Halo 3 is one of the most anticipated games for 2007 as the series that defined the Xbox makes its debut onto the next generation successor. This third installment marks the conclusion of the Halo trilogy and ending of this particular story arc. Bungie has been developing the game for over 3 years and in a marked difference from other Microsoft Game Studios titles is using their own engine as opposed to Unreal Engine 3. Bungie is also incorporating a large number of substantial new features such as saved films, the Forge system, and 4-player online co-op while keeping all of the old game modes of Halo 2.
The Halo series revolves around the design concept of an extremely refined 30 seconds of gameplay continually repeated. This gameplay involves giving the player tools and environment to fight against their enemies. With Halo 3 Bungie is expanding the core mechanics introduced with the first two games by expanding the range of tools at your disposal and the kind of tools that are available. Players run, jup, shoot, use vehicles, and use elements in their environment to move around the levels and kill their enemies. The player has a rechargeable shield that automatically refills after a few seconds have passed without the player being hit by enemy fire.
All the trademark weapons of the Halo franchise return with new weapons being added that represent the Brute enemy's arsenal. A new class of weapons is being added known as "support" that are heavier tools of destruction that put the player in a 3rd person view, and cause the player to move slower.
A new class of tools is introduced with H3 called "equipment". These items can support you and your teammates, or hinder your opponents. Shields, portable lifts, RADAR jammers, are examples of equipment that can be deployed in the field.
Vehicles make a return in Halo 3 with the classic warthog once again taking a prominent role. Similar to the weapons new vehicles are added that represent the Brute's arsenal.
The campaign mode sees you playing through the last chapter of the Halo arc started with the games, and the three novels. The tag line of Halo 3 is "Finish the Fight" with the ending of Halo 2 seeing Master Chief heading back to Earth to defend humanity from a full scale Covenant invasion. Being the ending in the series many fans expect H3 to answer many of the questions involving the Forerunners and the purpose of the Halos and the Ark.
The campaign is mission based seeing the player traverse the landscape accomplishing the assigned mission objectives, usually in the form of destroying something or rescuing something else. Story is relayed through cutscenes and in-game acting and dialog.
Similar to both of the previous games, the entire campaign can be played cooperatively with another player on the same Xbox 360. And for the first time in the series up to four players can go through the campaign cooperatively over Xbox Live.
For the first time Bungie is creating what they call a "meta-game" around the campaign mode that tracks the player's accomplishments through a particular level and assigns them points and medals. Performing more advanced maneuvers such as double kills, and head shots result in more points. Leaderboards will be available for the overall score, and leaderboards for individual level scores are also available.
Multiplayer is a large part of the Halo franchise and Bungie is expanding the mode for Halo 3. Similar to Halo 2 multiplayer games can be found by joining a friend's custom game, or through the Matchmaking party system. New for Halo 3 are public custom games which let you join other custom games similar to a server list that don't affect your ranking. The party system sees you joining your friends in a group and going through the matchmaking process together, so you always join the same games.
All the new vehicles, weapons and equipment introduced will be available for multiplayer. And similar to H2 there will be a multitude of game modes available for customization for custom games, alongside an ever changing playlist of ranked matchmaking modes.
The ranking system which tracks your kills and other accomplishments gets factored into the Matchmaking system to try and match you up with similarly ranked players so people get a "fair" game. People who continually drop out of a game will have their rankings negatively affected reducing their ability to find games with "good" players.
Forge is a new kind of mode that has a significant impact on the multiplayer game. With Forge mode activated players can take on the role of an entity outside the game and manipulate the level and rules of the game in a variety of ways. Spawning weapons, vehicles and other items is already confirmed. At any time players can switch between the Forge mode and normal playing resulting in new ways of playing multiplayer.
New levels can not be created from scratch, and level geometry can not be modified. Forge simply allows you to create and move items around existing multiplayer maps and change their settings. Modified levels and rules can be saved and played through as a normal multiplayer game. Custom creations can even be shared with other players on your Friend's list and beyond. Bungie has stated they'll have a website dedicated to the best Forge games and levels and let people download new Forge levels to play on their own system.
Halo was an extremely popular title to use for Machinima, films created using video games. The popular video series Red vs Blue is an example of Machinima, though others also exist. Bungie is supporting these kind of film makers by integrating the film making capabilities into the game itself. Players can record, save, and playback any of their gaming sessions either in the campaign or multiplayer modes. Saved films aren't actual video files, but instead scripts that playback within the game engine itself. This allows you to watch a saved film from any angle and even manipulate the camera on the fly. Saved films can be shared with friends, and uploaded to Bungie's servers with the best films being available for anyone to download.
Halo 3 will be offered in three different editions in increasing forms of fan service.
Standard Edition ($59.99) - Game disc and manual
Collector's Edition ($69.99) - adds an Interactive Xbox 360 disc containing new themes and gamer pictures, and the Beastiarum which is a hard cover book detailing the flora and fauna in the Halo universe
Legendary Edition ($129.99) - adds Legendary DVD which contains even more exclusive content, and a Master Chief Helmet to hold all three discs.