There are two things the makers of Halo 3 should be remorseful about on Launch Day Plus One. The first is the fact that many of those who waited in line for their copies of Halo 3 last night at midnight will have already finished the game at some point today, and I'm not just talking about the folks who have called in sick.
The game is short. Really short. So short that one wonders what all those people in the credits did for three years. Clocking in at around 15 hours (20 if you're deceiving yourself), Halo 3 ranks right up there with the most embarrassingly short games ever produced. Thankfully there are no endless hallway sections like the library level that artfully extended the length of Halo 2, but I would have appreciated a little more "game" in my $60 multiplayer trainer.
The second shameful thing about Halo 3 is the defective Limited Edition packaging. This one had me shaking my head for hours. Apparently the fancy, double-hinged metal tin containing the limited edition version of Halo 3, complete with mini art book and DVD full of extras, was mated with a chintzy plastic insert that is completely incapable of holding the discs in place. The result: The discs came loose during shipping, rattled around inside the metal case and got all nice and scratched up.
I didn't believe this when I heard it, but it's true. It happened to me. Thankfully my copy of the game still plays, but it's a lousy feeling opening up an expensive limited edition case to discover the equivalent of used discs inside. I'm starting to wonder if there's anyone at Microsoft who has a fucking clue about how to deliver a quality product the first time around. If I worked at Bungie, and had just spent three years of my life perfecting this game, I'd be pretty damn pissed off that my mighty publisher couldn't deliver a goddamn disc without scratching it.
And now we pause for breath.
Those quibbles aside, Halo 3 is the game we've all been waiting for. It is, in every respect, a worthy next-gen installment of the series. Graphically, the game is as pretty as anything I've yet seen on a console. And not "pretty" in that "every single blood droplet is more well-defined than Britney's abs and yet, other than red, the predominant color is brown" Gears of War way - Halo 3 is actually pretty. Skies are blue, water shimmers in the sunlight and everything has that faint cartoony patina that is the series' hallmark, juiced up with next-gen lighting and shadow effects. The Halo series has always had a strong design philosophy, and Halo 3 does not disappoint in that respect.