Halo 3 Beta Impressions – Preview for Xbox 360 (X360)

Halo 3 Beta Impressions – Preview for Xbox 360 (X360)

Team Beta

May 18, 2007 – So – how long have you been waiting? For a while, I’m sure. Unfortunately, if you were one of the would-be players that bought Crackdown to join in on the fun on May 16th, you had to wait a little longer. That was my first impression of Halo 3: more waiting. However, when the problems were fixed, even I had to take a moment and stifle my excitement. Hearing the thematic music for Halo is very much like hearing the music from Metal Gear Solid now. Once the harmonic opera began, I was reliving my first experience with Halo all over again. The dull blues on the start screens do a great job of hiding what awaits you when you log on. Bring your friends is all I can say. That way when you perish, it will not be just you.

Especially when you are waiting in the matchmaking lobby, your friends come in handy and reduce the boredom. However, the first thing you notice when you start your first of many battles will be the graphics. At first, when you see them they might strike you as a let down, considering the amount of time we have waited for this sequel. Nevertheless, once you are into the game and get a chance, albeit small since you have a mission to do, to look around and you will notice small things that spark the extra detail hungry person you are. The stages that are available – Capture the Flag, Territory, and Slayer – all represent a quick overview of the gameplay. Of course, this is a shooter, so what else are you going to do except shoot? You will be doing this a lot. Not to worry though, it is not just the assault rifle and a few hand grenades you will use. Surprisingly, there is quite the assortment of varied weapons available in the demo. I am not too savvy with the technical terms of the weapons available, but take my word for it, there is plenty of one-shot-one-kill weapons if you can get them.

The Warthog makes a return to the series and is accompanied by an ATV-like vehicle that you can use to mow down you enemies and teammates, if you want. If you do happen to only want to remove your enemies, you might want to double check your team’s color. A few times during playing, a few of my friends and I seemed to get lost in the gameplay and did not remember the color of our team. Which, as you can imagine, created a problem or two occasionally, specifically in the Slayer match. Thankfully, my friends and I are good sports about it. While Capture the Flag is probably the most played and revered game online, personally I would have to say that Territory matches, a basic King of the Hill match, were both the most complex and fun all the way around; this might be because we did really well with this particular match. After the Territory matches, I would have to say that Slayer equaled the fun of Territory. Not because we did well, because we did not do as well as Territory, but rather, it was based on how many kills you could get inside the time frame of about eleven minutes. You cannot get as much controlled chaos in eleven minutes as we did – it was great.

We experienced one problem, though. After the third match we had, we were all ready for more. After about 15 minutes waiting in the matchmaking lobby, all of the sudden we were kicked out completely. Granted, this is a beta and glitches are to be expected, but what happened next we were rather taken aback by. After we all signed back in, we waited a few more minutes, and waited some more, and ultimately waited some more. Until, guess what, we waited some more. After a while, we lost track of time, and totally forgot how long we had been waiting. We even made a few jokes with one of our friends who changed his theme colors to pink – you know who you are, saying that it was because of that that no one wanted to play against us. While the jokes were great, the fact that after only three missions we were at a stand still, so we did what we thought best and waited some more. Unfortunately, we were unable to get on, thus ending our first attempt at Halo 3 beta.

All in all, Halo 3 lived up to most of the hype that I have been harboring for a while. The only let down was the limited matches. This could cause casual players to stay away from the title. Then again, this beta is not really geared towards the casual player. This is designed for the people who have lived and breathed Halo over the last few years. Are there things that I hope Bungie tweaks before the September release? Absolutely, but nothing that will stop me from bruising my thumbs for the next three weeks. I cannot wait for more.

Hype machine

May 16, 2007 – Without a doubt, Halo 3 is the Xbox 360’s cash cow. Gamers everywhere are waiting in anticipation for the opportunity to “Finish the Fight” that Master Chief started in Halo: Combat Evolved. With the recently announced release date of September 25th, Halo 3 isn’t as far off as most people had anticipated. However, the long awaited beta makes that wait even more palatable. Gamers everywhere are logging on (or attempting to…Sorry Crackdown owners!) to the Halo 3 beta to find out if Halo 3 lives up to the hype. The answer will depend on your expectations.

The first thing you notice when the game actually boots up after loading are the improved visuals. Halo 3 is definitely a step up from Halo 2. The lighting effects are especially impressive, and the foliage and snow all look great. However, a lot of people were probably expecting graphics that rival Gears of War, and Halo 3 sadly falls short in this respect, at least in the beta. Bungie has stated that the visuals in the beta aren’t going to be indicative of the final product, so it’s entirely possible that they have a surprise coat of paint to throw on the graphics before final release. In addition to the improved visuals, the sound is also extremely well-done, especially the weapons fire and vehicles. You can almost tell how far away a firefight is by listening to the weapon reports.

Initially, you are able to select from a either a matchmaking lobby or a theater lobby. In the theater lobby, you can view saved films from your Halo 3 exploits, and of course the matchmaking lobby sets you up with other gamers for matches. In the matchmaking lobby, you can choose to either attempt a ranked playlist game to build up your scores or a social game to hone their skills. Each of these playlists are also divided between solo and team games, so there’s no trouble finding the game you want to play. There’s even the added convenience of being able to veto the map and game that you’re joining. With a majority veto, the game is automatically cancelled, so you don’t have to wade through a bunch of matches you don’t like.

One of the most important elements of any FPS is the weaponry, and the beta doesn’t disappoint in that respect. Old favorites return, many of which are largely unchanged like the battle rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, SMG, beam rifle and carbine. The plasma pistol isn’t much changed, but a shot from it can stall vehicles now. The needler is much more powerful to the point of actually being useful, although you can no longer dual wield them. Finally, the sniper rifle has an LCD screen that you can observe even when not zoomed into your unwitting targets. Sadly, (or perhaps to heighten anticipation) the favored pistol is nowhere to be seen.

Now for the new weapons. The missile pod and the turret are both massive weapons that the Spartans carry two handed, with the screen even pulling out to give you a view of your character for aiming purposes. Although we’ve seen stationary turrets before, we’ve never been able to carry them with us before the beta. The missile pod is even more powerful than the rocket launcher, although carrying it slows you to a snail’s pace. The spiker is a gun that looks like a big pistol. It doesn’t pack much punch, but is really effective when paired with another projectile weapon. Finally, the Spartan Laser is a powerful one shot kill weapon that erases your life, but must be charged between uses. Also, in addition to old faves like the frag grenade and the plasma grenade, Bungie has introduced the spike grenade, which can be imbedded in walls and objects and even fellow Spartans.

The new gadgets are fun to use as well. The portable grav lift acts just like it sounds, creating an area where gravity is negated. The power drainer creates a field where shields are negated, creating easy kills if used effectively. Trip mines are set to explode when someone gets near them, although a beeping noise alerts players to their presence. Finally, the bubble shield offers a new defensive mechanic to gameplay, creating a shield around you that can’t be penetrated by enemy fire or grenades, although enemies can walk through it with no trouble. Use of these items creates a new strategic element that hasn’t been present in Halo games before, and when used right, adds to the gameplay tremendously.

The controls are as good as they’ve ever been, although they’ve been altered slightly from what fans are used to. The X button deploys the new gadgets, and reload is performed by pressing the bumper buttons, which lets you reload weapons independently. The bumpers also are used to pick up weapons. When the Spartans jump around, they aren’t as floaty as before and feel as if they have more weight to them. For the most part, if you’ve ever played a Halo game before, you won’t take long to get used to the new controls.

Maps usually make or break the gameplay, and Bungie has provided us with a nice mixture of stages to kill each other on. High Ground is my favorite and probably the most used map, with an asymmetrical design that has a base on one end and a beach on the other, along with tunnels on the side and an exposed turret to fend off base raiders. Snowbound is a more open, snow covered map with a maze of force field shielded underground caverns. With so many passages and so little cover, you never feel safe on this map. Finally, Valhalla is the stage that I’ve played the least. It has more symmetry than the other stages, with a base on either side and a river winding through the entire map. This stage is most conducive to vehicular play. Overall, Bungie has done a good job of giving us a variety of stages to play on for different gameplay experiences.

One of the best things about the beta has nothing to do with Bungie at all. Since the beta is exclusive, almost everyone is a good sport. I haven’t had a bad experience with another player the whole time that I’ve been on the beta, which is more than I can say if I were to jump on Halo 2 right now. This will probably change when thousands of players have access to the game this September, but for now, it’s great to be able to play and cheerfully kill other good sported individuals.

Does Halo 3 live up to the hype? It depends on what you’re looking for. The game is undeniably fun, and if you enjoyed any previous Halo then you’ll probably enjoy this one as well. The balancing in the weapons is great, the new gadgets increase strategy, the people are fun to play with, and nearly everything is improved. However, the Halo 3 beta is not revolutionary by any means. It feels like Halo, and Halo is one of the most popular FPS games of all time. Log onto the beta expecting to be entertained and not blown away, and you’ll enjoy it. But even if you’re expecting more, you’ll still probably enjoy the experience. Just remember that this is the beta and not the final product, and that Bungie still probably has some tricks up its collective sleeve for September.

Finish the Fight Finally

May 1, 2007 – There is unquestionably a ton of pressure on Bungie. As the developers behind the super-popular Halo series, the game that is known as the franchise that saved the original Xbox, gamers expect them to produce. Ever since the announcement of the Xbox 360, the only thought that has been on some gamers’ minds are Halo 3. While the game releases later this year, we nearing the beta phase that allows select gamers to try out an early build of the highly anticipated game. So while we wait, we’re going to take this opportunity to recap everything we know about Halo 3 from the game footage and what’s been revealed by Bungie.

The first thing to talk about are the graphics. Early footage of the teaser trailer showed a decidedly next-gen looking Master Chief, with real-time reflections in his visor and a nice polish to his Spartan Armor. Although the recent footage we’ve been shown in the pair of documentaries Bungie has released has shown visuals that are barely above Halo 2, Bungie assures us that these graphics were taken from the Alpha phase of the game. The beta visuals should be much improved, and the actual game, when released later this year, will be better than that. Also, some purportedly leaked footage of the beta showed visuals much improved from the ViDocs, but still short of mind-blowing, but Bungie still has months to work on tightening the graphics.

One of the biggest features of any First Person Shooter and an element that makes or breaks games of this genre are the choice of weapons. The Halo games have also had a nice balance of realistic weapons combined with the Covenent alien weaponry. However, many fans were disappointed with the depowered pistol in Halo 2 and some of the other choices, such as a very weak Needle gun. Bungie has apparently addressed this issue in Halo 3, creating and maintaining a better and more satisfying balance between the weapons. It wouldn’t be a new Halo without new weapons, and Halo 3 won’t disappoint with the introduction of the Spartan Laser, (a sort of high-tech Rocket Launcher) the Brute Hammer, and the new and revised Assault Rife, as a small sampling of what’s new.

For a long time, Bungie teased us by telling us the layout of the buttons had changed. Halo’s default button configuration is considered by many to be the perfect FPS setup (at least for console gamers), so much to the point that almost every other FPS emulates its layout. Bungie, never a company to rest on its laurels, has changed the function of the X button, while mapping the reload to the bumper button that corresponds with the intended weapon. This frees up the X button, which is now used to deploy new items, a feature that will change the way that Halo is played. As of now we know that a person can throw down a Bubble grenade which creates a shield ball around the player, protecting him from harm. It isn’t known just how powerful this bubble is or how much damage it can take, or even its duration, but its implementation adds a new defensive dynamic to the gameplay. In addition to this, there is also the ability to lay out a Tripmine, a way to counter those pesky players that like to run over opponents using vehicles. There is also the new A-hole button, which allows a person to mute an offending or annoying player for the duration of the match. This will help make matches with whiny little kids and arrogant Halo extremists more palatable.

Replacing the teleportation portals are the semi-sadistic Man Cannons. Instead of the safe and instantaneous trek across the field using portals, Bungie opted instead to add an element of danger, and thus the Man Cannon was born. The Man Cannon acts just like it sounds, launching players across the field of combat like an armed cannonball. However, while soaring through the air, any player is vulnerable to a swift and steady sniper, who can pick them out of the air, resulting in a dead body flying over the field.

There is next to no information available about the story this time around, although it will hopefully tie up all the threads introduced by Halo and Halo 2, considering that Bungie is stating that this will be the last game in the trilogy.

One final and very welcome addition to the multiplayer game is the ability to Save Films. The player now has the ability to record segments of gameplay that showcase their exceptional talents (or lack thereof) to be shown to others or simply saved for bragging rights. The clips can be manipulated in different ways, including slowing it down, showing it from different perspectives and even different angles. Expect Live to explode with vids of Halo 3 players humiliating their friends and enemies in various ways.

A lot of the information circulating about Halo 3 is rumors and speculation based on observations of the Bungie Vidocs “Et Tu, Brute?” and “Is Quisnam Protero Damno!”. Some things that were noticed were a game mode titled “Escort” and a new map called “Warthog Inc” among other things. However, unquestionably one of the most exciting things about Halo 3 will be the public beta, which will begin on May 16, 2007 and will run until June 9th. Public betas for console games are nearly unheard of, although it is common with PC gamers, so a game of this magnitude having a beta is large news and something that might change developer trends. With the beta, not only will select gamers get the opportunity to play an early build of the game, but Bungie will also be able to use the information obtained during the beta to tailor to game to popular preference. Although obviously they won’t be able to please everyone, the beta will offer the chance for Halo fans to give Bungie feedback about what they like and dislike and what works and fails so that the final product will be as close to finished as Bungie can make.

The Halo 3 beta opens in a few short weeks, but for fans of this year’s biggest FPS, the wait is too long.


  • One of the most anticipated titles of the year
  • Finish the fight, allowing Master Chief to complete the story that started in the original Halo.
  • New weapons, vehicles, maps, and gameplay modes.
  • Play against other gamers on Xbox Live
  • Screen Resolution: Up to 1080i (Standard HD, Widescreen).

    Check out some wild new screens of Bungie’s upcoming Halo 3! by Vaughn Smith

    May 12, 2006 – If you’ve seen the trailer of Halo 3 and were suitably impressed, wait until I tell you that it was in realtime, not pre-rendered CG. Let that sink for a moment…. Certainly Bungie has their work cut out for them, delivering one of the most important games in the Xbox/X360 legacy not to mention one of the most hotly anticipated games ever.

    Many gamers were left disappointed by the abrupt ending of Halo 2, not to mention the slight of hand in terms of game structure that never materialized in the final release but was shown in preview form a year earlier. The epic battle that was supposed to take place on Earth, was more of an interesting level, rather than an all out battle between two violent races, both hellbent on destroying one another. Perhaps what Bungie was hoping to create for Halo 2 was simply too ambitious for the hardware. That would make sense considering the end of their development cycle on Halo 2 seems to coincide with internal development of X360 dev kits…which means Bungie may have realistically said “Hey, let’s end the story here and do it up right on the 360.” Makes sense to me.

    And “do it up right on the 360” they shall, for all intents and purposes. The game takes place on Earth from what we know, with Africa being the level shown in the trailer. The crater in the earth that you see (in the trailer) is 3 miles wide and it’s being rendered in real geometry. We’re told the level in the trailer is approximately a third of the way into Halo 3 and as you can see from the Chief, he looks like he’s been to hell and back. It’s unfortunate that the game is played from a first person perspective as the model of the Chief looks amazing. Perhaps Bungie will adopt the third person perspective at various points in the game as Rare did with Perfect Dark Zero.

    Cortana will continue to play a role in the Halo canon, and she is still in the clutches of the sinister Gravemind, a galaxy away (see Halo 2). How this affects the Chief is unknown, but it will help to give the game an emotional foundation.

    Read what Bungie has to say about the Trailer:

    In fact, it’s the stuff it doesn’t contain that gives it a strange kind of context. You can see how detailed the Chief is, but that detail applies to our other, unseen, unrevealed characters, vehicles, environment and so on. There’s no AI visible in the demo, no multiplayer, and the entire thing has been left deliberately subdued both to give scale to the artifact and because this is our announcement. The real stuff will come later.

    Fans of Halo fiction will be able to guess at a vast array of possibilities, even from this short piece, and discuss them in our newly launched Halo 3 Forum. For those new to the series, we’ll make every effort to bring you up to speed on the story in forthcoming Bungie.net updates. We’ll also be resurrecting the true purpose of the Update-proper – a weekly diary on the progress of the game that has been stymied recently, by the absence of (reveal-able) information.

    Of course the trailer itself is a teaser – with no multiplayer, a single Earth-based locale, none of our sweet new AI or gameplay technologies. No physics to speak of, no new features other than a sneak peek at the graphics and audio engines…but the other stuff is there, and we’ll reveal more as time goes on.

    Lots more surprises to come. Stay tuned.

  • To top