Giving my life over to Halo

I’d planned to buy an Xbox 360 since the day they were announced – in fact I planned to buy all three of the new consoles, just as I did last generation, but the 360’s continued hardware troubles delayed my purchase well past when I initially thought I would get one. They recently applied at least a partial fix to their issues, so I decided to buy one to coincide with the Halo 3 launch.

Although I thought the original Halo was only average, I had a fantastic time playing through it coop with my buddy Nick on the original Xbox, and we made our way about halfway through Halo 2 playing coop a couple of years later which was also fun.

I never solved Halo 2 because of the premature death of my original Xbox (you can see where my hesitations about buying another MS box comes from), and I had sold off Halo 2, so I bought the 360, a new copy of Halo 2, and pre-ordered Halo 3. I played my way through both games over the last couple of weeks, finishing up Halo 3 last night.

Overall my opinion remains largely the same – Halo is an average FPS with well above average music and audio, well crafted combat mechanics, and level design that ranges from good to awful across the three games. The overarching plot is great in a comic book sort of way, and the guy from Marathon….err, I mean Master Chief, is a great protagonist. Oh, and Halo does do a great job of giving things an epic feel. Riding up a giant space elevator inside a space station that feels like it’s the size of the moon while your buddies follow along after you in a spaceship bigger than a 747 is some cool, cool stuff. Sure, the ‘elevator’ may only be made up of 17 polygons and textured with what could generously be called ‘engraved concrete with glowies,’ and the bad guys may be popping out onto the elevator out of monster closets, but it’s still some cool shit.

I haven’t played much multiplayer yet, but what I have played has reinforced my tendency towards playing online on PC. I can routinely come in the top 5 across a spectrum of FPS on PC, from the Battlefield series of games to the recently released Team Fortress 2, yet in Halo online I rarely come in better than dead last. It’s humiliating and reinforces my tendencies (which I’m trying to overcome) to not play console FPS.

In terms of Halo 3 specifically: it’s been criticized for being too short and for not being true HD graphically. I don’t agree with either criticism. Maybe it’s because I played 2 and 3 back to back, but I thought 3 was just the right length, I thought it brought a satisfactory conclusion to the plot, and I thought the graphics were great, especially the lighting. I don’t care much what the nerds who bothered to count the pixels say, at the end of the day it looks great.

I’ll write more about the 360 as time permits. A short comparison to the PS3 would look something like ‘360 hardware feels cheap compared to PS3, and the PS3 interface is world’s better (I mean really – 360 interface reminds me of a gaudy flea market – ads all over the place and garish oranges and greens, plus things scattered all over the place in a non intuitive way – where did that game just go that I downloaded?), but in the end it’s about the games, and the 360 wins in a major way at that – Halo 3, Dead Rising, Project Gotham 3, and Crackdown, all besides Halo purchased for under $20, and all great fun.

(one last technical note – 360 emulation which allows you to run old xbox games on it is weak. I had constant frame rate problems playing Halo 2 on it, and a terrible graphical glitch which would cause background imagery to superimpose itself on the screen and stay stuck there. I managed to finish the game but there were times I got sick of restarting the thing to get rid of the gameplay obscuring graphical glitches. It was a near thing, whether I finished it or not).

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