Starting tonight "Halo 3," the final chapter of Microsoft?s epic video game trilogy, finally goes on sale around the world.
In the United States, more than 10,000 retailers across the country are opening their doors at midnight tonight solely to sell copies of the game and accompanying Xbox 360 consoles and accessories.
Shoppers lined up before dawn in New York, many hours before the midnight sale of "Halo 3," the equivalent of a new "Harry Potter" book or "Star Wars" film for the $30 billion video game industry.
"The excitement and demand for 'Halo 3' has transcended a typical video game release and we?re preparing dedicated registers for its midnight release in our 24-hour stores," said Darin Dickson, video game merchandise buyer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. "It's clear that this is one of the most anticipated games of the year and that 12:01 am Sept. 25 will be a memorable moment for thousands of gamers."
The game, in which players try to save humanity from an army of aliens, has drawn wide praise from reviewers for its lush settings, cinematic story and breadth of features. The conclusion of "Halo 2" left unanswered questions around the fates of the beloved protagonist Master Chief and his artificial intelligence sidekick Cortana as they struggle to save humankind from destruction at the hands of the alien coalition known as the Covenant. The legions of dedicated fans lining the streets tonight are waiting for the chance to be among the first to own the coveted final chapter in the "Halo" trilogy and unearth the well-kept secrets of the storyline.
Developed by Bungie Studios, the "Halo" franchise is exclusive to the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system and optimized for the Xbox LIVE online entertainment network.
More than 10,000 retailers are planning events and opening their doors at midnight to celebrate this third installment in the billion-dollar franchise. In New York, Seattle, Miami and Los Angeles, Microsoft and retail partners are hosting marquee launch events that will feature contests and appearances by local celebrities and celebrities and professional athletes who are fanatical about the ?Halo? franchise.
A list of retail outlets opening at 12:01 a.m. can be found at http://www.xbox.com/unitetofight.
Made exclusively for Xbox 360, "Halo 3" will be made available in three versions: Standard Edition at $59.99 (U.S. ERP), Limited Edition for $69.99 (U.S. ERP), and the ultimate collector's item, the Legendary Edition at $129.99 (U.S. ERP).
High marks from reviewers
The game won high praise on Sunday from game reviewers who gushed over the lush settings, cinematic feel and array of multiplayer features.
Gaming news Web site GameSpy gave "Halo 3" five stars, its highest ranking, saying it was so good that it was worth buying an Xbox 360 just to play it. The Xbox 360 costs $280 to $450, depending on features.
Reviewers did voice a few complaints. Some said the game's graphics, while impressive, fell short of titles such as Take-Two Interactive Software's "BioShock" and "Gears of War," also from Microsoft. Others said the behavior of computer-controlled enemies wasn't very realistic.
Most critics said any shortcomings were more than made up for by unprecedented variety that includes a cooperative mode that allows four people to play together online, and editing tools to let gamers modify levels to compete against each other in "deathmatch" competitions.
Dan Hsu, editor-in-chief of gaming magazine EGM, gave the game a perfect 10 rating.
GameSpot, another top gaming news Web site, weighed in with a rating of 9.5, saying the new features refreshed the familiar feel of the "Halo" universe.