Three years and a new console after Halo 2’s campaign came to an anti-climactic close, Halo 3 arrived. Having been thoroughly unimpressed by the ending of Halo 2 and not particularly enamoured with its campaign in general, I wasn’t in a rush to pick up Halo 3. Sure, I know that most people swore by the multiplayer in the first three Halo games – but I’d always had bad experiences with the toxic community online and never had much opportunity to play co-operative multiplayer, so for me it was always going to live or die on the strength of its single player campaign.
The good news? The gameplay is, of course, as tight, responsive and fun as ever. The vehicles seem to have had a but of a tune up and are a bit easier to control – as well as there being more variety in the transport on offer – and the open air levels, along with the Covenant AI, are as spot on as you’d expect from the first two games. Honestly, set Halo in open spaces vs the Covenant across the entire campaign and I’d be happy.
What still doesn’t work is the repetitive, often confusing to navigate interior levels. Working out where you’ve been and where you need to go is made maddeningly difficult by their being so much repetition in the look of each interior; it’s an issue that plagued the first two games and is often cited as one of the reasons why The Library is so hated – but here it truly reaches a nadir with the ‘Cortana’ stage. I don’t know why The Library continues to be so villified when ‘Cortana’ exists; it’s truly an awful exercise in baffling, infuriating design. There’s more of the backtracking through already repetitive levels that we saw examples of in the previous two games as well; honestly, it really makes me wonder whether the magazines and websites doling out perfect 10s to the Halo games ever actually tried to fully play through the campaigns in their entirety. I’ve had exactly the same complaints about the first two games, yet I never recall this issue being picked up on back in the day.
The same problems with the narrative raise their head here too – and there’s not even the sheen of freshly created CGI cutscenes to assist with the storytelling. IBy the end of the story, I genuinely couldn’t tell you what the hell was going on, or why certain characters acted the way they did – it seemed like I was supposed to be excited or punching the air when certain characters made certain decisions, but I just had no idea what was happening. Part of this is the decision to offload narrative exposition during play – yet again.
It’s also really jarring to go from the remastered version of Halo 2 to what should be a more technically accomplished game in Halo 3; oddly, it feels like a step backwards in visuals when playing the games in succession via the Master Chief Collection.
It’s fortunate that the general gameplay is really solid; there are a few levels here that would be near impossible to motivate yourself to get through otherwise. The bits that work are the bits that have worked since day one in Halo; it’s just a shame that Bungie clearly didn’t want to fix what was already getting them near perfect scores and endless accolades in the press – after all, why bother?
Though many Halo fans aren’t keen on the post-trilogy mainline games developed by 343, I’m actually really keen to sink my teeth into them and see if they’ve finally addressed these issues, in a similar way to how The Coalition finally sorted out all of the problems that very few people seemed to admit to having with the Gears of War games. I will, of course, be back with my thoughts when I’ve made my way through Halo 4.
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