Since Halo 3 has already sold over three million copies in the US alone, this review might be a bit moot, but let's finish this fight anyway. First, the story so far: Cortana is in the clutches of the Gravemind, the Brutes now run the alien badguy show, and elites are human allies. As the Chief, you've got to stop the Prophet of Truth before he lights up all the halos, and burns sentient life out of existence. No sweat, right?
The "single player" campaign is one huge step up from the disappointment of Halo 2, but doesn't quite have the sparkle of the original. It could be the fact that the new franchise smell has gotten a bit stale, but for me I miss duking it out with the elites, and while they're certainly no slouches, battling brutes just isn't as fun. The levels in general tend to fall on the forgettable side with a few utterly amazing exceptions. You're not going to forget the scarab skirmishes unless you suddenly develop amnesia. Weapons are better and more numerous than ever, with new highlights like the spiker and gravity hammer, while tossing in a few new rides like the mongoose and brute chopper. There are also skulls hidden across the map that can be switched on for added difficulty, such as no radar, or just for fun, like watching grunts explode with a shower of confetti. Still, playing alone runs the risk of feeling a little unsatisfying. That's why you can storm the beaches with four person co-op. Set it to legendary, turn on a few skulls, and wade through a twelve hour sea of beautiful chaos.
Or take your group to matchmaking, with a slew of ranked and social lists to match your skills against twelve year olds from all over the world. If the shrill voices grate too much on you, there's always custom matches against friends, where you can customize the various game types to such an insane degree to produce entirely new ways to play. Then you can save those custom settings, upload them to your personal share, and share them with the rest of the world. That's good, because there's not a whole lot of originality in the base gametypes: Slayer, Capture the Flag, Assault, Infection, VIP, Oddball, etc. The nine maps also vary in quality, and also from gametype to gametype. Isolation might be cool for Infection, but it's not so hot in VIP. Nine is also far too few when you'll only see about three per gametype, making you want to build a time machine to prevent Sandtrap from ever being created.
Though if the layouts are getting stale, you can always change them with Halo 3's surprise inclusion of the Forge. This isn't a map editor as much as an item placement editor, but clever players can slap together Frankenstein creations that make it feel like a whole new map, with vehicles, teleporters, and ton of exploding barrels to play with. After taking your new variant for a spin, you can preserve the madness with surprise inclusion number two, the theater. Here all your matches can be played back at multiple speeds from multiple perspectives, pausing to take a screenshot of the insanity, or recording a short clip of a particularly cool moment. With humans vain creatures by nature, it's a shock no other console shooter got to this feature first.
Even before release, people argued the looks of Halo 3, which only got rowdy when it was revealed the game was running at less than 720p resolution, the "standard" for HD. I can only imagine the people still calling it Halo 2 HD just haven't played it. Aside from the rare shot of human faces, the characters and maps are lovingly detailed, with elements you will never, ever see unless you seek them out in a recorded clip. The lighting is the best I've ever seen on a console, with deep shadows and multiple cast lighting effects from weapon discharges and hurled grenades. Combine this with the exaggerated physics and natural animations, Halo 3 is fury in motion.
The final pillar of Halo 3 is the whole community aspect. Each player gets their own little spot on www.bungie.net, where they can check their insanely detailed stats for every game they've ever played, browse their screenshots, join clans, monitor their friends list, post the contents of their share on the forum for possible praise, and generally be a Halo geek when they're nowhere near a console. Playing around with all this just might make you realize that while the individual components of Halo 3 aren't all top class, the sheer number of them offers more game hours of solid enjoyment than nearly anything else on the market, for any console.