15 Years On, Halo 3 Was The First “Modern” Online Game

Grab the guys, we're hopping on Team Slayer.

Halo 3
Halo 3

It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years already since the original release of Halo 3 on the Xbox 360. Bungie’s incredible first person shooter has been around for over half of my own life, and it’s hard to deny the impact that it’s had not just on myself, but on the world as a whole. Halo 3 is a masterpiece of FPS design, and it’s still just as enjoyable to play now as it was back when it first launched on the original Xbox.

In fact, it’s even better now because you’re not at risk of a Red Ring of Death.

The culmination of Bungie’s original trilogy, Halo 3 lived up to the incredible legacy that the series had already cultivated across six years. The full package included a brilliant campaign, along with the ability to experience full 4-player online co-op with said campaign, a multiplayer suite that’s still hard to beat 15 years later and a raft of creation tools like Forge and Theatre mode to help players share their favourite moments through Xbox Live.

As singular modes, there’s plenty of reason why Halo 3 would be a fantastic game. However, the full package together meant that Halo 3 was at the forefront of today’s online game design, during a time when most games were just throwing together a multiplayer mode because “it’ll sell more”. We look at the modcons and features we’ve come to expect and take for granted from a modern online experience, and Halo 3 had them all in spades.

Halo 3
Halo 3

One of the best parts of gaming in this day and age is the ability to save clips and share them online with friends or with your 467 Twitter followers who don’t give a crap (sorry, gang), but Halo was likely a lot of people’s first interaction with anything similar to that, particularly with regards to console gaming. Being able to back up your frag brags with video proof was a gratifying experience, especially when one of your other mates always conveniently forgot to grab clips of their “epic plays”.

Meanwhile, the Forge mode was kind of rudimentary, at least in comparison to what it’s become with Halo Infinite, but it allowed players some level of creativity to create new kinds of levels. Sure, most of those creations exploited glitches in order to create race tracks or glitched sky fortresses for those really unfair custom games of infection, but there was some genuine ingenuity on show. Many weekends were spent enjoying custom game modes like Jenga or Bullfighting with a group of friends.

Halo brought together all of its creation tools with the File Share feature, which allowed you to tie screenshots, video clips, Forge maps and custom game modes to your profile. Like Forge, it sounds rudimentary, but it was the early days of content creation and sharing through console gaming, and it allowed for fan favourite modes and maps to circulate around the community. Word of mouth would spread, and different creations would go viral before there even was the term “going viral”.

None of this would matter if Halo 3 wasn’t a superlative FPS experience, which it absolutely was (and still is), but in retrospect, these additional features made it an incredibly forward-thinking game. With the strides console makers have made to allow players to experience the creativity, or at least their epic plays via clips, and with more shooters embracing creativity, it feels we’re seeing Halo 3’s grand vision finally playing out. It just took 15 years to get there.

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