The hype leading up to Halo 3’s release was unprecedented. While other companies were busy taking notes on how to generate hype for your key title(s) everyone else was wondering whether Halo 3 could possibly live up to the hype. After playing through the single player campaign as well as having numerous online matches it became clear that Halo 3 not only lived up to the hype, but surpassed it in some areas. The single player campaign will take you around 8-10 hours to complete if you just want to go through it to experience the storyline. If you want to find all of the hidden skulls however it could take you considerably longer. The single player campaign takes you on a journey to stop the Prophet of Truth once and for all so that you can, “finish the fight”. Like previous iterations in the series there is a little bit of backtracking in some of the levels however it has been greatly reduced for Halo 3 leading to some more varied environments and more situations that you will have to survive. Your experience will also vary on what difficulty you choose for the campaign. Just the difference between the “normal” and “heroic” settings is something to marvel at. Using the “heroic” setting the A.I. is more intelligent as well as more aggressive. As soon as they notice you they will not hesitate to attack you. If you try to hide behind some cover the enemy A.I. will briefly talk about strategy and then start to flank you in an effort to trap you. This will briefly cause you to think of some strategy as well. If you simply charge forward with guns blazing you will most likely be cut down by a group of Brutes or their minions. Bungie did an excellent job with the pacing of this game as I never felt bored going through any of the levels as I was constantly challenged with various obstacles whether it was trying to take down a giant Scarab or piloting a ghost while trying to take out gun embankments with other vehicles chasing after me. The game play is intuitive, smooth and really fast paced. It is everything you have come to expect from the Halo series.
The ending to the single player campaign was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, just be sure to watch the credits as more happens when the credits stop rolling. Did you pull off a particularly nice move or go through a level and just destroy everything and you want to share it with friends? No problem! One of the many new features in Halo 3 is the saved film feature. Not only can you save matches that you participated in over Xbox Live but you can also save videos of you going through the campaign. If you dominated Sierra 117 on Legendary you can save the video when you pass the level and invite your friends over Live to witness your dominance from their own home. Not only that but you can “detach” the camera when you are watching the video back and watch it from any angle or perspective you want. Imagine you are up against someone particularly good, this would be a great way to study how they play and improve your own skills at the same time. You can also choose to edit the video before you send it off in case you want to just showcase your greatest moments and leave out the times where the Covenant took you out. There is also an option for four player co-op throughout the campaign. Team up with your friends and destroy the Covenant together. Player number one will play as Master Chief, player number 2 will play as the Arbiter and players number three and four will both play as Elites. All four characters will have the same abilities with the only thing really separating them being the weapon that they start out with.
Of course the most popular feature of any Halo game is multiplayer and with Halo 3 Bungie expanded on an already great formula. You still have the normal game types with brand new maps which feature new weapons and items for players to use. The incredible matchmaking that Bungie introduced in Halo 2 is back and better than ever. You can also change the options prior to the match starting to determine how the match will go. You can determine what weapons will be on the map, how gravity will affect you, whether you can team kill and various other features. All of these features and options work flawlessly and are a lot of fun using with a group of friends. Bungie also introduced a new feature titled, “Forge”. What this will allow the player to do is modify the multiplayer maps on the fly. You won’t get to edit the actual terrain itself but you will be able to determine what weapons are on the map, where they are placed, where spawn points are located, vehicles on the map and things of that nature. To do this the player becomes the monitor from the single player campaign and flies over the map to get a better view for editing the map. More than one player can do this which makes for a very interesting multiplayer map. However the party leader gets to choose the parameters of the match. He will get to choose whether he is the only one who can edit the map or whether he will allow others to do it as well. He can also set things such as respawn time as well as the editor and player traits. Another thing that you can do with multiplayer is set custom games. Here you can just play with friends if you like and make it invite only so that only the people you want in the game will be there.
Overall Halo 3 is one of those rare instances where the developer exceeded expectations and over delivered. There is enough content packed into Halo 3 for multiple stand alone games which makes it all the more impressive that Bungie was able to fit it all on one disc. The overall look of the Halo world looks better than ever in high definition and there are times where you will just stop and stare at the scenery. Much like Halo 2 I expect Halo 3 to be the most played game on Live for years to come.