Review: Halo 3 is impressive

Blogger Andy Moon was one of the privileged few invited by Microsoft to preview <em>Halo 3</em> before it was released. He breaks down the good, the bad, and <em>teh awesome</em>—and shares an entirely gallery of hi-res preview pics—in this Geekend game review. New weapons, new maps, new vehicles, new game features, Andy breaks them all down in detail. Only Master Chief knows more about Halo 3.

The perfect compliment to all of the new multiplayer options is the addition of a map editor—Forge—that allows you to place or remove anything that is not map geometry (you also cannot manipulate the Behemoth on Sandtrap). This feature, combined with the wealth of options for gametypes, will make for more different types of games than you can imagine.

When you start a Forge session, you are your normal Spartan or Elite character, but push up on your D-Pad and you become a Monitor, like 343 Guilty Spark. Once there, press your X button for a menu of items you can place including equipment, weapons, spawn points, vehicles, teleporters, and scenery like crates, fusion coils, and radio antennae. You have a limited budget that you can increase by deleting items that are already on the map and some items have a maximum number you can place.

Once you are done with placing items, you can transform back to your character and test out the weapons, vehicles, and other map features as if you were in a Slayer game. With Forge, I was able to work out a way to play baseball with a gravity hammer as my bat and a speeding Mongoose as the ball. Bungie showed us a gametype they called "Rocket Race," in which each two-man team has a driver and a gunner on a Mongoose. The team has to drive through spots on the map while the gunner shoots his unlimited rockets at the other teams. I have to admit that this gametype is the most fun I have ever had in a Halo game, which is saying something given the pure volume of Halo I have played (nearly 7500 games in Halo 2).

Section IV - Theater

You now have the ability to save films, clips, and screen shots straight out of Halo. Your last 24 games are automatically stored and you can go back into them to watch, take shorter clips out, take screenshots, or upload them to your Bungie.net share where you can show them to anyone you like. Once you have started a saved film, you can watch in first person or detach the camera to watch the action from any angle you like.

Machinima makers like Red Vs. Blue will find this extremely useful as the camera does not have a HUD when it is detached, so nothing interferes with the filming process. For clans that do training, this feature can also allow you to record a training class so that it can be distributed to all clan members without the instructor having to be present each time the class is taught.

This feature will also go along with trash talking, the example Frankie gave us was that once a game is over, the winner can share a film or clip out to show the pwnage.

Conclusions:

Halo 3 would be worth the purchase price for the Campaign options alone. The ability to play cooperatively with up to four players is really fantastic and adds to the fun tremendously. The story is engaging and entertaining, the enemies are numerous and pretty smart, the graphics are lush and textured, and the controls are extremely smooth and responsive.

However, it is the other options that ensure that Halo 3 will be played by a lot of people for many years. The incredible depth and breadth of options along with the ability to use Forge to edit your maps ensure that "Honor Rules" games will be mostly a thing of the past. You will now have the ability to force Zombies to use only a sword, for example, or put a turret or two at the top of a building for Tower of Power. The saved films will thrill a lot of people who enjoy putting together montages, training videos, or Machinima.

So far, this appears to be the best game of the year and I haven't even heard of anything that will rival it. If you are a fan of the first person shooter genre, this is already on your radar screen, but rest assured that your money will be well spent on a game that Bungie does not appear to have taken any shortcuts on.Wwhen you divide total cost over number of games played, I ended up spending 2.8 cents per game (that includes Xbox Live fees as well as the cost of the game) on Halo 2 over the past three years. I suspect that Halo 3 will be relevant even longer than that.

I will be more than happy to answer any questions as long as they don't have to do with plot points that I am contractually constrained from disclosing.