Thursday, October 4, 2007

Halo 3: Finish the Hype!

Well, I finished the fight; I beat the Halo 3 single player campaign over the weekend. It's about what you would expect. The Halo games have never really been known for their single player experience and I feel that's accurate. This time around there's 4-player on and off-line co-op. That's a good addition. In terms of an overall plot arc, I guess Bungie delivered even if the plot as a whole was jumbled and hackneyed. But hey, Master Chief and the Arbiter have a TEAM UP just like Charles Bronson and the Stupid Chief (TM) in Death Wish 3! What more can one truly ask for in a sci-fi FPS?

Ok so Halo is really about the multiplayer experience. I can dig that. Halo 3 definitely delivers in this regard. This time around there are whole new game modes, weapons and vehicles. That's to be expected though, as Halo 2 did the same thing.

The crown jewel in Halo 3 is the addition of a mode similar to YouTube. Basically, every game you play is automatically recorded for playback later. You can watch these saved clips later and edit them. The editing tools are quite good for a console. Even better, you can upload your videos and share them among the community. I've already downloaded some of my Internet friends' videos and they're great for learning or laughing at. Good times indeed. (Of course the machinima possibilities are endless as well.)

There's also a new mode called "Forge". It's essentially a real time map editor. You load up maps and can spawn items or other things and dick around with them. (Each item deducts from the total "funds" of a given stage; when you run out of funds you have to destroy items to get more.) You can save these custom maps you create and share them. It's definitely unique for a console FPS and I'm curious to see how much the community utilizes this.

It's clear that Bungie spent a lot of development time figuring out ways to promote the Halo community, and that's definitely a smart thing. I can't think of any other franchise that appeals to such a large and diverse fanbase besides Halo. Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Dragon Quest, they all don't even come close. I think Madden is probably the only thing that can beat Halo and even then I think Halo has more hardcore fans. There has to be someone out there buying all the ridiculous merchandise right? I mean not everyone is buying Gamer Fuel for the taste right?

Now that I've got all the praise out of the way, I can get to the problem with Halo 3: it's not that original. It really feels like Halo 2.5. The graphics are great in places (like the lighting) but I feel games like Gears of War and Bioshock look better as a whole. (Though Halo obviously has to support multiplayer and with more players than Gears of War.) The whole Halo YouTube feature is great but it really doesn't add to the core gameplay. Halo 2 added duel wielding which was a good twist on Halo 1. Halo 3 doesn't really add anything on the same level. The game is still great, but I feel like Bioshock is easily twice the game Halo is just because it's more original despite being a spiritual successor to the System Shock series. I'm reminded of Diablo 2, which is easily Blizzard's weakest game because it didn't really feel like a true sequel to Diablo. Halo 3 is still good, but not great. I truly feel that Bungie focused on the community aspects simply because they couldn't come up with any more innovations like melee attacks and dual wielding for the core gameplay.

Perhaps I expected too much from Bungie? They really are only known for Halo at this point. It's clear the hype machine was in hyper ultra over drive mode too for this game. I'm reminded of all the hype around Neon Genesis Evangelion and how the anime completely failed to live up to the hype. Maybe this is just how things are; nothing ever truly lives up to its hype?

Or maybe I'm just a gaming snob now and I dislike Halo 3 because the franchise is so popular?

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