The Xbox One X does wonders for Halo 3. Splashed onto a big 4K telly by Microsoft's ultra-powerful new console, Bungie's decade-old first-person shooter looks better than most shooters released today. I dipped back into Halo 3 while waiting for bigger, well, massive modern games to download onto the Xbox One X's 1TB hard-drive, and Master Chief did a merry dance to my plucked nostalgia-coated heartstrings.
The Xbox 360 turned 10 this week, and we've been reminiscing about the wonderful console each day with articles about its influence, its best games and even its dashboard. Now though, it's time for something a little different. It's time to go behind the scenes.
I was already pretty into achievements by the time it got around to Halo 3. I'd be the annoying friend that needed to recover their gamertag before playing split-screen on your console, rather than miss out on the occasional 10G. Do you remember how frustrating it was to watch somebody actually do that? Slowly typing their awful my-first-password as you waited to crack on with some Left 4 Dead. Yeah, that was me. Sorry. I'm different now.
I have spent hundreds of hours playing Halo 3, and I'd rank Bungie's trilogy-capping blockbuster in my top five of the last console generation. I know it with an obscene intimacy, from the inside out - its feel, its weapons, the intricacies of its physics and geometry. I have absorbed the game in some essential, comprehensive way, and yet I cannot pull from memory a single certain moment from its story campaign.
We've all got lost in games. I don't mean that we've become so engrossed that external factors cease to matter - toast burns, cats starve, love falters, etc - although if you're reading this site then that's probably true as well. I mean we've gotten lost in games. It used to be a common complaint, in fact, that games spun you around or suddenly stopped saying new things and it would take ages to figure out what you were expected to do.
It's a big year for Bungie. Not only does it celebrate its 20th birthday but, with the impending release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, it's also formally signing off custodianship of Master Chief to 343 Industries.
In this new series of opinion pieces, some of Eurogamer's favourite writers reveal how they really feel about some of the world's most renowned, or most reviled, videogames.
The earth-shattering arrival of Killzone 2 earlier this year had serious ramifications for Microsoft's reputation for hosting the most technologically advanced shooters on console. Its answer: ODST, a brand new FPS set in the Halo universe but separate and apart from the super-soldier heroics of the iconic Master Chief.
Most big, modern games are, of necessity, a team effort - so much so that it's often hard to ascribe any particular part of the experience to one person. In the Halo series, for instance, all manner of people contributed to the games, and for the most part, you'd be hard pressed to pick out a great moment and say, "this person made this". It's a team effort. Everyone's fingers are in all sorts of pies, and every pie has all sorts of fingers in it.
It's not easy for critics to come back to something they liked, or hated, and deal with the division their copy failed to anticipate. But that shouldn't stop us facing up to and exploring differences of opinion. We've tried before, of course, with the infamous BioShock: A Defence, but that wasn't quite the right approach (even if we did enjoy ourselves), so we've come up with something we think is better. In this, the first of our Retrospective pieces on major games of the past 12 months, Oli Welsh and Alec Meer use the hindsight afforded to them by the five months since Halo 3's release and consider the arguments on both sides of the divide. You can read our original Halo 3 review first, if you like, to put it all in context.
Bungie continues to support Halo 3 with new content and auto-updates and, as we heard yesterday, has no intention of letting up. Due out this spring, the Legendary Map Pack will introduce another selection of multiplayer maps, the first of which has been identified as Ghost Town.
'This is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper'. So ends T. S. Eliot's 1925 poem, The Hollow Men, a sentence also chosen to start and conclude the Halo trilogy's overarching marketing campaign.
It is now dark when we walk home and birds are either dropping out of trees in frozen lumps or going somewhere much nicer for their holidays. And, as always happens, the shops are hoisting their Christmas decorations up and getting us all worried about buying presents because we never know what they want is it socks or aftershave. So, we thought we would join in.
Last night, Microsoft rolled out the red carpet for Halo 3. The UK launch, held at London's IMAX cinema, was supposed to be just like a movie premiere. It was supposed to show games finally joining the mainstream party, the crowd stepping aside as Master Chief, flanked by pop stars and TV celebrities, led the way to the bar.
It wasn't and it didn't. Games might have joined the party, but they're still standing in the kitchen picking at Pringle crumbs and talking amongst themselves. Master Chief might have been flanked by a pop star, but chances are the pop star barely knew his name and was only there for the beer. The TV celebrity might have been famous for only four months, but it was her the mainstream media were trying to get off with.
There were plenty of Master Chief fans there all the same. They were dedicated enough to stand in the rain outside the IMAX and watch the stars arrive - the stars being Pharrell Williams, Christian Slater and Chanelle off of Big Brother. There were others walking down the red carpet, but they were mostly met with blank looks and shouts of "Who are you?" from the crowd.
The Countdown has begun: In about seven weeks Halo 3 will hit the high streets around the world, and Bungie is moving into PR overdrive in the run-up to its release.
A Most Wanted list you say? Cripes, whatever next: a Tips and Cheats pamphlet to go with Eurogamer's promotional Pacman Beach Ball cover mount? Still, it's the summer, there are precious few games around and, with an awful lot of new titles coming up towards the end of the year you might quite reasonably want to know which ones to keep an eye on.
Following last night's sumptuous new Halo 3 trailer and live-action promo (you did watch both, right?), Microsoft sat us down in the alarmingly dark Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica to tour the first level of the single-player campaign. Picking up about a third of the way into the level (they didn't want to spoil anything), it took us through a wooded valley bristling with as much Covenant as flora, before opening onto a river battle involving a Phantom. Ironically, time concerns meant our compere wasn't able to finish the fight - but we still saw plenty.
So you've read the first impressions here. This Beginner's Guide walks you through each of the three new maps, pointing out scenery of note, general level structure and the odd tip that could possibly stem the inevitable early shame of being owned by someone with a gamer tag such as Wank Static. Or Girls Gun Wild. Think of this as a Rough Guide travel journal, relayed by Louis Theurox running around like a headless chicken in an intergalactic warzone.
Before you enter the game you should know the following things. You can pick your language, prioritise players with a good connection speed and also 'veto' any levels - a majority veto from active players will lead to a new map and game type being offered. 3 ranked playlists are available: Rumble Pit, Team Slayer and Team Skirmish. In the 'Social Playlist' Rumble Training and Team Training are available. So, in theory, you can avoid playing with TexasGunSlinga who is abusive, has a shit connection and loves playing the really, really simple map that no one else likes. For the record (and the lawyers), TexasGunSlinga doesn't really exist - we made him up, see?
In case you didn't know, you'll need to use Crackdown as a beta key on 16th May to download the beta which weighs in at 916 Meg. In the meantime, ready yourself for the carnage and enjoy...
First impressions? Familiarity. Well, that and the fact that at 900MB it takes a while to download. When it's finished downloading and you first pick up your pad to play the Halo 3 beta, your first thoughts will probably be that the game looks, and feels, like Halo 2 (and, come to that, the original Halo). The maps feature a visually similar mix of arctic wastes and red sandstone gulches. Your initial payload is the same assault rifle that served so well in the first game. The controls are only subtly different. And the range of play modes is pretty similar to Halo 2. Clearly then, this is another case of combat evolved. That's no bad thing, of course. Indeed it has one key advantage, which is that the first two Halo games were brilliant, especially in multiplayer, and if it ain't broke don't fix it. But it does mean that it takes a while before the various new additions begin to make themselves felt.
Initially, then, you'll probably start playing this like a conventional game of Halo multiplayer. I certainly did, and a load of other players on the beta test clearly did, and the game certainly supports that. If you were to run the game right next to Halo 2 you'd no doubt spot the differences pretty quickly, but your gut reaction will probably be that, in terms of the quality and style of the graphics, it looks the same. Even the HUD, though revised, isn't really meaningfully different. Various play modes make a return, from the ubiquitous Slayer through the likes of Oddball and Crazy King. And the Assault Rifle feels just like it ever has. Picking up the first new weapon - the Brute Spiker, it fires different bullets, but it's difficult to tell what they do. So yeah, familiarity then.
But Bungie has packed a bunch of new stuff in here. While they're only subtly different, the controls, for example, allow you to independently reload dual wielded weapons (by pressing either bumper), and after a bit more time with it, that Brute Spiker starts to feel pretty effective up close. The Brute Spike Grenade is a new type of grenade, that's almost like a cross between the Frag and Plasma: it sticks in your opponent, but it also has a pretty devastating blast radius. Or there's the Machinegun Turret, which you can literally rip from the ground (by pressing B - or you could just shoot it out of the ground and then pick it up). It takes a while to get going, but eventually proves very powerful. Similarly, the Missile Pod was originally designed to be mounted on a vehicle or in the ground so it too slows you down, but it also allows you to lock on to enemies. And while there's only one new vehicle, the two-man Mongoose is focused on fast transport so it proves pretty useful while playing capture the flag.
It's probably tattooed onto Peter Moore's face, but Halo 3's release later this year will be big. Bigger than all of us. Bigger than Tom's credit card bill. And as with the very biggest games, the information drip-feed would torture even Jack Bauer into confessing that, yes, he prefers the Xbox 360 to the PS3.