Halo 3: Does high performance match hype?

If high-pitched alien screeches were resonating from Geneseo's residence halls at 4 a.m. on Sept. 25, it's safe to say that their sleep-deprived inhabitants were eagerly attempting to complete the final chapter of the Halo trilogy.

After three long years, Halo 3 has finally arrived for Xbox 360. Spartan 117 is back, and defending his title of Master Chief by preventing the Prophet of Truth from destroying all forms of life on Earth in a sci-fi battle of epic proportions.

Unlike Halo 2, the campaign in Halo 3 is solely based on Master Chief instead of multiple storylines. This makes the plot line much easier to follow, especially for those new to the Halo universe. If gamers didn't think Master Chief was the man before, they will now; his military companions trail behind him like lost puppies through nine levels of Brute-bashing fun.

But once again, AI allies are as dysfunctional as ever and prove to be about as useful as lampposts in battle - fortunately players can now escape that headache with a four-player cooperative online campaign. At least now, Master Chief can take a bullet to the head and chill out on the ground while human-controlled partners clean out the area until he respawns next to his ally to begin battle anew.

The designers at Bungie succeeded in making each level a unique and distinct environment, but levels get old fast with all the backtracking involved in the campaign gameplay. Gamers who feel like they haven't explored each map enough need not worry: They are guaranteed to see the same sites over and over again.

The difficulty levels seem to be gauged appropriately for the most part; Heroic and Legendary are more aggressive and intense, allowing players to use the new weapons and equipment to their full potential, but the Normal level may be too easy, even for only semi-experienced players. Those who attain the prestige of beating Halo 3 on Legendary mode receive a special treat from Bungie, an extra scene which changes the entire perception of the ending.

Of course, the core of Halo is still the multiplayer feature, and the upgrades Bungie has implemented in this area have taken online play to a new level. Not only can users play with all the new weapons and equipment - the most notable of which is the momentously destructive gravity hammer - but some of the old guns and maps are revamped into even better versions of past favorites.

One of the most innovative features of Halo 3 multiplayer is that every game is logged and tracked on the Bungie site, giving a complete list of players' game play history (mainly so everyone can admire each other's great achievements). It also contains a way to take screenshots and videos of the game play, providing the means for Halo 3 to take over its players' lives even more so than previous versions may have.

Whether you want to finish the fight for humankind or take down as many opponents as possible in multiplayer mode, there is no way you can resist the temptation to add this epic title to your Xbox 360 collection.