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OK, so maybe I'm not even picking Halo 3.  But I'm wagering that it'll be either that or Bioware's Mass Effect will be the ones that make Game of the Year.

I have a theory about games that, much like other software, there's a certain amount of customizability that's necessary, particularly to keep the hardcore cluster intrigued.  Games like World of Warcraft demonstrate this in its user interface customizability and (to some extent) the abilities of their classes.  Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion demonstrated this much more with its skill-based class system.  Or, the Unreal Tournament and Source Engine-based games are much more flexible: they allow users to create their own content.  This is, in fact, the saving grace of Warcraft III -- the custom-player map Defense of the Ancients (which I personally find dull) is pretty much the only game one can find.  Blizzard even had DotA tournaments at their conferences.  And now Halo 3 is going to incorporate a map editor called Forge (a callout to longtime Bungie fans, as it was the name of the editor for Marathon), and I truly believe it's going to be the kind of experience for Xbox Live what many games are these days for the PC.

The second part, and I find the part that's important not only for keeping players involved throughout the lifetime of a single product, but also important for maintaining efficacy across products, is story.  Halo 3's story is static, that's true, but the stories from Halo have been compelling, to say the least; I remember the first time I pulled into the bridge of the Pillar of Autumn, when I first encountered the Librarian and the Flood, when we detonated the Pillar of Autumn's reactor; when I was getting my citation along with Amanda Keyes, when I was being branded as a heretic and then given the honor of becoming the Arbiter.  My favorite moment was when I got the Scorpion tank, hearing Cortana say "Thanks for the tank.  He never gets me anything," only to have Sergeant Johnson respond, "Oh, I know what the ladies like..."  I remember leaving Cortana behind at In Amber Clad.

Halo 3 is going to be a gorgeous game, but that's not what's selling me on it.  No, if there's anything aesthetic that I like about Halo, it's the music; Marty O'Donnell is an incredible composer, and if I didn't already love Halo 2's soundtrack, the fanfare from the E3 2006 announcement sold me.  And Bungie has done an exceptional job of incorporating the music at just the right moments in the previous games; you'd better believe that it'll still be around this time.

As for Mass Effect, Bioware hasn't let me down before.  But I find it difficult to stomach that, in all of the splendor of the galaxy and universe created by Mass Effect, that we can't find a way for two peoples' experiences to intersect.  No multiplayer?  It's 2007!

Why not other games?  Crysis is gorgeous, but it's a shooter in (essentially) only a single setting that looks oddly like something out of Metal Gear.  What about Bioshock?  It's too slow to develop a rhythm, opting more for the thrill-inducing style of gameplay reminiscent of Resident Evil and more recently Doom 3, of which I've never been a particular fan (I did appreciate Doom 3 for the attention to detail they paid in paying homage to the original games).  And, everything in the game is just as scripted as Halo, but they try to make you think that it's not; the fact of the matter is, when you're taking down a Big Daddy, your options are limited to the options that the game has provided you. 

It's time to finish the fight.  Halo 3 debuts in less than 24 hours.

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2007 2:26 AM | Back to top

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