In combat, the scale is just as large, but the AI is different since it’s tuned for fun and challenge rather than grand spectacle. No point in a glorious sequence of barrel rolls if they serve no gameplay purpose. -Frank O'Connor
This was one of Bungie's remarks in a Bungie Weekly Update about a year ago detailing the development of Halo 3. This attitude is reflected closely in the final product- Halo 3 features action on a level much larger that the previous two games; but the battles are only upped to the extent that keeps the game going. But I'm going to have to pull out one of my Halo 3 nitpicks here...Halo 3's battle sequences could (and should) have been much larger in scale.
Don't get me wrong- I'm not ungrateful for the bigger battles. It feels great to have more than five half-witted Marines with limited AI running around me being generally useless. Yeah, it is great that a dozen Marines can be on your screen at once, and sometimes, all dozen of them can even fight with you. But frankly, this happens only one or two times. And the Marines like to run around in circles and let you do 3/4ths of the work.
Take the beginning of The Ark level for example. Pelicans shoot downward through Installation 00's atmosphere in a daring move and suffer casualties in as they bravely reach the surface to complete a mission of utmost importance...to offload four ODSTs. And you. Well, what if you fail? that's ok, there's another pair of Marines in the Pelican, surely they can do great things against that ARMY of Covenant troops. And you don't even get vehicles. Completely worth it, considering the risk they took to get down there, right??
Storyline value is enough to make this setup ridiculous. I mean come on, this mission will determine the outcome of the entire battle...they're trying to destroy the Covenant and clear a landing zone. EVERYTHING is at stake if they don't succeed. So...they send just John-117 (And co-op characters, but they aren't always there, so they don't count.) with an amazing backup of four ODSTs to accomplish the entire mission.
That's probably the most incompetent military strategy I have ever seen. The strategy they used for insertion was called an air assault, in which aerial vehicles offload troops into a combat zone. But I don't care how elite your unit is, you don't waste resources or risk people's lives to offload such a small force for such an important mission. Every one of those pelicans should have been packed with ODSTs, standing room included. They should have unloaded a dozen of them from each Pelican, with heavy weapons, light vehicles, and supplies. There was just too much at stake to risk going in light and undermanned.
Storyline aside, Halo has some pretty stiff competition- and they should know it. They've been competing with the Call of Duty franchise virtually since the inception of the Xbox, and PC gaming. When I heard about "bigger scale battles," I thought of Call of Duty 2's famous Pointe du Hoc Mission...It is D-Day, and you jump off of a landing craft and...the crap hits the fan. There are literally hundreds of people in all directions- shooting, climbing the cliffs, and dying en masse. You get to the top of the cliff and the crap hits the fan again- a hundred more allies are trying to take the cliffs- and there are explosions everywhere, machine gun fire from all directions; they've even got an AA gun mowing people down. Historical context aside, its beautifully rendered, and its freakin intense. Acton in all directions, which never plays out the same way twice. And in the level after that, about a hundred enemies come rushing streight at you with a column of tanks and infantry. Call of Duty 2 came out two years before Halo 3. The competition is stiff, and Halo 3 needs everything it can get over Call of Duty 4, not just in the multiplayer realm. I don't understand why they would set themselves back in the campaign with such a limited scale of action.
You see, part of COD's campaign appeal has always been the scope of it all. There is so much going on in every level, and so many times where your allies are fighting with the same amount of involvement that you are. Yeah, I know you play a Spartan superman in Halo 3, but a lot of the time through the campaign, you get the feeling that you have to do everything. They throw a few useless soldiers in with you, but not enough to make a difference. The fate of the entire galaxy is at stake, but instead of putting forth all they can, you get a few lousy allies and the job of winning the entire war by yourself. For the third game in a row. The entire planet Earth is under attack, but somwhow nobody can be found when you need help, other than a half dozen Marines at a time?
I just can't stand games that sacrifice realism just to make things annoyingly hard. They could have made made the beginning of The Ark like Pointe du Hoc- Pelicans and Hornets all over the place flying to a landing zone...shooting and being shot down and offloading huge numbers of troops, then MOST of them get slaughtered, allowing you to continue the mission in the same way, but with more intensity and realism. It would not have been that hard to do. Making things unrealistic to the point of being stupid - just to make up ways for things to be harder for you. They could have doubled the number of enemies to make the game harder, or increased their strength, they could have done a lot more. But they didn't. Sorry, Mr. O'Connor, but there is a purpose for the grand spectacle...it just makes games more exciting.