A Few Hours with Halo 3

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find an email from Bungie in my inbox, complete with the Halo 3 beta code that I won months ago and which meant several things. Firstly I could get downloading early, and secondly I’ll actually be able to get playing today. Ha!

Very brief impressions is that it looks nice in HD – colourful and sharp, but still needing a bit of work on the occasional hiccups in the framerate – and plays like Halo. Going online, especially against a group who’ve been playing for a while now, is always something of a trial by fire, and inevitably I spent a couple of games running around like a headless chicken and being sniped from who-knows-where. I’d be lying if I said I still wasn’t getting killed fairly frequently, in fact.

Nonetheless, I like what I’m seeing. Some early thoughts:

  • It looks better in motion than in shots. Certain things are still clearly not final (water effects, for example) but things are already nice and solid. Halo 2 seems almost unplayable now.
  • Brilliant sound. You can really hear distant battles going on (the mounted guns sound weirdly like trains, though) and you’ll often be hit before you hear the report.
  • Valhalla will be a more than competent replacement for Blood Gulch/Coagulation. It’s a great map.
  • The new/old assault rifle is a much better all-round starting weapon than the SMG. You’re still at a disadvantage against someone with a better gun obviously, but you’re far less emasculated.
  • RB replacing X takes a bit of getting used to for performing actions. Once you’ve got it, though, it makes things more flexible.
  • The equipment is definitely cool. Bubble shield has its uses, the power drainer – drains shields and disables vehicles in its blast radius – is invaluable for attacking a flag/hill/VIP, and a mine placed at the landing point for the man cannon is guaranteed hilarity. The portable jump pad is only used in one situation in the beta and seems the least flexible, but we’ll see.
  • The new weapons are all quite good. I’m still a bit worried that the laser will be overpowered once people work it out but they all have their caveats. The spike grenade is awesome in tight corridors. The needler might as well be new: it’s a monster that can take someone down with one ‘clip’, and thankfully can’t be dual-wielded now.
  • I’ve had quite a lot of lag, which I’m willing to put down to it not having worked out who makes the best host yet, as in Halo 2. This has the same painful quirk in which you’ll mysteriously warp back a few steps over and over again when you’re lagging, which drives me mad.

By far the best part, though, is deliberately sending invites to people who don’t have the beta. They think it’s just as hilarious as I do!

Above all, the game just feels right. It feels like Halo, in other words. This thing is going to make the wait until 26th September even harder.

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