TIM ST. ONGE
For the past six years, the pinnacle of first-person shooter video games has been summed up in one word: Halo. The Halo series has broken sales records, revolutionized the first-person shooter genre, and has become a pop culture phenomenon.
Today it remains of a quality that other game makers aspire to. With the release of “Halo 3” last Tuesday, the last game of the Halo story arc, game enthusiasts are once again captivated by Master Chief, the Covenant, the Flood, and the vivid Halo universe.
In 2001, “Halo: Combat Evolved,” the launch game for the Xbox, became the fastest selling video game to date, selling one million units in only five months. In addition, the game received critical acclaim and was praised by Edge Magazine as “the most important launch game for any console, ever.”
Three years later, “Halo 2” arrived to rake in $125 million for Microsoft in its first day on store shelves. That brings us to last Tuesday, when “Halo 3” closed out the current Halo trilogy by earning $170 million in its opening day, making it the highest grossing opening day in entertainment history.
Besides being an enormous cash cow for Microsoft, “Halo 3” boasts impressive technological advancements, most notably due to its exclusivity to the Xbox 360, a major step up from the Xbox. In addition, while Microsoft counts its millions, players are reaping the benefits of many new gameplay features and upgrades over the last two Halo games.
Among the most immediately noticeable changes, and the defining aspect of a “shooter,” is the weaponry. In addition to old weapons, such as the return of the assault rifle from “Halo: Combat Evolved,” there is a wide range of new weapons and equipment.
With the new missile pod and detachable turret gun, players enter third-person mode to gun down enemies, while the Spiker, a powerful spike-shooting pistol, and the Spartan Laser, a shoulder-fired laser cannon, add to your arsenal.
Also new to Halo is a set of special tools that come in handy in the heat of battle, such as the Bubble Shield for protection, the Portable “Grav” Lift for launching yourself into the air, and the Power Drainer for weakening opponents. Complementing all these hand-held weapons and devices, of course, are vehicles ranging from ATV’s to heavily armored tanks to battle aircraft.
Like both prior Halo games, players can play in campaign mode, which follows and wraps up the storyline of the trilogy, or in multiplayer mode. New to campaign mode is the ability to have four-player co-operative games, meaning you can play campaign mode alongside three of your friends or with three online players through Xbox Live.
If schooling your friends or annihilating anonymous online foes is more your style, “Halo 3” multiplayer mode lets up to 16 players battle over 11 different maps and a variety of customizable game types from the standard deathmatch, or “slayer,” to new offerings like “territories” in which teams try to control as much of the map as they can.
Alongside revamped game elements from previous games are several exciting and completely new features to the Halo series. One such feature, dubbed “Saved Films,” lets the player record gameplay that can be saved, sent to friends, and watched from any perspective you like.
Another new feature is “Forge,” which serves as a kind of limited level editor. Although Forge does not allow the player to alter buildings or terrain, objects and vehicles can be moved around freely so that players can experiment with different arrangements in a kind of virtual playground or trigger creative explosions for interesting playback value. However they are used, these tools take the Halo experience in completely new directions.
With “Halo 3,” what can be declared an undeniable financial success and technological achievement for the game’s developers is also a win for millions of gamers worldwide. For all the hype and build-up, “Halo 3” delivers a full suite of improved graphics and gameplay as well as intriguing new features that are sure to satisfy the casual gamer as well as Halo enthusiasts.