Halo 3 (Xbox 360, 20 hours)

Halo 3 is an important game, though not as significant as the original Halo. It is the last main numbered entry in the series for Bungie, the developer, before they would sign a ten-year exclusivity contract with ActiVision as publisher. While Bungie moved on to the Destiny series, Microsoft created an internal studio, 343 Industries, to continue the Halo series. Halo 3 is also the first Halo game to move off the original Xbox and onto the Xbox 360, and a massive graphical leap came with the new hardware, not least of which is the much higher-resolution 1080p HD video output. Though you’re generally facing the same enemies as in the original Halo, this time there is much more emphasis on vehicular as well as turret based combat. Also, the multiplayer is a real blast, and includes online play.

I played the single-player campaign cooperatively while sitting on the couch with a friend. Honestly, this is the preferred way to play. The game is much more fun when someone else is along for the ride. You can shout out enemy locations, or have one sniper and one front-liner. The campaign itself feels almost like a completely different game than the original Halo, if only because now there’s so much more detail in the environment with the added power of the Xbox 360. Another difference is the ability to dual-wield: you can carry two of the same weapon at once and double your firing power. Each of the triggers on the controller serves as a trigger for the dual-wielded guns. The campaign is above average, though sadly can be finished in a mere three and a half hours.

There’s a reason I said this is a twenty-hour game, though, and that is because there’s an incredible multiplayer mode. Truthfully, I never took the game online, but I spent a lot of time playing two- player multiplayer with a friend. Although he could wallop me in the game, there’s a lot of fun to be had even if you’re losing. The multiplayer truly rewards skill, not luck. The person with the itchiest trigger finger and best accuracy wins. The maps are fantastic, too, and offer a chance to board vehicles or take up a strategic sniping position. Unfortunately, my experience is only with two-player multiplayer, but I can only imagine how much fun it is to play sixteen player online. There must be some truly epic battles.

Again, this game is a massive graphical leap forward. I think the upgrade from the previous generation to the Xbox 360 generation is one of the most important for graphics, especially because we now have high-definition resolutions. The game starts out in a lush forest and it genuinely feels dense with vegetation. Indoor arenas have much more going on in the design of their walls, floors, and boxes. The only thing is the first game had some large wide-open vistas, and this game eschews such levels in favor of narrow corridors. I imagine it’s easier to show more graphical detail when there’s less on screen at once, but this is a little disappointing.

Halo 3 takes the first two Halo games and ramps the production value way up, with top notch (at the time) visuals, a high quality story and voice acting, and a very good musical score. While the campaign mode is shorter than I would like, the multiplayer can suck you in for hundreds if not thousands of hours. Bungie did a great service for 343 Industries making this game; Halo 4 definitely takes a lot of its cues from Halo 3. There’s a lot more weapon variety in this one compared to the original game, and the focus on more vehicular combat is a nice change of pace. Though not perfect, I recommend Halo 3, especially to the multiplayer enthusiast.

4/5

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