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‘Halo: Reach’ release may break video game records

For nine years, Xbox gamers have marched with the Spartans in the world of “Halo”: reveling in victory and sinking in defeat and guided by Cortana against waves of the Flood and the Covenant.

Soon the journey will be over – at least for a while.

Bungie, the developers now owned by Microsoft, announced that the forthcoming “Halo: Reach” will be the last game in the Halo canon made by the studio. Future “Halo” games will be developed by 343 industries, a newly formed in-house Microsoft studio.

Over time, gamers passionate about the series have grown attached to Halo’s main protagonist, the Spartan Petty Officer John-117 – better known as the Master Chief.

In “Reach” the Master Chief is not the main character, rather the player assumes the role of “Noble 6,” the latest addition to a group of Spartans charged with, as in many of the “Halo” games, finally defeating the alien Covenant threat.

“Halo: Reach” has grossed more than 1.5 million pre-orders, according to video game data website VGChartz.com, with over 200,000 new orders placed in a single week. Excitement has been building for Halo fans since June 1, when Bungie announced “Reach” at the gaming convention E3. The release date is Sept. 14.

“Halo: Reach”‘s full-length predecessor was the highest-grossing video game of both 2007 and of all time, until “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” knocked it out of the top slot in 2009. But overall, the Halo franchise has introduced many features in video games that make it at least a contender for top video game of the decade.

“Halo” games introduced the concept of a recharging health shield, rather than hunting all over the map for health packs. The saved film and screenshot feature introduced in “Halo 3,” while not unique, at least brought the familiar PC concept to the console. And even from the start, machinimas like “Red vs. Blue” brought “Halo” to the mainstream – something video games have been trying to achieve from the days of Mario.

“Halo: Reach” has been in development since 2007, and while that does not preclude a superior game, the developers elected to rebuild graphic assets from the ground up rather than re-use or update old textures.

Based on hype and previous releases, “Halo: Reach” was selected by game industry professionals to likely be the top game release of 2010, even though the release is not spurred on by the powerful buying push of the holiday season. The game retailer GameStop (located on University Drive in the same shopping center as Target) will hold a midnight release of the game on the evening of the Sept. 13 and into the morning of the 14, a party to say farewell to Bungie’s control over the Halo universe, for better or for worse.



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