Wow. Uh… this got long, so settle in. Or just skim until you find a heading you like.
What’s the Story?
The entire Halo array of deadly rings is on standby, ready to fire from the Ark. The entire Covenant army is attacking Africa, trying to excavate something from under a mountain. Turns out it’s a portal to the Ark.
The Flood arrive on earth, so humanity burns half of Africa to stop the spread of space-zombies. The Master Chief and his new friends the Elites go through the portal, onto the Ark, and confronts the Prophet of Truth. The Flood follow them. They find a new Halo ring to replace the one the Chief blew up in Halo 1. They fire it, destroy the Ark and the Flood.
What’s the Problem?
They ran out of time on Halo 2, so Halo 3 is actually what was going to be half a game stretched out to a full game.
Probably the biggest problem I have with Halo 3 is that Halo 2 seemed to be leading toward so much, or give the promise of so much, which Halo 3 either didn’t recognise or didn’t deliver. For instance,
the Prophet of Truth
The Covenant were ruled by three Prophets. In Halo 2, Truth killed off the other two and started a civil war. This left him the sole leader of what was left of the Covenant (which was everything except the Elites). He also allowed the Flood to overrun the Covenant Holy City and fled away. All of this – combined with interrogating a purportedly sacred religious artefact, and breaking a couple of sacred promises and bases of their faith – made me think that Truth was using religion as a cover.
He was actually just in it for the power; he didn’t really believe. He knew that the Halo rings would destroy all life, not start the Sacred Journey to enlightenment. After all, he would have learned this from the sacred artefact, which would surely have told him (he tells everyone). Truth was, consequently, not planning on firing the Halo rings – only on saying he would as long as it served his political purposes.
I was wrong. Truth believed everything, and was dead-set on firing the Halo rings. He believed everything he said and thought the rings would make him a god.
In Halo 2, you spend half your time playing as a Covenant Elite called the Arbiter and the other half playing as the Master Chief. Halo 1: humans; Halo 2: humans and Covenant; I thought in Halo 3, you might get to play as the Chief, the Arbiter, and the Flood. After all, the Flood now have a Gravemind to direct their actions. Why not have a playable Flood character? Bungie established that the Flood think, have emotions, reason, but only scraped the surface. Halo 3 was the opportunity to go deeper and show us the Flood from the Flood’s point of view, like they did in Halo 2 with the Covenant.
Instead, you no longer play as the Arbiter (unless you play co-operative campaign). You are the Chief all the time. You only ever fight the Flood (who are, thankfully, less annoying to fight this time), you never really see things from their point of view.
About the closest you come to understanding something new about the Flood is when the Gravemind tries to talk you out of rescuing Cortana. We get glimpses via the Terminals that the Flood are an intelligent and interesting foe, but they never present this to us in-game.
The Flashes Where Gravemind Talks to You
are never explained. They happen at the start of the game, on earth, by Cortana, and inside the Flood-controlled ship at the end by both Cortana and the Gravemind. But how are they talking to you? Not by radio, because they’re halfway across the galaxy at the start of the game. Some sort of telepathy that was never seen before and never mentioned again?
Also, it feels clumsy at the beginning of the game. It’s like they needed some way to remind you that you left Cortana back on the Flood-controlled ship, but she’ll come back later in the game so don’t forget about her! Yes siree, we don’t want you to forget about her, but we can’t just have characters keep talking about her so we’ll throw up flashes of her babbling some nonsense early in the game. Then the gamers will remember her!
The Arbiter, Miranda, and Co
are on the second Halo ring at the end of the last game. You know, when the Chief is already on earth. Guilty Spark had just said something coy about the Ark now being on standby to fire all the rings. And so at the start of this game, are they fighting the last of the Brutes and the Flood above the ring? Are they racing to the Ark to beat Truth there and stop him destroying all life?
Nah. They’re already on earth.
What? Did I miss something? They beat the Chief back to earth when the Chief was already in orbit above the thing. He needed only to land. They needed to fly across the damned galaxy. And they had no reason to do so! They should be racing to the Ark. (We later discover that the only portal to the Ark is buried under Africa, but that just seems like an excuse to get the gang back together to me.)
like a bitch. She rushes to stop Truth firing the Halo array and save her sergeant’s life (Truth needs a human to push the button), firing shotgun and pistol aplenty. Then, when it’s clear she can’t kill all the enemies, she comes up with the idea of killing herself and the sergeant. No humans means they couldn’t activate the rings and kill everyone in the universe. That would stop them.
This is a good plan. Two people die; billions more live. That’s a sound trade.
Then she hesitates and has a big emotional moment and wusses out and gets shot in the back by Truth.
You stupid fool. You knew there was no hope of survival, but still you hesitated. I applaud Truth’s murdering you – we don’t need romanticising fools like you when the fate of the universe is in the balance – but I still wish they hadn’t written you to be such a coward at the end. How did you even get to be a commander if you can’t make tough decisions in a timely manner? Yes you have to die, but on the upside all life isn’t extinguishe- Oh, you know what? Just fucking die already.
For part of one level, the Flood are your allies. And it’s interesting. I would have liked another level or two with that, just as a change of pace from shooting them (although, you can still shoot them; they don’t complain or even mind).
The Gravemind is a moron. Having found earth, he then sends all of his forces to the Ark to stop it firing the Halo rings.
All of his forces.
He’s a parasite.
He could send 90% of his forces, then send the other 10% to earth, to Covenant planets, anywhere and everywhere, really. That way even if they killed off the 90% on the Ark (which they do), he has a backup and can rebuild. And if they fire the rings and destroy the 10%, no big loss. Hell, it only takes a couple of hours to infect an entire ship. It’s not even like it’ll take long.
Basically, space-zombies, keep acting like space-zombies and spreading like a virus. Don’t suddenly change tactics because Bungie wrote themselves into a corner and didn’t have a way of destroying you without also killing all of creation.
What’s the Solution?
I think it would have been cool to play as a Flood special agent – to be able to revert to tiny poppem/Infection Form at will and infect new enemies or just to get insight into another enemy in this universe.
Have us keep playing as the Arbiter and give him a story which doesn’t have him running back to earth. A parallel story like in Halo 2 where he links back up with the Chief near the end. He can stop the Brutes, hold the Flood at bay, race to the Ark. The Chief can meet him there later. It would also be a good way to establish Cortana is still in the Flood ship – the Arbiter can go rescue her; after all, he’s right there near her.
That would also allow the Flood to keep acting like the Flood and going far and wide instead of sending a huge armada all at one place.
Have Miranda do more than just get captured by the Covenant and forced to activate the big weapon – she did that last game. Have her murder the sergeant and commit suicide to stop the Covenant. That’s a hero’s way out; not this weak “Oh, I can’t; life is so precious” bullshit that just seems borderline sexist – the only woman in the series is too weak to save the universe; she has to rely on a man to do it.
And you can’t replace her voice actress and change the character model and expect me to still think of her as the same character. It’s like you wrote a new character and just called her the same thing.
Have Truth be the ruthless, Machiavellian bastard he seemed to be in Halo 2, not the blinded-by-faith fool he is in this one. And bring back Michael Wincott as his voice! Terence Stamp, go away and stop being in everything.
More fire grenades. (That’s not really a story point; I just like setting things on fire.)
They’ve had the time to make the Brutes and Flood fun to play against; the graphics are better yet again; they’ve recaptured the “thirty seconds of fun” that they had with the original Halo. So, the gameplay is worthwhile.
As for the story… the cutscenes are pretty, but they make me yell at the screen because of all the opportunities they wasted.