I finally got to play through most of the Halo 3 campaign. I confess to being somewhat disappointed by it. The first game felt revolutionary, and astonishingly polished compared with what had gone before. This has better graphics, and better AI, but the story just doesn’t seem as compelling. And, as it is for films, if the story is rubbish then all the eye candy in the world won’t save it. To be fair, I probably had unreasonable expectations, but all the same, there was a lot too much ‘go and activate the bomb’ type missions, with a mission setting that was a long series of corridors – in some cases you end up going up and down the same set of corridors multiple times which feels especially irritating. I was going to write this post leaving it at that.
But, Alan has an XBox live account (allows on-line play), and we’ve had several goes together on that (it allows guests to play as well). I am absolutely blown away by it (and in it, fairly routinely – I’m not that good compared to Alan). Not only are the maps, weapons and goals great, but the matching mechanism to make sure you are with similarly good players seems to work superbly. This is clearly helped by the sheer number of people who are logged on – last night there were well over 400,000 people playing Halo 3 online somewhere, and this morning (when the US was asleep) there were over 47,000. This means that it takes only a minute or two to match up players who are waiting for a game, even allowing for their game preferences and ability levels. The matches seem pretty good as well, though since it’s Alan’s account that is used, it matches his ability not mine. There also seems very little lag which feels astonishing given that you are playing something that is massively real-time but who may be across the world. To top it all off, there is VoIP chat as well, with the ability to mute people who can’t string 2 words together. Last night this meant that as well as Alan and I playing together, one of his friends from school was also in the same matches, and Alan and he could chat to each other. People can hark after golden ages, but I really don’t recall Cowboys and Indians ever being this good.