Product review: Halo 3

2 Oct 2007

If there’s one thing the guys at Bungie got right with their Halo franchise it has been their ability to maintain the same look and feel of each subsequent release, but still making each version better than the last. With Halo 3 I can confidently state they’ve created the ultimate video game.

Many game developers instinctively try to make each sequel better than the last. That’s their business and they’re right to try. But many seem to overdo it and make the new game so different as to be unrecognisable from its predecessor. I certainly noticed this on the Call of Duty series.

The first time I ever played Halo was many years ago in the games development lab in Microsoft’s Dublin offices and I knew this was going to be special. The scenery alone was breathtaking if you could ignore plasma lasers whizzing by your ears.

But my first full and proper initial Halo experience was played on the PC and I was enthralled with how intuitive it was and how you were carried along with the storyline.

Before playing Halo 3 I made a point of replaying Halo 2 to remind myself of the story and see how far the new game has evolved, especially with the move to the new Xbox 360.

There is very little preamble to Halo 3, you pick up pretty much where Halo 2 left off as a stunned Master Chief has fallen to earth and is resuscitated by a patrol led by Sergeant Johnston and alien renegade The Arbiter.

After a leisurely jog through a dense African jungle the action begins almost immediately and the differences are instantly apparent. The first thing that struck me was the appearance of everything and it’s abundantly clear this is a 360 platform game that is not only setting the standard but affirming it. Imagery in the game was vivid and crystal clear.

Once battle is joined, artificial intelligence and physics engines come to bear in the appearance of The Covenant forces. The hapless grunts still utter inanities such as “I didn’t sign up for this!” but seem feistier. The Jackals who used to stand behind immobile shields are more mobile, more vicious and use their long-range sniping abilities to annoying affect.

Brutes appear even more menacing than in Halo 2 and remind me a lot of the Orks in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The vomit-inducing Flood also make their re-appearance not only in force but also intelligence.

Without spoiling it for anyone Halo 3 introduces many new weapons — my favourite is a new axe favoured by Brutes that devastates anything in the way — and vehicles such as quad bike and helicopter.

Vistas in Halo 3 are even more stunning than the previous editions in the trilogy and look out for some intense action, including some pitched armoured battles. The blistering finish to the game introduces even more stunning and gargantuan vistas than the mind can take in.

Like previous incarnations Bungie, have chosen to add some confusing and frustrating moments in chambers where you could easily while ages away trying to find an exit. The way the story develops there are moments when you think you’re home and dry and suddenly find you’ve got to go back the way you came and re-enter the fray to meet your next objective. The problem? You’re too hooked and you have to do it!

Although I didn’t play Halo 3 on a high-definition TV, this is a game geared to the high-def generation and I’m already ashamed of myself for not doing so.

All in all, this is a stunning conclusion to the current trilogy. My verdict on the game is it is very much a cinematic experience, with a storyline that keeps you gripped. It’s not only a game but many games tied into the one compelling package that Bungie mastered from the start.

Aided by toasted cheese sandwiches and beer I got a pass from my partner to play it non-stop and ended the weekend with a creak in my neck, hollow eyes, too high a heart rate and a banging headache. Medic!!!

Pros: Superb physics engine gives the tale better dimension

Cons: So addictive it should come with a public health warning

Price: From €65

By John Kennedy