Halo 3 is the third, and originally the final, game of the series. It ended the original trilogy’s story with a bittersweet but satisfying conclusion. Halo 3 follows the events of Halo 2 where Master Chief, Johnson, and Keyes stop the second Halo ring from activating having to leave Cortana behind to follow the covenant to Earth. Master Chief makes his arrival and discovers that the Prophet and the Covenant are attempting to make to it the Ark to activate all the Halo rings and fulfill the prophecy. Master Chief and company follow them there and finally destroy the Ark with some other main objectives such as saving Cortana from Gravemind. In the end, Master Chief is left in his cryo-chamber floating around in space, waiting to be found.
It’s an epic but still simple story. The game reaches more dire proportions with the revelation of the Ark’s ability to fire all rings, and this grand revelation resonates throughout the game. Because of it, the game feels more fast-paced, as if there is some greater importance behind your actions. The characters all merging to fight for this cause add to this massive scramble: Master Chief, Arbiter, Johnson, Keyes, and Hood for the first time are all on the same mission. The story takes some sad but necessary turns in the deaths of a few of these characters as well, which is something the game did not risk as much in the previous games.
The conclusion to the story was amazing. Master Chief ends in the exact same position we found him in the first game, asleep in the cryo-chamber. It’s a perfect full-circle to his story but also leaves hope that there will be a time he is reawakened to begin a new journey. My only two complaints are that much of the dialogue (especially Cortana’s interruptions) felt rather corny, and that the story could have been more morally ambiguous or complex. But that being said, it is a Halo game and with some exceptions, story is not always where it really thrives
The level design of Halo 3 is where the game really shines. It contains some of my absolute favorite levels or sections in any game. The first level ends in a rush to save Johnson, where you’re posed with a sniper and a full view of the path to the finish. It’s the first time in any Halo that I felt I was actually a sniper, rather than in missions such as the sniper mission in Halo: Combat Evolved where only the first few shots with the sniper posed any benefit. The mission The Ark is the perfect blend between vehicles and ground combat. The vehicle choice ranges from enemy choppers to warthogs to scorpions. But you are still forced to get out of the vehicle to perform more tactical maneuvers depending on the enemies and weapons you’re up against. The desert landscape is perfect here as well because you are presented with massive open areas that allow for some of the most satisfying long-range scorpion missile shots in Halo. The final mission, Halo, is still my favorite driving level of all time. The ground falling out, the timed explosions and collapsing pillars, massive jumps, enemies charging in waves… It’s all perfectly orchestrated and especially highlighted by the main theme
In the original trilogy, Halo 3 easily feels like the smoothest and most modern of the three even when including the remastered versions. Holding behind cover actually feels safe, enemies are more complex and difficult than Halo 1 but not as annoyingly strong as Halo 2, and the addition of equipment such as shields and cloaking make for combat that feels more planned. The weapon additions such as the Spartan Laser are very enticing, and the plethora of ammo compared to the second game also feels amazing. There are new vehicles as well that all feel like they fit right into the world and are unique enough to merit their inclusion. Paired with the excellent level design, the gameplay of Halo 3 was astounding when it was released and still holds that awe today.
Overall, Halo 3 is by far my favorite of the first three. It adds new layers of complexity to every realm from the story to the vehicle design. Many of the levels are some of my favorite in any FPS that I’ve played and could be repeated as solo missions whenever. Many of the difficulty spikes and weapon issues from the second game were also improved upon which made for a less frustrating experience. Bungie truly blew it out of the park with this one and made it nearly impossible for any future Halos to surpass it.
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