There isn’t much to say about Halo 3 that hasn’t been said before, in a million different places. If you are reading this, then you have Internet access, which makes it reasonable to assume that you have access to other forms of media, such as television, magazines, and the like. Taking as a given the fact of media exposure almost means taking as a given exposure to the Halo 3 marketing megalith. Even 7-11 Slurpees and Mountain Dew (with their new flavor Game Fuel) have cashed in on the hype. So what about the game? What exactly is this Halo?
For the layman, Halo is the flagship series of Microsoft Xbox console line. It is a first-person shooter/space opera in which a malevolent group of aliens known as The Covenant wage jihad on the human race, whose main hope in all of this is the last remaining member of the super-soldier Spartan program. You are the last Spartan, also known as the Master Chief, that iconic armor-clad and golden-visored individual whose visage you’ve no doubt seen plastered all over the place lately.
The game takes it’s name from a system of gigantic ring-shaped, terraformed world-vessels spread throughout the galaxy, large enough to ring a planet the size of Earth, that together function as an uber-weapon capable of extinguishing all life in the galaxy. The Covenant’s misguided religion has them on a quest to activate the Forerunner-constructed Halos, in order to affect the start of their ?Great Journey.?
Halo features a distinctive visual style, a grand and incredibly fleshed-out narrative, and excellent enemy artificial intelligence, among other things, that make the single player experience very compelling in its own right, but none of these are the reason behind the series continued success and hallowed place in the halls of gaming. No, behind the phenomenon of Halo is the game’s incredible bevy of multi-player modes and options.
When Halo: Combat Evolved was released for the Xbox in 2001, players were treated to four-player deathmatch and capture-the-flag games as well as two-player cooperative modes in which to play through the game’s story with a friend. In 2004, Halo 2 launched on the new Xbox Live service, and added online multi-player to the mix with a novel matchmaking system that kept track of your scores and estimated skill level, matching you up with opponents at around the same proficiency. That has proved to be the game’s lasting legacy.
No other console title to this day has had the fevered and continued playerbase, but now Halo 3 is here to take the torch. This time around, the game supports a new four-player cooperative campaign mode, so you can plow through the story missions with up to three buddies. It also adds several new multi-player games to the mix for a grand total of 9 ways to have fun fragging your friends (making fragments of them). Some of these are VIP, in which you protect one member of your team while attempting to kill the other team’s, Assault, in which you must invade the other team’s base and detonate bombs to score points, and Juggernaut, in which one player is super-strong and has greater armor, but is also the target of every other player.
Perhaps my favorite addition to the Halo series with Halo 3 is the Forge system. In the Forge mode, you are free to go into any of the game’s multi-player maps, and toggle between the normal player form running around within the map and a ?monitor? form which lets you fly around the map adding, deleting, and moving around all of the various in-game assets including weapons, vehicles, and environment pieces such as crates, concrete dividers, and explosive barrels.
This allows you to tweak all of the levels in an infinite number of ways to accommodate any preferred style of play. For instance, you could build a level with explosive barrels everywhere, and then arm all players with rocket launchers exclusively. Think of the carnage! The best part of Forge, however, is the ability to invite other players into the mode with you. Two teams of four could play in the Forge mode alone, each team with three normal soldier types and one monitor to keep them supplied in heavy weapons and vehicles while simultaneously deleting the other teams arms.
The possibilities are quite literally endless. Any edited map can also be saved and then uploaded to Halo series developer Bungie’s own servers to be accessed by any other Halo player around the world. These downloads are then ranked in terms of popularity, making Halo players in essence also Halo designers.
Bungie is also hosting player scores and skill rankings on their website, Bungie.net. You can visit there to see your own ranking in a number of parameters, or check out those of your closest friends using their Xbox Live gamertag. Additionally, Halo 3 allows the recording of any and every game session, so that upon completion of the game, one can go back and watch all the action all over again. But this is no run-of-the-mill video replay. No, not at all.
Halo 3, rather than storing video data, records every movement and action of every player as data, and then, when played, uses the same game engine to recreate all the action in every part of the environment, frame-by-frame. Did you get sniped while charging that foe with your plasma sword? Use the replay feature to go back to that moment in a fully 3D environment, then fly the camera around the map until you find where that sniper was hiding, and replay all the action from his perspective. This also makes a wonderful tool for recapturing that 4-kills-at once grenade lob you got last round, and saving it to give your buddies hell for time and time again.
Truly, Halo 3 is much too expansive a game to capture in a few paragraphs. Let the fact that this article is dedicated to it alone be recommendation for the game. Even in a time as great for gaming as Fall-Winter 2007 (and these are truly great times to be a gamer), packages as complete and fully enjoyable as Halo 3 are once-in-a-console-generation landmarks.
The game was released this past Tuesday, September 25th, and in terms of opening-day revenue, topped both movie, Spiderman 3 and book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, garnering over 170 million dollars. Up until that point, the most successful videogame launch had been Halo 2, with 125 million in sales.