The gaming world awaits the Sept. 25 release of Halo 3. If you're antsy, you can already download and play a short preview version of the outer-space shooter game through Xbox Live, though you have to own or rent Crackdown for the Xbox 360 to do so. ( Crackdown itself is a stellar shooting game.)
There's not much Halo 3 at your disposal through Xbox Live, but it's enough to discover that the beta, at least, plays and feels like Halo 2 Continued with upgrades of visuals and weapons. Once again, you run across green or snowy battlefields in your spacesuit; you leap and gun down rivals; gamers nicknamed AntiiiiiiChrist and Bongman420 riddle you with bullets.
Halo 3 looks slicker and moves smoother than its daddies. And it promises to be a grand, long adventure, although the handful of battlefields in the beta don't suggest it's reinventing online play.
The beta ends June 10. If I had to guess, I'd say Halo fans will be plenty pleased. I've already seen weeknights when 40,000 people were playing online. That's a lot of Bongman420s gunning for you.