Say what you will about Master Chief and the games he stars in – they do make one hell of a good shooter.
Halo 3 is the final game in what is one of the biggest franchises the gaming world has ever seen and the third instalment finally gives players the chance to finish the fight once and for all.
Taking control of Master Chief, the seven foot tall green-glad cyborg with a deep voice and a chip on his shoulder, players fight back against the alien Covenant and try to save the world all over again.
What makes Halo 3 the quintessential game in the series and the ninth best game of the year is that it manages to retain all the greatness of previous Halo games while still managing to expand in a number of ways.
Halo 3, click to enlarge
The singleplayer was always fun, but it’s the multiplayer modes which have always been the defining part of the Halo experience. Halo 3 builds on the bog standard deathmatch modes by introducing the new Theatre and Forge features to the mix.
Theatre is pretty self-explanatory – it allows gamers record and take photos from their past matches and post them online. Forge on the other hand is a bit more exciting – it lets gamers create their own maps by repositioning and sculpting parts of the game world.
Neither of these things are revolutionary in and of themselves – screenshots and level editors have been on PCs since time out of mind, with Garry’s Mod beating Halo 3 to the post in regards to Forge. What Halo 3 does though is bring both of these aspects to the Xbox 360 – rounding out the already awesome multiplayer side of this seminal series. Forge alone is pretty revolutionary for the way it opens up the game into a newly creative and occasionally romantic arena.
Although it would be an understatement to say that the Halo series has divided gamers into love/hate camps, there's no denying that the Halo games have represented the modern pinnacle of multiplayer console FPS and that Halo 3 is the most rounded game of them all.
When the dust cleared, Quake Wars was left dead and bleeding, while UT3 managed to walk calmly out, secure in the knowledge that its delicate balance of complex mechanics and streamlined game design made it the most superior multiplayer shooter on the market.
Unreal Tournament 3, click to enlarge
If Halo 3 was the multiplayer game of the year for consoles, then Unreal Tournament 3 was its grossly superior, PC-orientated older brother. Gorgeous to look at and with a nice simple selection of mutators and modes, this was Unreal Tournament taken back to basics in many ways. There's only a handful of different game types in the vanilla install, but this is compensated for in the superior map design which manages to spew buckets of complexity into even the simplest CTF level.
Every time Epic had scaled back though it had also added on so that, while there is an initially simple set of available game types, it’s complemented by a huge array of vehicles and as good a singleplayer campaign as you’ll ever find in a game like this.
The strength of UT3 lies in two places – the longevity and alterability of the Unreal Engine 3, and the passion of the team behind it. We had a chance to chat to Mark Rein at the UT3 launch and his passion for the game was almost tangible at points.
The whole team at Epic has worked to create an engine which is not only used by several games in this list, but which continues to fully support the mod community – securing Unreal Tournament 3 a solid future for years to come.