Thursday, 27 September 2007

Angels and Demons

Halo 3 was released this Wednesday, 25th September, to a collective trouser-tightening among the world's Xbox 360 fanatics. Sales have already passed the $200 million mark, and reports that over 4 million games have been logged in the past 24 hours. So what makes this game so special?

The franchise began in late 2001 with “Halo: Combat Evolved”, the first game released with the original Xbox. It was quickly recognised as a classic; praised across the board for its lush graphical rendering, the length and breadth of its storyline, and of course, the range of really rather cool weapons. The control system was also the first really successful attempt for a FPS (first-person shooter) on a console, allowing seamless vertical and horizontal movement.

Your character, the robo-suited ‘Master Chief’, combats an alien race called the Covenant aboard a ring-shaped planet. The range of game environments was massive, from rolling mountainous regions, to icy wastelands, to labyrinthine underground mazes. But it was the multi-player options that really took Halo to a new level in gaming. Students of my age may remember 12-player Halo on 3 TVs, firing sniper rifles from hundreds of metres away, or sticking plasma grenades to friends and watching them run around in circles before blowing up in a hail of fun and violence.

The new game’s real strength is again in this multi-player co-operation, on which you can play against anyone around the world. My colleague’s 45-year old brother has received the game as a birthday present, and has booked a full day off work – in computer support, no less - to give it his full attention.

However, the new release is not without its hiccups; it has been reported in many gaming blogs today that special limited edition packs are scratching the game discs, making them unplayable. Sort it out, Microsoft, and you’ve got yourself a winning package.

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