To say that Halo 3 is the most anticipated game of the year for many is most likely the understatement of the millennium. When Halo 2 ended, I was left with my jaw agape and begging for a resolution to the story. Part 3 has finally arrived and it is well worth the wait.I remember years ago walking into a computer store and picking up an Xbox controller. Halo was on the screen and I spent a fair amount of time playing it, with particular interest to the detail, the likes of which I had only seen on a computer screen. I made it a point to acquire the system as soon as one was available (no easy feat at the time). Then along came Halo 2 which was a step up and in the right direction. I honestly feel the folks over at Bungie could have rested on their laurels and just given us more of the same and no complaints would have been lobbied. Instead, they paid close attention to their fan base and produced a product that far exceeded my expectations.If I need to tell you the back story of Halo, you are either too young to play it or have just awoken from a cryogenic slumber. Thus, let me say that Master Chief is alive and well and it is your job to keep him, and everyone else, in that state. The story begins beautifully in both the literal and literary sense and will quickly have you hit the ground running.The game progresses through a fairly good story arc and the pacing feels great. While there is not a lot of down time, the variety of activities you must undertake is certainly refreshing. A majority of the action takes place on the ground, I felt like I was a lone gun, even when fighting along side my AI companions. In a few instances, the action changes very quickly. One minute you are fighting on foot, the next you are in a vehicle and, shortly thereafter, you are flying. All in all, the experience is not very predictable and you want to keep playing to see what happens next.I am sure you have figured out that Master Chief is clearly at the core of the story once again. In addition, many of your favorite characters return, and a few show some interesting flaws. There enemy AI is fairly good and at times enemies’ behavior is quite fascinating. If you think you are going to just run and shoot all the time (beyond the easy difficulty level), you are mistaken.The weapons in the game are numerous and there are a few new ones. Not wanting to ruin the surprise, I will tell you that my favorite (overall) is the Brute Spiker, a duel-wield handgun. Weapons are limited to two, but you can, as always, drop the weapon you are carrying and pick up whatever might be lying around. I found the ammo was sufficiently scarce, even on normal, to the point of some seriously good heart-pounding throughout the game.In addition to the normal weapons, there are some interesting support weapons available. Again, I do not want to spoil the fun for you while you play (and you will play), so I will not go into detail on these. Vehicles are present once again, and I really enjoyed them this time around. I have never been crazy about the driving controls in Halo, but either I have become used to them or they have been modified slightly to make driving less awkward.
I am purposely going to skip any discussion of the ending because if you were that curious you would have scoured the Internet by now. I hope you have not, because playing the game to its conclusion is well worth it.In terms of the single player experience, I do have a minor criticism in the save system. I would much prefer to be able to log saves so I can return to a specific point in the game if I so choose. Fear not, you can certainly go back and play any portion of the game, or an entire mission if you choose, but I would have liked the option none the less. With a hard drive for game saves, I cannot understand the logic behind limiting savesThe graphics in Halo 3 are as good as any I have seen on console or computer. I would have to say that Bioshock certainly gives it a run for its money, but it would be a close race. As I have aged, my mind tends to improve the visual quality of games I have played in the past, so I needed to play a bit of Halo and Halo 2 to really appreciate the leap in quality here.The sound is predictable but appreciated. The Gregorian chant background music is ever present in the menu and I felt like I had returned to a familiar place as soon as I started the game. The weapons and environmental effects are excellent. When you play the game through a good quality digital sound system, it has theater-like quality. The voice acting is fantastic.MultiplayerI seriously doubt most people will buy Halo 3 for the single player experience. While it would be worth every penny, clearly the reason Halo has survived so long is the multiplayer capability. With such a well-developed community out there, I think Bungie really had the heat on in this area. Again, they have notdisappointed.The game lobby is not quite what I thought it would be, but it works well enough. One of the most positive aspects of the Halo 3 multiplayer aspect is ranking the system which allows users at any level to find a relatively fair game to get in to. You can play against other players or along side them in the campaign coop mode. One great addition is the Forge, which allows player to alter the game by placing objects in any Halo 3 multiplayer map. They sky is the limit. I have seen some pretty crazy stuff happen online.The popularity of Red vs Blue and other machcinema inspired Bungie to include a theatre mode in which folks can generate video from in game footage. I am not much of a movie maker, but the controls seem pretty straightforward. I seriously doubt that I will spend much time with it, but I hope some more artistically inclined folks do.I cannot say enough good about Halo 3. Yes there are some minor flaws here and there, but only if you are looking to criticize. It was certainly well worth the wait and I am sure it will be enjoyed online for a very long time. The game box says “The stunning conclusion to the Halo trilogy.” I pray that they count trilogies the same as Douglas Adams and George Lucas. Bungie, if you are reading this, one order of Halo 4 please.