Halo 3: Hopes and Fears - Preview - 31/07/2007

With a mere 9 weeks to go until the little white bricks below our HD-ready Sony TV’s and our Dolby Digital surround sound six speaker combo system, (if you’re me) receive Bungie's trilogy-capping, Brute-busting, look-above-and-see-the-title-ish Halo 3, we thought we’d try something a little different.


This is of course the last instalment like, evar, of the Halo series. Or is it…? Infuriating cliff-hangers aside, join Ben, Mike and Dave as we share our most hopeful hopes and, well, fearful fears for Bungie's beloved Chief.

Campaign mode:

Ben: To be utterly blatant, I think everyone secretly fears an all-too-short Campaign mode more than they fear eternal torture in some European hostel. Most peoples gripes about Halo2, (apart from those nasal voiced brats found online) revolved around THAT last bit of fight-finishing Master Chief dialogue. As long as we get our money’s worth from the campaign (as not everyone has live yet dontcha know?), and as long as we get to frolic on the rolling grassy hills from the first game and see less of the dark brown corridors of the second, then I really feel we can see Sergeant Johnson and the UNSC Forces off with a bang.

Mike: I hope we revisit some of Halo 1's levels, I don't read Bungie.net as you may have guessed, as I like it to be a surprise, so some of this may have already been announced/debunked. I'd like 90% of the game to be set on Earth or a Halo ring with MINIMAL Covenant stuff, as purple gets very boring very fast, as do weak laser guns. I think that for Bungie to sort themselves out they need to have the multiplayer take a back seat for once. People still play Halo 2 online, and for the pretty small amount of work they've done to the multiplayer since, the single player really has to have the stand-out fun, memorable moments and brilliant level design of the first game.

Dave: I hope the campaign is longer and more exciting than the previous game, I was left wanting, it seemed Bungie only wanted to please the multiplayer crowd at the expense to the single player experience, we also need more set pieces, half of Halo 2’s short campaign felt like moving from A-B rather than ever achieving anything - see COD2 for how to really bring on set pieces. Looking at the trailer from E3 shows that we will also be playing as the Arbiter again, something I’m glad of, his missions were interesting as a more ‘sneaky’ approach was required, overall as long as the story is finished satisfactorily I’ll be happy.


Plot:

Ben: My other big gripe from Halo 2’s otherwise stellar achievements is the depressingly convoluted story. Religious Journeys, social uprising, a big camel-looking alien donning a silver jug on his bonce? Anyone? Nah, didn’t think so. As long as a big, fat Hollywood movie producer doesn’t stick his big cigar-chomping head into the proceedings and blow smoke all over our mirrors, then a simple but poignant story about preventing earth's demise will certainly accompany the wonderful multiplayer cavorts.

Mike: My fear here is that we'll be forced into another hugely confusing plot, with enough random characters and plot details to choke on. Lot's of the Covenant and their homeworld, where Halo fanatics will go OMFG! The Covenant do in fact go grocery shopping!!!!111one. But most people will just lose interest with a lack of shooting things and too many boring cut-scenes. Most people meaning me. I’d hate it to turn into another Halo 2 – with new characters, plenty of double-crossing and confusing plotlines, lot's of Covenant 'fun', and no armies of enemy Elites, (the best character in the series and awesome in Halo 1, but were made pretty boring in Halo 2 (mainly because you could play as them and they started speaking English!)). This is all opinionated obviously – I think there's a lot of people who really want an intricate plot, but there are very few FPS games where that actually works. And in Halo 2, it didn't. So, they need to sort their game plan out basically. With the tiny shards of single player footage shown, (in comparison with, say, Call of Duty 4 anyway) it looks like more of the same. If they insist on the need to keep it such a secret…

Dave: 3 words….no more cliffhangers!!
If the story finishes any other way than the chief sacrificing himself to save the Earth then I can only take it as being a Bungie cop out, this should herald the end of the trilogy and the start of something different for Bungie, best to go out on a high than keep churning out the same game again.


Multiplayer:

Ben: This has always been the go-to mode for me once the overly complex delights of Halo 2’s campaign had lost their flavor. With an even richer experience this time around, including the ability to take screenshots and save films, as well as the new interactivity and variety in the maps (although I’m a bit miffed at how even on an alien world there are still the conventional Super Mario-esque extremes of ice, desert and grass) not to mention all those new weapons and items, I sense even greater longevity this time around. Coming from a person who religiously played Halo2’s multiplayer everyday without fail for a year, that’s even richer. Graphics? They’re fine. Rocks and tree textures look a bit last-gen, but the interiors and lighting effects are surberb. Gameplay down to fluke? Doesn’t bother me. It affects everyone on the battlefield. Using the D-pad to talk? ARRRGGGHHH! Priceless!

Mike: Well most people have played the Beta if they are interested in the main game, I personally would be ecstatic if they let you have options for random weapon placements, and properly balanced it all. All the best FPS games don't have people running for the best gun, it just doesn't happen, as that instantly makes the online play repetitive and boring, but that was my experience of Halo 2, and rather than thinking, 'if you can't beat them, join them', I just gave up. It'll just be more of the same I think. They'll get it fairly right to begin with, and then bring out 'great new matchmaking playlists!' which effectively bork the game beyond repair. Ever since they added vehicles to practically every level it's gone downhill for me. 16 players (a rarity online with no lag) is not enough for full vehicular combat, it just leads to one person in each vehicle, with a big mosh of them in the middle, and one person sniping from the background, and one using rockets. Oh, and maybe one who got to the sword first that just gets within about 20 feet of you and then lunges with a one-hit-kill. See, I’m predicting it already!

Dave: For me multiplayer was ruined by A: Americans, B: Children, C: American Children. Why can't you be able to choose what level of age and/or country you play against, surely localized leaderboards would be a better bet? Other than that, ban the cheaters quicker, I really liked the multiplayer in Halo 2, but getting a good game was extremely hard to get soon after launch because of the cheaters, trash talkers and general A-hole players that the game seems to attract.

Weapons:

Ben: With the beta code firmly dug into like a soft patch of fertile gaming goodness, and every frame of the trailer poured over like it was the only witness in a grizzly murder scene, more and more secrets are being rooted out from right under Bungie's nose. The little hackers have already discovered a fourth grenade slot, a new brute weapon called the ‘Excavator’, and what looks to be a combat knife on the leg of one of the variations of the chief's new armor. I wonder, with all these adjustments, additions and enhancements, that multiplayer might become over-saturated with too many Spartan-shredding devices. However, if they adjust each weapon for balance and keep it all on a level playing filed as they have been doing, (I rarely see anyone rush to a power weapon these days, as each shooter has their own strengths and weaknesses) they won’t shoot themselves in the foot this time around.

Mike: Back to basics is what it looks like at the moment, but I would have loved them to kill dead the Brute Shot, possibly the ugliest gun every designed, and gone back to the traditional magnum with a scope. The Battle Rifle should be completely ditched and never mentioned again, but the Covenant should be given a decent gun that actually feels weighty. Before it's all just been like shooting water guns, despite some cool human weapons we've had before. I fear it being more of the same, with one or two overpowered weapons that everyone uses, and the lack of med kits meaning your hard-fought martyrdom was for nothing, as you see the guy recharge his shields to full within seconds. Another gripe would be if the combat, like in Halo 2, turns out once again to be down to whoever sees the person first, wins. It shouldn't be like that, it should be down to accuracy and agility, rather than as soon as someone lands a shot on you effectively being dead. Guns with pros and cons would be my one wish, i.e. no firing a sniper rifle from the waist!

Dave: I’d just be happy with the gun the opposition uses in multi player, you know the one, it kills you faster than it takes for you to see the other player, it also seems to be more powerful? Perhaps it was just me? The swords were a welcome addition to Halo 2, perhaps a dagger for slitting covenant throats would also make a great requisition.


Grenades and equipment:

Ben: Every time Bungie launch info about a new grenade or piece of equipment into the cyber-air for rabid gamers to rip apart like a fresh chop, once again I can’t help but feel the need to use this apt pun: too many cooks spoil the broth. Well, technically grenades and equipment aren’t cooks, and halo 3 isn’t broth, but with all these radar jammers and energy drainers, I hope to high charity that multiplayer doesn’t become an exercise in making your eyes water through excessive use of blue sparks and the equally excessive light blooming that comes with it. I truly feel there is no need for any more weapons, grenades or equipment. Everything is balanced and tuned to a virtual level playing field. Besides, I cannot think how a game that has lasers, spikes, plasma, bullets and rockets can possible be expanded upon in that department. However, if Bungie maintain sensible weapon placements on the maps, then it could be fun to litter our own little custom games with all manner of devious devices. Clay pigeon-shooting with grenades and a man cannon? Check!

Mike: Well there's going to be lots of them, I would like to see grenades easier to throw and as powerful as they were in Halo 1, as that seemed perfect to me. Some sort of mine that you could lay on a weapon-spawn would be a hilarious idea, and would be a good deterrent for always going for the same gun. As long as they're sure all these new items are balanced and don't get in the way, then they should be a good addition, but to me it just seems to provide more things that can be implemented poorly, or that may be over or underpowered, like the SMG, Carbine or Brute Shot from when Halo 2 started.

Dave: I’ll be happy with just the normal sticky grenades and that new shield thing, nothing else matters.


Vehicles:

Ben: Wow, are those guys at Bungie over-compensating for something? With each ride looking like it’s on Brute steroids, (apart from the nifty looking Mongoose - for the ladies) I predict a wealth of vehicular combat scenarios. After all, Halo’s vehicles have always been the funnest, meatiest, most complete ones found in any FPS thus far. I think Bungie have got the ground virtually covered, from the nimble ghost, through to the chunky warthog, right down to the bunker-busting wraith. Therefore, the sky's the limit, literally, as the only flying vehicle at the mo is the banshee. I’d love to see Bungie expand their engineised empire and slap a few wings on their creations. Space battles anyone? As long as they don’t become too overpowered, and there are enough brute chopper-chopping weapons to take them down, I say the more motorized machines, the better. Old chief needs some time off his feet.

Mike: As mentioned earlier, I don't think Halo should be about the vehicles really, not online at least. The humans need a flying craft, I would love to see a hovercraft or something, presumably the Wraith tank can do that as it's suspended off the ground, but apart from that it's great as it is. The Brute Chopper sounds pretty ridiculous to me (almost as bad as the Man Cannon), it just seems like one 'cool', 'hip' addition that the group of 40 year old men working at Bungie thought would appeal to a new audience. These things have been done before in FPS's, and straying from the traditional vehicles doesn't often work. I would love a troop carrier though. Something armoured but slow that can barrel into the enemy base for flag captures and assaults.

Dave: I agree with Mike on this one, the vehicles seem to distract from the blasting fun and should only be used on the really big levels for CTF purposes only, the only addition I would have liked to have seen would have been a hang glider, imagine swooping around silently in the air with a sniper rifle picking people off…hey it worked nicely for Far Cry.

Last hopes and fears:

Ben: The general consensus among those who believe in general consensuses is that Halo 1’s campaign rocks, and Halo 2’s multiplayer rocks. If the third installment strikes a balance between the two happy mediums, then come September 26th, a happy gamer I just might be.

Mike: It's all about the single player for me, as long as they don't go over the top with new gimmicks (dual wielding, vehicle-jacking, the Arbiter as a playable character, etc. etc.) and it gets back to the core first person shooter experience, it should be great and I can't wait. Unreal Tournament is still the benchmark for the genre in my view.

Dave: A longer single player that finishes here with the third game would be all I require, would I be tempted to go on live again….probably not, unless I can play who I want.

Final Note:

TGSN: As you can see, opinion is quite divided on Halo 3 with lots of disagreements and differing views even between us at TGSN.co.uk! See if you can work out who the PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 primary-console owners are in the article (answers on a postcard?), but it has to be said that all those who took part own a Xbox 360 and have personally purchased and played both Halo games. The article was written a few weeks ago, and some new leaked details have pleasantly agreed with a few of the ideas and thoughts in here, and some have inevitably gone against them. We'll bring you a review as close as humanely possible (deliberate word choice) to September 26th courtesy of Ben.


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