What's wrong with Halo 3?

How many people do you think are playing Halo 3 right now? We're guessing it's somewhere between "huh, that's a lot" and "seriously?" Members of the press and several other lucky souls have been playing since last Friday, and that extra week of time has led some of us at GamesRadar to say what everyone else is thinking: Halo 3 ain't that great.

Don't get us wrong, it's undeniably fun. We've logged our fair share of hours (including yesterday's24-hour play session ) and spent several nights playing it even more on our own personal time, but that doesn't change the fact that Halo 3 is basically Halo 2.5 or Halo HD or Halo with a new X Button. Yes, this is a beta we're talking about, but how much do you really think will change between now and this fall? Maybe a lot, maybe the single player will instill a bigger sense of advancement, but right now, we're a little concerned.

After Halo 2 came out in 2004, the Xbox was finished. What did anyone look forward to after it? Doom 3 perhaps? Nothing was on the same level, and nothing was as popular prior to its release either. Basically, the Xbox was a Halo box, its one mega-popular series that everyone could agree on. It was fun, it was totally competitive and an entity unto itself - so perfect in the eyes of its proponents that it could do no wrong, and the only thing better than Halo was more Halo. Now here we are playing Halo 3 and it's a small step forward. It's the same game with better graphics and a handful of new items. That's good enough for the fans, but isn't there something to be said for upping the ante?

Above: This could be from any Halo thus far

When your big, ultimate, final-word-on-the-tombstone game is essentially a rehash of your previous ultimate, final-word-on-the-tombstone game, something's not right. The competition's learned from Halo, but based on this beta, it doesn't look like Halo has bothered to learn from its competitors. Rob Yescombe, writer for rival shooter Haze equates the free-flying fun of Halo with being a teenager and that the next-gen is about behaving like an adult. He also had this to say while talking with Edge magazine:

"It's about what's happening in the world today - it's ludicrous, and how can you make something that doesn't reflect that? Well, you could bury your head in the sand and make Halo 3, but the fact of the matter is there are more important things at stake."

Yescombe admits Halo is "brilliant," but when the world is watching your every move, you should try to exceed their expectations, not deliver precisely what you've already done with a new coat of paint. But enough pseudo politics, what's it like playing the game?