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So, I’ve written and re-written this column about four times now. It’s tough, very tough, to try to express just how I feel about this particular subject. I’m not one of the huddled masses, going to Midnight openings and buying all the swag: t-shirts, replica weapons, Hero-Clix, Kubricks, statues, books, comics, belts, hats, pins, keychains…I just don’t buy into it like that. Suffice to say I’m not one of the hardcore. I’m not a fan. I have played the games, sure, and enjoyed them, but I honestly don’t see the hype. So, this column, as I have said, has been written and re-written over and again, just because…

…I can’t figure out how to tell the world I just don’t like HALO 3.

Well, I mean, I guess I could just leave it at that. But no, folks would cry foul, and ask my WHY I don’t like it. Well, that’s fair. That’s a simple enough question.

But do I have a simple enough answer?

halo3_1.jpgTo be sure, the game’s online portion is top notch. Multiplayer matchmaking is a breeze (well, once you take into account that everyone and their grandmother is playing the damn game) and settling in for team slayer, deathmatch or the like on any of the 11 included maps is really pretty fun. A recent Xbox 360 system update allows for “clan support” and inter-game features like checking out how your friends have progressed, and watching some of their video feeds.

That’s right, video feeds. The game has a fairly cool feature where EVERY game played is saved and ready to be run back and watched for highlights, then captured for posterity and uploaded for all to see. From any angle. Screen caps are available too, just to give the pwners credit where credit’s due live and in your face for long enough to want to wish someone imminent death if it happens to be you who is pwned. Plus, explosions in slow motion are cool.

There’s also the robust Forge feature, the level editing tool that lets you take any of the existing maps, fuck with them anyway you want by adding spawn points, extra weapons, gravity lifts, vehicles and whatnots to the landscape all in real time. You can even create giant games of jenga with power cells, see how long you can carry around teammates on floating boxes till they fall. Want to eliminate anything on the map except for exploding boxes, then put them on a one-second respawn so when you blow them up with a plasma grenade, the fire never stops? You can do it.

These parts are actually quite excellent, and for those who get into those kinds of things, they will fall in love with HALO 3’s multiplayer options quite hard. But a lot of us play games for the single player campaign first, and for me, that’s where HALO (and every one of its sequels) has fallen short. With this new chapter in the saga, the end to the trilogy, you are now charged with “finishing the fight” as the Master Chief, with Arbiter in tow, blazing a swath across the galaxy in jungle settings, urban landscapes and space-y vistas. And while the 360 version IS sharper than any previous episode, it still… well, just doesn’t impress me, visually. Objects pop, backgrounds stand out, but to me it’s still just another bland jungle, or another bleak space station.

My main problem with HALO 3 (as with the others) is that I honestly could give a crap less about the story. Maybe it’s just me, but I find the whole thing a tad trite, a sad combination of DIE HARD meets STAR WARS with a little INDIANA JONES thrown in. You’ve got your bad ass mysterious hero heading into action guns blazing, asking no questions and kicking all asses. And that’s fine, but… I’ve seen it. And here, I’ve seen it done better. The narrative doesn’t hold me for HALO the way many others have.

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Maybe it’s because it feels so short. Maybe it might be a bit too easy (well, except on Legendary). Maybe it’s because, even in the third chapter of this trilogy, the ending isn’t very… satisfying. Or maybe the team spent too much time putting all it’s efforts into the multiplayer, which, yes, you can even experience through the campaign. Adding a scoring mode for co-op (both in two player split screen or 4 player online flavors) is nice, and the addition of hidden power-up skulls adds a cool dimension to the otherwise one-sided play-along…but it’s still just the same boring story… with your friends in on it too.

There are many things that HALO 3 does right, I will give it that. The multiplayer is top notch and one of the driving points of the game. The ability to, mid-match, kick someone who is trash talking or generally being a douche nozzle is amazing, and is a step in the right direction for multiplayer games everywhere. The four player co-op is great too, with friends tearing up personal score boards just to see who really is a crack shot. But the main story, the main reason to “finish the fight” leaves you wanting, and for me, the story is the most important detail. As a multiplayer game, HALO 3 gets the high marks… but the single player experience drops them down again. A game has to have something to keep me playing, wanting to see the end… and HALO 3 doesn’t.

One Gamer’s Opinion:

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THE GAME ON! RATING SYSTEM

 

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Ratings From Greatest to Least:

Kick Ass, Right On, Okay, Eh, and Stinker (aka CRAPTACULAR)

 

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