Gamers Hankering for 'Halo' to Get a Taste May 16
Microsoft and Bungie Studios have named May 16 as the date when "Halo 3," the latest installment of the popular "Halo" video game series, will open to beta testers. Gamers will need a special key to access the game, and the beta test period will end about three weeks later. The latest "Halo" installment promises new weapons, vehicles and maps as well as massive gaming potential.
"Halo 3" (H3) is the third chapter of the hugely successful "Halo" series and offers gamers the opportunity to "experience Master Chief's greatest battle" as he embarks on an epic mission to stop the Covenant, destroy the impending Flood threat and in the end save mankind, the game makers said.
"This is the equivalent of a major movie sequel," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. "It has been a lucrative franchise and many of us think Halo is the game that defined the original Xbox and made it successful."
Gamers who are able to acquire a beta key will only have a little more than three weeks to test out the game's multiplayer components. The "Halo 3" Multiplayer beta will go live May 16, at 12:00 a.m. PDT. The beta will go dark on June 6 at 11:59 p.m. PDT. Gamers who have been "sitting on the fence, and are interested" can still enter the Beta by purchasing a specially marked copy of the game "Crackdown," according to a post on the Bungie Web site.
"Ordinarily [picking-up a copy of 'Crackdown' would] be a chore, but thankfully 'Crackdown' is an awesome action game which might ironically distraction you from the Beta I'm pimping here," read a posting on Bungie's official blog. "Bungie is also giving out a few Friends and Family spots to valued community members, but those are few and far between, so its safer to assume you're not getting in that way."
In its announcement, Bungie repeatedly reminded Halo fans that the game they will begin playing a little more than a month from now is beta software, and "while it will look somewhat close to the final game -- it is beta -- and will contain quirks, a couple of rough edges and all that jazz.
"But, we're pretty confident you'll find it a dynamic and exciting taste of what's to come in Fall," Bungie continued.
The Beta includes three maps -- Valhalla, High Ground and Snowbound. Each map represents a mixture of large- and medium-scale combat environments. The three maps support a wide variety of gameplay types, some familiar and some brand new.
Beta participants will be able to try out several of the game's new features, including a new grenade type, a totally different class of weapon as well as some of the enhanced online functionality Bungie is building into the game.
Software designers have also included new vehicles, such as the Mongoose all-terrain vehicle, and gameplay features like the "mysterious 'X-Button,'" the functionality of which is revealed in the video "Is Quisnam Protero Damno," a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Halo 3.
The game maker also noted that many secret features are hidden in the beta, waiting to be revealed when the completed game launches this fall.
"We're keeping a lot of our powder dry for Fall," Bungie's blog read. "In May, when you're firing the Spiker, sniping vehicles with the Spartan Laser and sticking fools with the Brute Spike grenade, remember that it's just a peek-a-boo fraction of what's to come."
The release of "Halo 3" multiplayer will be huge, Enderle said. Massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) have been a hit on PCs but have not been deployed as much for consoles, where they can leverage advanced built-in technology.
"Unlike a PC game, which generally must be designed for a relatively low average PC technology level, this one can push the Xbox 360 hard because the hardware is known and common," Enderle explained. "This will allow for richer visuals out of the gate."
For Enderle, the addition of voice capabilities software designers have built into the game are a considerable standout for MMORPGs built for the console versus the PC, where texting is the typical method of communication between players.
"Voice designed into the game at the start (texting while playing is incredibly annoying), and PC-based multiplayer games typically do not have voice capability," he noted. "So, the combination of strong visuals and the ability to talk to your teammates raise this up to killer status for those of us who play this game type a lot."
"'Halo 3' will redefine [the Xbox], and if successful, could redefine the entire segment at the same time," Enderle continued. "They are really pushing the envelope with this offering."
The Xbox, according to Enderle, is becoming a very powerful standalone platform and has begun to eclipse the PC as both devices chase the next-generation home entertainment market. The challenge for Microsoft will be to find a way to bring PC vendors into this rather than leave them feeling locked out of the process.
"If you think about it, the Xbox is Microsoft's iMac, and that has broad implications for everyone in the PC or console market," he concluded.