The Halo 3 Multiplayer beta was OK. Great for multiplayer fans, good for people wanting to pop in on the series and see how it was all going, but not much more. No, as much as the kind of guys who are still playing Halo 2 MP on their original Xbox will try and tell you otherwise, what's interesting most people about Halo 3 is the singleplayer. We want to see how the whole thing's going to finish up. Up til now, we didn't know much about it. The singleplayer, that is. Lucky for us, then, I just sat down and played a bit of it at a Microsoft/Bungie shindig in Sydney. How was it? Go on. Read on.Only one level was on offer, the game's third (called Tsavo Highway, on the road to New Mombasa), but it was enough to get a feel for the thing. Least enough of a feel for a quick shot from the hip as to how the game's shaping up. You like Halo? This is more Halo. Little more, nothing less. You know how it plays, you know how it feels, it just feels a little fresher and looks a little nicer.
The graphics are a lot cleaner than the MP beta, that kinda-annoying jaggy look has (for the most part, foliage still suffers slightly) been smoothed out and the HDR lighting effects, like a dark room brightening as you bust into it, are a nice touch.
Got a good grasp on co-op as well, both two-player and four-player. Two-player, it's as per, but four-player? Pretty fucking awesome. Seeing two Warthogs tear up a hill, with two human-controlled drivers and two human-controlled gunners, is pretty great. As is the feel of big battles - four players really seems to open up your tactical options, letting you approach those big Halo set-piece battles a little more experimentally.
I also spent some time with the game's final edition of the movie maker, which is pretty nifty considering it's basically a souped-up instant replay with a screenshot taker. In fact, the screenshot taker is probably the highlight - saved movies might be a good record for those missions you either dominate or totally suck at, but pausing the action, zooming out into third-person and finding a good viewpoint that captures a moment of sheer badassity, that's where it's at.
Final thoughts? It's Halo. What, you were expecting some revolutionary step forward for the FPS genre? Please. You know full well there's too much riding on this puppy for Bungie to take any risks with it, so if you're looking/hoping for something substantially MORE, sorry. From what I can gather from the admittedly brief snippet on offer, this feels like the Halo you know, probably the Halo you and I love, just with more weapons, more teammates and shinier graphics. Nothing more, nothing less.