Developer: Bungie Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: Xbox 360
Why does Halo 3 have a rating of M for “Mature”? It can’t just be that the whole game’s about killing: you could say the same about Pac-Man. While Halo 3 has two modes - one where you play through a story about killing tons of aliens and slime people; another where you go online and kill other people - neither of them features realistic gore or sensationalized violence. Especially when you’re online, you feel like you’re at summer camp, playing capture the flag, king of the hill, and best of all, tag. Except tag is called “slayer.”
Microsoft positions Halo 3 as an epic war game: it’s the third in a trilogy that pits the human marines with American accents against a cadre of religious zealots. In reality, the story mode of the game is flat, poorly-paced and repetitive, and it won’t give any kids nightmares. Kids play Halo 3 in droves, in spite of the “Mature” rating, and while a little less blood might please their parents, the game appeals to gamers of all ages in the same way as baseball, or bowling: you enjoy a few familiar scenarios in a million different ways.
While other guy-with-a-gun games have more subtlety (Gears of War), more complexity (Shadowrun), or more mystery (BioShock), Halo 3 - with its bright violet space ships, GI Joe-style army lingo, and comically brutish enemies — still rules the roost. Its simple but robust gameplay is half the reason that, as I write this, 800,000 people are playing it online, most of them seamlessly jumping over from the almost-as-good, not-so-different Halo 2. We talk a lot in this space about games that aspire to new experiences, new ways of thinking and new ways of bending your mind. But how many games can say they’re a new national sport?