hype and glory
If there were ever any doubts video games are seriously big business, they were erased on September 25 with the unveiling of Halo 3, arguably the most anticipated release in gaming history.
Not only did it shatter all previous records for video-game sales, it became the biggest of all entertainment releases by selling more than US$170 million worth of units in the first 24 hours in the United States alone - outshining the record US$59.8 million first-day box-office receipts of the summer blockbuster movie Spider-Man 3.
Microsoft's massive promotional campaign for the Xbox 360 console game certainly helped, but it wasn't all hype: Halo 3, created by American game developer Bungie Studios, represents all that is great about gaming. It features an epic storyline of good versus evil, far-reaching adventures within lush visual environments, sweaty-palmed fight-or-flight situations and loads of bad guys to blow seven shades of hell out of.
This is the first edition of Halo to come out on a high-definition, next-generation gaming console, and brings to an end a trilogy that has inspired a slavish devotion among fans since the initial instalment was released on Microsoft's first-generation Xbox in 2001.
In the first-person shooter, you play from the perspective of Master Chief, a cybernetically enhanced super soldier. You are leading the fight against the Covenant, a coalition of various alien life forms ranging from the Grunt foot soldiers to the Hunters, the imposing dreadnoughts of the game.
While the storyline is better than that of most video games (so good that Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has agreed to help bring the franchise to the big screen), it's the game play that really matters - and this is one area in which the Halo series has always shined.
The super-responsive controls allow the player to wield two weapons at once; newly added gravity lifts shoot the player across the battlefield straight into the action while defensive bubble shields can be deployed when the situation gets hairy. The campaign will take most players only about 10 hours, however its longevity lies in its online multiplayer mode. Here, a broadband connection (and Xbox Live subscription) will allow epic online battles with up to 16 players from all over the world.
If you've ever been tempted by the Halo hype, there's never been a better time to check it out.
Halo can now be enjoyed in high-definition and the controls are the tightest they have ever been.
The graphics aren't up to the standards set by earlier Xbox 360 titles.