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Review – Halo 3 campaign

posted on October 4th, 2007 by Don

You kids like your Halo. I’ve read, in scores and multitudes, that it’s the bee’s knees, really. All manner of laud, pomp and, indeed, circumstance was made at the Halo 3 launch.

Just here in Chicago, in fact, like, a billion total nut-job game dweebs sat for hours both inside and out of any number of gaming venues through the eve of release just to snag a copy at midnight-plus-one. This is, I presume, because they were all of them mistaken; thinking, perhaps, that there was some sort of limited supply of the new nectar and that this wait would somehow result in an assurance that they get the rare and beautiful flower which, to be sure, couldn’t simply be stamped out by the billions for pennies at the press.

It was like a goddamned hardware launch only the following morning the mass of those proprietors overrun by game dorks just hours earlier would be rich with bloom; their walls stacked to bear out those morsels to which Bungie executives owe their Hummers, Audis and yes, the occasional EVO.

I laugh freely at those droves for reasons that start with a grasp of the mildly absurd and stretch on into infinity. Is this not a video game we are talking about? Was the game immediately preceding not critically panned, publicly questioned and, dare I say it, as ugly as that lizard baby from V: The Final Battle? Those of you hopelessly chained to the brand will argue, likely very loudly, but deep down inside you know it to be true. Lizard baby from V. It is not my place to shit you, so you may rely on the fact that I am not, now, doing so. Lizard baby, kids.

Primary upon the list of “reasons for which waiting around for Halo 3 was a dumb idea and those who did it should be questioned by some board of professionals that has the authority to lock people up”, however, is the fact that I was number 4 in line for my copy. I got it at 12:04am and could actually feel my chest tighten as the guy in front of me received, and proceeded to UNBOX, his legendary-helmet-pack-thing. Right there in front of my normal-person-cheapo-DVD-jewel-case-pack-for-total-losers.

There are a number of reasons for which this makes me disrespect myself. Chief among them is the fact that I hate the Halo series. A lot. I’ve always seen it as sort of a console nerd’s answer to real FPS gaming. There were other console FPSs before Halo, but Halo was the only one I got 13yr olds bragging to me about p0wning. Halo is the default go-to game for people who want to pretend they are hardcore gamers but really have a fair amount of difficulty determining whether or not the television is actually on. It is the game all of the geek-hunter girls I know say they play. They say it because they think it makes them look like gamers, and they think this is hot. It doesn’t. It’s not.

I was in that line because of the hype. The promise that something new and unbelievable would be there on that disk, cheap version or not.

I have always been a UT fan myself. I’m that guy who quit 8 credit hours in college to pursue a degree in UT dominance. I can head-shot with my eyes closed, computer off and hands sewn together using only the impact hammer. Please excuse me if I chuckle a smidge when you, dual analogue in one hand, teddy bear full of gumdrops and covered in vanilla body spray in the other, your junk wrapped up in pink princess panties, come to me with a tale to tell about a Nintendo PlayBox 360 shootie-shootie game you and your deplorable patch of younglings played last night in your mom’s basement with four twelve inch TVs all strung together.

I’m not saying I, myself, am some über hardcore gamer. My ass bleeds every time I hop on to a CTS server, and I only ever do that when the pain of real life needs to be washed away in endless and total shame. I’m just saying that I’ve popped off my share of heads, and done so with Jesus Christ’s own mouse and keyboard. He lent it to me for smiting fools. That’s right, Jesus plays UT. WWJD? WSAD.

This means something against the backdrop of the thinly applied auspice of a Halo 3: Campaign review, right? Yeah. It does. Sorry for getting out of hand; I simply feel very strongly about this subject and need to make it clear that I think console FPSs are for boys who pee sitting down. BOOM; head-shot.

Now that we’ve established the rules of this universe, I’d like to crack it in half by telling you that I absolutely enjoyed the HELL out of the Halo 3 campaign. I think it is a tight bit of FPS on an engine that absolutely drips with refinement.

From front to back the campaign delivered what I have been told is total Halo gameplay. For the uninitiated few I will explain simply that Halo gameplay consists mostly of blowing the hell out of things. These things gradually get bigger and more difficult to blow up but when they finally do blow up the explosions are pretty damned close to stellar. I don’t mean the 80s slang-adjective for pretty neat, either; I mean stellar as in fucking stars.

With all of the subtlety of a jackhammer to the base of the skull, the whole deal wraps up with something like fourteen minutes of shit blowing up on a giant machine whose sole purpose is to blow other, bigger, shit up. If this isn’t the review you were looking for, I am sorry, but Halo’s narrative complexity is directly converse to the amount of shit that gets the boom treatment and the ratio of giving a fuck about what’s going on to watching a whole lot of crap blow up quickly becomes unbalanced to the point of generating a zero-point spatial puncture at the point where there once was a story.

As a sort of controlled scientific proof, I will try to recount the story for you from the point of view of someone who has never played more than a few minutes of either Halo or Halo 2. Watch yourself in this next bit, because there are spoilers:

You’ve lost your electronic girlfriend to some aliens and fight through a planet full of these aliens, in various sizes and configurations, to get her back. While you do so you are spoken to ominously by a creature in whose anus you spend about an hour and whose face, apparently, you blow up with the big ring thing that no one is ever supposed to fire only you’re allowed to because you are the king of blowing the shit out of things.

Honestly, there is nothing else there. The gold in this, however, is that there doesn’t need to be. No one got together over Taco Bell and Mountain Dew to talk about the grand subtlety of Doom in the early 1990s. All that talk was about blowing shit up; an act that the Halo campaign has pretty much locked down and etched with ultra short pulse laser precision. That, in itself, is the huge positive.

It is imperative that you understand why I’ve chosen that path that I have to present to you my take on this game. Telling you anything more about the weaponry, control scheme, alien baddies or butterfly-fart thin plotline than I already have is redundant. This game has been done before. Not merely in the previous two Halo titles, but in almost every ‘hardcore’ FPS to have been released in the last decade. It offers, literally, nothing new to me as a campaign FPS player.

What it does offer, however, is an unbelievable amount of polish. It is the ultimate refinement, in my view, of a console FPS. Everything feels tight. More so than any game in the series, to be sure. Part of me absolutely loves this. The rest of me, however, is not surprised as Bungie has had nearly a decade to refine this model. I am pretty sure I could whittle a working warthog out of a redwood with my tongue in that amount of time, so finally making the the game they meant to at the turn of the millennium doesn’t impress me on that merit alone.

When challenged about the micro-breadth of the plotline, lack of crazy FPS innovation and overall ‘haven’t I done this already’ feel of the game, a Halo fan friend of mine had this to offer:

“Sometimes you want to watch a really great mystery movie that keeps you guessing and makes you think. There are some times, however, when you just want to watch Bruce Willis kick the shit out of an asteroid.”

A further explanation extrapolated this analogy so far as to point out that, though there are a massive number of big budget action movies, there are not an equal number of big budget action games; none, for sure, so refined as the model upon which Halo 3 has been crafted.

So, to tie this up for you, I offer these 3 points:

1. Console FPSs suck for anyone with a PC and, um, skill. If you can’t find a way to make sense of this you can take your purse, capri pants and subscription to Teen magazine and go home.

2. Halo 3 is Halo: Combat Evolved, only it has actually evolved into what they wanted the first time through. The crappy excuse for a story is evidence of this.

3. At the end of the day, the game is a badass good time if you want to get into a quality ass-kicking situation, even if it reminds you of UT2004 just a little.

In fact, I’ve only run into two problems with the game thus far. The first is how much it made me want to play UT, so we’ll ignore it. The second, however, is the supposedly awesome lighting situation we’ve blown a bunch of ‘p’ on to get running smoothly.

You see, though I understand that it is important to be realistic in your modern shooter, and that glare, bloom and fucking blinding photonic-turbulence do exist in the real world, it just doesn’t make any goddamned sense that my super armor of the future can’t deal with it.

And, with as much cogent cohesion as the plot of Halo 3, so ends this review.

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6 Comments

  1. Stefan said on October 4, 2007:

    WWJD?

    WSAD.

    That’s brilliant. Slap a Dopefish on your car and keep the faith.

  2. Tyson said on October 4, 2007:

    This is a great article! I am in a similar frame of mind as you because I am not a fan of the series as a whole but I know as soon as I get a 360 I will get this game as well. It is odd how that works.

  3. don said on October 5, 2007:

    Thanks for the propers, guys.

    They were well and truly mad.

  4. Mert said on October 5, 2007:

    Great writing! Fresh take on the new and final Halo game from the perspective of a PC FPS fanatic, who happens to be an avid console gamer, too. Read it if you are older than 13.

  5. Jeff said on October 10, 2007:

    I’ve never played any of the Halo games. I’m not ignorant, I just want to be able to tell my grandchildren one day that I was the only one that didn’t!!

    No, serioulsy. I like scoffing at people who spend their hard earned cash on Halo games. For some reason it gives me this deep seeded feeling of superiority and self worth. Its usually followed by denial as I remember I’m going gaga as I wait for the Australian release of Metroid Prime 3 in November (“Oh the humanity…”)

    I try to make my self feel better by telling myself the Metroid Prime series are a FPA and different from the blow-the-crap-outta-everything-in-sight, FPS. I tell my self thos and I sleep better at night…

    Oh yeah, bloody good review aswell. Glad it was you waiting in line and not me!

  6. GnaM said on June 4, 2008:

    For such a hardcore lover of PC FPS and UT, I honestly think don went a little too easy on Halo 3. Oh well, I suppose he’s got better things to do than nitpick a console game to death.

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