F.E.A.R keeps popping up in the middle of the game as flashbacks. Cortana does the same thing. It’s a really neat effect in the game, she talked about duty, courage and honor, but Alma does it wayyyy cooler, a thumbs up anyway. We treaded along the winding jungle to a mini Covenant stronghold where we were to encounter our first major against the enemy, this was shown in the E3 07 trailer, (check out the shot below).
The brutes were now armed with their brute shots and started to rain down upon us in waves, even the Phantom spared now mercy as bolts descended in great numbers. I still felt ill equipped to take down the blasted thing. The Phantom won the battle as a result and Johnson radio’s in saying that the ship has crashed nearby and we headed out to rescue him. I still had not been taken down even once in the battle and I started feeling a bit awkward, dying in a game somehow adds to the flavor, even though the A.I seemed top notch, the play through seemed way too easy for my tastes. I needed something more challenging.
The visual department had its fair share of glitches, missing textures on the ground occasional popups I was beginning to feel mighty disturbed with the visual quality of the game. As I reached this dam seen below, the game broke into a cutscene which we had witnessed at E3, Sgt Johnson VS the brute chieftain, so another battle ensued in the wake of rescuing the Sergeant. A phantom popped up in the middle and a fresh batch of troops entered into the battlefield. I reached on the other side of the bridge and met face to face with the brute chieftain who was in his invincible mode and tattering everything with his gravity hammer. I waited till his shields went down and popped a plasma grenade. The arbiter meanwhile was taking care of rest of the brute pack, which seemed relentless in every imaginable way.
The Brute chieftain put up quite a fight. He charged at me, moved away from my line of fire, had to endure a couple of swings form the gravity hammer before I finally managed to take him down with the aid of a shotgun. I grabbed the hammer and used it against the remaining covenant bunch…within a matter a milliseconds the enemy had been annihilated. (Ha…you should have seen the sense of satisfaction, marvelous I tell ya). We moved along the area to reach Johnson and rescued him, and I was treated to another cutscene. Keyes appears in a small make shift base underground and we are treated to Lord Hood talking in detail about the covenant invasion, suddenly the power blows out… as soon as the power comes back online lo and behold the prophet of Truth is seen on screen…he speaks the same words as in the E3’07 trailer.
The Chief looked stunning, it was E3’06 again, the same sheen and shine pumped up the Chief’s armor, but the rest of the characters somewhat seemed a bit dull, as the ugly floating piece of Carcass went off the screen, the sergeant hollered out a couple of orders, which included clearing out the bay and saving a bunch of marines stranded at the far end of the base, so my journey began once again. I pushed myself into another fight against the pack and triumphed again. I decided to test the visual quality of the game again, well what did the big bad wolf see, Octagonal tires on a stationary vehicle (Pardonable?), I moved back to the battlefield and another shocker awaited me as I approached my fallen enemy, the 360 took its own sweet time to load the area I had just passed by (Pardonable??).
Well these things certainly seemed pretty detracting to me or maybe BioShock/Gears/GRAW has just spoiled me, I forged ahead to the bay which was again shown in the E3 trailer, the action was pretty much the same, except now I started using the variety of grenades Bungie had put in the game. I threw the bubble shield and took out the first wave of grunts from my sweet secluded spot. Next I tried the Gravity lift, which gave me an instant vantage point, and I took the second wave out. But the Phantom was still present and for the first time I could feel the sound of death hovering around me, a pelican came to my rescue and I had a heavy sigh of relief, as the pelican left I was issued a fresh bunch of orders. As I stood at the edge of the bay at the far end I witnessed intense dogfights between a bunch of ghosts and Hornets take place, another neat effect from the stables of Bungie.
I was left to choose between a flare and the personal shield as my fourth grenade. I chose the latter. You might remember these from Halo and Halo 2, they were frequently used as stationary shields, and so I moved along, I had also managed to find me-self, a chaingun, I was feeling mighty proud, and the best moment was just about to come. I moved along a corridor which opened up to a dark cavern and it was E3 all over again The flying buggers (Drones) were back and they had a marine in their clutches, the Arbiter managed to take few of them down but they showed no signs of stopping.
They started hovering around us like a bunch of vampire bats, the worst bit was they were close to a good 15 in number at one go. I suddenly had this surge of adrenaline flow through my veins and was yelling out my guts (silently) as I fired up my chaingun all around me. It was a cross between Riddick and terminator and it felt great. So Halo had got me there, some variety! I pushed on and the arbiter threw a flare right in front of me, the screen lit up brightly for a couple of seconds and I had no clue where I was going, I fell off a ledge and plummeted to my death, my first in the game.
The next area will again be very familiar to most Halo lovers. It was the “Et tu brute” factory. A new bunch of grunts surrounded me, they were basically foot soldiers, who just wore helmets and a pathetic protective gear, The Brute chieftain was different this time around. He had a golden headgear and wielded a plasma chaingun, (Have a look at the Video doc). I used the personal shield as cover and took down those ugly ducklings one by one, but alas, I had only managed to take a couple of the down when the shield was destroyed by the Brute Chieftain (Smart I must say), so I had these bunch of naked brutes charging towards me at full force, the Arbiter was in troubles of his own, I found the trusty SMG and went charging on with full force.
I was soon to realize this Brute chieftain was much smarter than expected. He used himself as bait as this puny grunt planted a plasma grenade on me, my shields went down and a few plasma bolts sealed my fate. I had to vacate the kiosk as the multiplayer enthusiasts clamored in a stiff duel. It looked pretty fun to watch but I eventually got bored, so I head out to find Me-self another Kiosk and try play the game again. I started out the game again and changed the difficulty to heroic and this is the level where the A.I started to show its true colors. They were bloody smart from the minute I could say “G”, I died a couple of times before I reached the Mini covenant stronghold mentioned afore.
I also tinkered around with the much touted feature forge. Well although it was a bit childish (modders stay away), it was as simple as click, point and use. I managed to create a Mongoose race in one of the multiplayer maps in 10 minutes.
The Final lowdown: Here’s a quick look at the highs and lows of Halo 3:
Greater emphasis on story
Cinematic gameplay techniques
Brutal A.I. (But I’d still vouch for Unreal bots).
Unlockable Features (Both Single and Multiplayer)
Eplison (Video Replay Feature)
4 player co-op, both on and off Live
Average Visuals and models (Half Life 2 on the original Xbox has better Character Models and environments)
Only Two Modes of Difficulty for Veterans (Heroic and Legendary), I’d say if anyone has played any console FPS they should start off in the heroic mode.
The Cinematic gameplay and story can’t stand its ground against other releases including BioShock.
So in a nutshell Halo 3 is meant for players who have sacrificed their lives waiting for this game. The single player alone does not justify its purchase, if multiplayer is not your cup of tea I’d say its best to stick with Bioshock or upcoming releases like Assassins Creed. The multiplayer arena also seems to be in a fix if Epic finishes up with UT III by the end of the Holiday season.
Expect more of the same gameplay carried forward form the previous Halo games, but as an overall package Bungie has crafted out a fine product quite similar on the lines of Orange Box.