What with all the theatrics, you’d think an eighth “Harry Potter” book is coming out.

Angela Cesere

The hype over “Halo 3” has been that pervasive. Microsoft is everywhere, throwing launch parties with celebrities like Zac Efron (since nothing says badass like Zac Efron) and granting one lucky fan the chance to get his first copy of the game autographed by Bill Gates (since he had so much do with its design). With some realizing the Wii may in fact be a novelty and others frustrated with the PS3’s lack of consummate titles, Microsoft hopes to cement Xbox 360’s place as the new king of consoles. And they need “Halo 3” to be its crown.

Gamers have speculated for months (years) on the new additions, prophesying what would be changed and what wouldn’t and how the masterpiece was going to be fucked up. Everyone wants to know if Bungie, the game’s developer, delivered – if it was worth all the hype and debate and iPhone-competitive lines.

If it must come down to on-word answer, it is yes.

But let’s be clear: “Halo 3” isn’t perfect by any means. The single-player campaign still isn’t great, the graphics are fairly standard and it still costs $100 for a damn wireless transmitter to connect to Xbox Live – although that last one may in fact be Bill Gates’s fault rather than Bungie’s.

But multiplayer has always been where the game has irrefutably shined. Where “Halo 2” was excessively unbalanced with few relevant changes from the original, “Halo 3” has added enough new options to be innovative but maintains the immortal features of the classic.

One-man wrecking machine:

All right, so single player is easy. You-can-beat-it-in-8-hours easy. But this campaign is easily the least repetitive in the series; finally, every room and hallway don’t look exactly the same. Still, the plot is still as incoherent as ever (apparently Master Chief is in love with that hologram chick and aliens can build space stations as big as the sun), and prepare yourself for one of the most anti-climactic final stages of all time, which involves fighting exactly zero enemies and driving more than 30,000 acres of space real estate.

No, it’s on Xbox 360, I swear:

OK, the graphics aren’t that great, either. And after playing “Gears of War” and “Bioshock,” you’ll swear you’re playing “Halo 3” on the original Xbox. But really, nobody remembers the greatest games for their graphics. It’s all game-play and replay value for the classics, and “Halo 3” has both.

How to use your “Man-Cannon” effectively: It’s not what you think. A completely new aspect to the game, players now have an option of an array of different combat tools to use. There’s the Bubble Shield, which protects against enemy fire while you reload and recharge; the Radar Disruptor, which wreaks havoc on snipers everywhere; and the aforementioned Man-Cannon, which launches unsuspecting enemies high into the air. There are about 10 of these, and they give “Halo 3” far more dimension than any point-and-shoot game to date.

Getting hammered is a bad thing: There are a host of new weapons here, most notably the Gravity Hammer, capable of sending opponents hurling through the air with a wicked headache. Also making debuts are the Spiker (a spine-spewing machine gun), the Flamethrower (guess) and the Spartan Laser (a vehicle-annihilating laser beam). There are close to 10 new fun and useful ways to kill people. Old devastators like the sword have been toned down and the pistol sucks as much as ever.

Since “Grand Theft Auto IV” got delayed:

The new vehicles make you wonder how there used to only be a Warthog. There’s a new battle cycle (the Chopper); a mammoth, indestructible mobile fortress (the Elephant); and a little weaponless ATV (the Mongoose).

Becoming God when dying gets old:

Another unique addition is a terrain editor, and while you can’t change the physical structure of a level, you can mess around with things like weapon and vehicle placement and spawning points. Not only that, but you can do this in game. So instead of supporting your team by, you know, killing people, you can help them out by placing equipment where and when they need it.

Slow-motion for me:

One of the coolest additions to this installment is instant replay, formerly reserved for sports games. Corkscrew a Chopper off a Man-Cannon and smack your friend manning a turret in the face? Replay that back and forth, slow-motion, fast-motion, until everyone admits that you are indeed the shit.

The greatest of all time?:

I mean, no, but by the third go-around, “Halo” is getting pretty close. This is a better game than, say, “Bioshock,” because while you may not be engrossed by its rich storyline of seductive holograms or notice the way light glints off a Warthog fender as it charges toward your head, you’ll be playing “Halo 3” much longer. A narrative masterpiece it’s not, but an interactive one? Without a question.

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