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Critical Reception: Microsoft's/Bungie's  Halo 3

Critical Reception: Microsoft's/Bungie's Halo 3

September 26, 2007 | By Danny Cowan

September 26, 2007 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Halo 3, which contains both "fully satisfying multiplayer" and a single-player campaign marked by "pounding, unceasing intensity," according to critics.

Halo: Combat Evolved was arguably the strongest force that drove sales of Microsoft's original Xbox in its first year of release, and Halo 2 remained a popular choice for online multiplayer competition well after the release of the Xbox 360.

With its greatest adversary being the lofty expectations of its fans, Halo 3 still manages to impress critics, and attains a superlative score of 96 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

WorthPlaying's Thomas Wilde scores the Halo trilogy's finale at 9.6 out of 10. "I used to consider Halo to be just another first-person shooter, much like any other one you could name," he admits. "You have to know your FPSes before Halo's successes become truly apparent. In any genre that's as overcrowded as the first-person shooter, the only real innovation that's possible is to be flawless, and Halo is moderately close to it."

"If you're a Halo veteran, there are quite a few surprises waiting for you in Halo 3," says Wilde. "You'll be familiar with the combat, which is as fast-paced and tactical as first-person shooters get, but it's been given several more degrees of complexity by souping up the AI."

Specifically: "The Marines, while they still aren't much more than cannon fodder, are now capable of effective combat, to the point where several fights almost require you to have them by your side in order for you to succeed."

Despite the strength of its tweaked gameplay, Wilde notes disappointment with Halo 3's initial hours, due to problems with plot and pacing. "The first half of the game suffers to some extent from the lack of Cortana, who provided the series with most of what humor it had and most of the exposition," he writes, "and to be honest, it begins to feel a little rote and by-the-numbers by the halfway point."

"Fortunately," Wilde continues, "the game turns most of it around in the second half. If the first half of Halo 3 feels too much like the past two games for its own good, the second half displays everything that Bungie learned by making those games."

"Halo 3, in short, deserves the amount of press and exposure it's getting," Wilde concludes. "It's the product of a team that's on the top of its game and have been given the time they needed to make the game they wanted to make. If you've ever enjoyed an FPS, this is something you'll probably want to check out."

Alex Quevedo at Gamer 2.0, on the other hand, has mixed feelings about Halo 3. "Hype, excitement, brand merchandising, and millions of people waiting anxiously for their pre-orders," Quevedo begins. "This is the Halo 3 phenomenon. And after milking the game for all it's worth, what were we left with? A messy narrative, mixed bag of graphics, mostly superb audio, and fully satisfying multiplayer."

Penning a review scored at 8.8 out of 10, Quevedo cites a weak plot as being among Halo 3's biggest problems. "The culmination of cutscenes and Cortana inserts makes for a mediocre story telling device," he critiques. "And the all-important ending seems more like a cop-out. It isnít horrendous, but we sure as hell deserve better."

Quevedo argues that the strength of Halo 3's multiplayer may be reason enough to overlook its weaknesses elsewhere, however, and that the new Forge and Saved Fims are features that "will add months of lasting value to the game."

"So is it any big surprise that Halo 3 isnít able to live up to the insane expectations? Not really," Quevedo says. "Itís still worth the buy, if only for the multiplayer and to finish the story already."

Greg Orlando awards Halo 3 with a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars at Yahoo! Games. "Pounding, unceasing intensity hits the single-player adventure's highest note. The developers at Bungie have established a racing pulse for the game, with only the briefest interludes for players to recapture their breath," he praises.

Conversely: "In the face of this enchanting gameplay and more than competent graphic work, it's genuinely disappointing to note the number of missteps in the single-player campaign."

In particular, Orlando criticizes Halo 3's "imperfect" level design. "Many corridors are so similar in their appearance, navigation becomes equal parts confusing and frustrating," he notes. Orlando also expresses dislike for Halo 3's ending, which he calls "an eight-car pileup."

Halo 3's multiplayer, however, "more than atones for its single-player sins," according to Orlando. "The game's simple brilliance comes from its ability to bring people together and give them the means with which to tear things up real good; multiplayer simply expands on this in the grandest, and most fun, ways."

"Yes, the third time is the charm," Orlando concludes. "Microsoft has itself one hell of a game in Halo 3."

Critics emphasize that Halo 3 has its flaws in regards to plot and level design, but many feel that the single-player experience is worthwhile on the whole. Few have leveled major criticism over Halo 3's multiplayer modes, however. Gamers in search of a worthy follow-up to Halo 2's celebrated multiplayer should not be disappointed.


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