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:: Halo 3 Edition ::

Perhaps you've seen the commercials already? You know, the one with the two soldiers talking about how the Chief saved their lives. Or maybe you've noticed a new flavor of Mountain Dew on your grocery store shelves? Surely you've at least seen one of the many print advertisements asking you to 'Believe'?

All of these ads are part of the 10 million dollar advertising blitz by Microsoft to promote what is without question the most anticipated video game of the year, Halo 3. Described by Peter Moore, the ex-Entertainment and Devices vice president of Microsoft, during this past summer's E3 video entertainment showcase as the Star Wars of a new generation, Halo 3 is certainly shaping up that way. With a dedicated fanbase of millions and merchandising spanning several mediums, Halo 3 is a shining example of a 21st century blockbuster--just as cinematic, but also infinitely interactive.

It's a bit of a change from my usual subject matter here at The K-Files, but an opportunity to cover an event like this is just too great to pass up.

**Only a few hours into the game myself, you may rest assured that there will be no spoilers regarding plot details in this column.**

Before I begin, allow me to put into context just how important the release of Halo 3 is. You may not be aware of it, but there's a war going on. Its battles are fought in Best Buys and on internet message boards. It's the next-gen console war, a competition between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to dominate the lucrative video game market. First out of the gate with its Xbox 360 system, Microsoft has seen early success with its headstart despite chronic hardware stability issues wavering consumer confidence. However, after the release of Nintendo's Wii last November, Microsoft's lead has fallen in the wake of its tremendous sales. Now, going into the 2007 holiday season, it will be up to software titles to settle this close rivalry.

Just as the movie industry begins spitting out award-worthy flicks towards the end of the year, video game makers likewise save their money-makers just in time for the kids to write their Christmas wish lists. Halo 3 marks the beginning of this race for top dollar dominance. And having boasted an industry record setting pre-order count of over 4 million copies, it appears that it will be the game to beat this holiday. But what's the cause of Halo's success? Why, in 20 years, will kids now be telling their children with great fondness about waiting in line to be among the first to play Halo 3, just as the generation before them described seeing Star Wars for the first time?

Starting with the release of Halo: Combat Evolved for the Xbox back in 2001, the Halo trilogy has enjoyed such unadulterated success for one simple reason--it plays fantastically well. Setting the standard for the console first-person shooter genre with its solid controls via two offset analog joysticks, the first Halo was as much a treat to play as it was to watch its vibrant, awe-inspiring visuals. 2004's Halo 2 only upped the ante with more refined graphics, celebrity voice acting and, most importantly, online multiplayer with Microsoft's Xbox Live service.

Although the single player experience is one of the most fleshed out science fiction stories out there (video game or otherwise), the series' longevity is most certainly due to its competitive multiplayer. To date, the latest estimate is that there have been over 500 million unique online matches logged on Halo 2. A staple in professional video game competitions and leagues, Halo 2's multiplayer matchmaking and customization options are unmatched in a console shooter game.

Which brings us to yesterday's release of Halo 3.

Although I skipped out on the madness of a midnight release at my local game shop, I have been no less touched by the Halo Hype. Despite tasting somewhere between cough syrup and disgusting, I must say that the Halo themed Mountain Dew 'Game Fuel' gets much better after about your 4th 12 pack. Also, as I write this, I'm being stared down by my two Halo figurines designed by iconic comic book artist Todd McFarlane. There aren't any Halo 3 lunch boxes (yet...), but I'm pretty sure if there were, I'd have one of those on my table as well.

But all this merchandising would be for naught if Halo 3 were a stinker. Well, I can tell you now with great certainty that this is not the case.

As with its predecessors, Halo 3 is an excellent mix of solid controls, engaging story, and crisp, high-definition graphics. Also, most importantly, it's just downright fun to play. The single player experience will offer plenty of hours of enjoyment due to the various weapon options and the difficult enemy AI. However, the real guts of Halo 3 are in its online features.

Not only can you play the main campaign cooperatively with up to three of your friends--via splitscreen on your Xbox or online through Xbox Live--but the competitive multiplayer modes combined with the numerous available maps (with more to come through downloadable content) makes Halo 3 the king of console shooters. You can bet good money that there will just as many people playing Halo 3 online this week as there will be six months from now.

I could probably gush on about how great Halo 3 is, but I reckon that would only take away from my precious game time. So I leave you now with these parting words: Believe the hype.

:: Dead End ::

Well, that's all for this week. I trust you enjoyed your trip into this shadowy nether-realm known only as the K-Files.

For the latest updates on the world of Khyron, bookmark http://www.khyron.net/. With content updated regularly, you're sure to find your fix for all things entertaining and paranormal. As always, feel free to send any questions/comments/suggestions to KFiles@khyron.net.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next  K-Files, arriving sometime next week. Later.

~Khyron, 2007.


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