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Halo 3

Developer: Bungie Software | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 09/25/07 | Genre: FPS

halo.jpgAs Microsoft entered the videogame market, one game catapulted them from a mediocre start to create a franchise so popular and powerful that it would become an icon for the First Person Shooter genre and online gaming as Mario is to platformers. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the franchise I am referring to is Halo. With huge sales figures for both Halo and Halo 2 on the original Xbox, Microsoft and Bungie have finally concluded the original trilogy storyline of Halo with Halo 3. For the doubters out there, Halo 3 ends the trilogy with a bang.

One of the first things one may notice about Halo 3 is the numerous retail packages available for the game. There is a regular edition that retails for $59.99, a Limited Edition, complete with a bonus disk and metal tin box, which retails for $69.99, and the Legendary Edition that retails for $129.99. The Legendary Edition of Halo 3 is not only one of the most expensive games to ever come out in the US, it includes something fans of Halo would kill to have--the helmet of Master Chief. Almost life-sized, your one hundred and thirty clams will give you Master Chief’s helmet sitting on a gigantic Halo 3 stand that can hold all three game boxes of Halo. But no matter which edition you end up with, everyone gets to experience the incredibly deep and rich gameplay of Halo 3.

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To start with, Halo 3 is visually much better looking than the multiplayer beta was earlier this year. That said, Halo 3 is nowhere near the visual powerhouse that Gears of War or other AAA games are. Of course, graphics are not everything and it should be pointed out that Halo 3 is very faithful to the look and feel of the previous two titles in the series. Halo 3 adds a much wider range of environments that have not previously been seen in Halo or Halo 2.

Where Halo 3 lacks in the visuals, it more than makes up for it with different community components. The first, and most obvious, inclusion to Halo 3 is the co-op mode. But Bungie was not content to just allow a simple two player co-op mode over Xbox Live. In Halo 3, you can play with up to four total players and participate in the full campaign mode over Xbox Live. For those of us who just don't have the skills or patience to tackle the Legendary difficulty mode, a four player co-op session through the most difficult setting seems much more obtainable and a heck of a lot fun. And since it is a few button presses away, you can join in with your buddies anytime they are available. But even after making the co-op mode up to four players, Bungie wasn't done adding features. Players have the option to turn on scoring and open up hidden skulls. This adds a competition with your friends and adds a whole bunch of achievements to unlock. Although I completely recommend playing through Halo 3 alone the first time--you will find that after playing the online co-op mode, you will never want to play alone again. Can we please get a new version of Halo and Halo 2 that adds these features?

After you grow weary of the campaign mode, Halo 3 has a few more surprises to throw at you. One of the most intriguing new features is the Forge. In this mode, you, or a group of buddies, can go into a level and play around with everything to create your own unique gameplay modes. Unlike other games that include a map editor, Halo 3's Forge mode allows you to edit, move, and manipulate virtually anything within the game world. Everything is done in real time and you can play around with everything immediately after changing it. This makes the mode not only interesting because of the power Bungie has given us, but we can also spend time goofing off in a Halo sandbox instead of traditional multiplayer matches or co-op campaign modes. Players familiar with Gary's Mod, from Half-Life 2, will know exactly what to expect with Forge and will find that the community should be delivering some interesting new gameplay experiences in the near future. Bungie has made it extremely simple to upload these experiences and share them with others via Xbox Live. This is just one of many reasons why Halo 3 will be a title that will be played religiously for years to come.

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In addition to Forge, players will also find a slew of familiar multiplayer modes to play. These are the heart and soul of the Halo 3 experience and whether you play Slayer, Capture the Flag, Territories, Infection, a team mode variation, or any of the Forge modes, Halo 3 multiplayer is an even more fine-tuned experience that will leave players itching for more. I could bore you with more details about the Halo 3 multiplayer experience. However, I felt it was more important to touch on the community features than rehash the details of the normal multiplayer modes. To sum up the multiplayer though: it is polished, fast-paced, competitive, it looks fairly decent, runs at a great frame rate, and a heck of a lot of fun to play.

Another one of the community features in Halo 3 are the screenshots and videos you can save. These can be sent to friends and can be helpful in reviewing what went right or wrong in any given match. Halo 3 will automatically store the last 25 video sessions and you will have to tell the game to permanently save them if you want to keep them. However, these videos do not take up much storage space because the file saved is simply a reference file and the actual Halo 3 disk has all the data. This ensures you can save videos without any fear of filling up your hard drive.

Besides all of the multiplayer and community features found within Halo 3, there is also the standard single player campaign mode. While the campaign mode in Halo 2 was largely criticized and not as well received as the original Halo, Halo 3 offers players a much better experience and ends the Halo trilogy with a satisfying ending. However, with all of the modes given to the community, Halo 3 is a title that will live long past everyone grows weary of the single player campaign. It would not surprise me to see Halo 3 as one of the most played online games whenever Microsoft releases their next console.

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Overall, Halo 3 is a great game, with awesome multiplayer features, and delivers an experience that lives up to the hype. I highly recommend Halo 3 and it is one of the few games I would say is worth the price of the $129.99 Legendary Edition. If you get only a few games this holiday season, I would find it hard to not recommend Halo 3 as one of those purchases.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 10/15/07
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Halo 3

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