Halo 3 Review

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Halo 3 was the first game in the series I acquired on release day and was one of my first Xbox 360 games. At that time, I had already played the original Halo on PC but never beat it. Halo 3 was the first game in the series that I actually completed and then I proceeded to beat the previous two. Halo 3 was extremely hyped before release mainly because of the extremely popular Halo 2, its multiplayer, and the story’s cliffhanger ending. I can remember the slogan “finish the fight” being slapped all over the ads for this game and I guess fans of the series were super eager to see how the story ends. Developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Halo 3 was released in September, 2007 for Xbox 360. It was eventually re-released as part of The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One which is the version I played for this review. I also teamed up with Jeremy for a local co-op playthrough. I played this game a lot back in the day and I actually beat it on the Heroic difficulty the day I acquired it and I remember being disappointed with how short the campaign was. I replayed it on Legendary later the down line, played through again with skulls and the scoring system, and I even got into the multiplayer for a brief time. But I didn’t attempt the multiplayer for this iteration. I should mention I played through the game solo on an Xbox One X and we played through it cooperatively on a standard Xbox One. And this review was completed before The Master Chief Collection received any Xbox One X enhancements. The standalone Halo 3 did receive enhancements including 4K support.

Halo 3’s story takes place after the events of Halo 2 and the Halo: Uprising comic which I’ve never read. At the end of Halo 2, Cortana stayed behind in the Covenant holy city of High Charity to destroy it if Tartarus activated the Halo ring, which he did not thanks to Arbiter. Master Chief killed the Prophet of Regret and proceeded to pursue the Prophet of Truth who was on his way to the Ark, an installation that can activate all of the Halo rings remotely. As explained in the previous games, the Halo rings were designed as weapons to combat the Flood. Activating them will wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy. The Prophets lied to the Covenant, they ordered the Brutes to slay the Elites, a Covenant civil war ensued, and the Elites joined forces with the humans upon discovery of the true nature of the rings. The story in Halo 3 opens with Master Chief crash landing in eastern Africa where he is found by Sergeant Johnson and other UNSC Marines. Now with assistance from Arbiter and the Elites, the UNSC set out to stop the Prophet of Truth from activating the Ark. They also discover that the Ark is constructing another Halo ring. As you progress through the story, Master Chief will occasionally see visions of Cortana and even the Gravemind will taunt him every now and then. Throughout the campaign, Master Chief is accompanied by Arbiter and if you play cooperatively with another person, player two will be Arbiter. As someone who completed the original trilogy in reverse order, I can honestly say, if you really are interested in the story and Halo lore, you should play the games in order because I remember not knowing what the hell was going on when I first played this. Halo 3 is basically a direct continuation of Halo 2. The voice acting here is pretty good. Most of the performances are believable although the new voice actress for Miranda Keyes could of done a better job in my opinion. I think Julie Benz’s performance as Miranda in Halo 2 was superior. Once again Steve Downes and Jen Taylor reprise their roles as Master Chief and Cortana, respectively. Keith David returns to voice Arbiter. Ron Perlman reprises his role as Lord Hood. Robert Davi does an excellent job voicing the Elite Commander. Terence Stamp voices the Prophet of Truth and while I respect the actor, I preferred Michael’s Wincott’s performance as Truth in Halo 2. Overall, I thought the story was pretty good and a fitting end to the original trilogy. I do think the campaign could have been a bit longer, though. You can easily beat this in six hours or less.

Halo 3 includes four difficulty modes – Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary – and both playthroughs were completed on Legendary. Skulls do make a return and, no, we did not use any this time. There’s also no Infinite Ammo skull. Halo 3 did include Skulls hidden throughout the environments that would unlock gameplay modifiers. Most skulls make the game harder, others make the game easier but also disable any achievements related to scoring. I believe Halo 3 is where the scoring system for the series started and just like every other game in The Master Chief Collection, the scoring system is present here as well and the skulls are already unlocked from the get-go. You can still find them in-game which do reward you with achievements. Halo 3 does also include terminals hidden throughout the environments which provide lore and information on the Halo universe. While the Legendary difficulty in Halo 3 is hard, it’s not as frustrating as it was in Halo 2. Sadly, insta-kill Jackal snipers do make a return but you don’t encounter them as often, they don’t have super vision, and you normally have plenty of time to see them before they shoot you. You still need to be quick to kill them and these encounters can still turn into trial-and-error scenarios but it’s nowhere near as frequent or as bad as the sniper areas in Halo 2. If you play through the game solo, you’ll be accompanied by Arbiter every and now and then and he’s actually a great ally to have at your side. He’ll shoot at and kill enemies, if he dies, he’ll eventually get back up, and he can take a beating. If playing cooperatively with another player, that player will be Arbiter, and if one of you dies, the player that’s still alive needs to get to a safe area for the dead player to respawn which is exactly how the co-op worked in the original Halo.

All of the weapons from the previous game make a return here and, yes, you can still dual wield the smaller ones. The magnum pistol returns, which resembles its appearance from the first game, however, you cannot zoom and shoot it simultaneously. In Halo 2, the rocket launcher could lock onto things like vehicles and turrets but for some reason the lock-on mechanic was removed in Halo 3 and I really don’t understand why. On the plus side, both the assault rifle and battle rifle are present here. There’s quite a few new Covenant weapons including the Gravity Hammer which is a lot like the Energy Sword in that it’s an extremely powerful melee weapon that can kill most, if not all, enemies in one strike. The Brute Spiker fires metal projectiles. The Mauler is like the Covenant equivalent to a shotgun. Late in the game, you’ll acquire the Spartan Laser which needs to charge up before unleashing this massive devastating laser. This thing can destroy vehicles with one shot. Both the frag and plasma grenades make a return but new to the grenade roster are Spike Grenades and Incendiary Grenades, otherwise known as Firebombs. The Spike Grenades unleash spikes upon exploding and the Incendiary Grenades will burn victims upon impact. You can still man machine gun and plasma turrets, even missile turrets, but now you can detach them from their emplacements. You can also pick them up if the emplacement is destroyed. Carrying heavy weapons like this changes your perspective to third-person and you can’t store these. Once you switch weapons, you’ll drop whatever you’re carrying. You can also acquire a flamethrower which is also considered a heavy weapon and is great against Flood enemies.

Both the Master Chief and Arbiter play exactly the same. They can both walk, run, jump, crouch, perform melee attacks, hijack vehicles, dual wield weapons, and toggle on and off a flashlight at any time during gameplay. Both characters also have a motion tracker on their HUD which identifies nearby allies and foes. If they take damage, their shields drain, and if they keep getting attacked when their shield is completely drained, they die. For some reason, Arbiter can no longer activate active camouflage at will for reasons I don’t understand. It’s even more disappointing when you see him activate it during a cut scene. Although, Cloaking is one of many new equipment pickups that can be acquired from fallen enemies or in the environments and acts just like active camouflage, meaning you turn invisible for a brief time upon activation, great for sneaking up on enemies. Both characters can acquire equipment items and you can only store one at a time but you can also swap them out. These pickups include the Gravity Lift which, when thrown down, launches you into the air when you walk over it. When you throw down the Bubble Shield it unleashes a large circular shield that will protect you from projectiles but projectiles will not leave from inside the shield. The Radar Jammer will scramble your motion tracker, making it hard to identify who is nearby. The Automated Turret pickup functions exactly how it sounds but fires some kind of laser or plasma beam. The Flare is like a flashbang. The Power Drain pickup will drain shields and explode causing damage. Deployable Cover generates a stationary shield. The Regenerator pickup will restore your shield as long as your within its radius. Trip Mines can be detonated by weapons fire or if you get too close. I have yet to successfully get an enemy to move near one of these, though. The Overshield makes a return as an equipment item and grants you an extra shield layer. Invincibility is another item you can acquire and only lasts for a brief time. While I enjoy the equipment items and seeing some powerups from the original Halo make a return, sometimes I just wish they weren’t present at all. This is because the enemies can use them, too, and on Legendary, it becomes ridiculous. You enter an area, and sometimes it’s like every Brute throws down a Bubble Shield. And they’re usually smart enough to stay within the shield and it takes a little while before the shield disappears so it becomes a waiting game. You could go into the shield head-on but there’s a good chance you’ll be killed. They also like to throw Power Drains, Deployable Cover, and Flares quite frequently but it seems like every Brute is always equipped with a Bubble Shield.

The Halo series is not only known for its firearms and on-foot combat but also its vehicles. All of the vehicles, except the Spectre, make a return in Halo 3. You can still sabotage Wraiths by jumping onto them and planting grenades inside to blow them up. New to the vehicle roster is the Mongoose which is basically a quad with no mounted weapons. However, you or an NPC can ride on the back and shoot at enemies with your own weapons. You can now pilot a Hornet which is a vertical take off and landing aircraft (VTOL) that fires auto-cannons and missiles. The Covenant also have some new vehicles. The Brute Prowler is like a hovering sled with a plasma turret in the front. It’s actually very similar to the Spectre from Halo 2. The Brute Chopper is a heavily-armored, dual-wheeled assault vehicle, with a massive double wheel in the front and is equipped with powerful auto-cannons. It can also boost for a burst of speed. The Brute Choppers are actually quite deadly and it doesn’t take many shots from their auto-cannons to blow you away, especially on Legendary. Although, controlling one of these things can be a bitch. The vehicle handling can still be a nuisance but once you get the hang of it, you should be fine. Crashing can still result in your vehicle flipping over and forcing you out which is also still annoying. The Covenant Scarab, a giant Covenant mobile assault platform, makes a return in Halo 3 and you have to infiltrate quite a few of them this time around. You had to do this once in Halo 2 during a specific scripted sequence but it’s a lot more involved here and these sequences are easily the best parts of the campaign. Most of the NPC’s tell you to shoot a Scarab’s joints, forcing it to stop and lower itself down, allowing you to get inside and destroy its core to blow it up. You’re always provided a vehicle of some kind during these sequences and you don’t necessarily have to shoot its joints to infiltrate it. Late in the game, you’re provided a Hornet so you can just land on top of one. You can also shoot the core from the outside if you’re at the right elevation and angle. You still need to be careful because Scarabs are equipped with anti-air cannons, they can fire giant plasma beams, and enemies are also on the Scarab to defend it. Whenever I would replay through the campaign, I would always replay any missions that include Scarabs because these encounters are so much fun. Plasma beams, rockets, bullets, and aircraft populate the skies, vehicles litter the ground beneath the Scarab’s stomping feet, all while you’re weaving in and out, dodging attacks, trying to board the thing and not get killed. It can be very intense.

Besides the Arbiter, sometimes you’ll be accompanied by Marines and Elites as AI allies. The Marines are still dumb as shit. They still get in your way, they’re terrible at staying out of harm’s way, and they normally all die before you get to your destination. They’re best for diverting attacks away from you and riding with you in vehicles since they’ll shoot at enemies as you drive. The Elites are also kind of dumb but they seem to take more damage, making them a bit more useful. Sadly, their AI does not resemble their intelligence in previous games when they were enemies which is a real shame. Because the Elites are now allied with the humans, you won’t be fighting any. But you will be fighting Brutes which took the Elites’ place within the Covenant society. Grunts, Jackals, and Hunters also make a return. The Brutes are the real danger here and once again the Covenant enemy AI is quite intelligent. Enemies will dodge attacks, shoot at you with what feels like pinpoint accuracy, suppress and flank you, they’ll throw grenades, man and carry turrets, some use active camouflage, and no encounter will ever play out the same. Although, the enemies in this game seem to be very grenade happy. Many encounters turn into explosion frenzies because grenades are seemingly going off all over the place. It becomes ridiculous. Regardless, the enemy AI is one of the reasons why I find these games so replayable. Brutes wear armor now which can be destroyed. Actually, the plasma pistol can destroy most Brute armor with one fully charged shot. Some Brutes, like the ones that wield Gravity Hammers, seem to have an overshield making them extremely deadly. These Brutes, in particular, should also be priority targets because they usually come charging at you if you drop many of their other Brute allies. Grunts are now under the command of Brutes and freak out when their Brute commander is killed. Some Grunts will now try and commit suicide by running at you, while holding two active plasma grenades. It’s quite humorous, actually. I think they’re called “Kamikaze Grunts”. Most Jackals carry shields that deflect human ballistics and as I mentioned earlier, Jackal Snipers make a return. The ones wielding Beam Rifles can kill you instantly with one shot on Legendary. Hunters still show up in pairs and basically received no major changes compared to previous games as far as I can tell. Just avoid their attacks at all costs.

The Covenant AI in Halo 3 is intelligent but sometimes the enemies can really be annoying. For example, a lot of the Brutes wield Brute Shots and fire them directly at you, usually in rapid succession. This is in addition to other Brutes in the area that may wield Fuel Rod Cannons or Gravity Hammers, among other weapons. Sometimes it’s just you up against a squad of Brutes with extremely devastating firepower, at least on Legendary. It can be very easy for enemies to pin you down in this game and the Brutes can take quite a beating so when you’re up against five or six at a time, you may die quite often. Several areas allow you to just skip encounters by just getting past the enemies. These areas usually involve vehicles but getting past them is easier said then done. A well placed shot with the Fuel Rod Cannon can easily destroy your vehicle and that’s in addition to the onslaught of other projectiles from any other enemies in the surrounding area. Knowing what paths to take and where to go are crucial if you want to do this. Some Brutes are equipped with jump packs which allows them to basically jump and fly or hover and they’ll even jump and land right near you so there’s many times where you never really feel safe. They can still go berserk, meaning they rush you, if they lose their armor and I think they also go berserk if their allies are killed. While they’re not as graceful as the Elites were in previous games, they can still dodge your attacks like crazy, suppress you easily, and kill you quickly. I found that I would try and hang back during many encounters with Brutes, just to see how many I can pick off before going into these areas all guns blazing.

Unfortunately, the Flood also make a return in Halo 3. They no longer drive vehicles so that’s a plus. For a very brief time, The Flood does actually assist you in battle, however, it doesn’t save them from sucking ass. They still swarm and rush you, bodies can be taken over in real-time now which is cool I guess, they still take over bodies that wield weapons, and you’ll want to destroy most downed Flood enemies or risk the chance of them re-animating. The Covenant are nonexistant during the final few chapters so it’s just you and the Flood and, yes, these are the worst missions in the game. Specifically, the mission known as “Cortana”. The mission involves Master Chief going back to High Charity, which has been taken over by the Flood, to rescue Cortana. You’re constantly swarmed by enemies and there’s Flood growth pods or whatever they are covering the environments and they can explode, releasing Flood enemies. It’s just a terrible mission. Even worse, it’s preceded by, what is in my opinion, the best mission in the game. It’s quite the contrast. This mission is fucking awful. It’s easily the worst mission in the entire series, although, I have yet to play Halo 5 as of this review, but from what I understand, it doesn’t include any Flood. That’s right, folks, Halo 3 is the last game to include the Flood enemies. Thank fucking God. Besides the mission containing nothing but Flood enemies, it’s repetitive in both design and encounters, and boils down to trial and error gameplay. You see, the Flood now has new enemy types which are all Pure Flood forms. And the Pure Flood enemies can transform into the different types at any time. The stalker form is quick, can climb along walls, and jump ridiculous distances. The Tank form can’t wield weapons but is a bullet sponge with a devastating melee attack. And the final new form is the Ranged Flood. By far, the worst Flood enemy type in the entire series. The Ranged Form can rapidly snipe you. Yes, Halo 3 includes sniping Flood and it’s really, really bad. Thankfully, Pure Flood enemies cannot re-animate after being killed. And why do I despise the Flood so much, you may ask? Well for one thing, their AI is terrible. All they do is swarm and rush you. These enemies are contrasted with the Covenant enemies who show some of the best AI in first-person shooters, even to this day. And the contrast is not for the better. In all of these games, you’re always engaging smart enemies, you need to think to survive, the encounters never play out the same, and it can be really fun, despite some frustrations. Then you get to the Flood where the gameplay drastically changes to horde mode, complete with mindless enemies swarming you from every direction and they’re just not fun to engage. Halo 2 had them piloting vehicles and Halo 3 adds sniping Flood. It’s absurd, it sucks, and, thankfully, it’s all over. As of this review, after Halo 3, there is no more Flood.

Just like previous games, most missions have you going from point A to B. The Earth missions have you navigating through a jungle, defending a hangar from a Covenant invasion, and even blasting your way across a highway. Then you get to the Ark which has a diverse geography just like the Halo rings, themselves. Compared to the previous two games, the level design here is easily the best and, with the exception of the mission “Cortana”, all of the environments show no major signs of repetition and are varied in design, look, and feel. Whether you’re sniping enemies from a ridge in the desert to flying a Hornet towards two Scarabs, there’s always something new being thrown at you in terms of level design. Most encounters with enemies usually take place in large open spaces with plenty of objects or structures to use as cover, and plenty of ways to approach situations. Some areas let you sneak up on enemies and kill them with a melee attack but most of the time you’ll be shooting. I do really wish the campaign was longer and included more environments, overall. The campaign’s short length is probably my biggest disappointment with the game, minus the Flood, but thankfully it offers plenty of replay value thanks to the multiple difficulty modes, Covenant AI, and scoring system. I’ve heard a lot of people say Halo 3 is the best game, or has the best campaign, in the series, or at least the original trilogy. As of this review, I would say Halo: Reach has the best campaign in the series but I guess I could say Halo 3 has the best campaign out of the first three entries. One of the best things about Halo 3 is it’s missions and basically every mission that doesn’t include the Flood is pretty great all around in my opinion. Despite its short length, there’s a lot of standout moments here and the game does offer one of the best missions in the series called “The Covenant”. You need infiltrate a coastline defended by enemies and then proceed to deactivate barrier towers before decimating Covenant forces in a tank and flying a Hornet into a war zone full of Warthogs, Ghosts, Banshees and two Scarabs. The last mission in the game is one of the worst, simply because of the Flood, but it is also a standout mission. It’s very reminiscent of the final sequence of the last mission in the original Halo. You’ll be driving a Warthog while dodging exploding platforms, Flood enemies, and Sentinel Drones, before driving off a ramp and into a UNSC frigate. It’s a special moment and also a final “goodbye” to some of the worst enemies in video game history as you soar through the air before watching the final cut scenes. No more Flood.

I remember when I first got Halo 3. I thought it looked really, really good. Although, I had my 360 hooked up to a CRT television at that time, too. Fast forward to now, and coming directly off of Halo 2: Anniversary, I don’t think it looks quite so hot anymore. Yes, it looks better than the original Halo 2, but by today’s standards it looks pretty dated, and it looks even worse if you just played Halo 2: Anniversary. It’s when I first fired up Halo 3 from The Master Chief Collection that I questioned why the rest of the games didn’t receive the anniversary treatment. Regardless, it still looks alright, it just shows its age in some areas. Some animations are stiff, there’s significant pop-in in many of the outdoor areas, and some textures appear blurry here and there, but back in 2007, I remember being blown away by the visual presentation. Now because we reviewed this before The Master Chief Collection received any Xbox One X enhancements, it is possible that the standalone Halo 3 looks better on the console because from what I understand, it did receive enhancements but I have not played the original version on my Xbox One X yet so I can’t really comment. As for the audio work, some weapons sound very weak, specifically the the UNSC weapons. The assault rifle, in particular sounds extremely weak and just doesn’t feel satisfying to shoot. The battle rifle, too, could use some work in the sound department. On the positive side, the Covenant weapons sound pretty good, the dialogue heard from the Marines and Covenant enemies during gameplay is often humorous, and the music is excellent. I do think the music was better in the previous games but the soundtrack here still gives off that Halo vibe and the kick-ass songs play at just the right times. When talking about the performance, I don’t really remember much about how the original game performed since its been so long since I’ve played it, but this iteration from The Master Chief Collection ran perfectly smooth for both playthroughs. We experienced no frame rate dips or stuttering which was nice but we did experience some issues with spawning in our co-op playthrough like the game spawning us over a gap so we fall to our death or outside the the playable area but neither of these scenarios happened often. Now either I forgot or didn’t realize the split-screen co-op displays in the 4:3 aspect ratio which really threw us off at first and, in fact, makes it harder to see things sometimes. I think this was for performance reasons but I can’t confirm. However, this carries over to ODST and Reach as well. I guess I can forgive Bungie for this, given the date the original game came out, although, I’ve read complaints about this dating back to 2007. I definitely cannot forgive 343 Industries for not updating it to support widescreen. It’s the least they could have done considering the game received no real overhaul in terms of presentation. Not being able to play split-screen in widescreen is just ridiculous.

I had a lot of fun with Halo 3 but was very disappointed with the campaign’s length. It’s way too short. As usual, The Flood still sucks but most of the campaign is enjoyable and offers plenty of replay value. I remember playing this a lot back in the day. I remember spending hours just replaying missions and taking tons of screen shots. And because my game, or Xbox account, was synced with my Bungie account, I could view and download them later online. I loved that shit. I think I ended up saving hundreds of shots. I also remember spending a significant amount of time in multiplayer and having fun but I spent a lot more time with the campaign and scoring system. It was Halo 3 that really got me into this series and I would proceed to complete the previous games in reverse order and acquire the major future titles day one, with the exception of Halo 5 because I ended up burning myself out. I love the characters, I love the lore, I love the universe, and I love the story in these first three games. I think Halo 2 is really where the meat of the story is, you even get to learn about the inner-workings of the Covenant, and Halo 3 was a fitting end in my opinion. Even though I can’t stand The Flood, they’re part in the storyline works, and if this was anything but a video game franchise, I honestly wouldn’t have any issues with them. Halo 3 is a great game and marks the final appearance of The Flood for which I am very grateful.

I would definitely recommend Halo 3 to fans of the series, first-person shooters, and science fiction. Although, if you’ve never played any games in the series, or at least the original trilogy, you really should play the preceding entries first. At least Halo 2. I never finished the original Halo until well after I completed Halo 3 so when I first played this, I really had no idea what the hell was going on story-wise. It’s a shame this version receive no real overhaul in terms of presentation because it does show it’s age in many respects but it’s still more than enjoyable. In my opinion, all missions up to “Cortana” are fantastic and consistent in terms of their fun factor. Halo 2 opened a door and left us hanging at the end. I can honestly say Halo 3 gives the trilogy closure and is a fitting end. Finishing the fight is well worth it.

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