Halo 3: Revisiting 13 Years Later

Halo 3 was an immediate story follow up to Halo 2's cliffhanger ending. It was the first Halo game for the Xbox 360 and the first time most saw Halo in HD.

Halo 3 in 2007

While Halo 3 was hotly anticipated as one of the big Xbox 360 games I don't think it ever quite hit the zenith that Halo 2 did. After people started playing Halo 2 there was a bit of dissatisfaction that set in, much of it was around the abrupt ending but I think it was also that there were not as many obvious places to take the franchise. Halo CE was amazing but flawed, there were lots of teases and Halo 2 delivered on the them. Halo 3 would just be a follow up, albeit on a better console. This makes sense as Bungie had endured immense crunch to finish Halo 2 and as a result it feels like a more scaled back effort. The main gimmick of the 3rd game is the addition of equipment. You can hold 1 special item, similar to Halo CE's powerups to use when you see fit. The game's main antagonists are the Brutes and we see them a little more fleshed out. Other large changes came to multiplayer (it's odd that this blog is so focused on single player but Halo is primarily a multiplayer series). It added 4 player co-op, a very robust replay system that let you rewind and free camera around the match as you please and Forge, which is a sort of multiplayer mode with some sandbox elements such as the ability to move objects around.


Halo 3 doesn't have quite the laundry list of major changes that Halo 2 did but there are a lot of nice things.

Sierra 117

Something different for a change, the first level starts in a jungle. Immediately it's apparent that Legendary is a lot easier in Halo 3. Enemies miss a little more, and while there's still snipers most of them have carbines instead of beam rifles (though a single beam rifle shot is still death). Brutes have changed a bit, they now wear armor and when it takes enough damage it pops off, Ghouls and Ghosts style. This also makes things a little easier as it's not critical you do as much damage as possible before the shields go back up and makes more of the weapons viable. Speaking of which the Assault Rifle is back and it still sucks. There's also a the Brute Spiker which is a fairly fast firing and powerful single hand weapon, kinda like a straight firing Needler. Grunts have also learned a few new tricks like climbing and occasionally going suicidal with a grenade rush. They also go down faster but to balance there's a lot more of them. Brute Shots aren't an instant kill anymore and occasionally brutes might kill themselves or others with the explosions. So everything just works to make things less frustrating without being too easy. Anyway, the level itself is unremarkable. You navigate through a jungle and into what seems to be a dam. Occasionally more Covenant fly in on downgraded Phantoms. Instead of the side guns they now have manned (convenanted?) turrets so even with small arms you can disable the side cannons though the front is still as annoying as ever. Enemies now just jump out the side so you can get a few shots in as they dismount. At the end you get to fight a high level Brute with a gravity maul, similar to Tartarus' and you get to use it! It's like a sword except slower and deals splash damage. Overall, a nice fun introduction to the game.

Crow's Nest

Ah hah! This is the base-under-attack level, they just moved it to the second map. As with Halo CE and Halo 2 you're moving around a military installation trying to fight off invaders. This time the level has a confusing layout. Instead of moving through a bunch of doors on a linear path, you bracktrack a little bit as new waves come in. I guess it's to make it seem more like you're defending something? It's easy to get turned around and have to get your bearings again. Perhaps the most memorable part of this level is the Brute corridor. You face off against what is like 10 Brutes including a chieftain. You need to come prepared with some extra ammo since those traitorous marines lock the door behind you. You also get a new enemy: Jet-pack Brutes. Unlike the Elites which can fly, these brutes simply make big jumps but they are lightly armored and easily killed. There's plenty of new equipment too like cloaking, deployable cover, drain and flare. You also get more chances to pickup and use turrets which while not exactly super useful is a lot of fun. At the end you start a bomb with an infinite-until-you-hit-the-checkpoint fuse so you don't need to rush even if they tell you to.

Tsavo Highway

This is a vehicle level and it's great. It opens up very quickly and despite being a bit overwhelming to figure out where to go the level design gently guides you. Marines are much better drivers and in general they stay alive a lot longer than in Halo 2. Still, I only made it about 1.5 battles before the Warthog was totaled and even though you have the Halo battle theme pumping it's not as cool when you are slowly plodding along on foot. You'll start seeing the new Shade turret which is more round and breaks apart when shot. You can also shoot a charged plasma blast to disable it. At one point you get stuck in a building under siege by about 15 Brutes, thankfully they give you an entire rack of battle rifles. This is also the first time you meet the redesigned Wraith tank. It's now a two seater, with a driver and a gunner for the small turret. They're also a little easier to deal with as you can kill the driver without destroying or mounting the tank. You also get sniper Brutes which seem much less adept than their Jackal counterparts. And finally we get the Brute Chopper, a cool looking but very awkward to drive motorcycle. I actually found the later vehicle portions easier without the Chopper as you're less likely to get killed if you use cover since the AI can't drive them super well either.

The Storm

Fantastic level. You fight in a few drained lake beds with a very cool looking background. This level is mostly vehicles with some on foot transitions between arenas. You first start out with a Ghost which can't really take a lot of damage, again it's a little easier to survive on foot. You are also introduced to the Anti-Air Wraith. For the most part they are preoccupied as there's a faked battle going on overhead. You have to take them down plus a few normal Wraiths which can be difficult as Wraiths still aren't the easiest thing to kill and one miscalculation means you're dead. In the second lake bed you get to use the Mongoose ATV which is cool but hard to control and your rocket launching buddy needs to stay alive. After a bit you fight a Scarab and it's actually an excellent fight. The Scarab is now a real enemy instead of a set-piece and will move around and target you. Although it's beam cannon got a major downgrade, what could cut through a steel structure in Halo 2 is basically a glorified Hunter cannon, one shot will not kill you. You need to shoot rockets at it to break the joints so that it sits down and you can board it. Though onboard is pretty dangerous as enemies can flank you from both directions. I found it easier to get a lot of shots from the outside to make sure most of the riders are dead before boarding. Then you punch the giant self-destruct button (who designed this thing anyway?) and it blows up. Very cool. The rest of the level cannot live up-to that fight, you go through some warehouse and then to a giant space cannon. After clearing the enemies below the cannon you can shoot the exhaust port to blow it up.


The Flood are back. For the most part they are easier, going down with fewer shots and can now be killed with a melee. The popcorn are a non-issue now and there aren't exploders. You fight your way in reverse through the warehouse and over toward the ship. In general it's a run-of-the-mill Flood level. You do get a flamethrower at one point. It's a little weird to use because while it does kill Flood in a single shot it takes a second or two so you still need to be sure they won't get a swipe in on you. Toward the end of the mission you meet a new transforming type of Flood that are absolutely annoying. They take a lot of damage and can transform in hulking beast that get in close or these nasty spike flinging sniper pods. The former is easily killed with a hammer or grenade, but the latter takes a lot of ammo to kill and they have really long range and a fast rate of fire meaning there's not a lot of good weapons to deal with them. I just did a lot of ducking behind cover and dual plasma rifles, tedious but it eventually worked.

The Ark

Another solid vehicle level. The first half of the level is outside in a desert, you can use a warthog or whatever else you find to traverse. At one point the road forks and if you go the wrong way you're just called over to the other direction (but there will be new enemies when you re-traverse it.) After a big fight with an anti-air Wraith which may actually attack you with slow moving plasma this time, a carrier will drop off some Scorpions. The Scorpion like the Wraith now has a gunner seat so you don't control the machine gun anymore. Your convey rolls over to the other side of the map blowing stuff up as it goes. It feels pretty cool even though your partners do nothing and you can blow up whole Phantoms now. Then you go indoors to the library and thankfully you don't have to deal with Sentinels, they're friendly. You fight another Scarab but with tank support and a gauss cannon Warthog it goes down a little quicker and is still a fun fight. After fighting through another building you'll face a huge group of Brutes outside including a chieftain, jet-pack Brutes with brute shots, Fuel-rod Cannon Brutes and even some special-ops Brutes that come at you cloaked from behind and jam your radar. During this part you'll gain access to the final grenade type: flame grenades that start a fire in one place that damages enemies. They can be pretty powerful if you land a direct hit.

The Covenant

This feels like a classic Halo level. Kinda long and a bit repetitive. You start by assaulting some Covenant on a beach with the new Spartan Laser which is an anti-vehicle weapon that charges up to deliver an instant blast to whatever it was locked on to. Then you go into a building to fight some Brutes to disable the power generator. Well it turns out that one team failed and you have to disable another power generator. But in order to get over to the other building you're given a new aerial vehicle: the Hornet. Hornets are fun because they are like better banshees. Instead of awkward turning you can move in 6 directions and directly control the up and down. Plus they get accurate machine guns and lock-on missiles. With this you can make short work of banshees and ground targets like anti-air Wraiths (why were these such a problem for the humans in earlier missions?). You run up another tower and then, surprise! Gravemind wants you to remember the Flood are still a thing. So you fight some and then head to the center part of the landmass and you get a tank to do it. As you approach a giant basin you get another chance to fly to hornet to kill .... 2 Scarabs! The Hornet is a bit hard to use against them but you can strafe fast enough they can't normally hit you with the anti-air turret. Every time I downed the first Scarab something would destroy my Hornet making number 2 that much harder. Luckily there was still a tank parked on the ridge. After awkwardly sniping the leg the other one went down. But we're still not finished. Some story sequences play out and then you must rush forward on a bridge with the Flood as your ally. Finally, some good comes out of these things. And in the twist everyone saw coming, the Flood then turn on you. Fight your way through the Flood that just helped you the other direction on the bridge and end the level.


Well they couldn't all be winners. This is Halo 3's obligatory Flood level and it's a slog as ever. You don't have any buddies either so things are generally a little more dangerous when you get rushed by a pack of Flood, there's more exploders and the popcorn are now more of a problem. You also face a lot more of the transforming Flood. As I found out the carbine does not damage them or the exploders at all which is confusing since: it did in Halo 2, other Flood don't have this problem and there's no indication other than they don't die after a full clip. So we modify our strategy a little to use dual Plasma Rifles as that seems to be reasonably powerful against them when they turn into annoying needle pods. The whole level is a dark and somewhat hard to navigate Covenant ship covered in flesh, not too interesting. You'll probably run out of good ammo and be scrounging for whatever you can find but at least the sword lasts a while and can one hit nearly all Flood. Eventually you reach Cortana and have to fight your way out with an obligatory overload the reactor sequence.


The level is a nice send-off to the trilogy. It start with you assaulting the control room in a nice homage to Halo: CE in a winter-y wasteland trying to climb up the spire. The Flood have somehow figured out how to propel themselves into space without ships (High Charity exploded so it must just be Flood from the Ark?). However it works they come raining down as you make your way up. Then you have a little defense sequence because Flood aren't allowed in the control room but the monitor just leaves the doors open for them to come in anyway. Then you are betrayed again and have to destroy him once and for all. He gets a new laser and force-push attack that would have come in handy in Halo CE. After you blow him up, you get in a Warthog and start the escape sequence. In a call back to Halo CE's the Maw, you use the Warthog to navigate an exploding landscape, this time it's a partially constructed Halo ring with floor panels falling out you need to avoid. At last you make your final jump to the ship and end the game.

Final Thoughts

Halo 3 is altogether the best Halo game thus far to play on Legendary. It's much more fair and balanced, non-precision weapons are usable, vehicles are mostly usable, friendlies stay alive longer and actually help, there's far less instant death scenarios. The Brutes tend to be a little less frustrating to fight than Elites because you don't have a tiny window in which to defeat them, pop their armor once and they only have a headshot left. I probably died less in the totality of Halo 3 than I did on Halo 2's Gravemind alone. It's still not easy like Heroic is on the other games though. The interactive set-pieces are my favorite part. Being able to shoot down Phantoms with a tank, or fight a Scarab with a rocket launcher feel good because they aren't just solid chunks of geometry anymore, it gives it a sense of realism. Most of the levels in Halo 3 are good levels with interesting settings. They are shorter than the levels in Halo CE and Halo 2 but this is usually a good thing as some of those overstayed their welcome. Overall, they feel more like the Silent Cartographer, short but sweet. I could have really done without the transforming Flood though.

The additions weren't really much though. The brute weapons and equipment didn't add anything. I almost never used equipment partly because it was unnecessary but partly because I didn't see the point. Bubble shield only stops the action, it rarely does anything helpful, cloaking is less useful because the enemy count is so large, you might kill one but the others will kill you. The new vehicles were fun at least, like the Hornet and Mongoose. The Brute vehicles less so as they were just awkward replacements for the Ghost and Warthog (in fact I never actually used this one). The gravity maul is *chef kiss* though.

The series is a bit of a mess with storytelling. I often had trouble understanding where things were or why things were happening. Why was the Ark on Earth and then actually it's not? Why do the Flood always know where to show up? What is Gravemind and why was it on one of the Halos? Why does it like poetry? Why do the Forerunner keep a supply of Flood on the Halos? Why can't Cortana use wireless? Why do the main humans get captured multiple times instead of killed? Surely any old human can active the rings. None of it makes any sense, it's all just for gameplay convenience which is fine but I can't see myself taking it seriously.

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