Game Review: 'Halo 3'

In just the first 24 hours, "Halo 3," the latest installment in Bungie Studios' hit sci-fi video game series for the Xbox, raked in a whopping $170 million, making it the biggest entertainment event in history.

For hours and, even, days, fans waited outside of video game stores, ready to plunk down the last of their savings — or, more often, their allowances — just to have a chance to walk in the shoes of Master Chief, Earth's greatest defender, once more.

For months, viral advertising campaigns, teaser videos and sneak peaks have whet appetites for a game that is unofficially estimated to have cost $25 million to $40 million and years to make.

It's for those reasons, the fans' rabid loyalty and passion for the "Halo" franchise — plus the time, effort and financing behind the first "Halo" game for the powerful Xbox 360 video game console — that make it hard to understand how the game could fall so flat.

For all the waiting, hype and hopes put into "Halo 3," it unfortunately comes off as an experience we've already had, with little more than a new paint job.

A Brief History of 'Halo'

"Halo 3" is a hard game to jump into and just as hard to read about if you don't know the history. For those of you already familiar with the story, skip down to 'Déjà Vu All Over Again?'

Master Chief is the last of an elite super-soldier team and is aided by a sexy AI sidekick, Cortana. In "Halo," our hero fights to save Earth from an alien menace known as the Covenant, only to find a greater threat on the mysterious ring-shaped world of Halo. The Flood, a galaxy-consuming parasite, appears to have been imprisoned on the artificial world Halo by a long-vanished race known as the Forerunners.

When the Covenant accidentally releases the Flood, Master Chief sets in motion a plan that destroys Halo and stops the parasites.

Of course if he had actually stopped the threat, we wouldn't have been treated to "Halo 2," where our hero returns to Earth as the Covenant launches an invasion of the planet. But after fighting the horde off, Master Chief discovers that its leaders, religious zealots known as the Prophets, have found another Halo and believe activating it will turn them and their followers into gods.

If that wasn't enough to contend with, a civil war has erupted within the Covenant. Some follow the Prophets' misguided plans, while others side with the Arbiter, an elite Covenant warrior who's discovered that the Prophets have been misleading their people.

Sent on a suicide mission to the city-ship of High Charity to thwart the Prophets' search for the Ark, a device capable of preparing the Halo rings to destroy all life in the galaxy, Master Chief fails and is only able to survive the ordeal by inserting Cortana into the ship's computer network, leaving his beloved companion behind.

'Déjà Vu All Over Again?'

"Halo 3" picks up sometime after the escape from High Charity. Haunted by images of Cortana and the voice of the Gravemind, essentially the leader of the Flood, Master Chief returns to an Earth nearly decimated by the Covenant without Cortana.

Landing in the lush jungles of East Africa, Master Chief is reunited with his cohorts and the elite alien soldier the Arbiter, once an enemy and now an ally.

At this point the player takes over and it's time to shake off the cobwebs and get some practice moving and fighting.

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