Tuesday, December 10

Gamer Galaxy: “Halo 3″

This is madness. Spartan, even.

It’s 11:59 p.m. on a school night, and crowds of poor starving college kids are eagerly lined up to shell out a hard-earned (or parentally allocated) $60, and perhaps pick up some limited edition Game Fuel afterwards.

Yes, “Halo 3″ is here.

Since the release of the original “Halo” in September 2001, the franchise has established and defended its title as one of the most influential first-person shooter games.

“Halo 3″ certainly lives up to the standards set by its prequels.

In the campaign mode, SPARTAN protagonist Master Chief, John-117, is on a somewhat generic but nevertheless epic quest to save humanity by ending the war against alien races.

In true heroic fashion, he must also rescue artificial intelligence Cortana, the sci-fi damsel in distress.

But despite the game’s improved high-definition cutscenes and its impressive story line, the hasty gamer can skip through the plot and enjoy the game regardless.

The computer A.I. is vastly improved, on the part of both the allies and the enemies. Allies are much more accurate shooters and the enemies alertly evade grenades, take cover, and make better use of their weaponry.

“Halo 3″ solves common gaming woes resulting from Microsoft’s wide controller design by making better use of the shoulder buttons to avoid finger hyperextension while picking up weapons and reloading.

Most of the classic weapons have returned with new pizzazz, such as the Needler, which is now a more reliable standalone weapon. To compliment the Power Sword from “Halo 2,” is the new Battle Hammer, which deals radial damage.

Additionally, players can remove gun turrets from their docked locations for added mobility. Players also have use of equipment such as protective or regenerative grenades.

“Halo 3″ has increased the number of participants in the cooperative campaign to four, though the difficulty levels seem a little milder. Normal mode, for instance, might be too much of a cinch for more experienced gamers.

Nevertheless, the series’ most prominent selling point has always been the multiplayer mode, because after all, there are few things more gratifying than sticking your best friend with a virtual plasma grenade.

The multiplayer maps are new, by and large, with some overlap from previous versions. The new multiplayer “Forge” mode allows players to configure each map with an array of items, then team up against other players to see whose design dominates.

This latest addition to the “Halo” franchise is easily worthy of all the hype.

After playing six thrilling hours of the game in one sitting, it’s understandable why serious gamers still have thumb calluses from Halo’s original release, and don’t seem too eager to lose them anytime soon.

-Jessica Lum

E-mail Lum at [email protected]

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