Halo's strength has always been in its tactical variety, where no two battles play out the same way, and it's that variety Halo 3 runs with, making sure that every fight has new rules. If you've had your fill of Brutes outflanking you, you'll be surprised to see them taking to the air; if you've driven across enough green fields, how does a desert sound to you? How about a snowy mountain? A highway? A beach? A collapsing halo? A branch of Boots? Well okay, not the last one.
'TIL THE BITTER END
When the end of the game comes, it comes too soon, but while short, Halo 3's adventure is far denser than the games that came before it. There's no artificial padding and no copied/pasted corridors to lose yourself in.
Every set-piece is a unique moment of pure spectacle, crowned by the final level, a clear homage to Halo: Combat Evolved's Pillar of Autumn escape, but on a scale unmatched by any other moment in the series. If Halo's story must be a trilogy and the ending really, genuinely has to come, let it end like this - five minutes of the most thrilling action ever seen in any Halo game, ever.
SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON
It'll be a shame if Bungie never return to the Halo universe and leave it to the past like Marathon before it, but if you haven't indulged in co-op, you still haven't played Halo 3. If you haven't found the skulls and experimented with their effects, you haven't played Halo 3. If you think you know the whole story, you'll have to hunt down every single Marathon terminal, and if you think you're good, you'll want to play against other players in Halo 3's scored meta-game. On Heroic difficulty, the game clocks in at around ten hours, but it's a campaign designed to be replayed, alone and with friends.
So what then, have Bungie got wrong? Well, level eight isn't so great. It all goes on for a little too long. And while it's undeniably the game's weakest level, 'Cortana' is no Library, and certainly a cut or two above the soulless, repetitious, wish-they'd-end corridors of Halo 2's High Charity.
Forge isn't nearly as fully-featured as we were hoping, too. In fact, after so much hype, it's Halo 3's greatest disappointment. The boasts about the total freedom to place what you like, where you like, sounded like an excellent deal, but the final game limits objects and items on specific maps. So what if we want to drop half a dozen Hornets on Last Resort? Why can't we? Why can't we spawn ten Warthogs on Valhalla if we have the budget for it? Limiting the options, even if doing so benefits potential gameplay, is just a needless obstacle standing between us and joyous, limitless mirth.
So, Halo 3's worst moment really isn't that bad and Forge isn't quite as limitless as we had hoped. There's your downside for you. Three years of hype, thousands of words of previews, somewhere around ten hours of gaming and two little complaints buried right at the very, very end of the review.
THIS IS THE WAY THE REVIEW ENDS
Halo 3 doesn't innovate the way Halo did; it perfects. The first game established the formula with its truly revolutionary gameplay and expansive campaign; the second showed the world how to make an online game; the third perfects both in one package and delivers in every regard we could ask.
Halo was remarkable in the ambition and innovation that made it so fresh, but the mighty number three doesn't have quite that same freshness - instead, it has a reassuring maturity to it, crafted as it is by a team who have learned from every mistake they've made and every word of feedback the community has offered over the years. Halo 3 is the best Halo has ever been, and you won't find a greater accolade than that.
+ Rock solid in every regard
+ Perfectly paced
+ Asolutely spectacular
More than just the best shooter on the 360. It's everything any fan could ask for. 95%