We've just returned from our first up-close look at Halo 3's trilogy-capping single player campaign. You probably don't need or even want us to waste time on eloquent introductions... this is the biggest game of the year, after all. So on with the goods, in easily digestible and always popular bullet point format.
* The build we watched being played by the Bungie guys today was the same one used to capture the footage shown at the Microsoft press conference on Tuesday. Yes, every shot in that gorgeous trailer was taken using the game's current engine. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and hit the Movies tab above... or head to the last page of this article, where we've embedded it again for your convenience.
* The first mission in Halo 3 is called "Sierra 117" and refers to a crashed Pelican that you've been tasked with locating. First, you've got to save the ship's captain, Sergeant Johnson, gruff and tough co-star of the last two games. A female character that sounded like Miranda Keyes was providing voice over the entire level, shouting action hero one-liners like "Nice shot!" and "Am I supposed to be intimidated?" While Master Chief was silent, she was laughing and cursing like a drunk and deranged sailor looking for a fight.
* The combat begins on a cliff in a lush jungle environment. At first, the Master Chief employs stealth, smacking sleeping Covenant Grunts on the back of the head and sending them plummeting to their death... just like the old days. Eventually, the Covenant and Brute in the area become aware of his presence and, when they do, the action becomes fast, intense and noisy. The Halo series is finished holding your hand; this looked like one tough and dangerous re-introduction to the gameplay, with enemies swarming all over the place within minutes. Keep in mind, however, that this was set on Heroic difficulty.
* Halfway through the demo, the Master Chief entered a clearing in the vegetation and we witnessed an in-game cut scene of sorts. Standing on a fallen log above the player's head were a gigantic Brute and a UNSC Marine, possibly Sergeant Johnson. The alien was clutching the human by the throat, threatening to drop him to the ground below. When the soldier simply responded with "Kiss my ass" (yeah, sounds like Johnson), he was flung aside violently.
* Eventually, the Master Chief exited the dense foliage and, as the fighting shifted to a series of stone docks, it grew absolutely frantic. Grunts were being blasted through the air, Brutes were crashing into large wooden crates and multiple drop ships were hovering over the river's edge, adding their own barrage of laser fire to the din.
For more impressions on Halo 3's enemies, graphics, music and even blood, hit up the next page tab.