As we’ve been playing, I’ve been making notes and talking to others in our forums. Here are some random thoughts, mine mixed with other early players’…
The three maps we’ve been given so far are more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys. I’m glad they went with asymmetrical playgrounds without any echoes of Warlock or Sanctuary.
It seems tougher to finish off kills than it was Halo 2 which can be pretty darn frustrating sometimes. Learning to work together and knowing your teammates’ positions and covering them seems like it’s even MORE important in Halo 3 than it was in Halo 2 since you can die so much faster.
One thing that I do hope get changed before release is laser — it’s way over-powered when compared to other weapons, and is extremely difficult to get away from.  even more over-powered is the Warthog’s machine gun.
The addition of the trip mines, energy shield, portable anti-grav lift and energy drainers have definitely changed the game. Halo has become less of a ‘run-and-gun’ game and more of a thinking, planning and strategy game IF a team is functioning well together. Yes, H3 will always be “just another shooter” to some folks. What’s been added this time around is that there are more creative ways to work. Drop a trip mine inside one of the doors or near a bomb or flag point and see what happens. Being able to detach a turret and drag it around is pretty cool, but you move more slowly and so it really only becomes effective in a team game where you can get someone to cover you.
Another thing that Bungie hasn’t messed with but ONLY improved on is the lobby system. If Halo2 and now Halo 3 didn’t have pregame lobbies as well-conceived and implemented they’d just be another “also-ran” in the game developer world. The Halo 3 beta lobby, though perhaps not completely functional yet, is fun to mess around in. It’s got lots of eye-candy and useful info and is easy to pull your friends into. Once you get into the public beta (tomorrow, remember?) — or the final-relased game (September 25) — be sure to check out your friends menu and select some people who are playing but who aren’t in your party. There are some pretty damn cool ways that Bungie has added to interact with your friends and see what they’re up to.
I’ve always preferred playing with my friends than strangers, and I think it’s that way for most mature gamers. It’s because on those very rare occasions when I manage to get a good kill on a friend it feels much more meaningful than killing some random Timmy. Communities of new friends are built in the pregame lobby and Bungie understands this better than anyone.
In many ways, it’s time for other developers to step up their game.