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Cracking open the case to Halo 3 and slotting it into the Xbox was one of those gaming moments that stay with you forever. After reading about the game online, my son and I waited feverishly for the postman to deliver our copy. Although the wait was long and the hype around the release was nothing short of momentous, I can honestly say that the game delivered exactly what we wanted.
The pull of the franchise really worked its magic in the first few minutes. Hearing the narration by Cortana as Master Chief plunges to earth gave me goosebumps. This was made even more memorable by the fantastic and subtle musical score that came out of the speakers.
Dropping straight into the campaign we were both fully involved whilst playing in co-op. Even playing second fiddle to Master Chief is an awesome experience in the environments that Halo 3 has to offer. Sneaking through the jungle's of New Mombasa and the urban sprawl of Tsavo Highway within the first few hours was an excellent way of showing variety.
What made this better than the previous game wasn't just the leap in technology - although that certainly made a difference. As well as seeing everything in glorious high-definition, the story was a thrilling ride across Earth and the Halo universe. One of my complaints about the bland nature of Halo 2 was answered already with the ever-changing locations and colourful environments.
As well as seeing everything in glorious high-definition, the story was a thrilling ride across Earth and the Halo universe.
My only disappointment is how un-Earth looking the early levels are. This didn't seem to bother my son who was far too involved in blowing anything Covenant-related up. But seeing a ruined landmark or well-known location would've been a nice touch.
But the nice touches come with the characters this time. Although Master Chief is still the same gruff and two-dimensional hero; the others are imbued with far more personality than before. From the ever-popular Sergeant Johnson to the frosty Commander Miranda Keyes, the supporting cast feels more believable and likable. I even ended up treating the bog-standard soldier with far more respect thanks to the hilariously chatter that went on between them.
This new depth made the big plot twists and emotional moments of the final game of the trilogy all the more impressive. I didn't think I'd care so much about everyone in the game when the final scenes took place. But there I was, getting all misty eyed about characters and a story I've lived through my son for years.
As I steered the Warthog to safety and the music swelled I was reminded my how wonderful family gaming could be with the right game.
I didn't get to the end point without some frustration though. My son's hatred for The Flood is probably just as incandescent as the UNSC's. Although they don't appear so much throughout the game as before, they do have a level all to themselves. Unfortunately this was such a frustrating moment that my son's solution was to hand sole responsibility for completing this over to me. Even on an easier difficulty level I had trouble negotiating this section. I can only say that I still hold my belief that The Flood ruin everything. So it was with a huge sigh of relief that I got through it and managed to progress to the final few parts with no damaged controllers or TV's.
The final section really did deliver the epic end to the franchise we were hoping for. For this last level I let my son ride shotgun and both our experiences was nothing more than awesome.
Seeing the explosions and destruction of the Halo world mirrored in his eyes coupled with an irrepressible grin on his face was wonderful. As I steered the Warthog to safety and the music swelled I was reminded my how wonderful family gaming could be with the right game. The campaign tied up the franchise wonderfully and with a lot of replay value added to it I know we'll be blasting through this game for a long time.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: