The story mode does a lot of things right, especially when it comes to the way everything plays out on the battlefield. At its best you will feel like you're right in the middle of an epic battle, you (and your fellow computer-controlled soldiers) will be taking fire from all sides, some of which is actually a lot more overwhelming than I expected. There were moments in Halo 2 where it felt like Bungie was trying to portray a giant war, but for some reason (perhaps having to do with system limitations) the urgency of these battles never came through. In Halo 3 it really does feel like you're smack dab in the middle of a war, it may be cliché to use the analogy, but there were times when it felt like the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, only with spike weapons and laser cannons. The game is full of these moments where it feels like it's you against the entire Brute army, which leads to a real fulfilling feeling when you actually take all of these enemies out and are treated to a cinema.
What really sets Halo 3's battles apart is the constant use of voice acting, especially when it comes to the enemies you face. In just about every fight you will have to listen to enemies talk to themselves, insult you by calling you names, and yell out cowardly statements when they get scared and run away. A lot of the dialog is rather humorous, I especially like it when the characters are trying to insult me or are trying to run away to save themselves. But at the same time this dialog can be extremely useful. For example, there are times when you can hear the enemies huddle up and talk about my location, which indicates that they know where I am. Another example of how it's useful is when you hear them suggest rushing from the side or throwing a grenade, these enemies don't just say these things out of hand ... they actually follow through with action.
And it's not just these enemies who have thousands of lines of dialog, your various team members will also have a thing or two to say. With all this talking (from both the good guys and the bad guys) it really gives off the feeling that Halo 3's battles are alive. Add in some dramatic music from Marty O'Donnell and Halo 3 feels like it was lifted right out of a Cineplex. There were moments in this game where I felt like I should just be watching the action on screen and not participating in it. But I was taking part in the action, which is why this game is so much fun.
Oddly enough the one weak link in the storytelling is the various cinemas. While there were a few well put together cut-scenes (when Cortana states that "This is the way the world ends" it sends a shiver down my spine), but by and large the cinemas are actually pretty hokey. Thankfully they don't take the quality of the game down much, but there are just too many sequences that involve people just standing around and talking for no reason. After playing games like BioShock and Half-Life 2 I kind of wish they would have found a better way of mixing the cinemas in from Master Chief's perspective, whenever the game goes into one of cinemas it tends to take me out of the action.
Much like the other games in the series, Halo 3 can be played on a number of different difficulties. If you've never played a first-person shooter before then you might want to tackle the easy and normal difficulties, but fans of the series should probably start with the second highest, Heroic. If you are a real badass that wants to show the world how dedicated you are to Halo 3, then there's also the Legendary difficulty. What's cool about these difficulties is how much they change up the way you play the game. In most games switching to a harder difficulty means nothing more than just fighting harder enemies and being able to take less damage, but in Halo 3 you will actually have to find new hiding spots and deal with enemies that are placed in entirely different locations. It's safe to say that one could have just as much fun playing through the game multiple times on different difficulty settings, which is not something you can say about all games.
On top of that, you won't have to play Halo 3 as a single-player game anymore. One of the most exciting aspects of Halo 3 is the ability to play through the entire campaign (cinemas and all) as a four-player game online. While one person takes the role of Master Chief, you can have up to three of your friends back you up as various Elite characters. This also gives you an incentive to play through the story multiple times, especially when it comes to the higher difficulties. I did run into a few problems regarding lag and the games suddenly freezing and popping us back out to the main lobby, but assuming you can get this mode working properly it's a really cool extra mode that will no doubt enhance your time with the game.
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