Thursday, 27 November 2008

Game Review: Halo 3

This one has been out aaages and so I thought I'd better tell you about it before letting you know about some of the newer releases I've been playing. By the way I'm assuming that all people interested in Halo have probably completed it already and if you want a game review then there'll be thousands probably only a short Google search away. But I'm under the immodest assumption that you're interested in my opinion so I will intermittently post up reviews and thoughts on video games as and when I play and complete them. So anyway on to the conclusion of one of the biggest video game trilogies ever.

Rough Plot

Well as the astute amongst you will have noticed Halo 3 follows on from two previous games so there's a lot of story to catch up on. Humanity is at war with a number of alien races who have formed a military and religious union called the Covenant. The beginnings of the war have yet to be fully explored, but there are more Halo games on the way. The first game begins with one ship, Pillar of Autumn making a random jump to escape a Covenant attack and lead them away from Earth, which had not been discovered. They happened on something incredible though, a ring shaped world they came to dub Halo.

They were followed to the planet and the battle continued, but they found an even greater enemy - The Flood, a parasitic race that infected, killed and possessed the bodies of the dead and were considered a threat to all life by the mysterious Forerunner who built this ringed world. The humans did have one weapon though - the Master Chief, one the enhanced super armoured SPARTAN II soldiers commissioned by Earth's military. They found a way to stop both the Covenant and the Flood, with the help of the Chief's AI, Cortana, they found that the Halo was a weapon that could wipe out all life in the galaxy - the only way to stop the flood. They couldn't halt the installation so they rigged their crashed starship to explode before narrowly escaping the installation.

OK, that was a bit longer than I wanted, but I guess I had to stuff a lot of key concepts in there. In Halo 2 we have another side seen, the side of the Covenant. The battle leader who failed to stop the Master Chief is condemned and given one last chance of glory in the suicidal warrior role of the Arbiter. Things are looking bad on the home front when a Covenant fleet arrives at Earth, destroying ships and dropping troops and monstrous scarab tanks on the surface. The fight rages and another installation is discovered and, you guessed it, more Flood who start infecting the Covenant and even form a vastly intelligent Gravemind. The Covenant Prophets want to activate the rings but are stopped by the Arbiter, who has realized that the prophecy is a lie and that activating the rings won't start a spiritual journey, but will kill them all. He and his species leave the Covenant and now fight alongside the humans. They discover an ancient massive starship that goes to Earth with the Chief on board, Cortana is captured by the Gravemind and I'm really bad at being concise!!!

OK onto this game - the Chief returns to Earth and joins the Arbiter, who he grudgingly recognises as an ally. They battle Covenant forces and regroup at a military base, which is also attacked, but they arm a bomb and evacuate, wiping out the pursuing forces. They head to the starship which has landed and is the site of a Covenant excavation. They assault the forces there, but a portal is opened into which the Covenant ships go. All thoughts of pursuing are lost when a covenant ship infested with Flood comes through and crashes on Earth, the Flood spill out and are defeated, but at great cost. Finding a message from Cortana the Chief and the Arbiter's forces go through the portal, with the rest of Earth's fleet staying to defend the little humanity has left. They arrive at The Ark, a massive structure which builds Halos and can control their firing sequence. That's a chunk of the plot, I'll say no more other than WATCH THE CREDITS!!!


OK, enough of that storyline stuff I think and onto the game. The Halo trilogy is FPS, that is first person shooter, where you spend most of the game looking down the barrel of a gun. It is one of the defining games of the medium, particularly in Sci-Fi and the range of weapons and enemies make it exciting, challenging and above all fun to play. I think the fun element is an important one as the game doesn't rely only on it's cool storyline to hook the player, actually just running through the level with plasma rifles blazing is incredibly fun, and this is augmented by a great multiplayer feature, which makes is still the most popular game to play online. There is also a range of vehicles from tanks to the two seater Mongooses introduced in this game, there is also equipment such as a bubble shield which protects from any attack for a short time and features like turrets that you can pick up and carry around with you. It's strength is in being a fairly standard shoot 'em up, but having a number of nifty techniques and tricks you can master and work out for yourself - for example, by trial and error I found a really good way to do jumps while driving that don't bounce your vehicle everywhere and lots of other nifty fun ways that don't just involve trigger pulling or button mashing.

Sci-Fi Stuff

OK, this game is clearly loaded with SF stuff so I'll focus on one or two things that stand out for me, and maybe do a follow up if necessary.

The Halos

I can't discuss Halo 3 without discussing the Halos themselves, the idea of an artificial ringed planet is fascinating and I was in awe when I played the first game and saw the land ahead of me stretch out and reach up to the sky, from then on I was hooked. I will just note that I discovered that this is not their first appearance in Sci-Fi, winged worlds have been a feature of SF for some time it seems, but I still think what the Halo team did with the concept is original and fantastic. These structures were built by a mysterious race called the Forerunners, who may well have been human, or who certainly have a link to humanity. The rings are colossal, have natural vegetation and water as well as housing sophisticated structures built a long time ago. From the outside they are visibly artificial with machines and structures to keep it in place and presumably to maintain atmosphere etc. And just as you start to ask why they were built, you regret asking...

The Flood

The Flood are a great aspect of Halo, as it makes it about more than just a war between aliens and mankind there is also a greater element that threatens all life in the univese which humanity must stop while still barely holding off a vicious enemy. The Flood are very clever as to one extent they are essentially zombies, passing an infection that turns a human or alien into one of them. But they are done so cleverly and differently that you get none of that idea, yet the same creeped out feeling of watching a horror movie. The Flood don't bite you, instead little annoying infection forms come at you, which are easy to destroy but deadly if they contact a person without the shielded armour of the Chief. They also get more intelligent as the infection spreads and can eventually create their own forms without needing to infect another life form. They even grow a super intelligent Gravemind. They make a great element when they first turn up as you go from fighting a war to fighting to survive. The mystery and intrigue surrounding them drives the game on and makes the characters risk everything to stop them. They fantastically animated and presented in this volume, making them seem very real and very scary.

Worth Playing?

Definitely - nuff said!

Well I've written more than enough on this one, I would reccomend the Halo trilogy to you, especially with three more Halo games in the pipeline. I will maybe do a Bible based follow up like I did with Creed and at those to my reppertoire, but I'll see, maybe a huge war with a race based on a false religion might give me enough to go on!!

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