The Third Time
If only this strange illness were confined to my cohort, Gabriel! If only it did not creep, pooling and leaping to the nearby host, there to deliver its terrible payload!
There are many, many, many previews of Halo 3 - which is to say , the Halo 3 beta, which is not Halo 3 and isn’t even the complete multiplayer mode. We are Halo detractors, and famously so. We installed our pre-release key on Friday with the idea that we could hoist this holy beast upon the altar, there to perform the old rituals. With increasing distress, we played round after round, hungry to find fault. Here is what we found instead:
Halo has always needed more buttons, apparently, and it has found them: the bumpers have improved my play experience tremendously. They are context sensitive in their operation, so that I can pick up a weapon in my right hand by holding the right bumper, or vice versa. When holding a two handed weapon, the left bumper becomes the button you use to switch grenade types, because you don’t actually need such a button when you can’t throw them anyhow. Hopping into a vehicle is also done by holding the right bumper, as is stealing a vehicle. I was worried about stacking this much functionality - the A button in Gears comes to mind - but in practice it’s very precise.
In The Theater Lobby, you can view your battle films. As currently delivered, it’s fairly standard - you can’t really "direct" it, as the final version will allow. Each player has twenty five megs of space on Live to upload these movies, and a fifteen minute Slayer match came up to about seven and a half megs. The interface to accomplish this is remarkably clean, and uploads them in the background while you play. You can select any player in your room and view their uploaded movies, queuing them for download in-between matches. It’s an old feature - Gabe and I used to watch Quake demos, for example - but its execution here is robust. The Theater Lobby allows for only one person to watch films, but it is a Lobby, and it makes me wonder if watching these films as a group is planned for the final.
What’s more, boldface text.
Halo 3 will populate your friends’ tabs in the dashboard with Halo specific data while you play, giving you options to check out their information or join their party directly. It’s integration right down to the metal, altering the UI options based on the game. Like Halo 2, the sequel clearly intends to be a platform showpiece. I understand that the gameplay feels the same to most people who have played it, but Halo 2 didn’t resonate with us the way this does. I will continue to analyze this in an effort to provide you with something useful.
There are some things about it that are still… Halo, for lack of a better term, like push-to-talk team chat. Proximity voice can create interesting gameplay, such as the interception of enemy strategy - I have no beef with it. But for genuine team communion, which I will admit to you is my entire purpose, a free channel for absolutely dynamic communication is a must. It’s better than it was, certainly - any press of the dpad will invoke it - but is bandwidth at such a premium that I can’t freely communicate with my own team, as I was perfectly able to do eight years ago? And if death only lasts a few seconds, I don’t understand the purpose of muting dead players. I assume it’s some punitive fraternity thing, like hazing.
In a single night of Halo 3 beta, I have already been called a faggot. Perhaps the insults are also in beta; I expect insults of greater power and ornamentation in the retail release.