E3: Halo 3 Single Player Impressions

It’s one thing to hear about it and read about it, but it’s something completely different to sit down and actually see it in HD motion right in front of your face. This morning at 9 am I walked into a decent sized presentation room, only it was Friday morning at 9 am and everybody was either drunk from the previous night’s parties or on their way home. Four of us from the community were treated to the behind closed doors demo of Halo 3.

Simply put: It’s the ****!

There’s a lot of talk about the visuals of the game not being up to par and not being Gears. Those comparisons and unwarranted criticisms need not worry you Halo nation. The game’s single player graphics are definitely in the Gears of War echelon of quality. The foliage, the atmosphere, the number and type of enemies on screen all look truly magnificent.

You start out as Sierra 119 in a jungle which I believe is somewhere on Earth but I’m not sure, your objective is to reach a waiting pelican for extraction out of the combat area. By the way, I don’t know if it’s final but even the loading screen in Halo 3 look sick. Imagine a Halo ring in little pieces forming and destroying itself before your very eyes. Everything in the forest just seemed alive. The models of the objects were done in magnificent detail. Leaves on trees, the ground, the trails all looked spot on. It’s obvious Bungie is trying really hard to give you the player the options of how you want to attach a situation and leaving it up to you. Frankie warned us he was playing on Heroic and that he may die a few times during the presentation but he did not. The grunt player models look incredible. Take what you saw on a grunt in Halo 2, add a lot more detail in the armor, especially around the mouth and crank it up in HD and you have a good idea of what all the enemies look like in Halo 3 single player. The brutes in various armor looked intimidating along with the elites. There was one new character that sounded like an elite but I couldn’t tell, it had a very sullen face and would just aimlessly charge at you and wouldn’t go down. For the first time in a Halo game, and not even the flood accomplished this, I was scared.

The explosions in the game are all bigger and a lot more detailed. You can lightning bolt rays of plasma is one of those blows up, the particle effects in the air and on grenade explosions are all top notch. One crazy sequence involved you and your squad finally getting to the rally point only to have your pelican gun down by a phantom? Seeing the pelican coming down right before your eyes, crashing, blowing up, and having it’s bits and pieces fly everywhere was one of the coolest things I saw all day. I didn’t really get a sense of your squad mates this time, although they did seem much more alive and engaged in what was going on during combat. They did spout off some funny one liners. It’s hard to really give you guys an accurate picture of the greatness of the visuals without pics and even then I am not sure a lot of what’s available out there does the demo that was shown justice. Just know, you have nothing to worry about regarding Halo 3’s campaign graphically based on what I saw. Speaking of, they will still not confirm nor deny online co op, but come on you know the backlash there would be if it wasn’t included. Of note as well, I did notice a lot more checkpoints in the demo so it won’t be as frustrating especially on higher difficulties to have go through the same part over and over again.

After the SP presentation, we moved on to a presentation of the fully functional replay save feature. You’ll be able to save your amazing single player replays in addition to multiplayer. The MP replay functionality though full force is insane. Obviously, your generic playback features are added. However, for those who are into machinama or you just want to make your own cinematic highlight video of ownage you can. You can cut out certain parts of the a battle, whip the camera around how you want it, and it will save your desired camera or follow your desired player. What I saw created in about 20 seconds time in front of me was a matrix like sequence of warthog getting spartan lasered to death followed by a rocket launcher shot to the face. (Rockets will not track in Halo 3, the missile pod is now meant for that). It was stated that there will be a Bungie top 20 recommended films and you’ll be able to share films across friends lists even if a person is not on your friend’s list.

I guess I should mention the map we were shown. Sandstorm. When Bungie says they’ve never created a MP map so large they mean it. Imagine what you saw in Valhalla, then double or triple the length. Just barren desert wasteland as far as the eye can see with a ridge in the middle. Extremely vehicular based as it was stated the vehicles are set to respawn at a very high rate because of the map’s size. I think it’s going to be a favorite for sure for insane games of 2 sided CTF.

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