“You know me. When I make a promise…”
–Master Chief and Cortana
After crash-landing on Earth, Master Chief is recovered by Sargeant Johnson and The Arbiter. Master Chief helps the UNSC forces defend an outpost where Commander Keyes and Lord Hood are planning a counter-offensive against the Prophet of Truth to prevent him from activating a Forerunner artefact. However, this is ultimately unsuccessful, and Truth is able to use the Forerunner artefact to create a slipstream portal. In the chaos, a Flood-infested Covenant cruiser crashes on Earth: Master Chief fights his way through the horde of Flood and boards the vessel to try and find Cortana, while The Arbiter and the Elites glass the area to stop the Flood from spreading. While Master Chief is only able to recover a recording from Cortana, it convinces Hood to send UNSC forces through the slip-space portal. Upon passing through the portal, both the UNSC and Elites discover a vast Foreunner construct known as The Ark, a structure containing the means to remotely activate the Halo array. After touching down on the surface, Master Chief and The Arbiter fight their way to the Cartographer. They locate Truth using the Cartographer; he is hiding in a Citadel defended by a powerful shield. Upon deactivating the shields from three towers, the Gravemind appears and suggests they form an alliance to stop Truth from eradicating all life in the galaxy. With the Flood fighting alongside the pair, The Arbiter and Master Chief reach Truth and kill him, only for the Gravemind to betray the pair. Both barely manage to escape and agree to activate a lone Halo ring to eliminate Gravemind. Meanwhile, the remains of High Charity crash onto the Ark’s surface, and Master Chief heads off into its cavernous interior to find Cortana, who has the Index needed to activate Halo. Once Master Chief finds Cortana, they rejoin The Arbiter and Johnson, heading into the new Installation 08’s control room to fire Halo. However, when 343 Guilty Spark reveals that Halo is not ready to be fired yet, as construction is still ongoing, Johnson overrides him and primes the Halo to fire. 343 Guilty Spark kills Johnson and is in turn destroyed by Master Chief. Regrouping with The Arbiter, the pair use Johnson’s warthog to escape, barely reaching the Forward Unto Dawn and escaping. In the aftermath, the Forward Unto Dawn splits in two: The Arbiter manages to make it through the portal and pays respects to those who have fallen with the Earth’s commanders, while Master Chief prepares to enter cyro-sleep, asking Cortana to wake him should anything happen in the future.
Halo 3 is, in every way, bigger than its predecessor: nowhere is this more apparent than in the design of the levels and scale of each mission. Using a new engine, Halo 3 sported vastly improved visuals over its predecessors without increasing polygon count, and further to this, was able to render a much larger number of agents on the map at once, as well as create more complex agents. Together with larger levels, Halo 3 is able to create a sandbox feeling in some of its larger missions, giving players an opportunity to fight at a scale that had hitherto not been seen in previous Halo titles. This created an exciting new pacing not seen in older titles: multiple squads of Covenant force players to choose their fights wisely, and in what is probably the finest example of what Halo 3 is capable of, players are able to fight two Scarabs at once, disabling their legs to board them and then destroying a reactor to finish them off. The Scarabs of Halo 3 are fully-realised agents capable of independent movement, and it was exhilarating to fight them, as giving them autonomy made them somewhat unpredictable to fight. Similarly, the Flood are able to become an intimidating foe once again: the more powerful engine allows Halo 3 to render a much larger number and more varieties of Flood than before, making them feel like a properly overwhelming, frightening enemy as they had felt in Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 3 is able to create the sense of large-scale battles in its levels; while the game is still decidedly linear, no Halo game had previously been quite as open as Halo 3, and consequently, in conjunction with refinements to the weapons and the introduction of deployable equipment (essentially power-ups that can be used strategically to help one’s situation), Halo 3 is a straight upgrade to Halo 2. Upgraded gameplay and a sense of scale mesh well with Halo 3‘s story, which provides the closure to the Halo series in a satisfying manner.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Thirteen years after Bungie launched the acclaimed Halo 3 for Xbox 360, I finally step into the jungle of Halo 3‘s first mission, and this marks the first time Halo 3 screenshots grace this blog. For Halo 3, I’ve decided to go with 50 screenshots to give readers a good scope of what the game looks like, without creating something that would take me too long to write. Halo 3 released to overwhelming praise in 2007: at the time, I had grown somewhat familiar with Halo 2 as a result of spending Sundays at LAN parties, and reading about the campaign from a strategy guide that was available at the local library. This was back during a time when the library still had an excellent selection of books to check out: today, most of those books are only available at the central library downtown.
- When Halo 3 released, I was impressed with the gameplay footage I did see, but found myself a little less awed at the soundtrack. I remember discussing this with a friend at the school’s library: overall, if there was one part of Halo 3 that did not eclipse its predecessor, it was the music. Halo 2‘s soundtrack was intense, captivating and also surprisingly emotional at some points, while in Halo 3, the music felt a little less noteworthy. Today, I still stand by my belief that of all the Halo games, Halo 2 has the best music, and in the Anniversary edition of Halo 2, the soundtrack took everything about the original and improved them even further.
- I only had the vaguest idea of what Halo 3‘s campaign missions were like, and so, entering Halo 3 myself for the first time, I was immediately blown away. Even though Halo 3 might be a thirteen-year-old game, it’s aged very gracefully with the work that 343 Industries have done on it. At 1080p and enhanced settings, lighting effects and visuals are still strong, looking as good as many modern titles, and the handling is excellent. The only thing that feels a little dated are the textures and models.
- The assault rifle of Halo 3 is a straight upgrade from its Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation, having superior accuracy and damage, as well as a shorter reload time, at the expense of more rounds. It is a strong all-around weapon, and when paired with the battle rifle, one is reasonably assured of being able to deal with almost anything in Halo 3. With the Elites no longer an enemy, Brutes take their place, and the battle rifle is particularly strong against them on PC. The assault rifle now reduces the utility of the SMG for most close-quarters engagements.
- One touch about Halo 3 I particularly liked was the fact that Phantoms can now be destroyed, marking the first time these Covenant drop-ships can be taken out of a fight. The last segment of the first mission has players reaching a dam of sorts to rescue Sergeant Johnson, whose Pelican crashed. A veritable army of Brutes stands between Master Chief and Johnson, but with liberal use of explosives, it is straightforwards enough. Once Johnson is rescued, a pair of Phantoms appear, but will be destroyed by Pelicans.
- The second mission sees Master Chief and The Arbiter defending a UNSC outpost from Brutes. Halo 3‘s missions are rather long, and made up of several distinct sections. My favourite part of this mission entails going a little further into the tunnels and listening to Marines argue about a password. This is apparently an Easter Egg, a callback to the Red versus Blue series, which was a famous Machinema (a video made using game engines, often to tell a story) using Halo: Combat Evolved.
- My favourite Machinema series is Freeman’s Mind and Arby n’ The Chief; the former is a Half-Life series following the neurotic Gordon Freeman and his vociferous ruminations as he experiences the events of the Half-Life (and later, Half-Life 2) campaigns, while the latter has a Toy Story-like setup, with a Master Chief and Arbiter figure coming to life, playing Halo and going on zany adventures both within and without of their worlds. I admit that I’ve not followed Arby n’ The Chief closely since season five ended in 2011.
- According to one of my friends, season six and later (2011 to present) is more of an existential drama, and at this point, while the humour is still present, it becomes increasingly dark (admittedly, too dark for my liking). I’ve always felt the best jokes to come from the earlier seasons, whether it be Chief’s gloating about Recon armour and losing it after resorting to cheats, Josh Butterballs and his perceptually useless advice for improving in Halo, or my personal favourite, “Digital Fruitcakes”, which has Chief introduce his squad of friends and their defeat at Arbiter’s hands after Chief unwisely gambles a week’s worth of Xbox time on the outcome of a four versus one.
- Lines like “he only stops playing halo 2 drink m0ar cough syrup” or “MAGNUM ADN SPRINT? / THATS IT? / U CANT B SRS” are iconic, and my best friend and I still reference Arby n’ The Chief in our everyday conversation. Unfortunately, the series does feel quite obscure at times, and no one else I know, either in reality or through blogging, are familiar with the series. As such, the notion of “magnum and sprint”, meaning “the basics” for me, isn’t something others will immediately get.
- Meaningful, well-written jokes have existed long before advances in internet communications made meme culture popular, and unlike the crass, unoriginal memes of the present day, jokes from the age of Halo 3 are much more civilised and thoughtful. I’ll take “All Your Base” and “Steamed Hams” over Pepe The Frog and Fortnite dances any day of week: jokes are the most funny and meaningful when the concept being ridiculed is universally understood, and the jokes of old appealed to many as a result of the effort people put into them. Memes of the present, on the other hand, are more of a low-effort inside message that are a dime-a-dozen and incomprehensible to those outside of the loop.
- After clearing out the outpost, rearming a bomb that the brutes disabled and facilitating for an evacuation, Master Chief heads to the town of Voi using the Tsavo Highway. It is here that the size of Halo 3‘s campaign maps become apparent: more so than its predecessors, Halo 3 makes use of wide, open areas that break up the claustrophobic design of a map. While the game is still very linear, these arena-like spaces and large-scale battles are epic.
- One of the leading gripes I had following the Insider Flighting was the fact that the weapons of Halo 3 sound nowhere near as powerful as they did in earlier games, and with the retail version of Halo 3, I think that the weapons sound slightly better, if still a little weak. Fortunately, in the campaign, the battle rifle still hits hard despite its firing sound, and it is my go-to weapon of choice against Brutes. Ammunition for the battle rifle is uncommon, and while it’s an excellent weapon to use, finding rounds for it and its Covenant equivalent, the Covenant Carbine, can be a challenge.
- Halo 3 introduces the idea of equipment, extensions of the overshield and active cameo, except this time, players can choose when to deploy them, extending their utility. On standard difficulty, they’re curious assets, but I imagine that at Heroic and above, knowing when to deploy or switch out equipment could make a difficult fight considerably easier. My favourite equipment would probably be invincibility, which negates all damage the player takes, and regeneration is not too far behind, allowing me to instantly regenerate my shields.
- The shotgun in Halo 3 is completely different than the shotgun of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2: unlike the M90 of the earlier Halo games, which held twelve shells, the M90A of Halo 3 can only hold a maximum of six rounds, and while having a longer effective range than the M90 as seen in Halo 2, is still inferior to that of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s M90. Its stopping power, however, has been restored, and in general, aside from only having six shells, the shotgun is the ultimate weapon for close quarter combat.
- For the last portion of the mission, I commandeered a Wraith and used it to tear through an entire Covenant armada. While considered a tank by in-game mechanics, the combat role and performance of a Wraith renders it more similar to a piece of self-propelled artillery: a main battle tank like the Scorpion is designed for direct fire with tanks, whereas the Wraith and its plasma mortar lobs superheated plasma in an arc against infantry and other vehicles. In reality, self-propelled artillery and main battle tanks further differ in manoeuvrability and armour: the former lack heavy armour and are more mobile. Halo portrays the Wraith as being a little more nimble than the Scorpion thanks to its gravity propulsion drive, but otherwise, the Wraith has similar durability.
- After punching through tunnels and opening the gates for the column of UNSC vehicles, Master Chief and The Arbiter are tasked with decimating several anti-air Wraiths. These anti-air vehicles cannot be operated by players, and if one were to board it, the vehicle will explode after the pilot is neutralised. The first of the compounds gives a sense of what this fourth mission is about: as Master Chief blows away the anti-air Wraiths, the clouds in the sky darken as Truth begins to activate the Forerunner artefact.
- Drones and Jackals are among my least favourite enemy to fight in Halo: the portable shields that Jackals hold can deflect a large amount of damage, and the most effective way of dealing with them is either a well-placed grenade or carefully aiming at a small opening in their shields using a precision weapon like the battle rifle. Drones travel in swarms, and while individually weak, can overwhelm players with a nonstop hail of plasma pistol fire. Against drones, the assault rifle and submachine gun are excellent weapons, as well as the Brute Spiker and plasma rifle. Thanks to the superior physics engine in Halo 3, Drone swarms are far more terrifying than they were in Halo 2 on account of being much larger, although thankfully, Drones still land periodically, allowing them to be picked off.
- Scarabs were amongst the most powerful ground vehicles the Covenant deployed, and in Halo 2, the Scarab that tears through New Mombassa was unstoppable until Master Chief boarded it and annihilated it from inside. By Halo 3, the game engine was advanced sufficiently such that the Scarab was a fully autonomous agent: Scarabs are smaller and more frequently deployed, possessing fully destructible parts. In particular, when the legs take enough damage, the Scarab will “kneel”, allowing players to board it. There’s a special reactor in its rear that, once destroyed, will cause the Scarab to explode spectacularly.
- When I played through this section of the mission during the Insider Flighting, I had trouble finding the location of the reactor. This was not a problem by the time I returned to Halo 3 and, once the Scarab is destroyed, Master Chief continues through a warehouse to reach a large anti-air cannon. This mission marks the first time that players face off against Hunters: unlike the end of Halo 2, which saw the Hunters backing The Arbiter up, Halo 3‘s Hunters are enemies. This was a deliberate design choice to minimise player confusion, and the Hunters of Halo 3 have armour plates that fall off when they sustain enough damage. Like the previous iterations of Halo, it is best to flank them and fire on the exposed orange flesh to dispatch them, although if one has heavy weapons available (such as the rocket launcher or missile pod), Hunters can be dealt with trivially.
- The last section of the fourth mission entails clearing the forces defending the Type 27 anti-air gun, and then firing on an exposed power coupling to destroy it. While intended for use against small targets, it’s been claimed that a single Type 27 would be able to shoot down a Charon-class Frigate like the Forward Unto Dawn. Once this gun is destroyed, the UNSC fleet begin opening fire on the Forerunner Keyship, the Anodyne Spirit, but even with direct hit from MAC arounds and missiles, the advanced Forerunner armour meant that not even a scratch is dealt. As Truth begins to ascend into the portal above the Anodyne Spirit en route to the Ark, a Flood-controlled Covenant ship crash-lands nearby.
- Once the Flood arrive, the lighting and atmosphere in Halo 3 immediately shifts: the area is now covered with a noxious haze of Flood spores, and hordes of Flood begin overrunning the area. In short, it feels a great deal like the American Deep South as seen in Left 4 Dead 2. Compared to earlier Halo titles, Halo 3‘s portrayal of the Flood is a cut above – infection forms travel in much larger swarms, and it is now possible to watch real-time infections unfold as an unfortunate victim becomes transformed into a combat form. Carrier forms, when destroyed, now release up to three times as many infection forms.
- Halo 3, in short, makes the Flood feel terrifying again, and after a lacklustre presentation in Halo 2, the Flood are a return to form, being a highly menacing enemy against which prolonged combat is not an option. Master Chief and The Arbiter also encounter Pure forms for the first time in these missions. With a calcium-based exoskeleton, Pure forms are highly resilient against damage and come in three varieties: the spider-like Stalker, Ranged forms which can spew toxins at the player from afar, and the massive Tank form.
- While all weapons will be effective against the Flood in some capacity, in earlier Halo games, kinetic weapons were more useful against the Flood, and in particular, the M90 was the ultimate weapon for handling The Flood. Halo 2‘s Energy Sword proved to be even more useful, being able to disintegrate Flood biomass and prevent corpses from being reanimated. By Halo 3, plasma weapons have been upgraded so that they can deal more damage to the Flood, making dual plasma rifles a potent choice for situations where one is low on shotgun or Energy Sword reserves. In-universe, plasma weapons, with their high thermal output, are generally superior, being able to burn Flood tissue beyond recognition.
- Halo 3‘s campaign handles smoothly, but one aspect I disliked were the Cortana moments (and later, Gravemind moments): I felt them to break the flow of the game somewhat by slowing things down dramatically. With this being said, they accentuate Cortana’s descent into rampancy (a state where AI begun functioning erratically) and the Flood’s madness well, and further to this, while disruptive, Bungie did an excellent job of placing them such that they only play when players are not in any danger. As an added layer of safety, when a Cortana or Gravemind moment plays, players are rendered immune to all damage – this would be especially valuable in co-op, if one player triggers the moment while the other is still mid-firefight.
- When Keyes learns that Cortana might be in the crashed ship, she sends Master Chief into the bowels of the Flood-infested ship in search of her while The Arbiter and other Elites remained outside to prevent any Flood from entering. The interior of the ship is a putrid mess of Flood biomass, and as it turns out, Cortana isn’t present. Instead, it’s a recording of her, giving vital information on how to stop the Flood and also, the imminent arrival of High Charity, now under the Gravemind’s control. In the aftermath, Hood consents to send a task force through the portal to The Ark, and the Separatist Covenant forces, now allied with the UNSC, prepare to glass Voi and its surroundings to stop the Flood from spreading.
- After passing the portal and running into a Brute Fleet, the Elites prepare to engage them while UNSC forces prepare to hit the Ark’s surface. Upon landing, they find themselves in a completely different area well outside the Milky Way galaxy. While one ODST is impressed with the sights, the others are unperturbed and push forwards with the mission. Master Chief opens the mission with a sniper rifle; this mission is supposed to be an amalgamation of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s third, fourth and fifth missions, since players start off with a sniper rifle, are seeking out a Cartographer of sorts, and has the chance to use vehicles.
- The sniper rifle is best suited for engaging Brutes and Hunters: a single headshot will neutralise the former, and hitting the latter in the back will down it immediately. Against weaker enemies like Grunts and Jackals, the sniper rifle is overkill, and since players can only carry a maximum of twenty-four rounds (four in the rifle and then twenty in reserve), the sniper rifle is best used for engaging tough targets. The Covenant equivalent, the Beam Rifle, also appears in Halo 3, but most Jackal Snipers in Halo 3 carry the Covenant Carbine instead, making them rather less lethal than their Halo 2 counterparts.
- A pair of Hunters is deployed at the end of the first area. Halo 3‘s Hunters are tougher than their Halo 2 counterparts and require multiple shots in their exposed regions to eliminate: even with a sniper rifle or beam rifle in hand, it takes at least two shots to kill them. Besides being more durable, Hunters are also faster and possess more armour plating than their predecessors. Offsetting their incredible power is the fact that Hunters are comparatively rare: only eight appear in the whole of the campaign: two during the fourth mission, four here, and then two more in the next mission.
- Once Master Chief clears out an area of anti-air Wraiths, the Forward Unto Dawn arrives and drops off a bunch of Scorpion Tanks. Unlike its Halo 2 incarnation, drivers no longer have access to a co-axial machine gun, and instead, require a gunner. Beyond this, the tank remains very powerful: its main gun can devastate almost everything. When Master Chief first boards a Scorpion and begins dealing damage with it, a marine will comment that the tank beats most anything, Wraiths and Hunters alike. With enough fire, even Phantoms can be destroyed. While players must abandon the Scorpion to reach the next section of the mission, the UNSC forces will bring another Scorpion into the next area.
- Having a Scorpion makes the fight against the Scarab much easier: the 90mm shells will make short work of the legs and force it to shut down, giving one enough to to board it and overload the reactor. Scarab fights are immensely fun, easily the biggest highlight of Halo 3 for me: there are plenty of options for how one approaches dealing with Scarabs. In this area, players can use the Scorpion, a Gauss Warthog and its coil-gun, any shoulder-fired weapons like a rocket launcher or fuel rod gun, to knock it down for boarding, and once the reactor is melted, watching the resulting explosion is immensely satisfying.
- The Cartographer lies just ahead of this point: Halo 3‘s map room looks incredible, featuring a large platform opening out to a waterfall that makes Niagara Falls look like amateur hour. Once Master Chief finds the map and locates Truth, The Arbiter appears shortly after with Johnson and they head off in hot pursuit of Truth. Being able to play Halo 3 means being able to finally walk areas I once could only watch on YouTube at 480p: when Halo 3 came out, any friends I had with an Xbox 360 were more interested in the multiplayer than the campaign, and during LAN parties, our entire focus would’ve been Team Slayer.
- When Halo 3 released in November 2007, I still vividly remember pushing my way through fall term as a student. At this point in time, one of my friends had just put together a working Ragnarok Online private server and invited a bunch of us together to try things out. I ended up rolling a mage and spent countless hours in the Payon Caves farming undead. Back then, my days consisted of studying, doing various extracurricular activities and then playing Ragnarok Online. LAN Parties were the only time I would be able to play the most cutting-edge games, and consequently, The Master Chief Collection is something that now allows me to experience what my peers experienced back in the day, albeit with a mouse-and-keyboard, at 1080p and 60 FPS.
- The Covenant is the single longest mission in Halo 3, and it’s one of the few places where Master Chief has access to the Spartan Laser, which is, on a per-shot basis, the single most powerful weapon in all of Halo 3. However, it is only limited to five shots, and in this mission, I’ve found that it is best to hang onto the weapon until one encounters and defeats the Hunters: the Spartan Laser will one-shot Wraiths, and players encounter a pair of Wraiths en route to the first shield tower. Once the Hunters are defeated, the Spartan Laser should still have a single shot left in it, and giving this to a marine prior to boarding the Hornet will allow one to have vastly improved firepower while in the skies.
- Featuring a mix of vehicular combat in wide open areas and closed corridors, the seventh Halo 3 mission shows off what Bungie is like at its finest: large squads of Covenant and transitioning between long-range and close-quarters combat at the drop of a hat means that players must switch constantly between different weapons to adapt to the situation at hand. Halo‘s two weapon only loadout means that players can’t get attached to a particular setup and change out weapons based on the combat scenario, as well as what ammunition is available. More so than the previous games, Halo 3 pushes players to manage their ammunition well and make snap decisions in when to drop a strong weapon in favour of a weaker weapon whose ammunition is more plentiful.
- Of all the vehicles I’ve flown in a Halo campaign, the Hornet is high on my list of favourite vehicles. Handling like Halo Reach‘s Falcon, the Hornet has excellent firepower, being able to make short work of other air vehicles and armour alike. The Hornet sports a .50 calibre heavy machine gun for dealing with light vehicles and infantry, as well as dual missile pods that are suited for anti-armour functions. In the temperate shores of the Ark, Master Chief engages numerous enemies en route to the last tower.
- Wraiths and Phantoms stand no chance against the Hornet’s missiles: in exchange for its versatility, the Hornet has weak armour, and can be destroyed quite easily. However, as long as one is taking care to circle a target, the Hornet should remain in good condition for most of the fight leading up to the final tower. The shield surrounding Truth’s citadel can be seen here, along with the remains of a Phantom I’d just shot down. Altogether, this mission, dubbed “The Covenant”, is probably the best of Halo 3‘s campaign missions, featuring a variety of combat options and grand settings that capture the scale of what Halo 3‘s capable of.
- Once the last tower is disabled, Master Chief boards a Scorpion and rides into a snow-filled valley. At the end of the path are a pair of Hornets: the Hornet becomes invaluable here, as two Scarabs are deployed into the valley in a last-ditch attempt to stop Master Chief and The Arbiter to keep Truth Safe. A combination of missiles and gunfire will quickly halt a Scarab, and while the most skilled of players can then manoeuvre the Hornet behind the Scarab to destroy its reactor without disembarking, I ended up dropping the Hornet on top of the Scarab, disembarked to take the reactor out and then boarded the Hornet again to deal with the next Scarab.
- I believe that, during the Insider Flighting, I lost my Hornet after taking the first Scarab and was forced to deal with the remaining one with shoulder-fired weapons. Here, I circle the first Scarab as it fires on me with its main gun: the Scarab gun might not be as powerful as its Halo 2 incarnation, but it still packs a punch and can pull a Hornet out of the skies in seconds. In Halo 2, I did end up going for the Scarab Gun and Soccer Ball achievements: in a conversation with a friend, we agreed that achievements are for folks who really want to get the most milage out of their game. Said friend had been completing some of Halo 3‘s trickiest assignments on Legendary difficulty for fun, and I admire that dedication – with my schedule and habits, I don’t see myself doing that any time soon.
- After the two Scarabs are eliminated, Master Chief and The Arbiter enter the Citadel, clearing away the Brutes between them and Truth. They are aided by Gravemind and The Flood, but once Truth is dead, Gravemind betrays them, and the pair must fight their way back outside. The narrow bridges leading out of the Citadel make survival tricky, but somewhere along the way, I picked up an invincibility power-up and used it to push through the last section, bringing the longest mission of Halo 3 to an end.
- Of all the levels in Halo 3, none are more unsettling than the penultimate mission. By this point in time, High Charity has been changed beyond recognition, filled with endless halls of Flood biomass. Having crashed into a lake, most of the familiar cityscape have been submerged. The doorways and portals are now sphincter-like in appearance, and the entire level was very unsettling to wander throughout. I’m betting that Halo drew inspiration from Alien in some design aesthetics: Sevastopol Station in Alien: Isolation began taking on a very similar look as the Xenomorph begins creating a nest of sorts to spawn new aliens.
- Like Halo 2, the Energy Sword is the best weapon to use against the Flood: a single slash is enough to destroy a Combat form and Pure forms. Swords are found in moderate abundance in High Charity, along with incendiary grenades and even a flamethrower: fire is immensely effective against the Flood, and a single grenade will burn a tank Pure form in no time at all. Unlike Halo 2, if the Energy Sword is not available, the shotgun is an acceptable substitute, as it can now disintegrate Flood bodies, as well.
- It is very easy to get lost in the halls of what remains of High Charity, and I got lost in the labyrinthine tunnels of Flood biomass. There is, however, a bit of a trick: the Flood will stop spawning in areas Master Chief has already cleared, so one knows they’re headed in the right direction if there’s more Flood to fight. One thing to be mindful of are the Flood pods on the walls: when destroyed, they spray Infection forms everywhere, and moreover, are camouflaged rather well with the other biomass. In the heat of a firefight, when bullets are flying this way and that, these pods can make a tricky situation worse, so it’s worth checking one’s fire before shooting.
- When Master Chief finds Cortana, she’s a little worse for wear, having endured the Gravemind’s countless intrusions into her mind. Seeing Master Chief helps her to regain her composure, and she reveals that she’s got a copy of the Halo activation Index, and when the Gravemind realises what’s happened, he sends hordes of Flood to stop the pair. In order to buy some time, Cortana proposes destroying High Charity’s main reactor, bringing to mind how Master Chief and Cortana destroyed Installation 04’s Pulse Generators in Halo: Combat Evolved.
- The resulting explosion will destroy all of High Charity’s interior, leaving only the outer hull. From here, Master Chief escapes on a Pelican bound for Installation 08, a reconstructed Halo that replaces Installation 04. The Gravemind survives the destruction of High Charity and is attempting to reestablish itself on Installation 08. The final mission thus becomes clear: activate the new Halo ring and destroy Gravemind for all time.
- However, after arriving on the snowy wastes of Installation 08, it becomes clear that reaching the control room and activating Halo is not a trivial task: an entire army of Flood stand between Master Chief, The Arbiter and the control room. This canyon brings to mind the setting of Halo: Combat Evolved, but with no Banshee available, one must fight through the legion of Flood. Here, the best setup would be an assault rifle and Energy Sword, and on my play-through, I found it more effectual to only engage anything that stood in front of me, rather than anything that moves.
- Master Chief and The Arbiter must wait for The Monitor to unlock the door leading into the Control Room this time around, and a seemingly-endless stream of Flood await both. On the ramps leading up to the door, there’s a flamethrower, but since the flamethrower will reduce one’s movement rate, it’s not an option I would choose. Instead, it is possible to pick it up and give it to Johnson: the flamethrower is the ultimate weapon against the Flood, and even a quick burst, consuming 2-3 units of fuel, will ignite and kill the tank Pure forms with ease. By this point in the campaign, I’ve gotten used to the controls for dual-wielding, and while it’s not as effective as using a two-handed weapon, it can still be fun. Dual wielding is actually a fair option against the Flood: if one manages their reloads well, they can more or less fire continuously.
- The Monitor reveals that Installation 08 is not ready to fire, and when Johnson makes to override him, is fatally wounded. In turn, Master Chief destroys the Monitor using the Spartan Laser, the only weapon in Halo 3 capable of dealing any damage to him. Johnson’s death hit the Halo community hard: tough talking, reliable and sporting a big personality, he was portrayed as well-respected amongst the UNSC marines and for the player-base, was a source of amusing jokes and one-liners. Once the Monitor is done, it’s time to escape Installation 08, and players will get to pass through familiar sights that were seen in Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Assault on the Control Room.
- Yesterday evening, I finally had clear skies in my region, after a tornado warning was issued during the afternoon and a massive cumulonimbus cloud over the city centre began rotating. As the sun set, it was as though there was no storm at all, and so, I decided to see if I could catch a glimpse of Comet C/2020 F3 (better known as NEOWISE). Media outlets had advertised the comet as being visible to the naked eye, with an apparent magnitude of around 1.0 (while not as bright as a star, it should still have been easy to find). Such was not the case: when I got out there, NEOWISE was at magnitude 7, not visible without binoculars. I only managed to find it using a star chart, and after star hopping with my 10×50 binoculars, saw an underwhelming smudge. This was disappointing, and I’ll be looking for another shot at seeing it as weather favours.
- While NEOWISE might’ve been a disappointment, Halo 3 has been anything but: the final mission is an absolute trill to play through. In a callback to Halo: Combat Evolved‘s driving mission, Halo 3‘s last segment features a race to the Forward Unto Dawn as Installation 08 begins collapsing from the premature firing. The scaffolding that forms the path for Master Chief and The Arbiter to travel along will begin falling apart. Cortana’s countdown and urgent tones are not for show: even though there isn’t a countdown time, there’s a rush to the finish, since the disintegrating scaffolding is set to explode and open up as scripted events on a timer.
- With the Forward Unto Dawn in range, Master Chief prepares to make one final jump, bringing the gameplay of Halo 3 to an end. For me, this means finally finishing the fight as I’d longed to do since 2007. I had fun every step of the way through Halo 3‘s campaign, and it appears I’ve also timed this post nicely – yesterday, Microsoft revealed gameplay of Halo Infinite, which sees Master Chief working to save humanity from the Banished, a fanatical Covenant splinter group who’ve found a Halo ring and intend to activate it in revenge. The footage looks beautiful, and the game looks like it is was Bungie originally intended Halo: Combat Evolved to be. Set for a holiday 2020 launch, Halo Infinite will be available on PC, as well as Xbox One. This brings my latest Halo post to an end, and as we head towards the end of July, I’ll be looking to do a talk on Warlords of New York, as well as Oregairu Kan after three episodes.
At its conclusion, Halo 3 answers the questions left open by Halo 2: Truth is dead, and with this, the Covenant do not pose a serious threat to humanity, having splintered apart. Gravemind has been eradicated, and the Flood appear to have been neutralised, no longer troubling all life in the known galaxy. For players in 2007, Halo 3 was a well-deserved conclusion to a journey that spanned some six years, and in The Master Chief Collection, Halo 3 is a welcome addition. Despite lacking any of the remaster work that went into Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, Halo 3 still looks and feels excellent. Granted, some of the textures look decidedly dated, but beyond this, the lighting and effects in Halo 3 holds up to this day. Overall, it is easy to see why Halo 3 is considered to be one of the best games of all time: besides decisively closing off the Original Trilogy of Halo, gameplay and engine improvements make Halo 3 the most refined Halo game of its time, demonstrating a culmination of the lessons learned from Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved. Having now gone through Halo 3 myself, a meagre thirteen years after the original released to PC, I definitely appreciate why people consider Halo 3 to be the apex of the Halo franchise. While representing the end of one era, Halo 3 would also foreshadow a continuation: players tenacious enough to finish the game on the legendary difficulty were treated to a cinematic of the Foreward Unto Dawn drifting towards an unknown planet that was dubbed the “Legendary Planet”. This hinted at the idea that Master Chief’s journey was not yet finished, and until 2012’s Halo 4 continued the story, the Legendary Planet was subject to much speculation even as Bungie released Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach. I am immensely glad to have had the chance to go through Halo 3 for myself now, and at this point in time, only Halo 3 ODST and Halo 4 remain. The former is to be released in the very near future, being a side-story of sorts that follows a rookie ODST in New Mombassa following Regret’s jump to Delta Halo, and I am looking forwards to finally stepping into a game whose unique atmosphere and soundtrack brings to mind memories of my first term as an undergraduate student.