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After a hugely successful first game, being tied exclusively to Microsoft's 360 console, and the solid follow up (Halo 2) that set new standards for online play, Bungie had their work cut out for the third and final instalment.
Thankfully, for both the developer and fans, they have managed to deliver an experience in Halo 3 that has largely been received as a success.
First Person Shooters (FPS) present a game world from the perspective of the in game character. As graphics have improved these games are now able to realistically render the game world, endowing the player with an added sense of immersion. FPS games usually involve single or multiplayer player missions where one team (or individual) has to complete a particular objective. Because the action invariable involves a combination of fisticuffs and gun based fighting, the games are usually quite violent. Beneath this harsh exterior however is often a intricate tactical game - and this is usually what drives the player.
As is true of the Halo series in general, Halo 3 is built around the 30 second encounter between two players. As the two players approach each other they have a large variety of offensive and defensive options. They need to identify how much health the other has, the weapons they are carrying, and perhaps their relative skill level. Only then can they decide on the right tactics by which to engage.
The genius of Halo 3 is that these 30 second experiences are provided in both the single player storyline - playing against computer characters, and in the online multiplayer game - playing against other people.
The driving force for most Halo 3 players are these encounters. There is an overarching storyline that may appeal to some, but the popularity of the multiplayer game - without a plot - perhaps shows that it is the gameplay itself that is most popular.
The sense of victory from out-witting another player, of choosing the right tactics for an encounter or of gaining a tactical advantage creates a series of highs throughout both single and multiplayer games. As this success continues the game awards medals, such as killing spree, or rampage that add to this sense of achievement.
The single player experience was criticised by some for being a little short. It should take the average player a good eight or nine hours to get through. There is then the option of working through the game a second time on a harder difficulty setting, something that is surprisingly attractive because of the layered nature of level design and opponents.
You should set aside a good hour and a half to get through a chapter of the game, something that is worth doing if you plan to follow the plot. For shorter sessions the multiplayer games usually take no longer than twenty minutes.
Halo 3 has a 16+ PEGI rating with a violence content indicator, and a BBFC 15 classification with advice that it contains strong violence. FPS's are unavoidably violent experiences due to their gun and fist based interactions. In terms of violence Halo 3 is one of the less bloody examples. The emphasis is undoubtedly on combat strategy and technique rather than over the top violence. You may also count in its favour that it has steered clear of depicting a real world war scenario, its setting and storyline are both fantastical.
As discussed above, Halo 3 has a clear focus on tactics and technique rather than gratuitous gore. There are many similarities here to the lessons learnt from paintball games, although without the related exercise.
The game is controlled via the 360 pad using two analogue sticks for looking around and moving. This means that younger or novice players will find it hard going, although provided a group of similar skills is playing it can still be good fun. Additionally players of PC based FPS's may find the transition from mouse and keyboard to joypad a stretch.
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: