I remember back in the day when the 360 was big. For members of the PC Gaming Master Race, it felt like we were being shunned. It seemed like everyone had a 360, and soon their moms and grandmas would too, alongside their Wiis. So few products were pushed to such stratospheric levels of hype, that you could barely get out of bed without hearing about them. The few in my lifetime: Segway, iPhone, iPad, and atop this particular pile, Halo 3. It was so big that Pure Pwnage got in on the hype. LoadingReadyRun made such a surreal video about Halo 3 that I instantly became a fan. I'm positive that similarly sized gaming hype trains have come and gone since, but I can't recall any that topped Halo 3. (My preorder warning might have accidentally had some.) Since Pi-hole, browser addons, and not watching TV have made me immune to most ads, maybe I'm too blind to notice.
After wanting a PS3 ("because it has nVidia"), my freaky dreaming friend got a 360 for Christmas. (At the time, he loathed ATI GPUs, and was a complete nVidia fanboy, so whenever he touted that his 360 was awesome, I pointed out that it had an ATI GPU!) I'm pretty sure that he got Halo 3 on or near launch, as he did for Crysis. Of course, he said that Halo 3's graphics were better than Crysis, because there's a part in Crysis that looks worse than the original Half-Life. When he was showing off Crysis in front of other friends, I asked him where this part was. He walked as close as he could to a rock, and said "there". Since that Crysis rock needs more technology to render than the entirety of Half-Life, I knew the hype had gotten to him. Months later, he decided that Halo 3 wasn't "hardcore enough", and started playing World of Warcraft instead. I didn't think he lived under a rock, and I wondered why he thought that WoW was hardcore (I never found out). Sure enough, he moved on to something else in a few months.
Years later, some Halo games were packaged into a collection. A blogger, believing that Microsoft would never share its grail among its children, challenged them to bring it to Steam. Even more years later, it happened. I feel like this is worshiping the golden calf (maybe not, but you get the point, right?), but I'm playing Halo on what feels like my terms.
The story of Halo 3 has some pretty high stakes. It's sorta Bioware-level galactic extinction, but the scope changes so much that it doesn't have time to sink in. It doesn't have any personal story that Halo 2 does, though reality continues to grind against the Arbiter. (If it turns out he's depressed or anxious, I wouldn't blame him.) You play as the Chief the whole time, and never the Arbiter, unless you play the campaign co-op. I'm not sure how that works, because while the Chief and Arbiter fight together on most missions, there were several times Chief was 100% solo. I'm loathe to walk down empty hallways, because that's the calling card for some presence to interrupt me and force me to walk slowly. I'm on a mission and I need to be places! I don't have the time for this!
Combat remains solid. There's probably some tweaks to it, but I haven't spent days playing multiplayer, and I haven't tried playing on legendary. Weapons stay mostly the same. The only new additions that I can think of are the spiker and the gravity hammer. Additionally, you can rip stationary turrets off their mount and walk around.
Enemies don't change much. There aren't any boss battles per-se, but there are these massive walkers that sometimes show up. After having someone throw rockets at it for a minute or two, you figure out how they go down. A few more show up throughout the campaign. I like boarding those, and love the convenient placement of the onboard turrets near the reactor!
I'm positive that the graphics are souped up on PC compared to the 360, and there's no way to go back to the 'classic' look like the last 2 games. It looks like the models and especially the textures are much higher resolution. The game, as a whole, looks fine. It isn't groundbreaking, but it's far from used toilet paper origami. Also, this is the first installment that enables antialiasing. I have it enabled in my driver controls, but the first two Halos disregarded the setting, but I see smooth edges here.
Environments include jungles, forests, savannas, deserts, tundras, and too many oppressive brutalist hallways. The level designs rarely backtrack, but there were lots of places where the way forward was not obvious. At least in Todd's games, there's always a pointer showing you where you need to be. Sometimes that happens here, but there were times that would be helpful, but it didn't show. I spent an absurd amount of time wandering around levels trying to find the door or tunnel to go to the next area.
It might be because I didn't wait years for that cliffhanger to resolve, but the hype didn't live up to reality. While this trilogy came to a satisfying conclusion (unlike some), I can't help but wonder if everything will be reset like a sitcom. Cutting off a ship like that is kind of cheap, and the Chief went back into a tube, which is where he was when this story started. I suppose that's what cyborgs do instead of going to bed at night.