Halo 3 wins high marks in previews

By Scott Hillis

Coverage of the NZ launch and a full review from the Mad Gamer will be on nzherald.co.nz from midnight tonight, with video of the game's release and fans' reaction to it on Tuesday morning.

SAN FRANCISCO - Halo 3, the highly anticipated video game, has won high praise from pre-launch reviewers who gushed over the lush settings, cinematic feel and array of multiplayer features.

The game, the final chapter of a trilogy that began in 2001 with the launch of Microsoft's original Xbox, is a key part of the company's strategy to take a bigger share of the console gaming market from Sony.

Gaming news website 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.

"Quite simply, Halo 3 is the reason the Xbox 360 exists," GameSpy said.

Since Halo 3 is the game industry equivalent of a new Harry Potter book or Star Wars movie, few expected it to be a flop.

Specialty gaming retail chain GameStop said the title set a record for advance orders while Microsoft has said it expects initial demand to surpass that for 2004's Halo 2 which racked up $125 million in its first 24 hours.

The game is set to go on sale on September 25.

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 behaviour of computer-controlled enemies wasn't very realistic.

"Will Halo 3 live up to the hype? No. There isn't perfection here. There isn't an absolute, please-all quality," said gaming blog Joystiq.com, though it added that the game was still a must-have.

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.

"It's such a huge package. It's hard to imagine something gamers don't like here," Hsu said.

GameSpot, another top gaming news website, weighed in with a rating of 9.5, saying the new features refreshed the familiar feel of the Halo universe.

"When you roll all this stuff together ... it really feels like a dramatically different game, and a dramatically bigger game. It comes together in an amazing package that is definitely one of the year's best," GameSpot said.


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