Ten years ago one of the biggest games of all-time came out. This game was the culmination of three years of anticipation; years of fan speculation, spectacular marketing and development time led to this game. At the time it was the biggest entertainment launch of all-time, beating out juggernaut films like the Spider-Man and Star Wars series. This game is Halo 3. It was one of the most influential games of the last ten years. It revolutionized multiplayer games on consoles and touched the lives of millions. It was the perfect storm; a game that knocked almost everything out of the park. In my opinion, there’s never been another game like it.
Halo 3 was the subject of a brilliant marketing campaign, one of the best the video game industry has ever seen. The game was treated just like a Hollywood blockbuster, it was a true event. The game’s marketing kicked off with a trailer that aired during the Super Bowl, games rarely have Super Bowl trailers to this day, and never slowed down. Shortly after the Super Bowl, Halo 3 had a public beta that came with copies of Crackdown. A brilliant move that got gamers addicted to Halo 3 early and got them to buy Crackdown.
The game’s marketing culminated with the “Believe” campaign. “Believe” was a series of ads that focused on Halo 3’s story; this included live action videos of Marines recounting the events of the game and praising the Master Chief. But the crème de la crème of the marketing was a brilliant ad simply titled “Believe”. It was a stunning stop motion short showcasing a battle between the game’s heroes, the UNSC, and its villains, the Covenant. Everything about this ad is fantastic; the sculptures, the music, the pacing. It is easily one of the best pieces of marketing ever.
Halo 3 launched on September 25, 2007. Thousands of people lined up to get the game at midnight; news channels covered the game’s crazy launch, there was no escaping the hype behind Halo 3. It grossed $300 million dollars in its first week. One million people played the game on Xbox Live in its first twenty four hours; the game would remain number one on Xbox Live for years, briefly being dethroned by the likes of Gears of War 2 and Modern Warfare 2. It would ultimately sell 14.5 million copies. It was a true phenomenon, but it was more than just hype. There was an amazing game here.
Microsoft and Bungie spent a lot of time marketing Halo 3’s campaign and for good reason. This truly was the epic finale to the Halo trilogy that fans were promised. There were no disappointments here; Halo 3’s campaign is truly amazing. The game’s story is such a thrill ride from start to finish, there’s never a dull moment as Master Chief and the Arbiter race across the galaxy to finish the fight. The story solves all of the hanging threads left by Halo 2, while being both satisfying and emotional. The stakes are high in this game and you’ll feel those stakes countless times throughout. Halo 3 has one of the best endings in any video game too. The ending has the right amount of victory and sadness combined; you feel a perfect mix of accomplishment and sadness that you’ve finished the fight. The sadness comes both from what happens in the story and that you’ve finished a truly great story. Few other trilogies have left me feeling this way at the end.
But it’s just not the story that’s great, Halo 3’s campaign is just as good to play as its story. Each level is finely crafted so that you never get bored replaying them; there’s a great level of gameplay diversity from level to level. One mission will you have defending a base from an onslaught of Covenant forces, the next will take you on a road trip across the savannahs of Africa and another will have you attacking the gigantic Scarabs as they try to stop you. There’s never a dull moment in this game. But perhaps it’s most memorably segment is the finale. Master Chief and the Arbiter escaping an exploding Halo ring in Warthogs; it’s the ending to the original Halo but amped up to one hundred and it works so well. The level is made even better by the fantastic score by Marty O’Donell.
The score adds a sense of grandness to the entire game. It almost feels like certain segments were built around his music, as gameplay and music blend together perfectly. O’Donell’s score is so uniquely Halo as well, there’s no way to confuse with the music of other games. Halo is renown for having some of the best music in video games, I personally think Halo 3 has the series’ premiere soundtrack. It builds upon the various themes and motifs of the first two games and adds even more fantastic music; the music is just so bombastic and passionate. Halo 3’s soundtrack is pure art.
But the thing Bungie did best with Halo 3, the thing that kept people playing for years was the multiplayer. Halo 3 houses the best and most robust multiplayer I’ve ever seen in a game. The multiplayer is both perfect for casual and competitive play, a feat most games are unable to accomplish.
The game’s maps are all perfectly designed; thoughtfully crafted to maximum both competivity and fun. Even the game’s lesser maps (Hello, Isolation) are better than the majority of maps in other games. The maps are all so memorable and unique too; each map offers a unique design and theme to it all. There’s maps in UNSC based, maps in Covenant and Forerunner territory, maps in random settings such as a fishing bay. It really gives the game personality and more lively. The lack of setting diversity is a problem that faces more recent Halo games. Some of my best memories of Halo 3’s matchmaking was playing it competitively. Getting a group of friends together to take the game seriously was always a ton of fun. Each teammate would start the match off rushing to get a power weapon, before reuniting to take on the other teams. Communication was the key to winnin matches; letting people know where someone was when you died, timing the weapon respawns, requesting back-up. Each match was an intense battle and getting that victory was always so rewarding. There’s a reason that Halo 3 was the face of competitive gaming for several years. Bungie ensured that Halo 3 was a fantastic competitive game.
On the other hand, there was the casual side of things. Playing the game’s matchmaking and just goofing around was always a good time. But Bungie introduced several new ways to enhance the game’s casual experience. Through Halo 3’s custom games and Forge maps, the Halo community was able to make the game as crazy as they wanted. Players were alter the game’s settings to a variety of fun and goofy ways. There were able to customize map so to fit their own visions, to make their own unique gameplay experinces. The several new takes on the Infections gametype like Fat Kid, Duck Hunt, Cops & Robbers and I Am Legend (among so many others) along with other game types like Bumper Cars kept fans coming back for years. Halo 3’s custom games were almost like a completely different game inside your copy. There was something for everyone here.
Most developers at the time would’ve launched their games and let it be to start on their next project. But not Bungie. They were really but the start of the post-launch support trend that’s become an integral part of the industry. Bungie supported the game with new maps for two whole years; each map pack brought several great maps and even more amazing memories with them. They often had “Double XP weekends” with unique themes and gameplay twists to them, my personal favorite being the Valentine’s Day weekends Team Doubles playlist.
Bungie even kept the most hardcore fans up to the date with weekly blog posts. Every Friday they would post a recap of the week’s events both for the game and within the studio. The posts were always filled with humor and love for the fans. It was one of my favorite ways to end the week.
Halo 3 was made even better by its community. Not only the brilliant folks behind the game’s custom games and maps. But people who took their passion for Halo outside of the game. The fans who created countless pieces of fan art, both through traditional means and through the game’s screen shot system. The fans who created montage videos of their most exciting gameplay moments. But my favorite was from the Machinima makers. Fans who took the game’s Theater mode and used it to create their own stories. Red vs Blue, Arby n the Chief, Matchmaking, Pre-Game Lobby, Marlin the Elite and countless more. These people took Halo 3 took the game to tell their stories or to poke fun at the community and gaming in general. It was a diverse range of creativity that I haven’t seen come from a game since; it really made Halo 3 seem like more than just a game, it was a living, breathing community.
For me personally, Halo 3 was the game that really sparked my love for gaming. At the time I was only twelve years old, I casually played video games but weren’t too big into them. But then I saw the commercials and trailers for Halo 3. Something just clicked when I saw this game, I needed it. Thus, I got a Xbox 360 with a copy of Halo 3; it was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten. In fact, it changed my life. I spent hundreds of hours in this game playing this game, exploring every facet of it. Going through the campaign countless time to unlock all of the achievements so I can get all of the multiplayer armor. Grinding my way in ranked matches, trying to improve how I play. Accepting random custom game invites and staying up until 3 am playing with full lobbies of people I didn’t know. Meeting tons of awesome people, some of which became my best friends to this day. Said friends started expanding my horizons and introducing to other games that I’d fall in love with.
Quite simply put, Halo 3 is my favorite game of all-time. I love everything about the game, it’s near perfect. I still occasionally play Halo 3, to this day and it doesn’t no feel like it’s aged at all; this is more than nostalgia talking. Despite my love of gaming, I’ll never play a game that tops Halo 3. It was more than just a game, it was a gaming phenomenon that helped shaped a part of my life and many others lives. Thanks for all the memories Bungie, it was a blast finishing the fight.