First Thoughts: Halo 3 First Person Story

It’s finally here. Almost 2 years after the Xbox 360 was released. What many considered to be a possible launch and flagship title for the 360’s launch is finished and fans around the world are heralding its arrival. We got the opportunity to play Halo3 last week and Microsoft was kind enough to give us a good deal of time with the game. Microsoft has asked reviewers to kindly not divulge too much information about the major plot points and fates of various characters so those who read this article can be assured: There are no spoilers here. Graphically, the game is looking very polished. We played the final Multiplayer at X07 and the games single player graphics are exactly as seen in the multiplayer. That said, we didn’t get the opportunity to compare them side-by-side, so that comparison is strictly discretionary.The game itself is very reminiscent of Halo2. There’s no mistaking the environments and the level designs for anything other than from a Halo game. The lighting and textures are much more elaborate and detailed and with much higher polygon counts, but what struck me the most was the impressive use of High Dynamic Range lighting. Without giving away too much detail on the story, the first level has some trees which cast a shadow several shadows over your when you walk under them. Looking up at them and at the sun forces Master Chief’s eyes (or faceplate?) to adjust and when you look back into the shadows it takes a while for your eyes to adjust. The effect is very convincing and not overly done, as we’ve seen in other titles in the past. The environments in Halo3 are very contrasty when compared to previous titles and there’s much more punch in the picture. Whether it is the Master Chief’s suit or the grass and trees, the effect reminds me of Gears of War when placed on Vivid Mode. Everything stands out and you can’t help but notice every detail as you walk through the environment. There’s a good deal of varied environments in Halo3, much more so than the previous iterations. As you already know, Master Chief is returning to Earth to fight the Covenant and learn more about the artifact found in Africa. Microsoft has asked us not to divulge any of the environments in the game and I can say, there’s good reason. They’re certainly some of the more impressive parts of the game and vary the game play to a certain degree.From a game play standpoint. Halo3 plays very much like Halo2 as well. There’s no revolutionary game play mechanics and not very many surprises with respect to how the Master Chief is controlled. Some of the buttons have been moved to make use of the 360 controllers additional buttons but for all intents and purposes, it’s the same control scheme as before.

There weren’t many bugs I encountered while playing, except for one where the Arbiter got stuck behind a tree and I had to smack him with the butt of my rifle a few times to get him loose. Otherwise, the only other AI annoyance was allowing the AI to control vehicles while you fire whatever gun is attached to the vehicle at the time. Generally the AI doesn’t drive nearly as well as a human player and I experienced some frustration with the drivers; They’d continually get stuck somewhere, enough so that I’d hop out of the vehicle and take control to rectify the situation or risk getting blown to pieces by Covenant forces.The new Brute vehicles are interesting to say the least. They’re not as futuristic looking as the other Covenant vehicles and you could almost mistake them for UNSC forces vehicles. They don’t have the usual gleaming surfaces or vibrant colouring of other Covenant vehicles, but seem to have the more practical and military look to them that Earth vehicles have. Was Bungie making a comment on the differences between the rest of the Covenant and the Brutes? It’s likely, because we already know they’re more brutal and warrior like than other races in the Covenant and the Brute Choppers is quite effective at ramming and destroying vehicles with one ram. It’s also interesting to control a covenant vehicle that doesn’t have hover abilities. You have to control the chopper very much like a Warthog but also attempt to fire using its forward mounted guns. I found I enjoyed the Brute Chopper immensely.There are a few new weapons in the game. They keep things varied and offer some more opportunities to change how you fight the Covenant, but I found I always went back to the tried and true weapons like the assault rifle to get through the toughest of fights. The shotgun, although not holding too much ammunition, is quite effective in blowing off brute armour at close range, before finishing them off. I had a lot of fun with the gravity hammer, which is a nice addition to the game. Its usefulness is not long lasting, but it’s great at dispersing closely grouped covenant enemies. The same can be said for the tripod-mounted guns, both Covenant and UNSC. There’s something satisfying about ripping a bg gun off its mount and walking around ripping through Covenant forces with a gatling gun or plasma gun. The ammunition if limited, but it does a great job of thinning out the enemy.Ammunition for guns is limited enough in Normal Mode to make you think twice about sparing your ammunition for when you really need it and you’ll find a few opportunities to save some UNSC soldiers from being pummeled to death by Brutes so that they can fight alongside you.Having played the game on Normal, I managed to complete the first half in 4 hours, so my recommendation to veteran players is to look at the more difficult levels in order to ensure some longevity to the game. If Halo2 is any indication, the game may get more difficult in the last half, but we didn’t get an opportunity to actually play the last half ourselves. We did however get to see the last half, as we had other reviewers playing it alongside us. For the Achievement whores out there, I recommend checking the achievements before selecting a difficulty level. Bungie definitely makes playing the game at more difficult levels, well worth it on the Achievement side. There are a lot of checkpoints in this game too. It almost felt like the game was saving for me every time I turned a corner. If it keeps that up in the Veteran or Legendary difficulties, we may see something akin to Bioshock’s ability to keep coming back close to the action we just left. You do however have to replay the section where you died again.I think we’re going to see two very distinct camps on Halo3, those who expected a little more and those who love Halo for what it has been and still is. If you’re looking for groundbreaking graphics and revolutionary game play, you’re not going to be looking at this latest installment of Halo. If you’re a Halo fan, like the story telling, and want to see what happens to the Master Chief, Cortana, the Earth and the Covenant, then you won’t be disappointed. Halo3 is true to its namesake, if nothing else, and it delivers a solid Halo experience. by: Vern – Xbox 360 Reviewer

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