Halo Reach Goes Down a Storm

Neither thunder nor torrential rain could dampen the spirits of eager gamers as they patiently lined Times Square, in anticipation of what is likely to be Microsoft’s biggest software launch this year; Halo Reach. There was a buzz of electricity in the air outside the Best Buy theatre on 44th Street, as die-hard fans endured hours of standing in the freezing rain, just to be among the first to play the final Halo game to be made by original creators Bungie .

Speaking to Halo fanatics spanning the block-long queue down Broadway, it was clear that Halo Reach would hold a special place in their hearts – to some it’ the end of an era. “I’m quite upset about it. I don’t know if the [next] games are going to be as good, I have no doubt in my mind that there’ll be more – I’m definitely going to get them, but I’m going to be upset.” Further down the line, fans professed their love for the series that established the console online multiplayer. “Halo is awesome, it’s different, and the multiplayer aspect has so many epic moments”. When asked whether it still stood up against Call of Duty however, the majority were undecided.

Inside, away from the rain and the bustling crowds, life-size replicas of the Spartans of Reach stood proud amidst the neon green decor of the theatre, along with dozens of Xbox 360s all sporting copies of the game. It would be here that a lucky few would battle it out for prizes, in a tournament celebrating the monumental launch. While the DJ played a mix of R’n’B and Hip Hop, Marvel Comics’ Phil Noto signed promo copies of the latest Halo based graphic novel; Fall of Reach.

“[Being part of the Halo universe] is great. This is actually the second Halo comic project I’ve done. I did the Halo Genesis graphic novel that came out with the Halo Wars limited edition set so it’s really cool to be back drawing Halo. I’d love to do more, it’s a lot of fun.”

There’s no doubt that the attending crowds would agree with Noto’s enthusiasm for Halo. From T-shirts to inflatable covenant swords it was difficult to find anyone who wasn’t adorned in something Spartan. Amongst the wildly excited fan-boys and eerily cheerful PR ladies, one man strolled the building in his trademark suit and jeans. Xbox Live’s Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb, was on-hand to MC the show. It was clear from speaking with him however, that this year’s Halo game is second in running to Microsoft’s new favourite child, Kinect.

“This is going to be the biggest launch until November when we launch Kinect…Halo reach certainly reaches a different type of audience than Kinect will, but Kinect’s going to go out to people who probably aren’t playing Xbox 360 right now”.

Compared to Microsoft’s assurances in previous years that Project Natal/Kinect would be just as much for the core gamer, it’s interesting to see such an obvious change in message. Is Kinect no longer targeted towards the average Halo fan? On the separation of Bungie and Microsoft, Hryb continued:

“Bungie is a fantastic house and we look forward to working with them again on all their projects, they’re just a great bunch of folks and they produce phenomenal games.”

Without giving too much away, Hryb certainly hinted at a future in which Bungie and Microsoft would be back in bed, what exactly he meant by this we’ll have to wait and see. As the evening went on, proceedings hit a slight bump as surprise performer ‘Kid Cudi’ failed to show. Met by a barrage of boos and cup-throwing, the announcement was soon forgiven as the clock hit midnight and the game finally went on sale, leaving a fairly disinterested few still waiting at the front of the stage in the hope that Cudi would make it.

Luckily for them he did. Despite the hiccup in the evening’s schedule, the fans rushed forward to catch a fairly intimate performance from the Cleveland-born rapper- who then came down to sign autographs and meet fans, much to the dismay of his security team.

For the majority however, the star of the evening was Halo Reach itself, with the added bonus of a production line of Bungie developers signing each copy. This was the reason they’d stood outside for hours on end in the pouring rain, this was the moment they’d been waiting for. On being asked how he felt about owning one of the first Legendary Editions of Halo Reach, one ecstatic student summarised it in a way only a gamer could;

“I am pumped up, and I am ready not to sleep tonight.”