Saturday, 29 December 2007

Halo 3

Halo 3I fell in love with this game when browsing a replay movie. As Master Chief, the last hope for humanity, I had fought my way down a bog-standard corridor on my way to more exciting stuff. Watching the replay, I paused the game and zipped the camera down to the other end of the corridor to watch my death-dealing approach from the point of view of my enemies. That was cool enough in itself, but then I noticed one of the pint-sized grunts running off down a corridor. What was he doing? I took the camera down that same corridor, and watched him hide in the darkness as I ran past. Once I was gone, the grunt said with relief (words to the effect of), “I’m glad he’s gone!” Genius! I’ve rarely seen such attention to detail in a game – or perhaps it’s better to say that the attention to detail has never been highlighted in such an effective way. Like the achievements you can gain in this and other Xbox 360 games, the features of Halo 3 encourage you to play and explore the game to its fullest.

I haven’t talked yet about the gameplay itself. I wasn’t a huge fan of Halo and Halo 2, perhaps as a result of picking them up a few years after their release, by which time I’d already played other games incorporating their innovations. I’ve always found online gaming a bit of a chore, which killed part of their appeal for me. I also, to be honest, found them a bit hard!

I’m enjoying Halo 3 much more. For one thing, I’m finding it easier, thanks to your health (at least on the Easy level) being a single shield, which fully recharges in cover, avoiding the death by attrition which always did for me in the previous two games. For another, it’s currently the state of the art in videogames, and so its ideas are as yet unsullied by imitators.

The gameplay options it offers are endless, both in terms of online options, but also in every individual moment – every weapon has its uses in every situation, and every situation responds to a dozen different approaches.

Finally, we are always starved of proper, full-on, big-budget science fiction in the cinema. So it’s a joy to watch a science fiction story as epic as Halo 3’s unfurl, even if it’s on the small screen.

There’s a lot more to be said about this game; the game itself is a conversation that will continue for years to come. Despite playing it all the way through I’ve barely scratched its surface. In terms of Hollywood blockbusters, Halo 3 would be The Matrix or the Lord of the Rings, movies that satisfy on a visceral level, but also repay and stand up to sustained scrutiny.

Originally published in Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #20.

Halo 3, Bungie (dev.). US, Xbox 360.