This is what Halo 1 and Halo 2 should have always been.
Bungie was not so lucky with Halo 2. Though they did not have to meet a console hardware launch, Peter Moore went out and got a tattoo - Halo 2, November 9th. There was no way to change the release date. To make matters worse, Bungie scrapped all of Halo 2 after E3 - they were not happy with it. Once again, the pressure was on, and Halo 2 shows it even worse than Halo 1; Halo 2, was, in my mind, a mess. From nearly every possible angle, the game was an unpolished train wreck. In reality, neither game, it would seem, was given a proper chance to be everything it wanted to be. And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the newest game in the franchise: Halo 3. By now you know: Halo 3 is good. But why, exactly, IS Halo 3 good?
Halo 3 is good because it's finally the way a Halo game SHOULD have played. Every single problem I had with Halo 1 and Halo 2, problems that were no doubt born out of a tight deadline, have been completely eliminated in Halo 3. Copy-and-paste level design? Gone. Don't like Halo 2's wimpy weapons? Halo 3's arsenal not only brings back some old favorites from Halo 1, but it beefs up most of the weaponry so that EVERYTHING has a use - even the Needler. Don't like playing as the Arbiter? You don't. Don't like how light on plot the game is? Halo 3 digs deep in to the game's universe - deeper than Halo 1 or Halo 2; it digs so deep and compacts the plot so well that it's borderline nonsensical at times. For the first few levels you really get the feeling that Halo 3 is not only the end to the Halo trilogy, but it is also a culmination of all the content that had to be removed from Halo 2 to make the November 9th Deadline.
And that, in a way, is pretty much the only qualm I have with Halo 3 - it is more or less impossible to enjoy Halo 3 to its fullest extent without first having immersed yourself in the Halo universe; you need to not only understand what happened in Halo 1 and Halo 2, but it would also help to have read the novels, too. Though the previous games in the series have never really gone too deep, the Halo universe is actually fairly in-depth and Halo 3 pulls no punches in referencing things from the novels - things the previous games in the series never touched on. This means, despite Halo 3 being the best, most finely-tuned entry in the series, it will probably never convert anyone.
If you didn't like Halo before, Halo 3 probably won't make you see the light - simply because it is doomed to be nothing more than a sequel to a couple of games that caught a bad break. Because, let's make no mistake - this is still Halo, it's just the pinnacle of the franchise. Beautiful graphics (I'm especially impressed with the lighting/shadowing system), breathtaking music, finely tuned gameplay, humongous outdoor battles, and tons of awesome features to ensure that, long after you've finished the fight, you haven't finished the game.
This is, finally, Halo done right.