Monday, October 08, 2007

I lo, you lo, we all lo for Halo

I'm not usually one to buy into video game hype. If I can't play a demo and haven't played a previous game in the series, I tend to shy away from dropping $60 on a new title, even if it's hailed as the second coming of Zombie Jesus.

I'm even less inclined toward buying an upcoming game where the primary focus is online multiplayer. Online communities tend to die out quickly; for example, Chromehounds: an incredible Mech game which unfortunately has little offline content and an extremely cumbersome multiplayer system that requires you to permanently join a specific team of players (who are destined to stop playing a week later) to even be able to play online. Add into this the fact that, like the guy from Zero Punctuation, I generally don't give a flying pair of elephant testicles about online play. Especially in first-person shooters, and especially with the general population of Xbox Live, which seems to consist mostly of eleven-year-olds who are constantly impressing me with their ability to string together curse words and racial epithets.

Enter Halo 3. We obviously know that the online community won't be going anywhere, at least until Halo 4 comes along (which probably won't be happening). I figured the single-player would be disappointing, much like other multiplayer-centric games (Gears of War, I'm looking at you). Then I heard that you can play through the campaign with up to three other players in co-op mode. Including any combination of people on the local Xbox and on Live. That sold me, because even a mediocre shooter is more fun as you add more players.

Over the weekend, I finally got to play online a bit. It's a lot more fun than I expected. There's a huge variety of game types other than your normal free-for-all "kill everything" mode. Capture the Flag, Assault, Territories, VIP, Infected, Oddball, Juggernaut. You can also customize virtually every aspect of a mode. Want everyone to spawn with rocket launchers, invisible, and with low gravity? No problem. You can even change the spawns on the maps around to fit your gametype.

As an example, yesterday we tried a variant of team play called "Mongoose Rocket Jousting". Four teams of two, each with a Mongoose (a small ATV with a back seat and no built-in weaponry). Players spawn with a rocket launcher containing unlimited ammo. Everyone drives very quickly while their passenger tries to splatter the other teams with a well-placed rocket. It's a blast, and it's easy to set up with a few map and ruleset tweaks.

The final selling point for me is that virtually every Something Awful goon with a 360 is playing the game, so I rarely have to plunge myself into the cesspool of random Xbox Live games.

It makes for a solid play experience, and I definitely don't regret dropping $60 for the game, sight unseen.


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