It’s been a long time since I have played a videogame and come away without a negative thing to say. In fact, until I played Halo 3, it had really only happened three times. Earning a perfect score isn’t an easy thing for a videogame to accomplish; they’re much longer and more involved than any other medium in the world of entertainment (which creates many more opportunities for flaws to emerge), and a portion of a player’s experience comes down to their own skill in addition to the experiences that a given game provides. After completing Halo: Reach, I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more impressed with a series that I knew next-to-nothing about. But that was almost an entire month ago when I was nothing more than a rookie marine condemned to a trial by fire on the front lines. Now, I’m a vet. And when I played Halo 3, everything I had learned and all of my previous experiences in the series came together to create an epic peak that can never be outreached.
In every Halo game before 3, I had a largely enjoyable time (though some provided greater overall experiences than others), but I also had several nitpicks that seemed to be standard for the series as a whole. There have been several instances in each of my prior Halo run-throughs where I found it unclear what to do. The storytelling as well, while epic, has never been the particularly clear in this series; often I would lose my purpose in the narrative as I expertly cut through waves upon waves of similar enemies. Other than in Reach, the missions themselves weren’t particularly varied, and I would inevitably become numb to the chaos in which I regularly found myself. But none of these criticisms are applicable to Halo 3, which is undeniably the greatest Halo game that Bungie ever composed. Every mission creates more memorable moments than the last; the gunplay was the most varied, the story made absolute sense, and the storytelling reached its peak. I found myself shouting with glee as I tore off across a vast field toward two enemy Wraiths with nothing but a single marine on the back of my Rocket Warthog and coming out on top, or as I carved a path through a legion of the powerful and disturbing Flood as my team did everything humanly (and alienly?) possible to eradicate the plague from the face of the earth. For the first time since Reach, I genuinely cared about the people around me and was left stunned at some plot twists as the storytelling reached an emotional peak. The five or so hours it took my brother and I to rip through what was originally planned to be Master Chief’s last stand flew by, and I was often stunned by how much fun I was having. Even in my favorite game of all time: Spyro Year of the Dragon, and the game that I consider to be the best I ever played: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt that kind of rush. It’s hard to explain, and it may never be matched again.
When I finished Halo 3, it was a bittersweet moment. As one of the greatest games I’d ever experienced came to an end, I was struck with the understanding that this series that I have grown to love over a very short span of time would never reach this level of perfection again. But I also was gripped by the desire to experiment more with the videogames that I choose to play. Throughout my gaming life, I’ve tended to spend years stuck on a relatively small rotation of games. I love Pokemon games. I love Bethesda games. I love old school platforming games. I love wrestling games. And that’s about all I’ve ever really experienced. Halo 3 will always serve as a reminder to me to keep pressing on into the unknown, especially when there’s a high probability for a life-enhancing experience. And that’s exactly what I aim to do in the months ahead.