Halo 3 is a critically acclaimed first-person shooter (FPS) developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft. The central focus is again on the Master Chief, a surgically/genetically augmented super-soldier, who fights against an alien army known as the Covenant and the parasitic Flood. Said to be the final chapter in the story arc that began in Halo: Combat Evolved and which continued in Halo 2, Halo 3 was released on September 25, 2007, and quickly became one of the Xbox 360's first system-sellers, making an astounding $300 million during the first week of its release and going on to eventually sell over 8 million copies.
Halo 3's single player campaign contains nine missions which complete the storyline begun in Halo: Combat Evolved. The game picks up immediately after the cliffhanger at the end of Halo 2, with the Master Chief falling from orbit into a tropical forest on Earth. The Covenant has splintered into two factions: the Prophet of Truth, with his army of Jiralhanae ( Brutes), Unggoy ( Grunts), Kig-Yar ( Jackals), and even Mgalekgolo ( Hunters); against the Arbiter and his race, the Sangheili ( Elites), who have allied themselves with Humanity. After recovering from the fall, the Chief first escapes Covenant patrols in the jungle and goes to a nearby base, codenamed Crow's Nest. He then escapes again as the base is attacked by a large Brute force, moving to the town of Voi, destroying all Covenant resistance in his path. After regrouping, the combined Elite and Human force launch an assault on Truth's main base of operations where he is excavating a huge Forerunner structure under the ruins of New Mombasa. After providing a hole in Truth's anti-air defenses, the last remaining human ships began a devastating bombardment of Truth's main ship (a highly advanced Forerunner ship). However, just as the bombardment commences, Truth activates a portal to the Ark; a mysterious Forerunner structure of immense size. Making matters worse, just after the portal opens, a Covenant battleship arrives from their capital city of High Charity, which fell to the Flood during the events of Halo 2. The town of Voi had been abandoned, but it is now the central point of a Flood incursion on the Human homeworld. While fighting the parasites, the Chief obtains a message from Cortana hidden in the crashed Flood ship, hinting at a permanent solution to the war and the Flood problem. After the infection is destroyed (by Elite ships cleansing the area with heavy plasma fire), a large Human/Elite assault force gives chase through the portal, in a desperate attempt to end the war once and for all.
The gameplay in Halo 3 has undergone some significant changes compared to its predecessors, including simple tweaks to make it more cohesive. You may now carry "equipment," which can range from a portable gravity lift, allowing the player to lift himself into the air, to a bubble-shield, which will spawn a clear, protective bubble around whoever decides to throw it down, as well as deployable cover, which projects a small blue defense shield, as well as many others. Bungie has assigned these special abilities to the "X" button, which was previously used to reload. Players now use the RB (right bumper) to reload the main weapon and LB for the secondary weapon if they are dual-wielding, although they can decide to use one of several other pre-made control schemes.
Bungie has added a different version of the original Assault Rifle (it has about half the clip size of the version in Halo: Combat Evolved, but it deals a little more damage and has better accuracy), strengthened the Needler (though it can no longer be dual-wielded), and also included some new weapons like the Spikers (Brute sub-machine guns) and the Gravity Hammer (the Brute counterpart of the Elite Energy Sword). There are also 2 new grenade classes: The Spike Grenade and the Incendiary Grenade (AKA the firebomb grenade). The former is a Brute-made grenade that sticks to objects before sending razor-sharp spikes flying in the direction of the blast, and the latter a UNSC weapon especially useful against the zombie-like Flood. Bungie also reduced the load-out on each grenade from the previous four, to two, allowing players to carry a total of eight grenades and switch between the types with the left bumper (when not dual-wielding). A player may also pick up turrets and flamethrowers, but by using them he/she will switch into a 3rd person view, in which movement will be slightly restricted and ammo will become limited. There are also a few new vehicles like the Mongoose, a quadbike with two seats, the Hornet, which is the human equivalent to the Banshee, and the Chopper, which resembles the Ghost in that it has only one seat and can fire front-mounted cannons. One final new vehicle, the Elephant, is an enormous, invincible mobile base armed with two turrets. The Elephant appears only in the multiplayer level 'Sand Trap', and serves as each team's flag base in Capture the Flag mode, allowing players to actually move their flag around the level, albeit at a painfully slow pace.
Halo 3's campaign can be played co-operatively, locally, through System Link, and online on Xbox Live with up to four players, although only two players may play on a single Xbox 360. Unlike previous games, which just doubled the primary character, each player in Halo 3 is given a unique character; player one controls the Master Chief, player two controls the Arbiter (with small changes to the dialogue and cutscenes to reflect the fact that the Arbiter never leaves the Chief) and players three and four controlling unique Elites, who never speak and do not show up in cutscenes, though Bungie has named them N'tho 'Sraom and Usze 'Taham, respectively. In addition, Halo 3 can also be played competitively through a matchmaking service or in custom, user-created games. In matchmaking, players are matched with up to fifteen other players based on their rank and skill level in the individual "playlists", which are categorized into two groups depending on their overall purpose. Ranked playlists are used to match players based on their Trueskill rating. Social playlists allow players to play with others with no ranking system involved for each playlist, although Experience and overall skill still determines player match-ups. Few of the original achievements work in social matches, but the DLC achievements all are unlockable in social playlists. One can also still earn Experience for the playlists, as well as global and playlist-specific Experience points (EXP). Finally, every weekend, Double Experience Weekend begins that focus on a very specific playstyle or gametype, including Grifball and Infection. The playlists are:
In custom mode players can play multiplayer matches using custom game modes, settings, and maps. All modes and maps are available to play on and can be changed between matches by the party leader. Players must invite friends to play these games, however.
Halo 3 shipped with 11 maps, and subsequently released 5 DLC bundles throughout the games life. The Heroic map pack adds three maps for free, Legendary adds 3 more for $10, Mythic adds an additional 3 for $10, Mythic II adds another 3 for $10 (or free if you bought ODST new), and Cold Storage adds one map for free.
Construct is a map for 2-8 players (10 after they changed the max player count for Social Slayer) with no vehicles. It is a simple 3 leveled map which uses grav lifts as elevators. The main power weapon on this map is the Energy Sword which is found at the far end of the map on the third level.
Epitaph is probably the smallest map of the original group. This map is never played in Social Slayer because 8 (10 post patch) players is simply too much for this map. The two-levelled map has a Gravity Hammer, Shotgun, and Rocket Launcher for power weapons. Generally used in Team Doubles because 4 players is the right size for this map.
Another simple map for Social Slayer game types. This is the most symmetrical of the small maps in the game, making it a common choice for people to use for 1 v 1 matches. A spiritual successor to Halo 2's Lockout, the changes made to it to make it a more compact map with ease of use for melee started a movement of people in the first few months of the games launch to constantly veto it whenever it game up. This happens even more so now with the release of Blackout (a Lockout remake) as part of the Legendary map pack.
The first map in the game with vehicles, High Ground is a popular choice for One Flag, One Bomb, and other objective types due to the two oppositely balanced sides. The high ground team spawns next to a sniper tower with a Spartan Laser, and a couple of Mongooses for quick transportation. While the low ground spawns at the beach, next to a Ghost and the Sniper Rifle. This is a key map for the "One" objective types because it switches both teams between sides during each round.
Isolation is a pretty symmetrical map made for Attack and Defend game types and Slayer types. The upper outdoor grassy level features a few Mongooses to get around, along with a Shotgun in the barricade in the center. The underground is where the map starts to really differentiate between other maps. Underground there are two large man cannons on each side to launch players back up the the main level. A Ghost in the middle for main vehicular control of the map. And a Rocket Launcher next to the Ghost.
Reaching different ranks requires the player to gain certain amounts of EXP and, for officer ranks, reach different skill levels. Skill levels are increased when the player wins ranked games. EXP is gained from simply winning games which can be either ranked or unranked. One EXP is gained from winning a game, zero is gained from losing a game and one EXP is lost for quitting out of a game early. The Ranks in increasing order are:
Halo 3 is widely accepted to be one of the most popular competitive games to date. Halo 3 has a huge competitive fanbase and is the flagship game for most gaming tournaments and leagues. Many people adore this game for its balance, fun factor, and overall longevity. Leagues like Major League Gaming have used Halo 3's Forge abilities to make their own gametypes and maps for the game. There is even an MLG playlist (see above) in Halo 3 for all the competitive players out there. MLG maps can be downloaded from the Gamertag MLG Gametypes. In MLG Halo 3 players start out with a Battle Rifle instead of an Assault Rifle, have no radar, and they are a bit faster and stronger. MLG has currently 6 maps to play on (Heretic, Construct, Narrows, The Pit, Onslaught and Amplified) and use only 6 weapons ( Battle Rifle, Carbine, The Plasma Pistol, Sniper Rifle, Rocket Launcher, and Mauler). These changes were made to make it more competitive.
Battle Rifle Frustration
The Battle Rifle has a 66% random spread. Although gamers have contacted Bungie, asking for a change to the spread, Bungie has responded that they will not be fixing what they do not consider to be broken.
Main Article: Forge
With the addition of the new Forge mode, any Halo 3 owner can completely customize every Halo 3 multiplayer map. From vehicle and weapon placement to fusion coils and equipment placement, just about everything the player can use and interact with on a map can be moved, tweaked, and adjusted to the player's liking. Once completed, all forged maps can be put on the player's file share and uploaded to Bungie.net were other players can download, comment, tag, and share their creations over the Internet. The recent maps Foundry (From the Heroic Map Pack) and Sandbox (From the Mythic Map Pack) were made specifically to cater to users of Forge. Many forging communities have arisen in the wake of these two maps releases, creating a massive number of user-generated maps. Bungie has recently taken notice of this user-generated content and has incorporated several Forge maps created in Foundry and Sandbox into both Ranked and Social matchmaking. Bungie has also regularly featured maps created by the community in their weekly updates and included interviews with their creators. A few special features of the Forge have been included in recent map packs as well, from different color affects to the Killball.
The Theater is a powerful tool allowing the viewing and saving of previously played campaign missions and multiplayer matches. The system used to create the video allows the video to maintain a size of mere kilobytes. The Theater can be used to take screenshots, save film clips, and save whole films. The camera in the Theater is not limited to a body either. The camera can be moved to any player or free-floated anywhere in the map, allowing for interesting angles and screenshots.
With the use of theater mode, users can take screenshots of their favorite moments and upload them to Bungie.net. There, players can also comment, rate, and download other users' screenshots. Bungie has used screenshots uploaded to Bungie.net in their Weekly updates.
While watching a match in Theater, people can save entire custom and matchmaking games or cut out specific parts to make video clips. These videos can then be watched through Theater by anyone who has downloaded the file from the user's File Share. Plus, as the Theater records gameplay information and not video, matches can be viewed from any angle. Unfortunately, for the same reason, the Theater clips cannot be viewed online (although the Bungie Pro Video feature alleviates this problem, see below), although you can set a video to download the next time you play Halo 3.
The File Share is available for every Halo 3 user and allows them to upload their files for others to view and download at no cost. These slots can include Films, Film Clips, Screenshots, Map Variants, Gametypes or any combination. The standard capacity for the File Share is six slots and/or 25MB, although this can be upgraded to 24 slots and 250MB via the pay service called Bungie Pro (see below).
Bungie Pro enables a number of premium features to the Halo 3 user, including an expansion of storage for your Halo 3 File Share (see above) and the ability to use Bungie Pro Video (see below). A 12-Month Bungie Pro subscription can be purchased over Xbox Live for 750 MS Points. At the end of the subscription, you'll be asked to whether you want to renew or your subscription or not. For a limited time, a trial of Bungie Pro was given as a gift to people who downloaded the Legendary Map Pack or Mythic Map Pack. The trial lasted roughly 4 months.
As of now Bungie Pro comes bundled with Bungie Pro Video. Bungie Pro Video allows you take your game film clips (which, as they are purely game data, require Halo 3 to be viewed) and turn them into videos you can watch on your computer using the .wmv format. Users are allowed 5 render minutes a month, which expire at the end of the month. Bungie has stated that users will soon be able to buy render minutes using the File Share menu at 10 minutes for 100 MSP ($1.25).
Human skulls can be found tucked away in odd corners of the Halo 3 campaign. Each one has some kind of effect on the game that can be turned on or off at the beginning of a play session. In doing so, Bungie has expanded the original skulls "Easter Egg" from Halo 2. In Halo 3, when you find a skull you can turn it on and off at will, as opposed to having to start a new save to turn it off. There are four "silver skulls" which don't give an achievement but go towards unlocking the Hayabusa armor, and nine "gold skulls" which each have their own achievement and go towards unlocking the Hayabusa armor.
Guides are available on Giant Bomb to aid in locating each skull. Additionally, six more skulls were can be found in each multiplayer map added in the downloadable Mythic Map Pack, and also in the three maps be packed in with Halo 3: ODST, with one skull per map. These skulls do not have any effects, and their only benefit is the Vidmaster achievement for finding all of them (meaning they are therefore required to achieve the coveted Recon armor).
Halo 3 has seen four Map Packs released for the game since its September 2007 launch, which are the Heroic Map Pack (initially 600 MS points, now free), Legendary Map Pack (600 MS Points), the standalone map Cold Storage (free), and the first and second half of the Mythic Map Pack (800 MS Points).
The Heroic Map Pack was released on December 11th, 2007 and included three new maps:
The Legendary Map Pack was released on April 15th, 2008 and included three new maps:
The Cold Storage Map Pack was released on July 7th, 2008 and included only one single map. It was a gift for Bungie to its fans for Bungie Day '08 (July 7, 2008). Cold Storage is technically considered Legendary tier, meaning to play it in matchmaking you must have the Legendary map pack also.
First alluded to in the achievements Title Update 2 added, the Mythic Map Pack consists of six maps, with three bundled in with the Halo Wars Limited Edition and released onto Xbox Live Marketplace April 9th, 2009, and 3 to be bundled with Halo 3: ODST, along with every other map. Unlike with all other multiplayer maps, the Mythic Map Pack will contain six hidden skulls, with one per map. The skulls go toward unlocking the "Vidmaster" achievement. Bungie has said that once all the Vidmaster achievements are unlocked, Recon Armor will be unlocked. The last Vidmaster Achievement will be achievable when the other three maps of the "Mythic" Map Pack release with Halo 3: ODST.
The first half of the Mythic Map Pack, which first shipped with the Limited Edition version of Halo Wars and came to Marketplace April 9th, 2009 consists of:
First referenced to in the achievements Title Update 2 added to the game, the Mythic Map Pack's latter three maps were bundled in with Halo 3: ODST as maps exclusive to that package. Along with Halo 3: ODST itself, they are the last additional content added to Halo 3 before the follow-up game, Halo: Reach. On Bungie Day '09, Bungie revealed the first screenshots and descriptions of Citadel, Longshore, and Heretic. Since February 2nd, 2010, the maps have been available to download off the Marketplace under the name Mythic II Map Pack.
A standalone campaign running on the Halo 3 engine, ODST (originally known as Halo 3: Recon), was released in Fall 2009. The game was bundled with the second half of the Mythic Map Pack (Citadel, Longshore and Heretic) and features a multiplayer disc that allows the player to play Halo 3's competitive multiplayer mode, complete with every multiplayer map from the retail Halo 3 as well as every DLC map up to and including the Mythic Map Pack.
For more information, check out the ODST game page.
With the addition of armor customization to Halo 3's multiplayer, fans would be able to design their online characters to their liking. All armor is acquired in game via achievements, completion of levels, and capturing skulls - except for Recon armor. Recon could only be unlocked for a player by Bungie themselves. Once community members found out they could not unlock Recon armor, a full scale epidemic started on the forums. People contently spammed threads asking for "Reconz" when they finally figured out only Bungie could unlock it for them. Bungie finally had to put a stop to all the Recon madness by posting this thread on the pinned topics list, saying "Any thread about Recon Armor will be met with a stern ban." The full thread can be found here. The topic went on to explain that the only way to acquire Recon armor is to do something that makes a big enough impression on Bungie and/or the Halo Community to "make us think 'Hey, this guy deserves Recon.'" Eventually, Bungie designed a way for the truly determined to unlock Recon armour, by completing 'The Vidmaster Challenge', a series of very difficult Achievements scattered across Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST.
Halo 3 was officially announced at E3 2006 with the first cinematic trailer, and Bungie continued to throw the grovelling masses bits of information on its weekly updates up to the games release. Halo 3 was developed using an in-house engine commonly referred to as the Halo 3 Engine. The engine utilizes advanced graphics tech including High Dynamic Range, Global Lighting and depth of field effects in the cutscenes, Motion Blurring was added in the main game but wasn't in the beta. Halo 3 uses normal, bump, and parallax mapping to increase the detail of models but keeping the number of polygons down. Halo 3 has over 50,000 pieces of audio (40,000 of them being NPC dialogue) a drastic improvement over the previous two games ( Halo 2 having about 15,000). In fact, separate recordings for both distant and near gunfire were made and if the player were to hear distant gunfire it might actually be an NPC shooting and not just ambient noise.
Along with several voice acting cameo appearances from Red vs. Blue and Joss Whedon's Serenity characters.
Halo 3 was advertised using every marketing technique imaginable, including viral ads, game trailers, pre-rendered CGI, four Developer Diaries, real-time cinematics, Beta tests, product tie-ins, even live action film. Also, before and after the release, many interviews with Bungie personnel were conducted by the gaming press along with many magazine stories. In addition to the astounding amount of advertising money poured into the launch, Halo 3 was plagued by leaks, including a leak of the games test Beta before its gold release (confirmed to have been 99.99 percent complete), Microsoft responded by banning the gamertags of people caught playing it until the year 9999. In the weeks leading up to the game many pre-release (pirated) copies were seen for sale on E-bay, and a catalog retailer accidentally released copies of the game for sale a little early - this was confirmed as an honest mistake, and Microsoft is not punishing Argos (the retailer) for the error.
Halo 3 received favourable reviews from many critics, and with an average of 94% in reviews - the sixth best reviewed game on the 360 - according to Metacritic. The singleplayer aspect though, had mixed reviews, some saying it was too short, others going so far as to say certain levels left a rotten taste in their mouth, while others saying it was anything but disappointing. The favourable reviews along with multiple record-breaking sales numbers fuelled the games popularity as sales skyrocketed all the way up to the release of the map packs. Halo 3 received several awards from several sources, including game of the year awards, runner-ups for best shooter, best multiplayer, most addicting game of the year, and several more.
The summer prior to Halo 3's launch, Pepsi released a new Halo-themed Mountain Dew flavour called "Game Fuel". The flavor was a mix of Code Red and Live Wire, and the drink was discontinued early November. Halo 3 also had an ad campaign in association with Burger King prior to the game's release.
In addition to these promotional tie-ins, 7-11 stores across the United States were equipped with a variety of Halo-themed merchandise, including three collectible Slurpee cups and posters. The game was also sold in 7-11 stores for a limited time, even featuring a pre-order program. There were a variety of problems with this initiative, however, including the fact that many staff members were unaware of the promotion as well as shipping issues on launch day.
Halo 3 was released in three separate versions. The Standard Edition contains the game disc, manual, and a small poster with the game's control-map and artwork.
The Limited Edition, contained in a metal case, contains the game disc, manual, poster, interactive Xbox 360 bonus disc with several featurettes, and a hard cover bound "Bestiarum", which is a collection of information and art covering the species, cultures, and civilizations of Halo 3.
The final version was marketed as the "Legendary Edition", which contains the game disc, manual, poster, interactive bonus disc, Bestiarum (on one of the DVD discs), Legendary DVD containing special content exclusive to the Legendary Edition, and a scale replica of the Master Chief's helmet as a case for the three discs. The slip-cover packaging unfolds into a large heavy-stock poster of the Master Chief. The helmet that came along with the Legendary Edition could not be worn by a person, but some noted that it could fit on the head of a cat.
Upon release, some of the Limited Edition versions of Halo 3 were found to have a defect in the hub that kept the discs in place, which could lead to scratched discs. Microsoft confirmed the problem and offered to replace scratched Halo 3 Limited Edition discs free of charge until the end of January 2008. This was not a problem in either the Legendary Edition or the Standard Editions.
The original soundtrack to Halo 3 was composed by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori and was released a few months after the game in a two disc set.
In Bungie's first mandatory Title Update, they fixed what many players were complaining about at the time, the melee system. Previously, if two players melee'd each other at the same time, the player with more shielding would die and there was a two second window that the system considered "same time." Due to the high level of complaints, Bungie came up with a new Melee system. The "same time" window was closed to about a second and the kill would often go to would hit first, but if the game determined that both players hit at the same time, both players would die, ending in a somewhat humorous death as both players flopped backwards.
Prior to this update the there was an issue with the Elite shoulder pieces of the armor permutation "Commando" not unlocking, even after players had gotten the required "Overkill" achievement. The update simply granted every player the ability to use the "Commando" shoulders regardless if they had the achievement for it or not.
In their online Weekly Update for August 1st, 2008, Bungie unveiled a new addition to the online ranking system to be implemented in the second mandatory Title Update for Halo 3. The post included a chart illustrating EXP progression in various matchmaking playlists. The update offers players another visual representation of their progress in the online game, and serves to display precisely how many victories they have earned in any given matchmaking playlist.
This is achieved by adding a new layer of specificity to the tracking of player EXP (EXP is a value that serves to illustrate how seasoned a player is in matchmade games). While a player's online Service Record still reflects their total EXP value, under the new ranking system, the player also has a visual EXP value (in the form of the same military ranks that previously existed in the online game) for each individual playlist. To clarify, this means that as a player wins more games in a particular playlist their overall EXP value responds as it normally would, but they also progress through the Halo 3 military ranks specific to that playlist. An example: A player may fancy the Team Slayer hopper over all others, and after some time and enough wins, obtain an EXP rank of General in the playlist -- however, if said player has only been competing in the Team Slayer playlist, they will have a playlist military rank of Recruit in the other playlists that they've been ignoring.
A common misconception among Halo fans after the announcement of this news was that the hard-fought rankings that they had toiled away for since first setting foot online would be made meaningless after the release of the update, because now any player who invested enough time in a certain playlist would reach the esteemed upper ranks in a much easier fashion. This concern was later proven to be immaterial, because no aspect of the previous ranking system was being modified, and the individual playlist rankings were not to be reflected in a player's Service Record.
Aside from the addition of the new ranking system, the second Title Update adds several "under-the-hood" fixes and updates. The details of these "invisible" changes were not explicitly fleshed-out, but the general overview given of the modifications indicate that they increase the functionality for auto-detecting malicious behavior and cheating over Xbox Live.
The Title Update also introduced four new variants of existing maps, out of Epitaph came Epilogue, and out of Snowbound came Boundless. While Epilogue is entirely without shield doors, Boundless still has those in High and Low base middle entrances (to counter the possibility of grenade spamming). These new maps will replace the existing ones; they will appear in matchmaking simultaneously, however in the long run Bungie hopes to have these maps become the dominant set. In addition to these two, Sand Tarp is now a version of Sand Trap without the Elephant vehicle and with new flag capture spaces. Pit Stop is a new version of The Pit with the upper spawn areas now inaccessible. These same matchmaking policies apply to these two as well. These maps are treated as Forge variants by the game, and can therefore be played normally and saved to an Xbox 360 Hard Drive.
While initial rumours and speculation ran wild with the release of Bungie's Edge acceptance speech, they quashed the pleas for bots and campaign forging by definitively stating that these things would not be appearing in Halo 3.
Bungie has asked players to not install the game to the hard drive. Due to the optimizations made to the game so that it can be played without a hard drive, installing to the HDD actually causes longer loading times when playing multiplayer. However, should a player wish to do so anyway, Halo 3 requires 5.7GB of space to be installed on an Xbox 360 HDD.
On April 20, 2010, Halo 3 became available on the Xbox 360 Games on Demand service for $29.99 or 2400 Microsoft Points. However, as with the HDD installation, both Microsoft and Bungie have warned that users may experience longer load times in this version.