Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Look to the Past: Games of the Years 2007 - Halo 3


Halo 3 (Xbox 360)

Halo was hyped. Really, really hyped. Posters for the third and final installment were plastered over store windows everywhere I went, every banner ad on every website ordered me to "Finish the Fight," and there was even a Mountain Dew flavor named after the long-awaited finale to the Halo trilogy. It appeared rather trite and superficial from the outside, having never played a Halo game before. My brother and I jokingly referred to the series as "teh haloz" because of all the poorly-spelled forum posts praising the game. But then we finally tried it, and radness ensued. Now that I've played every Halo game in existence, I can clearly see that Halo 3 was the pinnacle of the series. Maybe it didn't have the ridiculously cool pistol from the first game or the fascinating Arbiter missions from Halo 2, but it had much more than that. Bungie cranked up the scale with a phenomenal soundtrack by Martin O'Donnell, gave the visuals a shiny coat of Xbox 360 finish, and included meaningful features that both innovated and refined. Now four players could team up at once in the game's excellent campaign, which made pummeling Brutes and Grunts all the more exciting. Online multiplayer was essentially perfected with better map design and an overall slicker matchmaking service, along with new modes and weapons to keep things fresh. The most substantial new addition, however, was Forge Mode. With this creative tool, players could drop in all kinds of objects, vehicles, and items to populate their own maps. Imagination could yield great things, including elaborate, explosive traps and levels so heavily modified that they felt brand new. To capture all the magical moments of the game, a Theater Mode was instituted to save screenshots and videos so the hilariously grisly deaths of your clumsy Elite could be cherished forever. Bungie knew exactly how to give the Halo series new life without sacrificing its strengths, and they did so with near perfection.

Hey, this is my favorite thing to do in multiplayer! I always drive, my brother guns. Memories, I tell you...

But it's not only the gameplay that made Halo 3 memorable; story and characters, combined with the universe that went along with them, ensured that this is one game you'll never forget. Even amid a degree of confusion (the plot wasn't clear, going so far as to be flat-out unclear), the people embroiled in this battle for the fate of all was both fun and moving. It doesn't hurt that Master Chief is the coolest character ever. There was a certain vibe to the Halo series-- the feel of the weapons, the tone of the story, the pacing of the level design-- that reached maximum awesomeness in this game. It truly felt like the end of a great journey, one that was started at the dawn of the Xbox and continued into next console for an epic conclusion. 2007 was a good years for shooters. I myself played Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Warhawk, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and even the jaw-dropping Crysis (a close contender for this very award). However, Halo 3 still reigns as the shooter that does everything just abut flawlessly and contains a world that I always want to revisit. I also want to mention that Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass were both released that year, proving further my devotion to the Halo cause (because those games were SO GOOD). Even amid the uncontrolled hype and raging expectations, Halo 3 was utterly successful in becoming the best of its kind, and in my mind has yet to be topped. For all intents and purposes, it really did finish the fight.

No comments: