Two thumbs sideways.
. I've played tons of shooters, I own a 360 and every other game seems to be a shooter. So, in terms of gameplay what makes Halo 3 stand out in the tried and tested formula of the first person shooter genre?
Firstly the vehicle combat is handled well and it's fun to have up to three players riding in the same vehicle, it makes for a powerful unit but also a large target for a Spartan laser. In Halo 3 It is great fun to be involved in a big conflict involving gound and airbourne vehicles as well as infantry and gun turret emplacements.
The power ups, such as oversheilds and camo, combined with equipment like the bubblesheild and deployable cover potentially add an element of strategy to the multiplayer experience. These powers are not as useful as the powers in say Shadowrun, but add a much needed extra dimension to the predominantly run and gun (and jump) combat. Gameplay tends to differ depending on the mode. As you'd expect lone wolf slayer gets pretty manic with individuals tearing around wantonly murdering as many multi-coloured Spartans as they can lay eyes on whereas the team modes definitely reward working as group either to achieve goals or to form a tougher unit in slayer-type modes. The controls are handled well and there are options to alter the configuaration if it isn't to your taste. The game is fun on multi-player and there are plenty of frustrating moments that are going to compel you to either play more or to shun the multi-player mode altogether because you feel wronged by it! You often hear complaints from your team mates of unloading a full clip into an opponents back then following up to connect a melee attack only to have said opponent turn 180 use a single melee attack and kill your poor team mate with a beat down, for those of you who have played does this sound familiar?
If you are into tactical shooters such as GRAW or Rainbow 6, or if you generally think a shotgun blast to the head at point-blank range should kill someone, then this type of cheese is likely to stick in your craw. The lobby and veto system is OK, it gets players together relatively quickly for competative games but is unable to link you up with people looking to play coop (this minor point is actually quite irritating as, if you don't have friends online you have message or "cold" game invite random gamers from your recently played list which is a hassle). The ranking system and unlocking of gear to provide cosmetic changes to your player model are similar to Rainbow 6 and are handled well. The full service records with all your match stats available from the Bungie website is definately a nice touch if you're a bit of an anorak, or if you want to bask in the glory of past victories? (hmm).
The story mode is challenging for one person on higher difficulties but gets easier with more players joining in for a coop. The later levels are much better looking and better designed than the first few missions to the extent that I didnt really enjoy the story mode until I was about halfway through the third mission. The graphics are really well done and are a big selling point for the game, the game looks great.
The guns are a mixed bag. With the exception of the sniper rifle and some of the high power weapons like the laser, the guns don't feel very effective or particularly satisfying to fire. It often takes clip after clip, round after round to dispose of some of the enemies if you play on heroic or legendary difficulty and it often leaves one wondering if Master Cheif is packing rubber bullets instead of live rounds. Again, if like me you prefer tactical shooters take this one with a pinch of salt.
Also Halo 3 isn't the most mature of games, this is certainly for a wider market than say Bioshock. Fans of more adult themed or high concept games may not be too impressed by fairly simplistic plot/ characters/ voice acting and overall presentation of this game.
Finally the extra forge mode and file sharing capabilities are good additions that excite me less for what they are than for the potential for future console games to take this type of feature even further. I'm sure its rewarding if you put the time into the forge, I have little inclinattion to do this myself however as I get frustrated with what I can't do. When given the ability to alter item placements around a map I start to wish I could have created the map as well and shared that for multiplayer gaming. Maybe this is something for the future of this type of user generated content. I hope it is, although it may not make financial sense for developers to give gamers a lot of control to shape the game they want to play otherwise why would they buy the next installment?.
So what's the lifespan of this game? Well I beat the story mode over a couple of days, played around 80 rounds of multiplayer and got around 650 gamer points within a week of owning this title and quite frankly I'm pretty bored of it. I'll play it again for sure, especially if I can find someone to play coop with, but it hasn't engrossed me to the extent that even Table Tennis did. I can safely say I won't be playing this game in about a months time and will probably trade it in but I'm definitely glad to have played it through.