Halo 3 campaign in testing

Bungie says it is testing the single-player portion of its FPS; reveals new info on weapons, comic, game modes, documentary, matchmaking playlists, and more.

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Development on perhaps the most-anticipated game of 2007 seems to be running smoothly.

After announcing two months ago that multiplayer testing of Halo 3 was under way in the Bungie Studios' offices, the developer has revealed that the game's single-player campaign is getting its fair share of action. The announcement came late last Friday, just before the stretched-out Independence Day weekend began in the United States.

"Multiplayer, single player, you name it, folks are playing it," said Bungie's Frankie O'Connor. "The lab formerly known as the multiplayer lab is now also the single player lab."

O'Connor used the company's weekly update posted on Bungie.net to say that it is running through the single-player game as "a gameplay test, not a graphics one."

Since the graphics are unfinished, he shifted the focus to gameplay and praised the increased power of the Xbox 360 to churn out more advanced artificial intelligence among Halo 3's enemies. "That counts for your human allies," he wrote, "but it's more noticeable at this early stage in the behavior of your opponents."

O'Connor described a heated encounter he experienced in the game, which he said showed off Halo 3's improved AI.

"At this point, they're testing out the new AI and encounters as much as anything else. ... Today, I swear I saw some Grunts do a classic pincer-movement to trap me in a narrow canyon," he wrote. "I was battling um, something bigger than a Grunt, and suddenly, I'm being peppered by a second group of jerks, mostly Grunts, who'd been sent in around my flanks to take me out. Grunts are still grunts though, and once I showed some serious opposition, a couple of them panicked and fled, but they nearly had me and it was quite a shock."

O'Connor's "um, something bigger than a Grunt" may be a likely indicator that some new enemies will be thrown into the intergalactic mix.

He also officially revealed several more tidbits relating to the Halo franchise, from a new Halo 3 multiplayer mode and revamped weapons to Halo 2 matchmaking playlists and the release of the Halo comic book.

--Since multiplayer testing began two months ago, a new "utterly terrifying" Halo 3 game mode has been developed. "I have never, ever heard so much frightened screaming during a play test of anything. And plenty of laughing too," O'Connor said, without offering any further details.

--The seven-minute mini-documentary that profiled the development of the Halo 3 E3 2006 trailer was released a month ago on Bungie's Web site, but it will just now be coming to Xbox Live Marketplace. The documentary will be available for download sometime this week or next week, O'Connor said.

--Many of the classic Halo weapons, such as the Covenant sniper rifle, are getting a graphical makeover for Halo 3. "I wanted to go back and make everything better," said Bungie weapons designer Tom Doyle. "The Covenant sniper is one of my favorite weapons--it just feels so powerful. I wanted to emphasize that in the new version, so we're adding some detail that will really show off the building energy in the weapon."

--The upcoming Halo graphic novel is hot off the presses. "[Bungie artist] Lorraine [McLees] literally just arrived back from Marvel's printer with the very first copy," O'Connor said. Halo: The Graphic Novel will be unveiled at the July 20-23 San Diego Comic Con and it will go on sale this month, O'Connor said.

--A revamped form of matchmaking playlists will be hitting Halo 2, and Bungie is looking for community contributions--because the playlists will be designed by Halo 2 players. "[T]hese fan created playlists will be temporary and their lifespan will be determined by popularity ... If people like your list, we'll keep it up for longer and if they hate it, we'll yank it," O'Connor said. Still, don't expect the new playlists anytime soon. "This thing is a long way out and playlists take a long time to test," he said, "so don't hold your breath."

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