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Finishing the Fight

posted on September 24th, 2007 by christian

Sorry folks, but I need to put videolamer’s bold blend of criticism and cynicism on the back burner and brew a fresh pot of Game Fuel. That’s right – we need to talk about Halo 3.

Rest assured, we will be featuring a review of the game in some form or another, despite the fact that it is rather useless to review the biggest-game-of-the-decade-until-GTA4-comes-out. Though perhaps I am wrong about that – if vl’s readership is anything like its staff, there may be some of you who are unsure about this franchise, in which case we’ll have lots to talk about. But before a proper review is done, we have to play the damn thing. And before even that happens, there are a few things we should get out of the way.

How do you feel about Halo 3? Are you sick and tired of all of its hype? Are you sniping at fans the way I did with Harry Potter fans during book 7’s release? Are you staying up at night like it is Christmas all week in anticipation? Whatever your stance, I find it hard not to be happy with the results of this game. As we constantly debate whether games are art, it might seem appalling that the “College Frat Boy” game is the one that is going to capture the attention of the entire world. But despite the fact that some people aren’t doing it right, the fact that any game is receiving more excitement than a Hollywood blockbuster and is giving me flashbacks to Harry Potter is pretty amazing. I want this game to succeed, because this kind of release, this kind of marketing campaign, will make people stop and take a look at “them here videogames”.

I also want it to succeed because I think that this time Bungie might actually earn it. How well this game turns out will say a lot about Microsoft and how much they have learned over the years. The first Halo had to be ready for the Xbox’s launch, and as a result the game was not just startlingly different from its original design, but as an FPS it had one of the most drawn out and unnecessary second halves of single player gameplay. The Flood stages show a clear delineation where Bungie needed to add more missions but didn’t actually have them. And if you don’t believe me, then just load up The Library missions and tell me why there are arrows on the ground showing you where to go.

Halo 2 was also rushed in order to make the holiday season. While we all slobbered over it at the time, it is quite hip these days to say that the game “sucked”. While that is not really the truth, the game did have problems, namely a story that wasn’t at all what we were promised, iffy level design and questionable weapon changes. Halo 2 was not the game we expected, though the signs were there for quite a while. It showed us what happens when we let the hype machine run wild. And once the backlash started coming, Microsoft knew they couldn’t screw around with their cash cow.

The hype machine rolled again, which perhaps shows that we really learned nothing at all. But this time it looks like Bungie were able to do things their way. Wasn’t this game supposed to be here in time for the PS3 launch? That didn’t happen, which tells me that Microsoft realized the folly of such a promise, how undercooked a product they would have received.

So now we may have the Halo sequel we always wanted. We already know the game will have 4 player online co-op with a crazy “metagame”, highly customizable online avatars, video replay options, a level editor and tons of new weapons. It looks like they are trying to make the most comprehensive multiplayer experience on the 360, and in just hours we’ll be able to see if they really did.

Halo has me giddy. Who would have thought?

9 Comments

  1. Tyson said on September 24, 2007:

    I expect the game itself to be a quality time. This is probably the most play tested and scientifically analyzed game to come to the market. I would be very surprised if Halo 3 doesn’t get near perfect reviews across the board.

    Having said that, I am hoping that this is the last in the Halo series. Halo was a ground breaking game in the sense that it took the FPS genre to a much more artful level. Halo 2 was a tad unbalanced and will probably be known as the weaker game in the series but it was still a pretty damned good game. I would like to see Bungie nail Halo 3, end the series at the top of their game and then take all of their experience and put it into a new franchise. This is not because I dislike Halo, quite the opposite, I feel that Bungie still has a series or two left in them that can further the evolution of console games and I would like to see them achieve what I believe they are capable of.

    From me, this is quite a compliment because I don’t think there are many game studios out there that are capable of or deserve the chance to make “the next big thing” but I do think the people at Bungie should get a shot. For Bungie to continue the Halo series would be to sell themselves short of new games that we all deserve.

  2. christian said on September 24, 2007:

    Tyson, I agree that Bungie should be allowed to move on. And judging from what I’ve seen of this game, I have a good feeling they might be doing just that. Everything about the single player indicates this is the end of the story, and the Multiplayer seems to be including everything the community wants and needs (sans clan tags). For once a popular franchise might be sending the message “we don’t need another sequel because there is nothing else for us to add”, even if this quote is completely different from “a sequel can make us more money”.

    If Halo ends here, then that shows that MS treats this as an artistic vision more than a way to make lots of money, and nothing could earn my respect more than that (even if Halo is not the pinnacle of art). It also shows a true level of trust in Bungie – if MS doesn’t continue to milk Halo, then they trust their developer to come up with something else to sell consoles and evolve the genre. I really hope this is the case, because this franchise is so refined by now that it would be a waste of their talents not to let them create something new.

  3. TrueTallus said on September 24, 2007:

    I can’t imagine Microsoft putting the Halo brand out to pasture, and I’m not sure the casual gamers that fuel its dominating sales figures would want one of the 3 series they care about MIA. If you’re only buying and playing a couple of games a year, more of the same isn’t so bad a thing (witness the many people who enjoy Madden).

    That said, maybe MS will let Bungie itself jump ship from the franchise to try its hand at something new, letting some lower profile studio take the reigns until the all respect for the IP is gone. It worked for Myth…

  4. Matt said on September 24, 2007:

    Personally, I can’t see Bungie doing anything else. The only thing they really excel at is making a good multiplayer experience. The single player campaigns in Halo were never that awe-inspiring, where they could extend their talents into something new. If they make a new property with multiplayer in mind, then go for it, but Halo seems like such a good fit for them. And maybe this was the reason Alex Seropian, founder of Bungie, left to create his own studio. He knew Halo and Bungie went hand-in-hand together.

    And there is no way in Hello Msoft will let Halo die. Not when you have the most popular franchise of the generation. Metal Gear never got this much publicity, and that series basically headlined the PS2, as well as PS3, format.

  5. TrueTallus said on September 24, 2007:

    Hey now. Oni might have been maligned because ofthe promise it seemingly waisted, but played on its own terms it was and is a fun but tough experience. Myth 2 also presented an excellent single player experience, though admittedly its multiplayer component was more widely recognized. I guess I’m saying that Bungie can make a compelling and unique single player experience when it wants to, it’s just been a while since they had a chance to try crafting one.

  6. Matt said on September 24, 2007:

    I haven’t played Oni, but I will give you Myth. I heard that was really good in terms of single player content.

  7. christian said on September 24, 2007:

    a few points to respond to the above posts:

    While Bungie of today is not the same as the Bungie of old, their pre-Halo games were fun and very story rich. If they can go and try to outdo their storytelling efforts from Mararthon in a new franchise, we could be in for quite a treat. There is still much they can do in that regard. Aside from that, they can still try something non FPS in the future. A Bungie MP spin on another genre would be thrilling. Matt,I’m afraid you’re bottlenecking their skills into the FPS genre.

    As for MS not letting the franchise go…we’ll see. Halo Wars will continue the universe on the RTS front, and the universe will surely be expanded through more books and other mediums. They don’t have to stop FPS sequels, but the theory of “if it makes money they won’t stop” isn’t an absolute. It took them years to come back to the Terminator franchise, even longer to go back to Indiana Jones. The Matrix is done, and I doubt we will see new Star Wars films (instead they’re handing the reigns to others to make TV series). A strong creative work can be frozen and finished when the creators want to, and this can often be a good thing. The Matrix is an example of pushing something too far too quickly and causing all but the most diehard fans to lose interest after the magic is spoiled. A new Halo could cause the same thing with just one false move.

    Of course, this is all destroyed if I play and find there is no concrete ending. Hooray for my rash judgements!

  8. Matt said on September 24, 2007:

    I’m such an idiot. When I said Myth, I meant Marathon. These Bungie properties confused me. I have no idea what the Myth games are like. Hmmm. Maybe my original comment is invalidated by this sudden turn of events.

  9. TrueTallus said on September 25, 2007:

    I don’t know if videogame publishers are as willing to let a brand lie fallow as their movie counterparts. That people at 2k can get “very excited” at the possibilities of the Bioshock brand and its inevitable sequels(!?) demonstrates how unwilling publishers are to let an IP run it’s natural course. I’d say this kind of thinking is particularly likely with Halo, as it’s a series that hasn’t yet started into a downward curve, sales wise.

    As far as Myth goes, Matt, if you have a computer and have any interest in squad-based real time tactical games, you should give it a try. Many of the innovations found in the Myth games (unit experience, real-time terrain modification, 3d environments, game affecting physics etc.) are now so integrated into modern games that they loose some of the oomph they once had, but the great storytelling, interesting setting, addicting strategic combat and consistently unique mission setups are as fun today as they were in 1998. The second one in particular is a blast, so read up on it and head over to Bungie’s site to pick up a copy if you’re so inclined.

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