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Halo 3: The Master Chief At Peak Performance

There's a
There's a "30-second rule" in Halo 3: Players should face tactical situations every 30 seconds. (Microsoft/ign.com)

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Regardless of whether you're a gamer, you've probably heard of the Halo franchise. Now comes Halo 3 and its opening-day take of more than $170 million. It was described as the most successful day in entertainment history -- beating out any "Spider-Man" movie opening and yes, even the last "Harry Potter" book.

Was the hype justified? The answer is a resounding yes. The game exceeds expectations and continues to amaze with each play. Bungie Studios and Microsoft have created something truly special.

Halo 3 picks up right after Halo 2's much-criticized cliffhanger ending. Players again take on the role of Master Chief, this time taking the fight to Earth. With newfound allies such as the Arbiter at your side, players unite with various Earth forces to prevent the Covenant from activating floating space weapons known as Halos, which would destroy all sentient life in the galaxy. We could go on, but honestly, you should experience it.

Halo 3 doesn't have the longest of Campaign modes (veteran gamers should be able to finish it in about 10 hours), but it is incredibly deep. Although it doesn't offer new game-play mechanics for the first-person shooter genre, it manages to create drama and excitement at every turn. Bungie calls it the "30-second rule," where the gamer will experience a tactical engagement, vehicular battle or epic fight across a battlefield every 30 seconds. Players can play through the Campaign with up to four players, cooperatively.

New to Halo 3 is "equipment." These deployable specialty items perform various functions -- all of which can be extremely effective in battle. For example, the Bubble Shield provides a protective shield for a short period. The Grav Lift lets you jump to higher areas with ease. Our favorite is the Energy Drain. When used, it drains everyone's protective shields and leaves them vulnerable to attack. It also stops vehicles dead in their tracks.

Although it's fun to use the new equipment in the Campaign, it really makes an impact in multi-player. This is where Halo 3 shines. Halo 2 set the bar high for online multi-player gaming. With its excellent Party system, you could hop from game to game with players from around the world. Thankfully, that has been brought to Halo 3. The typical game modes are Slayer (Deathmatch) and Team Slayer (Team Deathmatch) plus games such as Capture the Flag and Territories. Other modes include VIP, Oddball, Assault, Infection, Juggernaut and King of the Hill. Up to 16 players can play together in online multi-player games.

A key new feature is Saved Films, which enables you to play back your experience (single or multi-player) like a video on screen. You can manipulate the camera, go frame-by-frame and see the action from any angle.

Visually, Halo 3 is a masterpiece. From its beautiful snow-covered mountain vistas to the lush jungle landscapes and war-torn urban areas, Halo 3 has a strong artistic style. Coupled with fantastic lighting and other visual effects, Halo never looked better.

-- Tom Ham

Halo 3 Mature; Xbox 360 ($60 for regular version, $80 for the Limited Edition and $130 for the Legendary Edition, which includes a Master Chief helmet) Microsoft Game Studios/Bungie Studios Halo 3 Mature; Xbox 360 ($60 for regular version, $80 for the Limited Edition and $130 for the Legendary Edition, which includes a Master Chief helmet) Microsoft Game Studios/Bungie Studios

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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