Halo 3's development has been controversial in many ways. Not because of some "Hot Food Nipple" sort of situation, but more because of some changes Bungie has made to the game that could be considered as "odd". New controls, somewhat "weak" graphics, the addition of points in the game; all have been pretty controversial moves, with people siding on both sides of the fence on each topic.
This Blog entry is here to give the perspective of someone on both the positive and negative side of the game that is Halo 3. LoneRanger's the uppity "everything will turn out fine guys, yay!" guy, while I play the grouchy uncle.
Enjoy, and don't forget to post your thoughts on Halo 3's development in the comments!
Halo 2. For many, its campaign was a huge letdown due to many unwanted, and possibly unneeded additions. Boss battles, forcing players to play as another character (heresy!), and the tight ride-the-rails linearity of the game are just a few examples of what people disliked about the game.
Halo: Combat Evolved, on the other hand, was just the opposite. Vast levels with branching paths, the feeling that you're a lone warrior saving the human race from total annihalation, and the awesome twist about midway through with the addition of the Flood (hope I didn't spoil it for anyone). Halo 2, in almost every way, doesn't live up to the pedigree Halo 1 set.
That leads us to Halo 3. From what I've seen so far of the game, it's a mix of both. We've seen both the vast open landscapes of Halo: CE, and the tight city streets and alley ways that made up the very first parts of Halo 2. Along with.. a Jungle? It's obvious Bungie is incorporating settings that appeal to both fans of Halo 2's Metropolis as well as Halo 1's Assault on the Control Room alike, while also throwing in some new environments to sift through.
Although, the question still remains, will it be fun to play?
In short, I believe it will up the fun factor slightly from Halo 2, but won't be anywhere near what Halo: Combat Evolved presented. Halo 2 was fun, don't get me wrong, but it didn't make you feel when you were playing it. In Halo: CE, with vast vistas you explore, "quiet" immersive moments, and the feeling of discovery as you tredge through the Guilty Spark swamp are not going to be replicated in Halo 3. Sure, Bungie's trying to get that with having huge outdoor environments, but I just can't help but think that the feeling it will radiate is nothing more than Halo 2.5. Vast? Yes. Emotion-inducing? More than likely not.
That isn't to say it won't be fun to play. The game is bound to be fun and immersive. But will it be the same fun and immersive feeling that kept you playing Halo: CE years after its release (especially this guy [link to Bad Cyborg])? I'm thinking no. Not to rain on Bungie's parade or anything. I'm just trying to keep my expectations for the game ultra-low to best capitalize on the wow-factor when I first play it. Unless it sucks, of course.
I just don't see Bungie giving us the same kind of feeling we got with Halo: CE with Halo 3. They're trying to bring back some of the vets by saying, "Hey, there's as many characters on screen as Halo 1", or "Hey, look, the old pistol is back *kinda*, and look, it's the AR!". Those things are fine, and definitely a step up from Halo 2, but having them just for the sake of making it look like the original? Not cool.
To start off on slightly agreeable terms, I agree with the boss battles comment and the lack of open level design. However, I loved the inclusion of the Arbiter. He had a great story, and definitely added a new edge to the storyline.
That doesn't stop me from believing his part was poorly executed. The philosophy of "you're not the only saviour" (Personified by the final level) was an excellent point to get across, but his role suffered doubly from Halo 2's plague: linear level design.
I'm willing to concede that part of this was due to the fact that they basically had to rework the game 10 months before launch, but it seems to me that the simple logic behind the decision was flawed.
Bungie seems to have taken a look at games like Call of Duty and said "Wow! We can convey so much through scripted sequences!" The problem is that Halo acts as an anti-Call of Duty. The original's wide open environments and sense of mystery embodied what the Xbox could do, and what Bungie wanted to see from future shooters.
There was certainly flawed logic that came with the already-mentiond sequel, but I've got a feeling they'll redeem themselves with Halo 3. Why? They're bringing that mystery back. Watch the announcement trailer and listen to the questions that instantly flow through your mind. Watch the E3 trailer, or even the commercial, and listen to those questions.
I never got that feeling from Halo 2.
More than simple gameplay, I think that the feeling is what made the original game so great, and what made Halo 2 so... not as great.
To bow down to your topic though, I do think we'll see a return to the original format. The scene that closed out the E3 2007 trailer sold me on, not only the feeling, but the scale of the enviornment.
To hit the final piece, I seriously disagree with the idea that Bungie is posing. They have good reasons to make those weapons the way they are (In some cases, the way they aren't). It all seems natural again.
I've played the Beta, and know what to expect with Halo 3 multiplayer. And let me just say this. It is by far the most fun I have ever had playing with others, in a game.
From its robust online features, to the vast array of customizeable options, to the sort-of-kind-of map editor Forge, it's goin to be a hoot. I have no real complaints about it whatsoever. I would've liked that EVA armor to be Spartan-III armor instead, making it the first novel-to-game nod we've seen in the Halo franchise thus far, but I can live without it.
But I could do without all of the aforementioned material just for Saved Films. Seriously, this could be as fun or more fun than actually playing a game. And, better yet, me and my high-speed internet-less self can still use the feature! It'll be awesome to just sit back and use a flycam to go through a single player map as the carnage I wreaked a day, a month, or even a year ago unfolds below. The best feature to any FPS over the last five years, no doubt.
Sure, the old pistol still isn't back, but at least we have a slower firing look alike, right? Meh. At least it looks like it :).
Yeah, but... you know... Hey, what about... Eh, can't argue with any of your points. Except for the fact that I'm glad the old pistol didn't make it back to the front.
Halo 3 is supposed to be the third and final Halo game in this story arc. So, why does it look like a Halo 2.5? Don't get me wrong, it looks next gen, just not mind-blowingly gorgeous like I and many thought it would turn out to be. Heck, even the E3 announcement trailer is looking better than what we've seen of it recently.
I think the most beautiful thing about Halo 3 that I've seen so far is the lighting. HDR baby -- "God rays", as Frankie calls them. Textures are high resolution, but do not contain the super-high detail of a game like, say Gears of War has. We're not seeing the vast amount of repeating textures that were rampant in the previous two games (though that wasn't really a problem, in my eyes).
Real time reflection on objects in the game is nice, but when weapon details and textures look distinctly last-gen, it's hard to point at the game as a whole and say "this is what next gen Halo is supposed to look like". Like I said, the lighting is probably the most next-gen aspect of the game, making a shot that would normally look bland suddenly look absolutely gorgeous.
But a few lighting tricks don't make the graphics anywhere near a "ten" in my mind.
Halo has its own, unique art style. That art style is not something that can be easily ported over to higher technology. I believe they managed to successfully accomplish this feat.
Coming out of the behind-closed-doors, the main reaction from those who saw it is the way the light interacts with the environment. That isn't much, but it makes you realize that Bungie isn't trying to blind us with how pretty Ground Texture #7,777 is in comparison to Ground Texture #343.
I like the subtlety they're bringing to the next generation. I've seen far too many games that rely on gore and overdramatic lighting (I'm looking at you, Epic) to convey the experience of throwing a grenade.
It isn't necessary, and it isn't immersive. Those kind of things kill a game for me.
Making an example out of what we did see, let's look at the color palette. I've yet to see a game use every color in the rainbow successfully. But when I saw that last scene in the E3 2007 trailer, I didn't care that the grass on Valhalla didn't look that much better than the grass on Blood Gulch.
I was there, I was caring for the characters. There wasn't the distraction of red pudding strewn across the screen. Halo 3 is, seemingly, a character-driven game.
The art style is wrangling-in the epic environments, and making the entire thing a more intimate experience.
That's the kind of game I want from the next-generation. It's ignorant to think that better technology makes Game X better than Game Y. I wish developers would stop thinking of that philosophy as the right one. When they do that, we'll be able to drop the term "next-gen", and start accepting the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 as consoles that have been set on the right path.
The "Is Bungie Handling It Right" Factor
What. The. Hell.
I never thought I would utter those words in reference to a Halo game. But, I just did. And do you want to know why? One phrase. Meta-games.
Bungie is apparently trying to make the Halo series we all know and love into nothing more than an arcade game from the 80's with the inclusion of "points" into the series. Kill a Grunt? Awesome, you get 100 points! A Brute? Oh, that's worth a few more. We first heard reference to metagames in the released Achievement list, but didn't fully understand what they were. That is, until now.
With the EGM magazine scans, all was revealed. The game will play normally, but will evidently have rankings for the number of points you receive in a level. I still don't understand the full concept of metagames, but hearing "points" referred to in respect to a Halo game? Yeah, doesn't sit right.
I have no idea whatsoever why Bungie would even think of putting something like this in the game, something fans have never mentioned, let alone said they wanted. All the while Bungie doesn't give us stuff we did want for the sequel. The old pistol? Nope. And I my view of bringing the pistol back wasn't even close to a "direct port" (they could've easily toned down the power of the scoped pistol for multiplayer, to balance it out more) of the original. They could've just as easily put the old pistol back in with a scope and slower firing rate than the Magnum, but they opted to put in a similar looking variant that fires super slow, doesn't have a scope, and is even weaker than Halo 2's pistol. All of this taken together, it's somewhat of a joke. So.. why even include it?
A few other examples of my skepticism toward Bungie are with the Plasma Pistol and Banshee. Namely, they've been nerfed. Humm.. don't like the cheap aspect of the Plasma Pistol in Halo 2? Ok, we'll make it the most useless weapon in the game! Banshee overpowered? Oh, I know, we'll take out its trademark feature. Nobody needs to look down, do they? Now, the Banshee needed to be adjusted, especially since the Rocket Launcher no longer tracks in on targets as in Halo 2, but totally stripping away what makes it unique? I don't agree with that.
As for the Plasma Pistol.. it hasn't been right since Halo 1. There's absolutely no power behind it, and there hasn't been since it was introduced six years ago. The sound of it nowadays, the transparancy of the bolts, the lack of any real damage. It all adds up to being the most useless weapon in the Halo series yet. There's really no point in picking it up anymore, even with the overcharge, now that its tracking has been reduced. It's a lost cause.
Overall I'm very skeptical about how Bungie has handled Halo 3 thus far. I'm sure I'll love it, but I just don't think it will live up to the original. The multiplayer is seeming more like Unreal Tournament (though that's not necessarily a bad thing, do we really need giant mobile bases?), while the single player seems like it's been handed off to a third party in some respects with some of the changes we've witnessed.
Overall I guess I'll just say.. I'm a skeptic.
The meta-game is simply something to do after you've demolished the game to the point where you only need a few more achievements to round out the 1000-point mark.
I don't have a problem with it. The same kind of thing was in Human Head's video game Prey. Ultimately, it was just a distraction and actually immersed you into the world more.
As for the pistol, we still don't technically know how they're handling it. It's still an unknown factor at this point. They could have done anything to it.
It is a pistol though. Gears had an amazing pistol, the bad thing is that it was as powerful as the shotgun, and could fire longer distances. The funny thing is that, it's so hard to see something move in that game, it didn't unbalance the multiplayer.
The plasma pistol is, and always has been, a secondary weapon. In Halo 3, it's encouraged to be as much.
Imagine that a warthog is barreling toward you. You switch to the PP, fire a round into the engine disabling it, toss a grenade into the driver's seat, and then finish off the stragglers with your Assault Rifle.
Not every weapon has to be utterly devastating to be considered powerful. The Plasma Pistol is a situation-based purveyor of looming destruction.
Onto your words regarding the Banshee, I've had no problems with the thing. First off, it's really freakin' pretty. Secondly, it balances itself out.
So, you can't aim straight down. But you can perform a round-a-bout, get behind your target, and let loose the fires of dawn.
When handled properly, the Banshee becomes a very powerful assett.
To be continued?
There's always the possibility that we will continue this argument as time goes on and more is revealed about the game. Or heck, maybe even after Halo 3's released and everybody hates it :).