Released in the fall of 2007, Halo 3 was to date, the fifth best selling Xbox 360 game of all time, and the all time best selling game in the Halo franchise and Xbox exclusive titles.
While there were more than one million people playing Halo 3 on Xbox Live in the first twenty hours of its release, now after six years since release and three new franchise titles its almost impossible to find a game to play – that was until this weekend, February 1-3, 2013. Discontent with the Halo 4′s lackluster multiplayer experience, fans congregated to the Reddit website to form a re-population effort aptly dubbed “The Great Journey” – the goal: get as many people as possible on the Halo 3 servers to relive the golden era of Halo’s multiplayer goodness. While some found it boring or broken claiming Halo 4 to be a superior product with its fast paced, streamlined gameplay, others sided with the classic – citing it had aged far better than it should have. I am on the side of the later.
The Halo series is well known for its combats “golden tripod” – Weapons, Grenades, Melee. The core elements create a highly skilled based competitive environment. While Halo 3 introduced another layer in the form of “equipment” (deployable lifts, EMPS, health regeneration and such) that could be found in the arenas, the gameplay remained roughly unchanged though – only rejuvenated with a refreshing element of chance. Halo 4 brought these back as perks (jetpack, promethean vision, thruster, etc) - equipment that you can purchase and have on you the whole time. For me, the perks made countering far to unpredictable and unbalanced. While Halo 3 had the chance to find an collect equipment Halo 4 forced players to select their perk outside of gameplay, making things far more unbalanced.
In another drastic change Halo 4 had the weapon placements changed. While previous Halo titles had a series of weapons (all ranging in power) strategically placed around the maps, Halo 4 had supplementary and power weapons called in via “drops” in an effort to streamline gameplay. Once a player had reached a certain amount of points an option to call in a weapon would be given. This completely changed the flow of gameplay. No longer were points on the map fought for so as to hold the weapon spawn points, in fact there was almost no strategy at all. Situations were less precise and forced into “who has the better weapon and better ability for this specific situation”. Making it much more difficult to counter an attack and far less entertaining.
Replaying Halo 3 reminded me how much more personal the game felt when fighting. From the start of the game, everyone was on equal footing – no special abilities or weapons. Picking up the special abilities like Bubble Shield and Regen Field felt good because you had earned that kind of ability by making your way to it without dying, instead of just starting with them automatically. Holding power weapons felt far more rewarding, as you had fought for the right to claim them. While ultimately the mechanics in Halo 4 are far better and refined, the core gameplay that was from Halo 3 is still superior.