Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Does Halo 3 Live Up To The Hype?

This past Saturday, I finally “finished the fight” on Heroic difficulty. What a ride. Now that I’ve completed the game, there is one prevailing question to answer. Does it or does it not live up to the hype? Well, since I’ve been a longtime Halo fan since playing the original on the Xbox several years ago I’m naturally biased towards the “yes” side of the debate but in the following paragraphs, I will attempt to present arguments from both sides of the debate before coming to a conclusion.

Now it’s no secret that this one game has received an astronomical amount of hype preceding its release and for some time afterwards from the immense Halo fanbase, as well as Microsoft itself. For Halo fans, this is the conclusion of the Halo trilogy, one they have been eagerly anticipating for nearly three years. For Microsoft, this is their biggest game. The marketing blitz rolled out nonstop for months prior to release, throwing Halo 3 onto everything from toys, to weapon replicas, to soda.

It can be argued that Microsoft went too far with their Halo 3 marketing blitz and on that point, I agree. But of course, Microsoft has plenty of reasons for marketing Halo 3 such as they have. Microsoft wants this game to sell consoles; they want everyone to buy this game. So far, as evidenced to the 170 million dollars garnered in the first day on the market, it’s working for them. We will soon see how much Halo 3 has influenced Xbox 360 sales as a whole.

Halo 2’s cliffhanger of an ending and confusing storyline left many fans cold, including me. Throughout the single player campaign, many sections turned me off. Halo 2’s campaign was still better than the average shooter’s due to its tight gameplay and impressive enemy AI but I can’t say it was superior to the campaign found in Halo: Combat Evolved in any way. After “finishing the fight”, I can honestly say that Halo 3’s campaign is the best in the series. The story progression and pacing was just shy of perfection and the cutscenes were wonderfully presented which compelled you onward, just to unearth the next juicy plot point. The story begins and ends just as it should, on a very high note. No spoilers will be found here, but the ending, which wraps up the storyline quite nicely, is incredibly satisfying. Trust me, once you see it, you’ll understand.

Halo 2’s multiplayer was satisfying for many, but a bit lacking in terms of balance. Despite being quite entertaining overall, there were plenty of glitches, exploits and problems that disrupted gameplay and annoyed many, especially in the early days. Halo 3 on the other hand seems to be more balanced, entertaining and fun. Based on my personal experience, I honestly can’t say I would prefer the multiplayer modes of Halo 2, or even Halo: CE, which I hold in a very high regard, over Halo 3. It’s not a drastic departure from what you’ve seen in the past, but, much like many other aspects of the game, it’s highly refined.

In many ways, Halo 3 was more of an upgrade from Halo 2 than Halo 2 was to Halo: CE. Halo 2’s additions were more natural progression than anything. Dual wielding was a common theme in many FPSes so it’s fitting that Halo 2 add that feature, and since online play was so commonplace and Halo: CE was the only game Bungie produced that didn’t include online play in years, Halo 2 receiving a slew of online options (except, sadly, online co-op) was a given. Halo 3’s primary additions in the form of the Forge mode and saved films are far from a natural progression of the series.

One of the main problems with Halo 3, as with Halo 2 and to a lesser extent, Halo: CE before it is its lack of change. As stated before, Halo 3 isn’t groundbreaking in any one aspect, more like a refinement of things you’ve already seen in previous titles. The FPS genre is a crowded one, and it takes a great deal of innovation and quality to stand out. Halo 3 may be lacking in terms of innovation (although the Forge mode and saved films are a step in the right direction) it makes up for it by being one of the most polished and enjoyable FPSes you’ll find on any system.

Hype is a very funny thing. If a game meets or exceeds expectations, it’s praised for its quality and talked about for months because it was as good as people thought it would be. On the other hand, if the game falls short, even for the tiniest of reasons, it will then be torn apart by disappointed and disenfranchised gamers since their high hopes have been dashed. That’s the thing about hype, oftentimes; people set themselves up to be disappointed. Halo 3 got a lot of attention and a great deal of well-deserved praise but undoubtedly, there will be those who will be disappointed with it, simply because it did not meet the impossible to attain expectations they had of the game.

No game is perfect and Halo 3 is certainly no exception. Was Halo 3 worthy of the hype? Well, yes and no. It met all of the expectations I had for it and in many ways, exceeded them and I don’t think there’s anything Bungie could’ve done to make me any happier with it. Of course, I imagine there are some people who were disappointed, which brings me back to an earlier point, if you hype yourself through the roof, you’re bound to be disappointed. Generally, everyone who has played it has had their expectations met and in many ways exceeded. As I said before, it’s not drastically different from any other game in the Halo series, but it does so much right that you likely won’t care. Therefore, my answer to the question I posed earlier is a resounding “yes”. In my opinion, there is no better game on the Xbox 360 and is, possibly, the best game to come out this year and in that respect alone, it was worthy of the hype.

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