''Halo 3'': It's finally here! | EW.com


''Halo 3'': It's finally here!

An in-depth look at ''Halo 3'' — the long-awaited final installment of the mega-selling combat-shooter franchise. Plus: Three teenage fans weigh in on the game

This weekend, in between marathon sessions of Halo 3, Gary Eng Walk (in New York) and Paul Semel (in Los Angeles) shared their thoughts about the game via email:

GEW: It’s finally here: Halo 3. Time to ”finish the fight.” And I might as well as admit it, I never finished the last fight. A few days ago, I dug up Halo 2 (after a two-year layoff), and I remembered why I only got two-thirds of the way through it: the levels were ridiculously monotonous and I was constantly getting lost. Don’t get me started on the plot…

PS: That’s funny. Last summer, I dug up the first and second Halo to give to a friend, along with my old Xbox, and ended up playing them both again. And yeah, some of the levels did not have their exits clearly marked, and yeah, some of the story was silly — the stunt casting of Audrey II from Little Shop Of Horrors to play Gravemind was a laughably bad move — but none of that mattered. Those games were just effortlessly fun. I didn’t mind running through the same hallways over and over because I had such a good time every time.

Which is what I love about Halo 3. Like Resident Evil 4, Half-Life 2, and other truly great video games, Halo 3 can be challenging, it’s never so easy that it gets boring, but it’s also never so hard that you get frustrated and stop playing. Which is why it’s one of those games you end up playing until four in the morning.

GEW: I hear you: blowing away the Prophet of Truth’s Covenant army and saving the entire universe from annihilation sure gives you the munchies. But’s nothing that a handful of Burger King’s Halo 3-branded fries can’t handle. Though I’m not quite yet ready to place this game in the pantheon of all-time greats, I’m happy to see that Halo 3 addresses most of the problems I had with the last game. I think the level design is a lot better. It’s faster paced with far fewer slow moments. There’s also a lot more variety to the environments. It’s probably because we’re seeing the Halo universe in high-def for the first time, but the everything looks a lot more distinctive. The action takes you all over the place: jungles, sandy beaches, forests, mountains, gooey alien spaceships, military installations… I still got lost a few times, but I was able to get back on track pretty quickly.

PS: There’s a lot more variety to the whole game, this time out. Getting to travel to strange, exotic worlds, meeting interesting Covenant and Flood, and killing them is great, especially with all the new weapons they’ve added. Whacking guys with the Gravity Hammer is especially satisfying, though my favorite is to dual fist the Brute Spiker like I’m in a John Woo movie. Though that could just be because I was playing Stranglehold recently.

I also like some of the new vehicles they added, like the flying Hornet and the ATV-esque Mongoose, which is loads of fun to drive, even if it isn’t the safest thing on the road. What’s always been good about the Halo games, though, is they always give you good reasons to try everything once, but never force you to use anything you don’t want to for very long. If you hate the M6G Pistol or the Spartan Laser, as I do, you can usually find a Plasma Rifle or M7 Submachine Gun lying around to use instead.

Having said that, the only time I’ve used any of the brand-new weapons — like the Bubble Shield, the Grav Lift, or the Deployable Cover — is when I’ve accidentally hit the X button to reload like you do in every other first-person shooter. But then, I’m kind of like Woody Allen when I play games: ”I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

GEW: Ahhh, the Gravity Hammer: easily the best new weapon in the game. First time I saw it, I laughed at how large and clunky it looked. But it does swing around pretty fast. It’s like a much more lethal version of those giant Q-Tip lances from classic American Gladiators. And I agree: playing Whack-a-Mole with aliens is way satisfying. But have you tried bringing down the Hammer on a vehicle trying to run you down? The thing is mighty enough to send vehicles airborne. My only complaint is that it behaves like the other weapons and can only used a limited number of times before running out of ammo.

As for the vehicles, Halo 3 sure does give you a ton of ‘em. I felt invincible driving one of the massive UNFC tanks, whose turrets pack some serious firepower. I also enjoyed the parts in which you can fly around in the Hornet. Another one of my favorites is the Prowler, which zooms around the sand dunes faster than the tanks — and has a pretty lethal plasma cannon to boot. By the way, what’s the deal with the atrocious driving skills of the game-controlled soldiers? The UNSC needs to start giving breathalyzer tests to its soldiers. Lindsay Lohan could do a better job behind the wheel of these things.

PS: Don’t give Microsoft any ideas. What is cool is that they got people like Katee Sackoff and half the cast of Firefly to do voices — even if having Terrence Stamp as the Prophet Of Truth just kept making he think he was going to say, ”Kneel Before Truth!”

Oh, and a word of advice: don’t use the flame thrower on The Flood, as it makes them all stringy and flavorless. Instead, marinate them in soy sauce overnight and then stir fry them with some carrots, broccoli, and green pepper. Serves 4.

Speaking of which, has it struck you how the menu for Halo 3 is so geared to people playing online? I half expected the voices of Master Chief and Cortana to mock you if you chose the Solo mode. It’s a good thing the multiplayer is as solid as the story mode. And that there’s so much of it. You can play through the entire story with three other people online, there’s a map editor called The Forge that lets you redecorate the online arenas and then upload them to your friends, and nine types of multiplayer games. Though someone needs to explain to me why so many multiplayer games are modeled after things we played in grammar school. Of the nine kinds of online games they included in Halo 3, there’s Capture The Flag, King Of The Hill, and Oddball, which is basically Kill The Guy With The Ball. I half expect them to add Red Rover, Freeze Tag, and Give Paul A Wedgie at some point.

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