GC '07: Halo 3's Forge (and the Campaign, Too)

Bungie's throwing everything short of the kitchen sink into its Xbox 360 shooter sequel. We took a look at the interesting new level editor, and one campaign mission as well.

LEIPZIG, Germany--Halo 3 may be darn near finished at this moment--we're talking a matter of days, according to Bungie's Brian Jarrard--but that doesn't mean the famed developer is finished revealing new features to be included in this massively anticipated sequel. At Games Convention, we got to take a first look at the Forge, an unexpected but very welcome surprise inclusion in Halo 3 that will let you tinker with every aspect of your multiplayer maps short of the basic level geometry itself. It's one-part level editor, one-part Garry's Mod, and it looks like it's going to make for some particularly madcap multiplayer experiences.

The Forge will let you go nuts with your own custom multiplayer map designs.

You can use the Forge mode all by yourself if you just want to tinker with Halo 3's maps, but it supports up to eight players in a game simultaneously, so you and all other players can be editing the map at the same time as you're slaying within it. It works like this: You jump into a multiplayer map as a normal playable character, so you're still running around as Master Chief with a gun sticking out from the bottom of the screen. But you can jump into "edit" mode at the touch of a button, which essentially turns you into a floating camera that you can fly all around the map at will. (In a multiplayer setting, your character will turn into a hovering Monitor like 343 Guilty Spark when you're in edit mode.)

So what can you do in edit mode? It would be more appropriate to ask what you can't do. You'll have access to the full list of weapons, vehicles, power-ups, spawn points, and everything else that you as a player can use in some fashion in the main game, and you can spawn any of those into the environment whenever and wherever you like. Feel like laying waste in a scorpion? Drop it in right in front of you. You can't add as many scorpions as you like, though; each map will have a specific memory budget, represented at the bottom screen with a dollar figure and also a bar graph. Each item you add to the map subtracts a little from the budget, so you can only add to the limit of the remaining memory. Of course, you can always delete other objects if you want to add something else.

The Forge will obviously be great for customizing a map extensively while you're offline, and once you've saved a new configuration, you can upload it to Xbox Live for all other Halo 3 players to access. But as we mentioned, the Forge also serves as a multiplayer mode of its own. You can have a full competitive or team-based game going, with each player still able to freely access the edit mode. So you can pop in any vehicle, weapon, or power-up that suits the situation at hand, which means you'll see battles quickly escalating as players attempt to one-up each other with better and better weapons and items. Furthermore, you can delete other players' spawned objects the same way you can delete your own, so if you're fast enough on the controls, you can erase that warthog or scorpion before the other player even has a chance to use it. The implications for potential hilarity in this mode are obvious, we figure.

Make your own Halo 3 wallpaper with the game's online screenshot utility.

Given that the Forge lets you create saved films just like the multiplayer and campaign modes, the potential for interesting fan films with this tool is huge as well. The game isn't actually saving any images with these films, just positional data that the engine can use to render and replay your movies on the fly, which naturally makes the uploads and downloads for these films very small. However, you can save screenshots of the game and upload them to Bungie's Web site, and we were pleased to find out that these screenshots will actually be of higher resolution than the 720p resolution the game renders at (one-and-a-half times bigger, to be precise). We foresee a lot of gamers applying Halo 3 wallpaper to their computers after release, thanks to this feature.

During the Forge demo, Jarrard took the opportunity to show off a few of Halo 3's new vehicles and weapons that we didn't get to see in May's multiplayer beta. There's the brute chopper, which does in fact look like a big gnarly motorcycle with an enormous front wheel. He said it will play similarly to the ghost, but best of all, it has a boost ability that you can use to literally plow through most other vehicles of similar size. Then there's the brute's prowler, a beefy hovering vehicle which is basically like the Covenant's version of the warthog. It's got a manned, rear-mounted turret similar to the warthog, but this one can also accommodate two passengers, one on each side in addition to the driver, so you get to transport four players in total.

On the weapon side, we saw the new firebomb grenade, the last of the game's grenade types, which explodes in a burst of flame and then leaves an area of fire burning around its detonation point for a few seconds. Similarly, we saw the new flamethrower, which Bungie has been trying to include in a Halo game since the first one was in development. This one shoots a jet of burning fuel, which you can also paint along the ground to leave a trail of flame just like the firebomb. The flamethrower can overheat if you use it too long, though. Then there's the gravity hammer, a wicked-looking, long-axe-type weapon used by the brute chieftans in the campaign mode. This is similar to the energy sword, except it also does a good amount of area-of-effect damage every time you connect with it.

Bungie's Jarrard says Halo veterans should start out on heroic difficulty, if not legendary...

One of our favorite new weapons is the mauler, which is basically a one-handed shotgun that you can dual-wield. Obviously, it's not going to pack the same punch as a full shotgun, but the principle of the weapon is the same, and we figure popping off shots from two of them at once will give you a pretty good chance of scoring some hits. Finally, we saw a deployable energy shield that only provides protection on one side, rather than the 360-degree coverage of the bubble shield. The advantage of this one-sided shield is that you can fire through it with human projectile weapons. However, it will still stop Covenant energy weaponry, so this thing ought to be especially handy during the campaign mode.

And speaking of that campaign, we saw some more of it that's new since E3. Specifically it was the third mission, entitled Tsavo Highway, which sees Master Chief starting off in a bombed-out human marine bunker, after which he jumps into a warthog to proceed toward an unknown destination. Given that the Covenant has already begun its full-scale assault on Earth by this time, the ruined highway was full of enemy forces, making the way forward difficult. Master Chief had to hop out of the warthog several times to engage grunts and brutes coming in on Covenant drop ships. Jarrard spoke about the campaign's difficulty settings while showing us the level. In essence, it sounds like easy and normal will be more accessible than in the past, while heroic and legendary will be even more difficult (if that's even possible, in the case of the latter). He recommended that anyone with any previous Halo experience at all should play the game on heroic their first time through, since there will be drastic differences in enemy placement and density.

As we've reported recently, Halo 3 is "99.9 percent" finished, and Jarrard confirmed that Bungie is literally a handful of days away from stamping its seal of approval on what will undoubtedly be one of this year's biggest game releases. Check out our Halo 3 launch center to get all the details on the game before next month's launch date.

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Discussion

550 comments
boomshakalaka88
boomshakalaka88

in the map editor, can you raise and lower the terrain?

jaflash
jaflash

i wonder if bill gates will play it I hope its 110% finished when i get it

sephiroth_4
sephiroth_4

I wonder how much $ M$ slipped to Famitsu to give it 37/40 since Japanese typically don't indulge in fps, not to mention anything xbox.

vpp360
vpp360

can u say BEST GAME EVER!

patriotsrule47
patriotsrule47

So many games to get, I already got halo 3 preordered and i want call of duty 4, Mass Effect, Brothers in arms and a bunch more

bartonle
bartonle

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Bczican015
Bczican015

hey bungie, i love you. you make games.... but stop tourturing me with all this! im gonna go crazy! i want Halo three now!

Ender_117
Ender_117

I can't stand all of these reviews. They are making me all the more impatient!!! :)

Count_Shleif
Count_Shleif

people are gonna die over this game....either of anxiety or impatience

xack10
xack10

HALOOOOOO THREEEE!!!! i cant wait!

jeremiah06
jeremiah06

wow i have to say although i have a ps3 halo 3 has got me exited cant wait till my friend get so i can play

Hexusaff
Hexusaff

it will be possible to place a.i. in the game on multiplayer? (sorry for my bad english)

Batch86
Batch86

It's going to be ( . )( . )

kyre0
kyre0

infinite excitement doesnt even BEGIN to cover it...

Widow360
Widow360

This game is going to be so sweet!

ulrikwich
ulrikwich

Wihuuu, just talked to my sis who works at M$. She can by it now and has placed an order for it - I get it during next week!!! CANT WAIT

skillzdatkill
skillzdatkill

i dotn' get what is so danm special about this game! GAMEPLAY SUCKS!

gunner6270
gunner6270

omg dude 19 days seems so far away im just sayin this now to get it outta my system there's more halo fans out there than GOW fans!!!!!!! there... i said it

fax555241
fax555241

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Ilikewii
Ilikewii

I want to buy a 360 just for this game, (and Bioshock).

aringarosa101
aringarosa101

@ snowycrazyking they pretty much have the same premise... but they're still two different breeds of animal. well put.

snowycrazyking
snowycrazyking

I don't think its fair to compare the graphics of Halo to GoW. They both have great gameplay and graphics. They just aren't same style of game.

aringarosa101
aringarosa101

i will admit that it is mostly hype, but bungie has had a long running history of amazing games, other than the halo franchise (marathon, myth.) that i do believe that this game will live up to the hype. good point about the colors. ; ]

GR33DY83
GR33DY83

lol woww look at all this hype, i don't really see what the fuss is about i played halo 2 for about 10 mins its soo kiddy with lots of wonderful colours hahahah might as well watch teletubbies hahah ohhh man im gonna get soo much hate mail lol

nospomb
nospomb

OMG i cant waiiiiit!

hardcore_gamer1
hardcore_gamer1

this is gonna be the biggest in the world when it comes out.

aringarosa101
aringarosa101

which, unfortunately, you can't. but the elephant and the hornet make up for it... plus, the banshee bomb will be coming back in multiplayer.

AffeTron
AffeTron

It`s gonna be one of the 360`s biggest release :) The map editor will be fun... And the helmet changing is cool... Was bored that everybody Halo 2 looked the same :P Making movies, and taking pictures of your best fighting scenes... Cant wait until late September... ;)

aringarosa101
aringarosa101

gears of war is trying to portray a gritty, destroyed, wartime environment. that's totally cool. that's epic's style. bungie, however likes to be nice, crisp and wonderfully colorful. both games are awesome.

patriotsrule47
patriotsrule47

this game looks amazing and i don't think this game will get any lower than a 10 . This or mass effect is game of the year

patriotsrule47
patriotsrule47

all you guys who say that halo 3's graphics look nothing compared to gears of war your wrong because they both got two completely different styles. halo has lots of color and gears of war has hardly any color at all

OnlyTbone
OnlyTbone

Is it really overrated....huge sales...great online play....great story...did i mention sales. Overated would be....low sales but high rating...no its rating is backed up by its sales and fanbase. Just because its the most famous, popular FPS doesn't mean its overrated. and yes....im a halo fan!!! W00t W00t. Im so ready for the 25th

gniwthgin
gniwthgin

i can imagine it now... first guy runs toward scorpion second guy edits it out and turns it into a mine. the first guy blows up... lol ahh

aringarosa101
aringarosa101

shadowrun was an experiment. this is a tried and true franchise with a massive fanbase. bungie is a genius at making games (marathon, myth...) and the first two halos were incredible. why shouldn't this one be?

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

I really dont see what all the fuss is about, its just another overhyped FPS (ala Shadowrun).

aringarosa101
aringarosa101

me and my friends are going to spend hours trying to get the most epic screenshots we can for me to use as a wallpaper.

claymanjuba
claymanjuba

The amount of content that halo 3 is packing is just amazing, cant wait for it

Brother_Beetz
Brother_Beetz

I skipped Halo 2 since my son played it a billion times in the living room and was content to know the story and wait for H3 lol. Now the closer it gets the more and more I play through the story thinking of how amazing this game is looking.! Pre-ordered and rearing to go!! And that was BEFORE I read about FORGE OMFG SWEEEET!!!!! Hilarity ON! :)

ahmedbilal1993
ahmedbilal1993

I have got my fingers crossed for Halo 3. Cant it come soon enough. It sure is going to be one heck of a 360 game.

ChudWarrior
ChudWarrior

I think the first two games had a rather entertaining story for a video game, plus they had plenty of action to back it up. Four player co-op and now this! This game keeps sounding better and better. Sept.25 th can not come soon enough.

NikokingNL
NikokingNL

Damn i need this game it has evrything i want!

AKAkiwi
AKAkiwi

i want a hate to but its going to rock :(