The "Halo 3" Hype Machine

GameCore at Halo 3 launch event
CBS/Alberto Araya
Microsoft proudly boasts that on Sept. 25, 2007, the release of Xbox 360's "Halo 3" was the biggest launch in entertainment history, with approximately $170 million in sales the first day and $300 million the first week.

It might have also been one of the most profitable. About $10 million was spent on advertising and reports that development cost $30 million.

The "Halo 3" hype machine notwithstanding, is the game worth the $60?

The answer is a resounding yes.

2Bungie apparently listened to the critics, and addresses all the problems with the previous "Halo" games. In the single player mode you no longer flip-flop between two main characters. You start and (finally!) finish the fight as Master Chief Spartan 117. Also, omitted from "Halo 3," is the constant backtracking and repetitive environments that plagued "Halo: Combat Evolved" and "Halo 2." Now every environment is distinctive and varied. Much attention to detail was put into the different locales. No two are the same. The backgrounds change from steamy jungles to marine barracks, to gritty urban streets to barren deserts and finally to artic wastelands with a few alien space stations thrown in for good measure.

The audio effects are simply stunning. You can hear the shell casings hit the floor after firing off a round or the sizzling crackle of the grunt plasma pistol. If a technical achievement award was to be handed out it should go to the audio environment geniuses at Bungie.

But know this before playing the single player campaign mode: if you haven't played through the first two "Halo" games or know nothing about the sordid history of the "Halo" universe, you will be lost. "Halo 3" doesn't offer the uninitiated information on Master Chief's back-story or how he came to crash land in the African jungle when the game begins.

3The story, for the unfamiliar, is this: In the distant future the human race is in danger of being wiped out by an alien faction known as the Covenant, and the fate of the galaxy lies with a superhuman cyborg, Master Chief. There are three novels, a comic book series, and a tabletop strategy game, all in the works that do a great job of fleshing out the Halo story and the war between humanity and the Covenant.

My only gripe about the single player campaign is that it's too short. But the beauty of "Halo 3" is that you can play through the game again, co-operatively, with up to three additional players with varying degrees of difficulty to unlock certain items and achievement points.

As great as the solo game campaign mode is, the game really shines in the multiplayer modes and, honestly, that's mainly why most people purchased the game in the first place. Within the first 24 hours of the game's release, more than 1 million multiplayer matches were played. This is "Halo's" bread and butter and the reason for countless sleepless nights.

4Quite a few of these multiplayer features that are familiar to PC gamers are quite new to console users. The Forge option is similar to a level editor where the player can manipulate almost anything on the map, objects and weapons -- even objectives for specific play types. And the beauty of this feature is that once a level is finished allows players to share custom games (via download) with each other.

The Theatre mode in "Halo 3" gives the player the opportunity to save films of and take screen shots of multiplayer and single player matches, for bragging rights and to analyze opponents. The amount of data and scorekeeping records on is staggering. Just type in an Xbox live ID and a record of a player's statistics show everything, most used weapons, how many kills a player got, achievements, history of ranking and the list goes on and on.

"Halo 3" is the reason to own an Xbox 360. If you don't own the game yet, wait no longer. It's worth every penny, the replay-ability is endless, the multiplayer modes are light years ahead of any other console based first person shooter out right now, and over 3 million people (and counting) can't be wrong.