|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bungie Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Released: Sept. 25, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
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.
CCC Co-Site Director
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.
CCC Former Site Director