Sythbane Squadron charter member
Thanks to the miracle of modern advance review copies, HZG Jr and I put in a solid couple of hours of Halo 3 fragging at the home of Sythbane and Fortiscule yesterday. Sythbane and Fortiscule finished the whole damn campaign in co-op mode in 12 hours Saturday. We didn't have that kind of time to kill, but Jr and I got to play the first level in co-op mode and then we played four-way split-screen Slayer matches until it was time to load up and take the family Warthog back to home base.
Some fun highlights: The two-player campaign starts with Master Chief and the alien Arbiter together with a squad of marines in a rocky jungle, where Brute-led Covenant forces have landed on Earth. The first mission has you attacking a base that's been taken over by the aliens. Here you meet the Brute leaders' Big-Ass Alien Gravity Hammer for the first time. It's a giant two-handed stick with a big thing on the end that squashes you, to paraphrase the immortal Mr. Miyagi, "flat like bug."
Then a marine airship takes you to another, non-invaded base, where you get a big cutscene that establishes the story if you're paying attention, which we weren't. I'll listen more closely when I get the game for myself.
The multiplayer "Slayer" maps are lots of fun. It's still Halo, so it's still a lot of running around and shooting like shotgun-toting headless chickens, and everybody else was a lot better at that than me, but the map designs are great. Some are small and narrow for small groups, and some of them are huge, sprawling affairs tailored to groups of up to 16 players at a time. We particularly liked the one called Sandtrap, a big base in the middle of sand dunes, with gigantic troop transports called Elephants that you can steer slowly around the perimeter (and that you can board and hijack if the other team is having too much fun on one).
Halo 3 comes out tomorrow night at midnight.