The first official footage from ´Halo 3´ has been released. The game is undoubtedly poised to become a system seller for the Xbox360 and, as such, its critical reception and commercial success will have great impact upon the console war.
Please bear in mind that the following video is captured from a beta version of the game and a slightly earlier one than the soon to be made public version at that. Bungie themselves note that "it's a bit older than what the rest of the world will start playing in the next few days."
For better viewing, you can download this video as a WMV file here.
While all journalists who have been able to play the beta appear unanimously impressed with the multiplayer gameplay, a number of articles mention that the game´s graphics are surprisingly underwhelming. Here are a number of impressions, in the familiar style of guest commentary:
The visuals are now in HD, though honestly, they probably will leave many unimpressed. But really, no one will care if Halo 3 doesn't look like Gears of War as long as it plays great. And, after an hour of playtime, I think Halo 3 might just deliver.
While the visuals are rich and beautiful, it's the audio that's really impressed us so far. The rumbling throttle of unleashing dual SMGs makes them feel incredibly powerful, and the Spartan Laser tearing past your head is as scary as you'd imagine. Audio cues are more important than ever, and the better your sound system the more next-gen this will feel.
The graphics can use some work ... They're not much different than the previous Halo. (...) They've got five, six months until release, so they'll add some polish ... When I compare it to other things in the platform, it's not standout.
Evil Avatar (via Yahoo News)
The graphics aren't groundbreaking right now, but they are a step up from Halo 2 with higher resolution models, top quality textures, fancy lighting, and pretty shader effects.
Visually, the Halo 3 beta looks impressive. Yes, it looks like a higher-resolution version of Halo 2, but the textures and details are razor sharp, and there's a lush quality to the world that wasn't there before. You'll run through fields of flowers or your body will float in a tranquil pond. The high dynamic range lighting in the game also provides a realistic look to the lighting and the world. Meanwhile, there's a smoothness and fluidity to everything now that makes battles fun to watch.
Graphics: Like we said before in our first Halo 3 cover story...looks good, but it's not that in-your-face "Oh my god Gears of War" great. But that's OK because:
1.) Halo has a different art style, and for Halo's art style, Halo 3 looks damn good. 2.) I'd rather have performance over looks, and Halo 3 runs smooth as a Plasma Sword through a tub of I Can't Belive It's Not Butter. So far, no lag in our eight-player games (*knocks on wood*)
Dan Hsu (Editor-in-chief, EGM)
Halo 3 rules. But it rules because it is so much like Halo and Halo 2. You’re not dual-wielding as much, but the weapons are very familiar. The game play is familiar. The graphics are better. The rag doll physics are good. The sound is great. It’s the little extras like the bubble shield and the ATV Mongoose that make it better.
It can be legitimately criticized as Halo 2.5. But the graphics look great and the game play is there. You can’t ask for anything but fun in multiplayer. The real twists and turns will come with the single-player campaign, but Microsoft isn’t ready to talk about that yet.
Dean Takahashi (Mercury News)
So the reaction to the visuals in ´Halo 3´ is varied, but mostly critical. Again, though, it is important to bear in mind that this is a beta version and there is almost half a year left until the game goes gold. Microsoft and Bungie are stressing the same point. The above video ends with this comment:
This is not the final content of the game. Everything seen in this video is subject to change.
Most importantly, perhaps, the gameplay has been rated as very promising by every early reviewer, it seems. However, if ´Halo 3´ cannot match ´Gears of War´ visually, as has been suggested, it certainly could take some of the steam out of the immense hype. The launch of ´Halo 3´ might not become as critical a point in the console wars as has been anticipated so far.
Let us not forget that Microsoft has chosen to market Xbox360 as a console whose unique selling point, next to an unmatched open online service, is stunning, high definition graphics.
EDIT Added two more comments, courtesy of Slashdot.
Sources: Bungie, IGN, 1UP, Yahoo News, Evil Avatar, GameSpot
Thanks to: Linkerdexin