Hundreds of New Zealand gamers lined up overnight to be among the first in the world to pick up their copies of Halo 4, Master Chief's latest adventure on Xbox 360.
Around 650 fans gathered on a cold Auckland night as Guy Fawkes fireworks exploded overhead, with a dedicated few having waited outside EB Games at Botany Town Centre since yesterday morning.
Two players, both named Jason and both from the same workplace, told nzherald.co.nz from their place at the head of a queue that they were looking forward to the multiplayer maps and online experiences.
"There's nothing more satisfying than a headshot on a mate - or an Australian," quipped one of the Jasons.
"I've actually taken three days of annual leave so I can play Halo 4," said the other.
"I've played the whole lot, right through. Reach came out, and I got hooked on Reach."
He said he had advanced his customised character in Halo: Reach all the way to the Inheritor rank - a feat requiring hundreds of hours of play over the last two years.
The two Jasons said they were the first to arrive, and had been at the head of one of two queues since 10.30am. However the honour of being the first person "in the universe" to own a retail copy of Halo 4 went to Jerina Grewar, who ventured to the Gameplanet-promoted event at midday.
Shortly before midnight, the Master Chief stepped through the crowd to present her with her copy.
"Halo is awesome," she grinned as cheers rang out around her.
She said she was looking forward to learning the fate of pivotal character Doctor Catherine Halsey, who is known to fans of the Halo canon as the scientific genius behind the Master Chief's physical augmentation and superpowered combat armour.
"I'm a physicist, and she's inspiring."
She said of the games in the series so far, Halo 2 told the best story because it allowed the player to participate on both sides of the war between the human race and the alien Covenant.
Before players were able to collect their copies and head home, they passed the time by watching episodes of the live tie-in series, Forward Unto Dawn, and were greeted with messages from Halo's development director Frank O'Connor, creative head Josh Holmes, and Xbox Live supremo Larry Hyrb, also known as Major Nelson.
Speaking for Xbox New Zealand, Steven Blackburn said fans were "as excited as we are" for the return of Master Chief, who hasn't been a lead character in an original Halo game for five years.
The Chief's last adventure, Halo 3, earned over $1 million on its first day in New Zealand.By Troy Rawhiti-Forbes @TroyRF Email Troy