Friday, 30 Oct 2020

Halo 3 PC hands-on preview – believe in Master Chief

Another classic Halo game comes to PC, as The Master Chief Collection remasters the first entry to ever appear on the Xbox 360.

The Halo franchise has been in a strange place over the last few years, despite its undoubted pedigree. Original creators Bungie moved onto the divisive Destiny franchise, while 343 Industries failed to capture the magic of the franchise in the only release of this console generation: Halo 5.

There was also the much-maligned Master Chief Collection though, which was first released on Xbox One in 2014 and was such a technical disaster it took years to fix. That’s part of why it’s been taking so long for it to appear on PC, with Microsoft releasing each of the remasters separately, in chronological order. Halo 2 was back in May and now, with the release of Halo 3, the original trilogy is complete.

Despite being a 13-year-old game, Halo 3 still holds up remarkably well. The three core pillars of shooting, melee, and grenades feel just as tight and balanced as they always did, even with the inclusion of new equipment such as the dome shield.

Halo 3 originally marked the series’ debut on Xbox 360, and as such feels like Bungie hitting another gear. Enemies feel more reactive, like Brutes that charge when their armour has been destroyed. There’s also an excellent selection of weaponry, including the gravity hammer. Everything has its place in the game’s arsenal, and while the familiar burst of the battle rifle remains as fun to unleash as ever, none of the weapons feel anything less than useful.

Part of that is undoubtedly down to the game’s combat sandboxes that allow protagonist Master Chief to run rings around enemies one minute and be pushed into a retreat the next, as reinforcements surge into the area. There’s a unique rhythm to Halo’s combat that just can’t be found anywhere else, the intangible feeling of hitting a headshot without needing to aim down sights or leaping into the air to hurl a perfectly-timed plasma grenade.

All of these moments work perfectly in the game’s PC port, including everything from the Chief’s floaty jump to bashing grunts with the butt of a rifle. Multiple graphical options include an FOV slider, 4K, and 60fps support, as well as full gamepad support and the option for keyboard and mouse.

Custom key bindings also work well, allowing you to tailor every input. Having weapon switching on the ‘1’ key is a little cumbersome on the default setup, so being able to move it anywhere else is very welcome.

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It’s also worth noting that while the game certainly wouldn’t pass for anything released in this console generation (largely thanks to some strangely nostalgic animations and the occasional muddy texture), it still looks a darn sight better than it did in 2007.

The opening rainforest area offers fog and the occasional particles drifting in the wind, while the majority of textures look much better in 4K, highlighting details it would have been easy to miss back in 2007.

While multiplayer was enabled during the preview we weren’t able to find a match (due to a minuscule player base prior to the game’s launch), but with all 24 maps included, plus the Master Chief Collection’s progression system, this is undoubtedly a robust package – although after the collection’s past issues, it’s best to take a wait and see approach if multiplayer is your primary interest.

However, for single-player fans (or teams looking to play co-op online) Halo 3’s campaign remains one of the greats. From vanquishing multiple Scarabs in a single fight to the desperate Warthog escape, it’s all here and more than enough to have you start looking forward to Halo Infinite with even greater optimism.

Formats: PC
Price: £29.99 (as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection)
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: 343 Industries, Ruffian Games, and Saber Interactive
Release Date: 14th July 2020
Age Rating: 16

By Lloyd Coombes

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