HALO 3 - Xbox 360 (2007)
The first Halo had been one of the greatest singleplayer shooters ever, while Halo 2 set a new benchmark for online FPS play, all in the space of one console generation. Bungie's Xbox 360 debut had a lot to live up to, and it also had the twin towers of Gears of War and Call of Duty to contend with. No pressure...
Story: The biggest letdown in Halo 2 had been the nature of its ending; To recap, Halo 2 finished with the Covenant in a state of civil war, the Halo ring network primed for firing, Cortana stranded on the Covenant's floating holy city High Charity, which had been taken over by a Flood called the Gravemind, and the Master Chief hitching a ride on a Covenant ship back to Earth to finish the fight. Anti climax doesn't even come close.
Halo 3's plot centred on the Covenant's plot to locate The Ark, an ancient Forerunner control station. The means to finding this was located on, of all places, Earth - which in itself revealed the Forunners to be humanity's ancestors. Battling their way through to the invaded New Mombasa jungle, the Chief and Arbiter eventually found themselves transported to The Ark; at the centre of which was another Halo. Here, they killed the Covenant's leader, defeated the Gravemind, sent Halo into self destruct, and escaped the crumbling planet ring on a frigate.
Only half of their ship made it through the portal back to Earth, however. And so, while the Arbiter attended the Chief's funeral on Earth, Spartan 117 entered cryogenic sleep adrift in space, telling Cortana to "Wake me when you need me" as the pair unwittingly drifted towards another Forerunner planet...
Gameplay: A Halo Greatest Hits would be the apt description; Halo 3's campaign was neither as fresh as the first game, nor as flawed as the second, but brought the gameplay full circle back to openly roving levels and bombastic set pieces - like fighting an enormous armoured Scarab, or racing across Halo in a Warthog at the grand finale. It was the shortest of the three Halos, but Halo 3 was also the most well-rounded, proving a fitting finale to the acclaimed FPS trilogy.
Online, Forge and Theatre modes went above and beyond anything Halo 2 fans had envisaged, letting them make their own maps and record and share footage of their best Halo 3 games with friends. Added to the refined matchmaking mode, all-new maps and ever-growing popularity of Xbox Live, Halo 3 remains one of the leading lights of online console gaming, battling it out with Call of Duty at the top of the most-played charts.