In case you might have missed it, Halo 3 was a big deal.
Like, a seriously fucking huge deal.
You know how everyone seems to have 'that' Halo? If you don't know, basically, it means that it's the Halo that really sticks in their mind, the big one, the one they remember the most fondly. For me, 'that' Halo was Halo 3. Doesn't make sense, right? I obviously fell in love with Halo: CE, so what's the deal? Well, I hate to admit it, but it's the multiplayer. I'll get into this in a moment, for now, let's go back to the beginning.
I knew Halo 3 was going to be a big fucking deal. The live-action TV spots clued me in. At that point, I don't think I had ever seen an actual live-action commercial for a video game on actual television before. And then there was Landfall. Have you seen Halo: Landfall? If you haven't please stop what you're doing and just watch this. Seriously, right now. It's basically a short Halo movie.
It was released in segments and I about shit my pants watching it. To this day, that is still ridiculously impressive. Although, on a side note, I have to admit, every time I watch it, I sit there and wonder, "Okay, WHY can't we have a full length Halo movie?" or "Okay, WHY in the FUCK can't they make a good video game movie?"
So, I got my hands on Halo 3 and pretty much played it into oblivion. I remember playing that first level and just knowing that it was going to be everything I had hoped for, knowing that it was well worth the three year wait. And it was.
I like to refer to Halo 3 as Halo fully realized. No other game, besides the first one obviously, has managed to perfectly capture the feeling of Halo and manage to perfectly deliver on it. Everything from the shooting mechanics to the visual aesthetic to the soundtrack to the enemy AI to the storytelling, it was all almost perfectly in balance. At least, for me it was.
And then, when I was finished with the campaign, for the first time in my entire life, I had access to Xbox Live, and to an online massively multiplayer FPS experience. It was like nothing else I had ever experienced before. When I started playing Halo 3 online, I suddenly understood what all the fuss over Halo 2's multiplayer had been. It was immediately intoxicating and addicting. It was something that most of my friends got into very heavily.
I racked up more hours playing Halo 3 than any other video game in my entire life.
There was so much to love about the multiplayer. The maps all felt perfect, (for the most part). They all felt complete, like they had actually been meticulously crafted by experts with a deep love and respect for the game. And the little descriptions that came with them were just awesome. They inspired me deeply.
To make matters even more badass, you could design your own Spartan. Given the level of detail we've gotten used to now, the selection might seem pretty limited. But at the time? It was like a gift from God. Being able to select your armor color (in free for all or custom games), your helmet, shoulder pads (individually), and your chest plate? It was all awesome.
So, about that multiplayer thing I said at the beginning. I've come to realize that although the campaigns are extremely important, (to me, they're the most important feature of the game), multiplayer is often what determines how attached people become to certain games. There are the old vets who remember system linking and playing countless hours of Halo: CE Slayer. Then there was the next generation who found themselves in the vast world of online play with tens of thousands of others.
For me, that was Halo 3. That's where I got started on the multiplayer. When people reflect on Halo games, they tend to talk about their experiences playing with other people.
And then, of course, there was the fan fiction. I wrote so much Halo 3 inspired fan fiction. I even liked the multiplayer levels so much that, like three separate times, I decided to tackle the ridiculously massive project called The Mutliplayer Chronicles. Essentially, I wanted to write stories for every single multiplayer level. If I remember correctly, I got through: High Ground, Standoff, Lockout (which was actually Halo 2), Sandtrap, Valhalla, and Snowbound. I had the intention, at first, to do all the Halo 3 maps, but then I decided to encompass EVERY HALO MAP EVER.
Obviously, I failed. But, while it had its time in the sun, The Multiplayer Chronicles garnered a lot of attention in the Halo section of fanfiction.net. So much so that I had several people asking if they could do a story for a map. Some of them are actually still up. You can check them out.
Halo 3, I think, ended on a great note and, in a way, it signaled the end of Halo. I know that sounds really weird, considering the fact that the Halo franchise has continued along for almost another decade after Halo 3, but I think this was the last truly great Halo game. It had a kind of sad ending, but it felt like closure. The Covenant was broken. The Flood were defeated. The galaxy was safe. And it felt like it had come full circle, too. Halo: CE began with the Master Chief being woken from a cryo tube. Halo 3 ended with him climbing back into one.
For me, Halo 3 was the peak of the franchise. Although technically it was downhill from here, that doesn't necessarily mean it was all crap.