Moving the Halo franchise to PC has been a long process, with 343 Industries bringing The Master Chief Collection to each game. Now, it’s Halo 3’s time, and as one of the Xbox 360’s flagship games – and one of Microsoft’s most popular exclusives of all time – it has a huge reputation to live up to.
Luckily, Halo 3 is the best PC port the franchise has yet, reinvigorating the 2007 classic in a way that 343 other games never did. Where ports of Reach, Halo 2, and Combat Evolved couldn’t avoid feeling like they were designed for controllers, Halo 3 is a natural fit for keyboard and mouse, especially when using precision-focused which are Halo weapons like the Covenant Carbine or Battle Rifle.
The game’s controls are incredibly smooth on PC, it feels equal parts reaction and skill-based, but refreshingly slow. Shooters have evolved a lot since Halo 3’s debut, gradually becoming faster and more twitch-based, and while fans may fear that Halo 3 has not held back compared to other options on the platform, like Modern Warfare or Valorant, the fresh coat of Paint and control options make the classic new again.
Halo fans are probably familiar with Halo 3’s campaign levels, but this is another area where the game has stood the test of time. Even in the context of the lackluster storytelling of Halo 4 and 5, the relationship between Cortana and the increasingly fractured portrayal of Master Chief is moving. It doesn’t fix the questionable moments and unintended character deaths, but it doesn’t stop Halo 3 from holding its own as one of the franchise’s best campaigns.
There are some areas where the level design is a bit dated compared to what’s out there today, but the narrative itself is still solid for a sci-fi shooter. Bungie fans will obviously see some of the experience the developer has accumulated by working with the franchise in Destiny 2’s DNA, and while that evolution didn’t stop with Halo 3, it’s impossible to deny its influence.
Of course, 343 is clearly more interested in maintaining the original Halo 3 experience while still porting it to PC. This can be seen in a few different areas, but the AI is the biggest, as the enemy and companion AI is not good. Enemies have predictable patterns, which sets players up for some cool moments, but it would be nice to see some bigger improvements on that front.
While it may not be important, 343 industries have made some additions to Halo 3. The recent Master Chief Collection update brought some changes to the game, along with other entries currently available on PC. Customization is now more in line with what players have in the Xbox 360 version of Halo 3, and a new skull has been added that gives Master Chief a jetpack, although players will need to unlock this.
Halo 3’s Skulls still offer a fun way to add an extra layer of challenge regardless of the difficulty setting or make the game a chaotic experience. Those looking for a replayable experience will find a lot to like in skulls, especially for those who decide to have some friends tag along.
But players will likely spend the most time in Halo 3’s multiplayer, which is one of the most iconic Xbox Live experiences ever. For many, Halo 3 multiplayer was the main reason to pick up the Master Chief Collection in the first place, and even in 2020, it doesn’t disappoint.
Players have access to all the maps and game modes found in the original, but with new life on PC. Halo 3’s maps are still some of the best designed in competitive shooters, and they feel distinct from each other in a way that not many games can match. Despite spending hundreds of hours on them over the years, the maps still have a timeless appeal that will keep players coming back for more as long as the Master Chief Collection is supported on PC.
Fans also have access to the Forge, which can be used to build custom variations of the map. When Halo 3 originally launched on the Xbox 360, the Forge was a major addition, offering players the chance to get creative and invent some mind-blowing maps. The toolset is the same this time, so players should have no problem copying or modifying their original designs. Those maps can be used in Custom Games, but there isn’t any officially supported Forge map browser in the game, which means no community maps unless players want to talk to the game files.
However, the Forge’s control set is the one place where the keyboard and mouse don’t feel good. The menu system is clunky enough in the original, but the camera in Forge is awkward to move and things can be difficult to get into position. That said, players can easily plug in a controller to solve the problem, as it’s a better way to edit maps.
The PC port of Halo 3 is by far the best yet, giving the game smoother controls but otherwise keeping the original experience intact. It’s just as fun to play today as it was when it launched in 2007, a testament to Bungie’s design. Returners and fans will find something to enjoy here, for a nostalgia trip or for an experience unlike anything currently on the market.
Halo 3 is now available on PC and Xbox One. Today Technology was provided with a Steam code for this review.