While Mom might have been jealous if it was the Bea-stie-Boys; she most definitely wouldn't be jealous of the sound in the Halo 3 beta. --So you all know that I’m gaga over Halo 3 at this point. If you’ve bene reading this regularly, then you know that other than that damned Covenant Carbine and the equally confounded Battle Rifle I love just about everything there is about this game so far. It may come as a surprise to you then to learn that I actually have a complaint. Not a minor little quibble, but an honest to goodness beef.
So what is it? Is it the graphics? Well, not exactly. The graphics could definitely be better, but as we’ve discussed before, this is a beta build. Graphical sheen is among the last things to be done to a game. Also, even if this wasn’t a preview build and this was final code, I don’t think I would care. The graphics aren’t bad at all, they look a bit better than Halo 2, but the gameplay is so rock solid that no one in their right mind would spend even a minute griping about the graphics.
Is it the gameplay? Get the hell out of here, have you read nothing I’ve written over the past week and a half?
It’s the sound. To be perfectly frank it sucks. I know this is beta code and it’s not finished, but I really expected better than this. For starters they have this feature that has been in a few games already, where the gunfire of distant battles can be heard in a very muffled state (Callof Duty 2). It’s a cool feature, but it’s very poorly implemented. It drops in and out with no warning. I was playing with a couple of our readers who sent me friend requests last week (the name’s Hadrian if you feel like playing a game or two) and I kept hearing them say things about the gun fight they were in, but I could hear no distant gunfire despite the fact that they were not very far away. Other times, they would indicate they were being shot and I could hear it perfectly.
It’s a fun feature to be sure, but if it doesn’t work perfectly then it shouldn’t be in there. Players could become dependent on that sort of thing to help them locate enemies. If you’re standing around on a defensive gametype thinking that no one is around because there’s no gun shots, you could end up losing the game for your team, all because of bad sound.
Also, the weapons sound like crap. Or rather, buried in crap. It’s all very muddled and much too quiet for gunfire, it should sound crisp and loud. The Spartan Laser for example -- despite being one of the most powerful weapons in the game -- doesn’t make nearly enough noise when fired. Sure, if you nail someone at close range it’ll rattle your ear drums, but if it connects far away it’s as quiet as a mouse. Exact same deal with the rocket launcher. Although, personally, I don’t feel that the RL makes enough noise on impact either.
There are a few nice touches, like the incredibly morbid way you can hear your own brains giving way to a head shot. Or the whirr of plasma shield on Snowbound. Everything is over shadowed by the one gigantic, glaring fault in the sound design. NO CUSTOM SOUNDTRACKS!!! I mean seriously what the hell? I imagine there’s a reason for this, but I haven’t played a multiplayer game without my own soundtrack since Halo 2. I don’t have a stereo in my apartment anymore so I’m left with nothing but sound effects for the hours upon hours I play every day; it’s just bogus. And other than being an auricular jumble, the sound in this game will no doubt leave your Mom asking "What's that noise?!"