Posted on Sunday, May 6th, 2012 at 12:00 PM by Michael Dalgleish
What is your favourite game ever? It’s a difficult question, right? As a child of the nineties I’ve grown up as gaming has grown up around me. I’ve owned consoles ranging from the Sega Mega Drive and the Gameboy Colour to the more contemporary Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS. I’ve probably completed over 500 games in my lifetime so to narrow it down to just one personal favourite proved to be a bit of a conundrum.
I planned on doing some systematic review of all the games I’ve completed and eliminating them one by one but in the end I decided to go with my gut feeling and that left me with three games; Timesplitters 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Halo 3. I could honestly select any of these games as my favourite and I love them all for different reasons, but as I am playing Halo 3 again I decided to go for that.
I got a Xbox 360 in 2008 after owning Playstation consoles all my life. I had heard so much about the Halo series that I was naturally curious as to what all the fuss was about and initially I was a little confused. The only FPS I’d ever really played was Timesplitters so to go to this was a big step up but little by little, piece by piece, it all started to make wonderful sense.
Graphically, for its time, it was outstanding. Having made do with the pixelated vistas of the Playstation 2 for far too long, this was like a breath of fresh air. Light bounced off the water with an almost glass like sheen, enemies moved fluidly and everything just looked much more real than anything I had seen before. Set in the future amidst a spectacular backdrop of cliff sides, planets and spaceships, blasting hordes of alien foes had never looked so good. This is accompanied by the dramatic and epic score expressly composed for the Halo series by Marty O’Donnell that has become, over time, an integral part of the series. This terrific score is backed by excellent voice work from the entire cast and it all slots together perfectly to give the game great presentation throughout.
At the time I had never sampled online gaming before, and I wasn’t feeling brave so I made the educated decision to hone my skills in the single player arena first. Taking the easy way out (again) I stuck it on the easiest difficulty and blasted through it with little resistance in about eight hours. Finishing the game I was still wondering what all the fuss was about. Having not played the first two games in the series I struggled to understand the story, the AI did not appear as advanced as reviews had led me to believe and the whole thing left me a bit flat. It was not that there was anything particularly ‘wrong’ with the game; I just hadn’t made that connection with it. Yet.
A number of months later, having dumped the game to the bottom of my pile convinced I would never play it again, my friend asked me to play through the co-op campaign on the hardest difficulty with him. Reluctantly I agreed, finding myself in need of a challenge. So we booted up the first mission, and I leisurely strolled though, naively believing I could repeat the same tactics that brought success on the easier difficulty. And then I died…. And then I died again… All of a sudden the moronic AI had been replaced with plasma wielding harbingers of death. Even the lowly grunts suddenly posed a huge threat when attacking in numbers. Having ran away with our tails between our legs, we decided to recruit two of our other friends to the cause and eventually, through blood, sweat and tears (and a bucket load of Red Bull) we prevailed. Tired and battle weary, yet still hungering for more, we went back in pursuit of all the achievements, eventually earning the totally brutal ‘Annual’ for completing the final level, on legendary, with everyone driving ghosts. From that moment I was hooked.
Yearning for more but having bled dry the single player, I summoned up the courage and jumped into the online arena. By this time the game had been out for a while and the majority of players were used to the map layouts and weapon spawns so predictably, I got my ass handed to me again and again. Once again I recruited a four player party and slowly but surely, I began to find my feet. The map layouts and weapon spawns became engrained in my memory taking the place of much less important knowledge, like my psychology A-Level, for instance. Killing sprees became killing frenzies. Every day at college was spent analysing last nights tactics and how they could be corrected. The maps were simple but engaging, often symmetrical, but they never got boring to play and the weapons were powerful but balanced. When you died you knew it was because you had been outplayed, not screwed over by the game. Then, as if Bungie were in our heads listening to our thoughts, just as the game began to get repetitive they dropped a map pack, and then another, and all of a sudden the game was fresh again. Halo 3 was the game that got me into online gaming, and it will always hold a special place in my collection for that. The memories; the no scope from across the map, the first overkill extermination, the first random sticky grenade kill, these are the moments that make Halo 3 such a cherished game in the hearts of many.
Halo 3 is a game that any Xbox 360 owner should play, regardless of the fact that it is now five years old. It still holds its own against the forerunners in the FPS genre and was a defining game in making the Xbox 360 as successful as it is today. Overall I would give the game a 9/10 as it was not perfect but it showed what the machine was capable of and led the way for the games we take for granted now. If you have never sampled this game then I implore you to pick it up cheap. Halo 3 sits happily at the top of my favourite games list, and it won’t be moving anytime soon.
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