September 26, 2007

Thoughts on Halo 3

Having now finished Halo 3 and played a bit of multiplayer, I think I can arrange my thoughts on the matter, which may be inflammatory, we'll see. I think that on the whole the campaign provides a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy and is a load of fun to play through. It is a bit on the short side (~10-12 hours I think), but it is punctuated by crazy awesome moments and the last level really had me engaged which is one of the best things I can say.

Overall, I think the story of the Halo trilogy would rate somewhere from "above average" to "good." I don't think it does anything really interesting, but it is well presented and does take a few twists throughout the series. That being said, I think I would have to recommend the singleplayer campaign of Bioshock a bit more highly. Yeah, I know, some of you are going to accuse me of being some kind of Bioshock fanboy, which may be true, but I think the Bioshock singleplayer experience is more substantial. It has more content, arguably better graphics, a more interesting storyline/atmosphere, and multiple endings. On singleplayer merits alone I think Bioshock is an easy winner, but multiplayer is always where Halo has shined and this is no exception.

Halo 3's multiplayer is an improvement over Halo 2, which in and of itself is monumental. The levels seem interesting and well designed, the weapons have been better balanced, and the modes have been redesigned to be, well, more fun. Also, the additions of Forge and the Replay Theater add even more. Having played with the replay theater for about an hour now (trying to get screenshots to post to with little success so far), I can safely say it is one of the coolest new features in the game. I haven't yet used Forge, but conceptually it seems to add even more to the game's longevity and seems like something an aspiring level designer (i.e., me) will have a lot of fun playing around in.

Altogether what does this mean? I think on the whole I would give Halo 3 a 9.0 which just a hair lower than Bioshock's 9.5. This is mostly due to the fact that I tend to focus more on singleplayer experiences and I think Bioshock's is flat out better. Halo 3 is a fantastic game, and I will probably play more than my fair share of Halo 3 multiplayer in the coming months, perhaps more than I played Bioshock. On the whole I think they are both terrific games, we are lucky to have both of them, and the rest of the season looks just as bright.


  1. I agree that on a single player comparison I would probably put Bioshock a bit ahead of Halo. All of the story and setting for Bioshock is much better then Halo. (note that I haven't finished)

    I think the single player mechanics are a bit tighter for Halo. The combat in Bioshock was alright, but not great. I liked the decisions I made about what to equip and how I should plan to take down a big daddy, but the actually combat wasn't very much fun.

  2. I think people reviewing Bioshock give it bonus points for it being new. I don't have a problem with that, but it's sort of a skewed view when you don't call it out. Do you rate Halo 3 compared to other FPS games, do you compare it to Halo 2? Does it lose points for being similar to 2? I wanted something very similar to 2 so being similar is good for me.

  3. All fair points I'd say.

    I think you are probably right that the shooting element of Bioshock is not as tight, but I think the decisions on equipment, setup/planning, character progression, etc. are more interesting in Bioshock. There are a lot of ways to approach almost every situation.

    One thing that I think could be improved would be requiring your character to be more specialized (e.g., System Shock 2 or Deus Ex). As it stands, your character can be equally good at almost everything, which detracts a bit from replay value (but adds to the game's mass market appeal).

    I rate Halo 3 compared to other first-person shooters, which includes its predecessors, in addition to games in other genres. Also, it is necessary to consider Halo 3 as part of a larger whole because the storyline of Halo 3 would be nonsensical without the consideration of the others.

    I don't think it lost any points for being similar to Halo 2, but Bioshock may have gained some for being unconventional. I do, however, understand the need to keep changes small in order to keep from alienating their fan base, and I think the changes/additions to the game are positive ones.

  4. It seems like I have already read this same game review before... oh that's right I have:

    Seriously, total deja vu.

  5. In retrospect, I guess it makes sense to compare two of the most recent anticipated FPS titles. I just found it odd that 2 of the 3 video games sites (and yes, I consider your blog a video game site) I read both made it a point to say Bioshock was better than Halo 3. It seems like blasphemy not to just crown halo 3 the best game ever. And I say this with no intention of buying it anytime soon.

    P.S. Who bothers playing the campaign mode? I cannot tell you how long I owned Halo 2 before I got bored enough to actual play the campaign mode. And even then it was only because K fed forced me.

    P.S.S. I shall now return to playing my last generation RPGs and waiting for FFXIII.

  6. Actually I think the statistic is something like 80% of people will only ever play the single-player campaign. At least I think that was the statistic for most RTSs, I don't know if it's different for FPSs or something. I'm not even sure on the exact number, I just know that it's a high majority of people will only ever play single-player.

    I do find it amusing that my review was so similar to another site's (thanks for considering my blog a video game site by the way), but I think that is just further indication of the validity of my position. Still I think you are right when you say most will interpret this viewpoint as blasphemy and Halo 3 will likely earn a lot of straight points just for the hype that surrounds it.

    Hey, if you have a chance, check out Folklore. I'm not sure if you own a PS3 yet, but I figure you will eventually (for FFXIII?) and it might be a game you'd be interested in.

  7. 80% of people may only play the campaign mode, but none of those people read your blog.

    Halo is not most RTSs or even A RTS. Anyone who buys it for single player is a fool ;)

  8. I'm just saying it's a statistic that developers need to keep in mind. I mean look at the size of Halo 3's multiplayer community. It peaks at about 700,000 people every night, but they shipped over 5 million copies and probably have sold at least half of those by now.

    Assuming that that 700K figure accounts for roughly half of the people that play multiplayer (which is probably an underestimate), that would still mean at least a million people aren't playing multiplayer or even online. Just food for thought.