No one should underestimate just how important the original Halo was to the console first person shooter genre. Yes, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the N64 laid the groundwork and proved that an FPS game was possible using a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse, but Halo didn't just take things to the next level, it completely rewrote the rule book.
What made Halo so special was that it was more than just a mindless shooter, more than just a natural evolution of Doom, like so many PC based FPS games. Like the PC classic, Half Life, Halo brought with it a storyline that was intrinsic to the gaming experience, creating an environment that was as immersive as it was beautiful.
Halo 2 pushed the graphics capability of the original Xbox to its limit, while continuing the compulsive story. The short single player campaign in Halo 2 came in for much criticism, but it was more the unexpectedly abrupt ending to the single player campaign that irked players. Most gamers who played Halo 2 through, including myself, felt slightly cheated, since there wasn't really an ending at all, just a big question mark and wild speculation as to what would happen next. Thankfully we can now put all that speculation to bed, because Master Chief is back, and as the tag line states, this time he's going to finish the fight!
Halo 3 picks up pretty much exactly where Halo 2 left off, so if you never played the second instalment, do yourself a favour and do so before starting Halo 3 (yes I'm talking to you Geoff). OK, so Halo 3 doesn't start exactly where Halo 2 left off, since the Arbiter has now joined forces with the humans, along with all the other Elites. Anyone looking forward to donning the Arbiter's amour again, will be disappointed as he's purely a non-player character this time around.
Likewise, anyone who's expecting Halo 3 to be considerably longer than its predecessor will not be happy, but at least this time around there is a proper and very satisfying end to proceedings. I know it sounds somewhat cliché, but playing through Halo 3's single player campaign almost feels like playing through a movie. As a Halo fan, I found that I was so invested in the story of Master Chief and Cortana, that it genuinely felt as if I was watching the final part in a movie trilogy at times - something that I'm sure Bungie will be pleased to hear.
I won't go into any detail about how the story develops, because I don't want to spoil it for you. Suffice to say, it's well paced and well written - many a screen writer could learn a thing or two from whomever penned the Halo trilogy story. At least it means that Peter Jackson has a great starting point for the forthcoming Halo movie.