[Games That Nobody Plays Anymore is a weekly series written by Nathan Hardisty with a little title card help from Juan Houter. It’s an on-going series about the forgotten games of yesteryear, and doesn’t totally reflect the title. Remember; nobody stops playing these games; it’s just a title. Don’t make something of it or I will come down to your house and ask you politely to stop. If you have any suggestions for future titles to ‘GTNPA’ don’t forget to leave me a comment!]
I cannot think of a more perfect penultimate note to set before closing this series out for good than to tackle Halo 3. Obviously I’ll grapple with ODST but Halo 3 is the crux, it’s the point at which the series dipped in quality and whitewashed my hopes and dreams. Let me make something clear; this is one of the most objective games ever created. I will guarantee that not every Halo fan fell into bed with it and I will also guarantee that this had more split opinion than a split onion. Or something, I don’t know. You might think completely differently and that is perfectly fine, but one complaint I’ve been having about this series is that it’s too ‘opinionated’.
Are you stupid?
This might not seem relevant to deal with right now, but this is Halo 3 I’m about to dive into. Let me make something clear, an objective review is one that takes all things into account. They are useless. An opinionated review represents what I think about the game and whether I think it’s worth your hard earned money. Go ahead; tell me to go screw myself, tell me I’m a horrible writer and tell me that my stance on the game is ‘fail’. But never ever tell me that my work is too ‘opinionated’. It is a stupid thing to say and it grinds me more than anything else.
Oh and one thing some other people noted is that I reviewed some PS3 exclusives and said they weren’t as good as some people say. I also reviewed some Xbox 360 exclusives and said they’re not as good as some people have said. If you want to discuss my fanboy allegiance then go right ahead, I’m about to say that Master Chief’s grand opus is a poorly constructed affair and there is nary a moment of epic to be seen. The series does not dive into retrospect, leaving that to the superior Reach to handle, but instead concentrates on giving a diluted experience that (now that I think about it) is more about the progression of radical game design convention rather than completing the fundamentals.
For instance, it’s perfectly clear that the multiplayer component of Halo 3 is the meat and bones of the package. We’ll get to that in a bit, but let’s just discuss what Halo 3 decided to do with the Chief. Basically, Chief wanders all over the place and saves people and the story goes somewhere. I’m not sure where. Between the corridor shooting and all plot threads tied up at once (did the Flood big boss guy have to do so fast?) it’s a delirium. I can probably spend hours just deducting why on earth the main campaign fails from a story perspective but there is one clear fault that keeps it from reaching those same heights.
The progression of Master Chief as a character has always been about conquering disempowerment through empowerment, and not challenging the weaknesses into a strength (which Halo Reach managed to accomplish to some extent). From a gameplay perspective, this is fine, since we’re given new toys to blow people sky high and do assortments of things to bad people. The main flaw here is that the series has always been about escalation, but never delivering the promised. Combat Evolved had an annoying Warthog sequence, Halo 2’s ending felt abrupt and the final giant boss battle of Halo 3 is you versus a small orb and another Warthog sequence.
When you build your game on epic, you need to end epic. God of War III, as horrible a story it may be, somewhat delivered on escalation. It did deliver what it promised, albeit it’s not what we wanted in the end. The greatest moments in the Halo series are such events as jumping on to a giant Scarab or the moment at which you looked up on your first time on a Halo in Combat Evolved. The ending of Halo 3 does not tie together the relationship of Chief and Arbiter (which doesn’t go anywhere, ever notice that?) and it does not deliver a giant epic punch to the player’s gut. Instead, it has us hanging on a thread.
Halo 3’s multiplayer lacked the giant B word that Reach does so well: balance. There’s no tightrope of base damage, there’s intolerance for players without friends and really… it’s the ultimate social game. At the time, it was a revolution and I would agree with anyone that the social features of Halo 3 are pretty much some of the most pivotal things to come out of games since the very inception of online gaming. In terms of community, Bungie outshined themselves. It’s not that I vehemently hate Halo 3, it’s just once again that it’s not a game made for me. I am, as usual, unqualified to comment. Although the main campaign never hits a high note and never manages to encapsulate the previous two.
If Halo: Combat Evolved was about fantasy, Halo 2 was about ‘the epic’ and Halo 3 could be described about the player and his friends (much to my disapproval, why not please everybody with one common element?) then ODST must be something else entirely. It’s a self contained four-five hour adventure inside another dude from the Halo-verse. The fact that there’s barely any team members during the exploration and you can explore the mission structure at your own place, reminds me of Crackdown, makes this somewhat more satisfying than Halo 3.
Firefight mode is a clear highlight of the game, Bungie are bastards when it comes to refinement, and all in all it feels a more weighty experience than Halo 3. The basic description I can give it is not fantasy or epic, it’s silence. It’s the shiver, the feeling that Bungie have been making us repeat time and time again. I’m not suggesting it’s a better story, it really isn’t, but it’s probably the most atmospheric out of all the Halo games.
My measure of the Halo games:
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Halo: Reach
- Halo 2
- Halo 3: ODST
- Halo 3
Let’s hear yours shall we?
Next week: The end of Games That Nobody Plays Anymore.