Story: Alien Covenant forces have landed on Earth in search of an ancient artifact and the swarm-like Flood aren't far behind. You are Master Chief, the last of humanity's elite SPARTAN warriors, and, aided by some renegade aliens and a large number of soon-to-be dead marines, you must save the world both from destruction and from assimilation.
Luckily, you have some big guns.
Gameplay: Shoot things. Hide behind a wall. Shoot some more things. Drive a little. Watch a cutscene. Shoot even more things.
Yep, the only complicated thing here is the plot. You run around in first person perspective and shoot a lot. Get shot yourself and your shields take damage. If your shields go down and you take several hits in quick succession then you die. Don't get hit for a few seconds and your shields replenish. There are no health packs to collect. There are no puzzles to solve. The only thought required is in how best to outflank enemies and in which combination of weapons to carry. For instance, it's possible to dual-wield, holding a gun in each hand, but this only works with less powerful weapons and means you can't throw grenades.
Occasionally, you get to drive a jeep or blow things up with a tank.
Save System: Frequent check-pointing but the game only saves when you quit. This could go badly if there's a power cut.
Comments: I can only assume that all the fuss over the Halo series has to do with the multiplayer. The first one was very pretty but hugely repetitive. The second had more variety and a bit more depth but ended half way through. This feels like a re-mix of the best bits from the first two with marginally better graphics.
The initial levels are disturbingly linear even compared to Far Cry Instincts. Unfortunately, it can still be quite hard working out where to go thanks to lots of little dead ends and decorative doorways, etc. The level design often seems like a succession of glorified corridors. Things pick up in the more open, vehicle-based areas as you speed around like a maniac in a warthog jeep but the lack of significant new weapons and enemies means it all feels very familiar.
Whenever the game does try something different, there's a lack of self-control. What's the point of mixing up the pace with a stretch of dark, creepy organic corridors when they seem to go on forever? The final escape shows what the finale of Halo would have been like without the twitchy vehicle controls and horrendous slow-down but, again, it drags on for far too long.
In fact, Halo 3 seems something of a backwards step from Halo 2. The second playable character, the Arbiter, is reduced to recurring sidekick status, removing much of the gameplay variation. Some of the depth has gone as well because the relative power of the weapons seems to have been tweaked for the worse. Previously, there were pros and cons to every combination; now, there's much more of a hierarchy of usefulness. What to carry involves less tactical choice than Halo 2 and simply becomes a case of hunting out the stonkiest weapons available.
Which is all quite negative...
Halo 3 isn't a bad game, though. It's generally fun, has high production values and the exceptional cutscenes make you want to see it through to the end. It's just that every other first person shooter has long-since nicked Halo's ideas and the series itself hasn't progressed much since 2001.
Essentially, if you've played Halo 2, then you'll know exactly what to expect. If you haven't, however, then you won't have a clue what's going on - go and play BioShock or The Orange Box instead.
Conclusion: It's Halo 2 in hi-res but not quite as much fun. At least the story reaches a conclusion, though. Good for a weekend rental if you've got a cold and don't feel up to much.
Graphics: Everything's quite pretty and there's a proper non-widescreen mode which is unusual these days. Much of the game feels too familiar to really make an impact, however. Occasionally descends into a succession of repetitive corridors. Parts of the last two or three levels are visually lacking.