Microsoft and Bungie released Halo 3 on Sept. 24 with a marketing blitz that would put most Hollywood blockbusters to shame. The good news is that the game mostly delivers – it serves up more of what millions of Halo fans expect. But sometimes Halo 3 sticks so closely to the formula of the franchise that you could almost forget it's a new game.
The single-player campaign takes between seven and 10 hours to complete, depending on your skill and the game's difficulty level. As usual for the Halo series, the campaign is great but can be frustrating at points. The difficulty will suddenly spike, often requiring a dozen or more attempts to get past a particularly sticky spot. Halo games also have an almost devious way of saving your progress exactly when you wish it wouldn't. But it easily overcomes these problems with Halo's usual rock-solid gameplay, beautiful environments, and vehicles that are a blast to drive.
Where Halo 3 really shines is on Microsoft's unmatched Xbox Live service. The multiplayer battles are fast and furious, and finding friends to challenge is quick and easy. Halo 3 stores every moment of play to the 360's hard drive and has a simple but serviceable movie builder. Once your most glorious (or humorous) moments have been clipped into a film, it can be uploaded to Bungie's servers and shared with friends over Xbox Live. Players can modify maps with in-game tools and then immediately play them online with others. You can even team up with a friend and play the "single player" campaign cooperatively over Xbox Live.
The single-player game is decent, but people will spend most of their time on Xbox Live, which offers an extremely polished and intricately balanced online experience that will provide frenetic battles until the Halo 4 marketing juggernaut commences its onslaught. – Eric Sebesta