Halo 2 ended with Chief on the back of a covenant ship, and Cortana, wellâ€¦for those who are new to the series (if any), I wonâ€™t say. But the first thing we hear is Cortanaâ€™s voice; she chose Chief, not because heâ€™s tough, or brutal, or can lift whole tanksâ€¦noâ€¦this dude has Lady Luck on his side, and damn good as well, as the next thing we know heâ€™s fell meteor style through the atmosphere from a height of two kilometres!
If I had to describe this game in one word, it would be â€œsolidâ€ â€“ the weapons feel just right, the sounds represent impact perfectly, and the sound effects themselves are entirely suitable. The shooter model is just as accurate and loveable as all the previous instalments, and even has more weapons to complement the already impressive arsenal (apart from the brute plasma rifle, which, considering this whole game is infested with Brutes, is quite an anomaly, but will anyone miss that weapon? I doubt it.) The gravity hammer for example, is one of the best melee weapons Iâ€™ve ever used in a first person shooter (alongside Churchâ€™s sword in the Jericho demo ;) ). The sound effect is just earth shattering, and the hit effect can shatter the armour of enemies within about four feet of the impact zone. Talk about area of effect!
â€œQuickiesâ€ - The Good
â€¢ Everything that was good about all the previous Halo games culminates in one epic instalment.
â€¢ New weapons.
â€¢ Shiny graphics.
â€¢ New character models â€“ the flood are especially impressive,
â€¢ New enemy types â€“ especially in the form of the flood â€œtransformersâ€.
â€¢ Ace soundtrack and voice acting.
â€¢ Superb new vehicles â€“ the Elephant (MP Only), The Chopper, The Prowler, The Hornet and The Mongoose.
â€¢ New â€˜nades!
â€¢ Halo HD!
â€¢ File Sharing system â€“ now your custom games can be famous!
â€¢ Faster matchmaking! Yay!
â€¢ Weapons feel solid and weighty.
â€¢ Multiplayer maps have features, vehicles and choke-points galore.
â€¢ Most bad points (see below) are negligible!
â€¢ Big-ass detachable weapons.
â€¢ Banshee bomb is back in both SP and MP!
The first five minutes or so are a bit slow paced, just to wake up those long dormant Halo fans, but after that you better as dammit get your seatbelt on, helmet strapped, trigger finger loaded and underwear changed (frequently)! Remember that scarab tank from Halo 2? This game features no less than four of the little(-ish) buggers, and this time thereâ€™s none of that jumping from a ledge onto the weak spot crap, oh no, hehe. The game is a constant rollercoaster of epic fights with hordes of Brutes, endurance matches with waves of flood and insane vehicle duels with Grunts on ghosts. This will be the most fun a lot of us have had in a shooter in a long, long, long time.
The thing youâ€™ll be glad to know about this instalment is we finally get some closure on the plot of Halo. Of course, Iâ€™ll say no more about that, but Bungie have certainly kept to their promises about this being the last in the trilogy and boy will you have a (literal) blast getting there.
The environments themselves arenâ€™t hugely interactive; there are the usual explosive core barrels and door switches, but no complex traps or gadgetry to snag your enemy with. But you know what? Halo has done without such features so far, and by George thereâ€™s been no harm in doing without them again! Itâ€™s still just awesome fun to lob a grenade behind a barrier, only to see, moments later, a brilliant blue blast from the energy core you unwittingly blew up, followed by three covenant troops going into orbit. Tasty!
The melee attacks are also so much fun, especially now that the game appears to have much improved gravity and physics, in one instance, a flood trooper leapt ten feet in the air, only for me to run at him and smack him with the mere butt of a rifle, resulting in a spectacularly funny rag doll death! (Try it yourself ;) ). This comes out even more in Multiplayer, where being smacked in the right place at the right time will result in flying worthy of jealousy from Red Bull Air Race pilots!
Ah, yes, the famous Halo multiplayer, responsible for what must be near 80% of the Xbox Live population (and a damn lot of Microsoftâ€™s revenue) is even more perfect than ever (minor gripe: Beat downs/sword attacks can often seem delayed and offset in some matches, although this is mostly attributable to server lag). With the introduction of multiplayer achievements (none of which require hardcore fanboy-ism to complete) and detachable turrets, as well as the Elephant â€“ an incredibly slow moving, structurally invincible mobile fortress, totally decked out with turrets and complete with hangar and garage bay â€“ makes multiplayer much more of a variable experience than last time around and even provides much more space for team-play than ever before! Kudos to Bungie!
The game settings are far more customisable than before, enabling you to create your own variants on games such as Juggernaut â€“ by increasing shield capacity, recharge time, speed, forcing weapons, giving infinite ammo and so much more! You can create game variants on vampire modes, zombie modes, tank modes, super-sonic fast modes, and even modify the content of in-match custom power-ups. Simply a phenomenal range of options are simply handed to you with little regard for balance. But hey, itâ€™s your game this time around, not Bungieâ€™s, so keep on customizing!
Along with this extreme layer of customization comes file-sharing, yes! Thatâ€™s right, you can now post your custom games to the Live servers for other players to download and use â€“ a feature that was sorely missed in the last Halo. Thereâ€™s also theatre mode, a widely flogged feature in most previews and interviews for this game, and yes, it is here, but not quite as promised. Sure, you can watch videos, record minor clips of those videos, play, pause, rewind, rinse, repeat and all that jazz, but guess whatâ€™s missingâ€¦slow motionâ€¦yup, thatâ€™s right, the last time I checked, Halo 3â€™s theatre mode was being flogged with slow-mo packaged, but that doesnâ€™t appear to be anywhere in sight.
Why Bungie?! Why?!?!?!?!
â€œQuickiesâ€ - The Bad
â€¢ Can no longer dual-wield the needler.
â€¢ Cannot drive the Phantom or the Pelican, even though the seating/weapons are detailed in the manual with all the other vehicles.
â€¢ Even though graphics are much shinier in terms of lighting and such, geometry and textures are a bit lacking compared to other current-gen games.
â€¢ Campaign is actually pretty short in contrast to the past instalments.
â€¢ People donâ€™t seem to be too interested in custom games and campaign co-op over XBL, itâ€™s better to get friends only if you wish to compete in these game types, as you wonâ€™t get much response over open party.
â€¢ Matchmaking system is faster than Halo 2 and a bit more customisable, but could probably have done with a server list to spark interest in custom games.
â€¢ Big ass detachable weapons arenâ€™t all available in MP.
Finally, the game is jam-packed with new enemies, for example; the transforming ant-like creatures of the flood. At one moment, you see an ant creature, the next itâ€™s a two legged porcupine firing incredibly lethal spines at you (their ability to attach themselves to roofs makes this more so) and if youâ€™re really unlucky, they can take the form of a giant lumbering hulk, which can take around three shotgun shells to the head to kill.
The flood have all the basics though; the body snatching spores, the huge zombie-like spore heads, regular troops weâ€™ve all seen before. The total works. This time around though, thereâ€™s one massive differenceâ€¦ Remember how in Halo 1 and 2 the Flood was almost immune to melee from anything but the power sword? Well now, standard melee is one of their biggest weaknessesâ€¦eat fuel rod butt Slimey! Shamefully, the second best flood-killer from the first game (the insanely powered magnum) is in this game, and is still as capable as ever, it just doesnâ€™t appear all too oftenâ€¦
So, in conclusion to the definitive verdict on this hyper-epic gameâ€¦ Bring in the supremely orchestrated marching score from the last two games, add a pinch of KABLAMMO!, a tablespoon of Holy ****!, mix in a generous helping of superb voice acting, ice off with quality animations and shiny character models and finish it all off with singing Happy Birthday to The Arbiter (am I taking this metaphor too far now?) because the next time you press â€œpowerâ€ on your 360, youâ€™ll be on the Alton Towers of gaming!
Buy if you liked... just buy this game, seriously.