Editor’s note: Ryan Smith is a senior majoring in business at East Carolina University, an aspiring musician and a very active gamer – online, platform and PCs. He has contributed to WRAL Local Tech Wire in the past.

RALEIGH – At the head of a wave of incredible sales volume, ecstatic fan base, and media uproar, is the Master Chief, patron star of the Halo video game franchise from Bungie and the icon of millions of gamers worldwide.

Receiving much critical acclaim, as well as setting the single highest grossing video game release in history, Halo3 has hit stores in force with $300 million in sales in a week.

Being myself a gamer of long history, I never partook fully of the phenomena that Halo has been culturally since its first appearance in 2001. However being an avid Xbox 360 player, Halo3 was a hype I could not ignore.

Once I got my hands on my copy, I delved deeply into the new world that was Halo, having never played much of the previous two releases. My anticipation was quelled with immediate interest in the story. Despite being largely unfamiliar with the storyline, I immediately was aware of what was going on, due to solid and well written dialogue, backed by voice acting talent such as radio DJ Steve Downes as Master Chief, and actor Keith David (Chronicles of Riddick) as the Arbiter.

Further bringing the storyline to life is a masterfully composed and orchestrated soundtrack, allowing for the most dramatic storyline elements to feel much fuller and richer. From the beginning of the game, to the very ending credits, the music is highly original, and is energetic without overshadowing the voices of the characters.

As I began to understand the setting of Halo, I also was introduced quickly to the controls of the game. Not only were they remarkably easy to understand and get acquainted with, it was not long before scores of Covenant troops were lain to rest by Master Chief’s weaponry and genetically engineered anatomy.

Along side a number of new weapons, come also new vehicles to the Halo universe for with which the Master Chief might inflict armored destruction upon his foes. At the forefront of vehicular combat is a number of extraordinarily choreographed encounters, made endlessly replayable by the skill and efficiency of Master Chief’s computer allies.

If new weapons, vehicles, and extraordinary places aren’t enough to attract the unconverted Halo3 gamer, or gaming weary observer, the incredible galactic story and fantastic voice acting are plenty to keep even the busiest minds occupied. For the co-op play enthused gamers there is great cooperative play, allowing for players to play through the storyline as both Master Chief and the Arbiter, or if two is not enough, up to four people can play through the campaign on the same Xbox, allowing for an even more entertaining experience, as you battle your way with friends by your side.

Next challenge – playing online, which continue the overall experience.

Having been very pleased with the newest Halo experience, I do plan on returning back to the beginning of the Halo story, with Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo2, so that I might gun my way through the story with Master Chief once again.

Rating: 4 stars out of 4.