And while in my earlier post I said in my first impressions "the graphical fidelity is a bit improved over the multiplayer beta", that's not fair at all -- it's much improved.
As a matter of fact, this is a very pretty game. Playing through lush coniferous forests is a blast, and the detailing on the trees (outer bark, inner bark, etc.) is well-done. No, not BioShock pretty, but much bigger, open, more - things - going - on - at - once pretty.
** Potential Spoilers Ahead **
There's also an attention to detail that I appreciate. Vines and cables that move when I brush past them. My shadow showing my in-hand and on-back (or on-leg) weapons (and the whole weapon - on - back - and - on -leg mechanic; my buddy is able to look at me and yell, "Use the grav hammer!"), the segmented bodies of buggy dudes, the Scarabs.
Speaking of shadows, the lighting is well-done. Kind of G.R.A.W.ish well done. Momentary blindness when coming through a tunnel and turning into the light.
Physics are much improved, too. Vehicles and guns feel and handle differently. Vehicles especially on ice.
Which led to one thing that's not perfect yet -- squad AI. It's certainly vastly improved over the previous games. I like the contextual barks and banter (some hilarious stuff this round), and it certainly feels organic. When I don't like the AI is when they're driving me on ice as I man a gauss gun. We seriously spun out and died almost the exact same way eight times. After the second time, I decided to see how often it would repeat, to see if it was scripted. Turns out it's not, because there was another place on the road we died six times as I let my AI driver do the DUI-ing. But hey, at least I've got an AI driver. That's pretty cool.
And the other new vehicles rock. The Mongoose is going to pwn on capture the flag, as are Hornets. Big Team Battle (or whatever it's equivalent is) is going to get a lot of service from the troop transport-ish jobby.
On the gun front, I'm missing not being able to dual wield needlers, but digging the old SMG being back (and dual-wield-able). I like that I can take turrets off their mounts. I adore the gravity hammer. I'm not so keen on the Spartan laser.
And the HUD is more informative and more minimalistic at the same time. Kudos to them on the usability front for that (but less so on the out-of-game menues; it should not be that complicated to set up co-op campaign).
Good times. I'm bummed I'm flying out for an interview with a games middleware company -- bummed that I'm missing Halo time; stoked that I'm interviewing with a middleware company.