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
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
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.