When video games are described as cinematic, it often means players should expect to be led around by the nose and be ready for lots of wooden dialogue spouted by stiffly rendered animated figures. That’s not at all the case with Halo 3, which does a phenomenal job of reproducing the pacing and tension of a first-rate megabuck action movie without sacrificing interactivity. That it does so in a format that will take most folks at least 15 hours to complete is more impressive still. Propelled into stores by a marketing campaign worthy of a big-screen summer blockbuster (complete with Mountain Dew and Burger King tie-ins), Halo 3 has a plot more creative and engrossing than a video-game story line about space marines fighting genocidal insects has any right to be. Everything that made the first two games into monster hits—incredibly smart enemies and computer-controlled allies, weapons and vehicles that are ridiculously fun to operate—is brought back and amplified times five. The multiplayer features that were instrumental to the success of the original Xbox games have been enhanced, with features that let players archive spectacular gameplay moments and mute trash talk from obnoxious opponents (or teammates, for that matter). Pick up Halo 3 for the plot-driven single-player game, and you basically get a blue-chip multiplayer game for free—and vice versa.
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