Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Perhaps you've heard of a little game called 'Halo 3'?

So, yeah, I did a Halo 3 preview story, which ran yesterday in the Patriot-News. It's not online for some reason, though, so I thought I'd remedy that.

In the world of video games, there are successful titles — and then there’s “Halo.”

The first-person shooter (fps) franchise, developed by Bungie Studios and published by Microsoft, quickly developed into the flagship title for Microsoft’s Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles after debuting in 2001.

And fans of the franchise are expected to line up at stores tonight for the release of the latest and (reportedly) final sequel in the series, “Halo 3.”

Microsoft will hold special events in New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles and Miami, and the company predicted that more than 10,000 retailers in the U.S. will open their doors at midnight.

The release comes after weeks of promotional tie-ins — for Pontiac, Doritos and NASCAR — all featuring either “Halo” logos or pictures of the game’s main character, the green-helmeted Master Chief.

Why all the buzz?

Partly because “Halo” was the first fps game designed specifically for such consoles instead of being made for the PC and then ported over later.

“With the very first ‘Halo’ you had a situation where everything lined up perfectly for that game,” said Jeff Gerstmann, editorial director at the gaming news site GameSpot.

“Here was a big exclusive console first-person shooter that got a lot of things right and, on top of that, told a very interesting story and introduced a lot of interesting characters. It was pretty easy for people to get hooked on that first game.”

Ask a fan why they love the series so much and, while they’ll mention the story and characters, they always come back to multiplayer — the ability to play with and against others, both online and off — as the game’s core attraction.

“The story’s great, but it has such a fast-paced and addictive online system, that really makes ‘Halo’ what it is,” said Aaron Delbo, 18, a Central Dauphin East senior and dedicated “Halo” fan.

That doesn’t surprise Kyle Orland, a freelance journalist who covers the video-game industry and runs the blog, Games For Lunch.

“The single-player story in ‘Halo’ has kind of become vestigial — it’s nice to have there and people might play through it, but multiplayer is the mode they’ll keep coming back to for the next five years,” he said.

For Daniel Young, 42, of Manor Twp., Lancaster County, the game’s multiplayer offers a way for him to interact with his teen-age children.

“When they start getting older you either lose touch with [your kids] or connect,” he said. “Video games really allow me to connect with them and not be the ‘old dad.’ ”

“I think it’s just a very simple game to understand. It’s not real complicated,” he added. “Some games are overly complicated, where you have to play it for hours and hours before you know anything. With ‘Halo,’ someone can pick up a controller and, in a few minutes, understand the concept of the whole game.”

Young is one of the co-creators of Lancaster Area Gamers a group that organizes local video game tournaments.

His group expects to host a “Halo 3” tournament at the East Coast Gamers store in Lancaster in the future.

Delbo said he’ll hold a special “Halo 3” tournament with his friends Wednesday.

Laserdome in Manheim will be offering the game in its Virtual Arena, which will allow 14 participants to play at the same time.

Undoubtedly those won’t be the only “Halo” gatherings popping up in the midstate.

Microsoft is counting on that; it has a lot riding on the success of “Halo 3.”

While the company’s new console, the Xbox 360, has sold steadily, it needs a big hit to convince buyers still sitting on the fence that their franchise is worth buying.

“I really don’t think you can overestimate its importance,” said Gerstmann. “It’s very important for them to get this tent-pole game, stick it in the ground and say ‘This is the system you want.’ ”

Fans like Delbo are already convinced.

“Anything that has the word ‘Halo’ on it is gold to me,” he said.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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