The Halo series of games on Microsoft's, Xbox are truly a thing of wonder, with number one introducing a fantastic story and a great, however only 4 player split screen, multiplayer.
Halo 2 upped the ante, bigger, badder weapons, more diverse enemies, and an absolute gem of a multiplayer mode, both online and offline.
It is with no surprise then, that Halo 3 was expected to be a thing of wonder, bringing an end to the story of the Master Chief and The Covenant, and supposedly defining what Xbox Live Multiplayer should be.
It is with a heavy heart then, that Halo 3 manages to disappoint in so many ways, firstly, the story is, whilst an end to proceedings, short and to be honest not much fun. You can never feel humanities struggle as the story never goes any deeper other than to suggest all the Halo rings "may" blow up and all you do is crush the, frankly, petty invasion from The Covenant, all i can see in the Halo 3 story is similar to that of Halo 2, which quite frankly was a chore to play through. The story may have some nice set pieces, but it never ignites in a way which would bring about the awesome levels from Halo: Combat Evolved.
Whilst Co-op is a neat addition, Xbox Live is required to have 4-player Co-op and there is only 2-player local, which I feel is a missed opportunity. Sometimes it is nice to open a few beers and play Halo with friends.
Also, not everyone gets to play as Master Chief, and 3 people get stuck as playing as Elites, which may lead to some squabbles as to who gets control of MC.
Secondly, and while this may seem like a minor niggle, graphically Halo 3 just doesn't push the 360, or even attempt to make it sweat. The graphics do the job, and have some nice little effects, but these won't match up to Gears of War or Crysis any day of the week.
Thirdly, difficulty just doesn't match up, you can go from pathetically easy, to extremely difficult in the blink of an eye, and while "hardcore gamers" shrug this off and just blast through more covenant, inexperienced "casual" gamers, may get frustrated, and tire of the game quickly, that said however, many people who aren't good at FPS's don't tend to try higher than "Normal" difficulty first time round, so this shouldn't be a problem.
The gem of Halo 3 may not lie in it's story telling, or even in its graphical ability, simply put Halo 3 is all about the multiplayer.
With such an expansive roster of modes and things to try multiplayer never tires, Bungie explicitly set out to have an amazing multiplayer experience, and they have not failed the Halo community, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Big Team Battles, Objective based games, Capture the Flag, Team Swords/Rockets/Battle Rifles/Duals, and the list still goes on, Bungie have put as much creative though into the game types as they have into each of the weapons themselves.
The new maps such as Construct, High Ground and Valhalla all help in creating an absolutely delectable multiplayer experience, the maps are all balanced with an assortment of weapons, vehicles and "equipment", such as trip mines to place, which explode when something makes contact with them, or Power Drainers, which drain opponents (and sometimes your own) shield meter.
With such vast and expansive quantities of things to do Online, it is hard to consider that Bungie have added much else. Two other modes, Forge and Theatre, add many more opportunities to the expansive list of multiplayer options already available.
Forge, is, in essence, a level editor, and whilst is not in as much depth as say Far Cry's map editor, it does go far to add something extra to the game. It can merely be used for people to create their own versions of a certain map, like adding new weapons or taking away others, changing vehicles spawns and even where players spawn, it also opens up creative possibilities for people who want to add new parts to a map, or restricting entry to other previously open doorways and generally creating a new variant on an old map. Forge is fantastic as it can be used either as sparingly as you want to just mix gameplay up a little bit, or used as an in depth tool to go the extra mile and create something that rewrites the rulebook, and with the "Bungie Favourites" getting updated each week you can expect to download a lot of new map/game variants from dedicated creators on Forge. My only problem with Forge is that it doesn't go far enough. Whilst changing locations of weapons and spawning exploding barrels in a certain place can be fun it may have been nice to have people create their own maps, and really have given people a chance to fully express themselves.
Theatre is what it says on the tin, a way to watch previous games, this allows you to reflect on where exactly you went wrong or looking at a snipe in more than one way, even watch a funny moment in one of your games. It is a great way to also convey mishaps, sticks, skillful shots and even embarrassing events to friends, as you now have a medium to record and prove that something happened, when usually it was up to friends to believe you if it happened. Theatre is also a good way to show other people's tactics on a certain map, and may help you expand your skills by showing you previously inaccessible area's or where a weapon may spawn to help boost your game, it can also show you how people tend to approach maps and may help you think differently when playing a game on High Ground or Snowbound.
Once again there is a problem with Theatre, it only streams raw data, which means you have to rewind in 10, or however many, second increments. which does get annoying when trying to get to a certain part on a film clip. Overall though, I have found the Theatre mode to be helpful and fun and really enhancing my experience with the game.
Halo 3 has its strong points, and whilst these points help create a fantastic game experience, it is let down by what can only be seen as an inferior single player experience.
This is a real shame as Halo 3's multiplayer is fun, challenging and forever being enhanced by Forge. Even though the single player can wrap up the story, it never engages, and unfortunately is the weakest part of Halo 3, however multiplayer is where the majority of your time with Halo 3 will be, and fortunately that does not disappoint.
Overall an amazing multiplayer mode and rather lacklustre story mode combine to create what is essentially one of the best games on Xbox 360, it is just, and i can't say this enough, such a shame that single player is such a let-down.
Theatre really can be a helpful tool
Sounds are good
Sheer amount going on the screen at some points
Graphics "do the job"
Single Player is dissatisfying
2 Player single console Co-op is a missed opportunity
Higher difficulties may be off-putting to some gamers