It turns out that we don't have a review of Halo 3 on Gamereactor UK. That's because the website wasn't even a glint in GR Denmark's eye when Bungie released it on the 360 back in 2007. A lot has happened since then, and Halo 3 itself has even been re-released on Xbox One as part of the Master Chief Collection. This is, however, the first time that the game has been released on PC, and that's a good enough reason for me to install it on yet another device and revel in one of my all-time faves. The question is, does it still hold up after more than 12 years?
Let's start with the story, which picks up after a fairly hefty cliffhanger at the end of Halo 2. I'd say that the campaign here isn't quite the pick of the bunch, but it still hits all the right notes. After crash-landing back on Earth, the Chief is confronted by his new co-op buddy, the Arbiter. In this third outing, the unlikely pair and their allies must battle Covenant forces to save the galaxy itself, and to make matters worse, the Flood are back too. Simply put, the stakes couldn't be higher. The events herein won't make a huge amount of sense if you haven't played the first two (or three if you count prequel Reach and plan on playing through the saga chronologically), and that being the case and considering their availability across PC and Xbox platforms, I suggest you start at the beginning and work your way through to Halo 3 rather than making this your starting point, even if this is when Halo was arguably at its peak.
As is tradition, the gunplay in Halo 3 is top class and that's one area that certainly still stands up even to this day. There's a range of distinctive weapons and they all serve a unique function on the field of play, whether that be in the campaign or in multiplayer. Bungie's mastery over this area of game design has persisted through into Destiny which is similarly playable and nuanced, but the big difference between 3 and all the games that have come since, from both Bungie and 343 Industries, is pacing. Halo 3 is very much a game of its time and the gameplay is palpably slower than you'll find in more recent shooters. Things picked up pace-wise in Reach (the next game made by Bungie and the studio's last Halo outing) and continued in a faster vein in Halo 4 and Destiny alike. Now, that's not a criticism as such, and I enjoy the deliberate movement and the distinctive feel you get when controlling Master Chief, but it does date the experience a little.
One thing that has not aged quite as gracefully is the AI. While there is a great dovetail effect between the enemy types, with the differing styles of the brutes and grunts, for example, providing the player alternating challenges to consider at any given moment, sometimes you'll see your enemies do mighty stupid things. The big one we kept seeing early on was brutes standing on ledges and throwing down bubble shields that landed on the floor below and offered them zero benefit. Having made that point, though, I feel like I'm perhaps splitting hairs because the AI in Halo 3 is still very serviceable.
Another serviceable part of the package is the graphics. Of course, ol' John 117 is starting to look his age - time waits for no man, after all, even a supersoldier - but it speaks to the quality of Bungie's original design that the experience holds up more than a dozen years after it first launched. The eye-catching alien designs, the crisp animations that react brilliantly to explosions, the thoughtful composition of the levels; Halo 3 was an excellent game back in 2007 and it's still pretty damn good in 2020.
It would also be remiss of me not to dwell on the audio side of the production. The voice work is top quality with memorable performances up and down the cast list, from Steve Downes' stoic return as Master Chief and Jen Taylor's commanding performance as Cortana, through to the excellent support offered by Keith David as the Arbiter, Ron Perlman as Admiral Hood, and Terrence Stamp as the Prophet of Truth. The soundscape compares favourably to the quality voice acting, but it's the soundtrack by Marty O'Donnell that truly steals the show, in particular, the epic choral theme that you're greeted with when you boot up the game - it's truly iconic stuff. In terms of overall production values, this was as good as it got back in 2007.
And we haven't even touched on my favourite part of Halo 3 yet: the multiplayer. The slow pacing of the campaign transfers over to the online arena, but everything is so perfectly balanced around the established pace of the gameplay, that it's hard to find a serious fault beyond the fact that the slower feel may not be to everyone's tastes. The old UI has been thrown out and instead, it feeds into the MCC's multiplayer suite, where players can easily access all the maps and modes. The maps themselves are great and nicely varied, although the tighter controls offered by the mouse and keyboard makes a subtle change to the feel of certain levels (that applies to the campaign as well, as you're a bit more effective at range). You can even make your own fun in the Forge, which comes with a few new additions for the creatively minded to play around with.
Like all three games released on PC before it, Halo 3 lands in great shape considering its age, and like its predecessors, you can unlock the framerate, adjust your FOV, there's ultrawide monitor support, and more. The collection itself is an unmissable journey through one of gaming's biggest and best franchises and it offers dozens of truly memorable missions and exceedingly good multiplayer. In my opinion, the asking price is very respectable when you consider what's included; a great sci-fi adventure that has stood the test of time with good grace, ported capably to PC as part of an unmissable collection of sci-fi shooter classics.
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