"Halo 3" has lived up to the hype.
Last week, Microsoft delivered the most highly anticipated video game in history, and it generated an estimated $170 million in first-day sales in the United States alone.
That's more opening-day business than blockbuster movies like "Spider-Man 3" and books like "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
The game is, in a word, brilliant. At its core, it's a great first-person shooting game, and though there are lots of those, "Halo 3" feels bigger than most of the competition. It looks beautiful. And it finishes off a storyline that many fans were upset with after a cliffhanger ending in "Halo 2."
The third installment's story centers around hero Master Chief, who is fighting to stop a group called the Covenant (a nasty alien coalition with bad intentions) and save mankind. To be honest, this felt more like a major sci-fi movie than a video game. The plot is very well-thought-out.
As the game begins, the Covenant is on its way to our planet, hoping to use space weapons called Halos that could destroy our world. Master Chief and his friends are trying to stop them with the help of new friends and new weapons, including a Bubble Shield that blocks weapons but not people.
Up to four players can now engage in cooperative play in story mode -- on one unit, or on Xbox Live. (I did find that in multiplayer mode, via Xbox Live, that there were too many younger players going at it for me to truly have fun.)
Another new feature I like is the ability -- once you've completed the campaign -- to go through any of the game's nine chapters in any order you want. Going back through, even without story mode, can be fun, given that you can tally points for kills. This adds replay value as you wait for "Halo 4" -- and there will be a "Halo 4."
" `Halo 3' has become a pop-culture phenomenon," said Shane Kim, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios. "Not only is `Halo 3' setting sales records, it's also redefining entertainment. Within the first 20 hours alone, we (saw) more than a million Xbox Live members come online to play `Halo 3' -- that makes September 25 the most active Xbox Live gaming day in history."
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Game of the Year. (Grade: )
News and Notes
DFC Intelligence, a group that tracks the industry, has released its September intelligence report. Among the highlights:
• DFC forecasts the Wii to be the hardware sales king in Japan -- and maybe the world -- but feels the PlayStation 3 will be a strong second. By 2012, it predicts the PS3 will lead in software revenue even though the Wii will have sold more units.
• In its heydey, the PlayStation 2 accounted for 30 percent of all interactive entertainment revenue. DFC forecasts the most successful current-gen platform will only account for half that.
• DFC thinks that unless the Xbox 360 has a strong fourth quarter, it'll end up a distant third behind the other two consoles long-term.
• The company thinks the PS3 looks to "be a solid platform for the 2009-2012 time period."
• The PC gaming business is expected to grow by 80 percent over the next five years.
VIDEO GAMES Langston Wertz Jr.
Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358-5133; email@example.com; want more games news? Visit Langston's blog at http://langstonwertz.blogspot.com