This week, by popular demand, Yahtzee throws down on the most important media property of the year, Halo 3.
It seems that all the other game reviewers in the world have put me in an awkward position, bunch of cockeaters to a man as they are. Most, if not all of them seem to have played a jewel-encrusted golden gift from the treasure vaults of Xerxes, but I played a game that I'd probably only have considered renting if it weren't for those suckers at The Escapist paying for all my games now. Part of the problem may be that I've never actually played a Halo game until this one. Maybe you need all the back story to get the experience all the other reviewers were apparently having, or maybe Microsoft was paying someone to stand behind them, jamming needles full of dopamine into their spinal columns every half hour. All I knew going into the game was this: there's some guy called Master Chief who constantly wears a suit of armour that's probably in dire need of some Odor-Eaters by this point, and this series is apparently so good that Xbox owners have been tossing each other off with glee in anticipation for this third installment.
I picked up a few things on the way through the game, like how the Earth has been conquered by evil aliens, only some of the aliens are good by some arbitrary designation, and there are these other aliens who are basically just the headcrabs from Half-Life in disguise, and there are big rings in space that make things die somehow, and Master Chief has a friend who is basically the black guy from Predator. But I gave up following the plot around the time I was in a base, being ordered around by a 12-year-old girl, and pretty much remained in the dark from then on--which is an ironic choice of words, considering that the lighting engine constantly vomits brightly coloured bloom into your face.
If you asked me to summarise Halo 3 in one word, I'd tell you to stop being such a twat, but if pressed, I guess I'd go for "schizophrenic." It can't seem to decide on a tone. At times, it goes the "horror" route with the aforementioned headcrab malarkey, but at other times you've got enemy midgets running around, sounding and acting like retarded Ewoks making finger-quotes "wacky" dialogue. And it's hard to take things seriously when most of the guns look and sound like they were manufactured by Mattel.
The difficulty is also rather inconsistent, which probably comes from the design team being large enough to found a small island nation. The difficulty curve wavers up and down like the knickers of an indecisive whore before plunging dramatically into a Sunday stroll down Easy Street for the last hour or so. There were sequences really near the beginning that kicked my ass until I was wearing my buttocks like a hat, while the closest thing to a final boss fight is basically you versus a wheelchair-bound cross-eyed hobbit, and you're armed with a BFG 9000.
One thing I did like was the vehicle sections and being able to choose whether you drive, man the turret or just ride shotgun and wave to passing chicks while the friendly NPCs take all the other roles. It's great in theory. Unfortunately, it's let down by all the NPCs being pants-on-head retarded. On one occasion, it was my Jeep versus an enemy tank, but the clueless pillock at the turret seemed more interested in shooting down nearby butterflies. Eventually I got out and took the turret myself, ordering my passenger to take the driver's seat, whereupon he immediately drove us smack into a wall and sat there picking his nose while the enemy leisurely blew us to Narnia.
As well as being blighted by the above issues, the single-player campaign is criminally short, maybe eight to ten hours, depending on difficulty setting and individual hamhandedness, but people have been telling me that the multiplayer excuses it. Unfortunately, I don't give a flying shit about multiplayer, and neither do a lot of people. I didn't pay--I mean, The Escapist didn't pay 100 dollars Australian for a game that's only half decent, especially not one at whose feet reviewers have been throwing perfect scores like bunches of roses to a bullfighter. A game that is supposed to be perfect wouldn't need anything to excuse it. "Quod erat demonstrandum", said Yahtzee, like the big literary fag that he is.
Before all the Microsoft fanboys come to my house and take it in turns to widdle through my letterbox, let me qualify my statements by saying that Halo 3 is by no means bad. What it is is average. Boilerplate. Run-of-the-mill. A competent shooter, its only remarkable feature being the degree to which it's stuck up its own ass. Everything it does has been done before and better. It's definitely not as good as BioShock. In fact, it's made me look back on those 15 hours of objectivist folderol more charitably. So in other words, Halo 3 is what it took to finally make me lower my standards, and I hope it's proud of itself.
But really, I don't know what I hope to achieve with all this. Halo 3 is already more popular than God, and nothing I can say is going to stop Microsoft making enough money to buy Switzerland and reinforce the notion that all gamers want is brightly coloured dross with the depth of a spoon. So if, in the future, we all find ourselves playing Captain Bland's Monotonous Adventure in what moments we can spare between toiling in the Microsoft overminds' off-world mining complex, then I want you to know that I fucking called it.
- Occasional vigilante crime fighter: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I originally had another game lined up for this week but the incessant nagging drove me to hammer this one out over the weekend so I hope you appreciate it you pushy cunts
- Remind me to never again make awkward promises