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Bungie, they aren't corporate... are they?

This past week's news on Halo 3 and all the upcoming goodies we'll be treated to in the next year makes my inner fanboy squeal with excitement. A new commercial, new Halo 2 maps, and an open beta for Halo 3 multiplayer, that's just nifty. But I can't help but feel a little ... how do I say this ... uneasy about how the Halo franchise is being handled. I'm not referring to Bungie themselves, because they have yet to let us down, but the corporate machine backing Halo. I just don't know, pre-rendered Halo 3 commercial (Bungie doesn't do pre-rendering), new maps for Halo 2 that must be purchased and only on the 360, Halo Wars being licensed off to a different studio ... blah, blah, blah. Maybe I'm just a little paranoid, maybe I'm just a little stressed tonight, but is Microsoft possibly playing the puppet-master card with Bungie just a little too much? I'll revisit this topic some other time I guess ... maybe I can talk to Frankie and he can calm my nerves. Frankie, if you're reading this, please comfort me ... please?

H3: Everybody run! He's got ... a Needler?

If you've been scouring the Halo 3 information around the web, you may have heard a few things about the needler. The needler -- a weapon that shoots slow moving, homing crystals that explode after a certain duration -- is generally regarded as the worst weapon in the Halo series. In fact, most consider it so useless that they will only pick it up as a joke or for some lucky humiliation kills. Bungie now intends to turn that around. In Halo 3, the needler is no longer dual-wieldable. Because it's now a two-handed weapon, Bungie has room to make it more powerful. We don't know exactly what's been changed -- whether the needles move faster or track better, for instance -- but we do know it's now a weapon to be feared. In the words of Bungie's KPaul:

"These factor in significantly, as once the needles are flying you're pretty much done unless you've got some cover to get behind before they reach you. Yeah, we've said it before, but this time we mean it. You will hear someone scream "OH SHEETS HE'S GOT A NEEDLER" at some point during your Halo 3 experience and for once, it will not be sarcasm."

Needler fans rejoice, come Halo 3, you'll actually have a reason to pick one up. Then again, Bungie said they were going to fix the needler last time, too. Here's hoping they keep their word this time.

[Image via Brickshelf]

Tons of Halo 3 screens leaked [update 2]

We swear, we didn't wake up this morning intending to beat Halo to death, but the news just keeps coming. It looks like the always reliable foreign press has leaked lots of Halo 3 screenshots, concept sketches, and renders onto the internet. Most of you will recognize these from the recent EGM cover story, though many of them are brand new. It's nice to have them in hi-res digital form, but unfortunately they come with a nasty watermark from GameCity, the Swiss site that leaked released the images in the first place. Halo Base, a German Halo site, has broken the shots down into the proper categories, screenshots, concept art, and renders. The renders in particular are very nice, showing off lots of Spartan and weapon detail. It seems like Halo Base is getting hammered by internet traffic, because the images are loading very slowly -- in other words, you may want to grab these before Halo Base is completely snowed under. We expect that Bungie will make these public soon, either via, or through 1UP's coverage throughout the month. Still, why wait when you can check them out now?

Update: As expected, it looks like Halo Base has been flooded. Lucky for us, News4Gamers (who just happen to be linking this very post) have gone to the trouble of uploading the images themselves. It looks like they have most of them up now. Find them here (or click the image above).

Update 2: Halo Base has removed their shots at the request of GameCity, who claims to have released them legally in the first place. The shots are still on News4Gamers, and some of them have been released on 1UP as well.

[Via HBO]

Halo madness! New H2 maps, H3 public beta!

Okay folks, the big news is here. It turns out that the "BIG" Halo announcement is neither a Halo 3 release date nor the long awaited Marathon Arcade. Is it actually worthy of the capitalized BIG (we all remember the BIG GOW announcement)? Maybe we're overstepping our bounds here, but we're going to say yes. Big yes. It's BIG. It turns out the BIG announcement is actually three announcements rolled into one megannouncement.

The first announcement: new maps are coming for Halo 2! These maps will only be available for Xbox 360 owners sometime in the Spring. Frankly, we're excited. We never would have anticipated something that could make us dust off Halo 2, but there it is. We'd also like to point out that it's a brilliant -- if somewhat dastardly -- move on Microsoft's part to release these maps exclusively on 360. Naturally, there are thousands (millions?) of Halo 2 players that are quite happy playing it on their original Xbox. Sure, they'll probably get a 360 when Halo 3 comes out, and Microsoft knows it. So, if you can't sell those people Halo 3 until next winter, just sell them Halo 2 ... again! We should note that Bungie hopes that Microsoft will eventually make this content available for original Xbox owners, but in the meantime it's a great incentive (for Halo 2 addicts) to upgrade to 360 right now. At any rate, we're excited as hell to play us some new maps. Here's hoping they can squeeze out some new graphical effects offered by the 360. Also worth noting, the new maps mean that MS is taking another look at Halo 2's backwards compatibility glitches, so some of those should be ironed out in the future.

Continue reading Halo madness! New H2 maps, H3 public beta!

Halo b-day gift: H3 demo, Marathon arcade?

The internet and wild speculation are like peanut butter and chocolate; they just go together. Today's wild speculation began when I ran across this entry on Phuze (which actually looks like a cool ezine). The speculations goes a little something ... a-like-a this: Bungie reported in their most recent update that there was a special "BIG" Halo announcement coming this week, in celebration of Halo's fifth anniversary on Wednesday, November 15th. 1UP's Halo 3 page lists a "Special Halo Announcement" as part of tomorrow's coverage. Phuze speculates that this announcement is probably something along the lines of an official release date -- and we agree -- but proffers the tantalizing possibility of something more. What if, wonder of wonders, it's an actual playable Halo 3 demo? Is it possible? Very slightly, yes. After all, as Phuze notes, all these game journos were playing a multiplayer build as early as last month, so it's possible (not to mention it's a great way to make 360 owners forget about the PS3).

Allow us to add even more fuel to the fire. Tomorrow, as most of you are no doubt aware, is Wednesday. Wednesday typically marks the release of a new Xbox Live Arcade title. Could Bungie have an Xbox Live Arcade title lined up for the anniversary of Halo? If they do, what better way to celebrate Halo's birthday than by releasing its spiritual prequel, Marathon? So there you have it. If Bungie releases Marathon on XBLA tomorrow, you heard it here first. If they don't ... well then why the hell were you listening to us in the first place?

How Halo 3 fixes Halo 2 multiplayer

1UP continues their month long barrage of Halo 3 coverage with a breakdown of what Bungie is doing to address the multiplayer concerns from Halo 2. In short, these concerns are:
  • Weapon whoring
  • Duel Wielding and the "noob combo" (plasma pistol and battle rifle)
  • Player designations
A big problem in Halo 2 multiplayer is weapon whoring. In other words, once a power weapon -- like the rocket launcher or sniper rifle -- is obtained, it cannot be obtained by anyone else until it is emptied or dropped by the player holding it. In some cases, a team will grab both sniper rifles on a large map and dominate, while the other team is denied any kind of counter measure. Another way to whore a weapon is to grab it and just not use it. As long as it is in your possession, it will not respawn, thus keeping it from everyone else. For instance, the team that grabs both snipers could also pick up the rocket launcher and sword just to make sure your team never has a chance. So, how does Bungie fix this?

Continue reading How Halo 3 fixes Halo 2 multiplayer

Female Spartan in Halo 3? Could be ...

Upon further inspection, we've unearthed another Halo 3 tidbit from Friday's weekly update. Bungie is considering (considering, mind you) adding a female voice option for Spartans in Halo 3 multiplayer. Apparently, a considerable portion of the Halo 2 player base is comprised of women. It's also apparent (at least to me) that none of these women live within a hundred miles of Fanboy Towers (not that it matters, I'm happily married thankyouverymuch). Bungie assures us that the voice will not be comical or stereotypical, but rather a strong female voice to make the Chief proud. Of course, this raises a few issues. What about female Covenant? Are there female Covenant? On second thought, maybe we don't want to know.

Are you a female Halo fanatic jonesing for a gender appropriate voice in your games? If so, Bungie invites you to say so in their forums, make petitions on your own sites, or you could always comment here.

Frankie is obsessed with water

Frankie's most recent Bungie Weekly Update talks about various things, anything from a sales update on the new Halo novel, to how pretty Halo 3's water is. Above all the meat and potatos of Frankie's update is that next week there will be some BIG Halo 3 news revealed. I can't help but think that the BIG news coming out next week is due to a certain console being launched, just call me crazy. I for one can't get enough Halo 3 news, who's with me on that?

Breakdown of new Halo 3 multiplayer maps

1UP's kuh-razy month long coverage of Halo 3 continues with breakdowns of the three confirmed new maps: Snowbound, High Ground, and Valhalla. Along with the new maps, we learn about some of the new environmental features.

Continue reading Breakdown of new Halo 3 multiplayer maps

Video break down of leaked Halo 3 info

Shatter Studios have put together two videos that summarize the leaked Halo 3 info in easily digestible bites. Using the leaked images as backgrounds, the videos point out new weapons, features, and maps. Think of it like a really awesome version of all those crappy documentaries you had (or have) to watch in high school. Our favorite part is when they point out the new spike grenade, which resembles a WWII era German grenade -- you may remember 1UP's Mark MacDonald remarking that it makes a satisfying/terrifying "whoop whoop whoop" sound as it rotates in the air. Check out both videos after the break.

Continue reading Video break down of leaked Halo 3 info

Halo 3 impressions from 1UP and EGM

That issue of EGM isn't even out yet and the Halo 3 hype train keeps a' rolling. The editors of EGM/1UP have posted some of their thoughts and impressions of their visit to Bungie. Though they don't give away anything that hasn't already been leaked, they do announce that they definitely liked what they saw. Dan Hsu makes a time honored point, noting that the graphics weren't "that impressive for an Xbox 360 game," but it was so fun that it didn't matter. He goes on to say that he doesn't want to go back to Halo 2 now that he has been spoiled by this (pre-alpha) build of Halo 3. Mark MacDonald probably gives the most concrete info, giving speculators and Halo fanatics something to chew on.

"I very rarely dual-wielded in the few hours we got to play
Halo 3, and after some early experimentation, I mostly stuck with the Assault Rifle. I'd pick up a Battle Rifle or Shotgun if I had the chance, but unless I was super close or far from a target, the AR suited me just fine. More than fine. OK I f*king love the assault rifle. It might as well be an entirely new weapon. (I hope they don't mess with it too much between now and the final game.)"

He goes on to discuss some of the new weapons, the new maps, and the overall candor of the Bungie team. Fans slavering for info would best be served to read his impressions first. The last impression comes from Luke Smith, who paints Halo as his Mario. His is more nostalgia and hope than the factual accounts of the other two. Still, if you love Halo, or hearing people wax romantic about videogames, give it a read.

So, with all this pre-hyped hype, has anybody actually gotten the new EGM yet?

[Via HBO]

1UP clarifies Halo 3 info, new details

1UP has taken some of the leaked Halo 3 info and clarified a few mistranslations and speculations. First, the Spartan laser is more than an anti-vehicle weapon and can be used quite effectively as an anti-personnel weapon. Apparently, it's not as difficult to control as some sources thought it to be, though Bungie may still tweak it for balance. Second, the new Brute weapon, the Spiker, is sort of a cross between the needler and the SMG and it's more effective than both. The weapon shoots bright orange spikes at a very fast rate. We can't help but be reminded of the needler shown during a pre-release Halo 2 multiplayer demonstration ages ago. You know, the one that didn't suck. Third, the nail grenade is actually called a spike grenade and should be quite a departure from the plasma and frag varieties. Fourth, weapons not in use will be placed according to their type. For example, two handed weapons like rifles and shotguns will be slung over the shoulder, while single handed pistols will be kept at the hip. Halo fans will recognize that actually seeing a secondary weapon will dramatically change gameplay (no more hiding the sword or rocket launcher). Fifth, multiplayer will still be capped at 16. Obviously, this has worked well thus far, so why fix what ain't broke? Finally, the "Man Cannon," designed for fast air travel, is so hilariously named that many assumed it was a mistranslation. Nope, Man Cannon is the name Bungie gave it, and it's not likely to change. 1UP promises that there is even more info in the latest issue of EGM -- arriving in mailboxes shortly -- and all month long at 1UP itself. Rest assured we'll bring you more Halo 3 as it develops.


Halo 3 LE images, pre-orders being taken

Just when you thought you'd absorbed all the Halo 3 info that was leaked last week, scans of the latest Famitsu are starting to hit the web. There's plenty to look at, though most of it was in the scans of Level that were leaked last week. One little bit that was not in the scans -- as far as we know -- is a picture of the Legendary edition. Taken from the Famitsu scans, the above image could be both the collector's and Legendary editions side by side, or possibly just the Legendary edition by itself. We'll leave the speculating to you. Hit the read link for the scans.

In related news, GameStop has started taking pre-orders on Halo 3, with a release date of 11/07. Those familiar with Bungie lore know that 11 and 7 are important numbers in the Halo universe -- the Master Chief if Spartan 117, for example -- so the date is feasible. That, and it'll probably take that long to finish anyway. GameStop requires a reservation fee of $5 for the standard edition, $10 for the collector's edition, and $25 for the Legendary edition. We agree with Joystiq that it's insidious to play on gamers' fears with pre-orders -- the logic being that if you don't pre-order, you won't get it day one -- but at the same time, we want that helmet (at least I do). Still, with a rumored price of $100, the Legendary edition could be a serious pain in your wallet. Would you be willing to lay down ten Hamiltons for it?

[Thanks, Sincere7745 and dapperdan]

Halo movie officially postponed

Sad news today for Halo fanatics, the movie has been officially postponed. The postponement stems from Fox and Universal recently pulling out of the project. It's worth noting that the production team is still fully behind first time feature director, Neill Blomkamp. Here is the official statement:

"As was previously confirmed, we deeply regret that both Universal and Fox did not choose to move forward with financing the Halo film under the original terms of the agreement. At this time Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, along with their partner, Microsoft, have mutually agreed to postpone making a feature film based on the Halo video game universe until we can fulfill the promise we made to millions of Halo fans throughout the world that we would settle for no less than bringing a first class film to the big screen. We are fully supportive of Director Neill Blomkamp's vision of the film. Neill is a tremendously gifted filmmaker and his preliminary work on Halo is truly awe-inspiring. While it will undoubtedly take a little longer for Halo to reach the big screen, we are confident that the final feature film will be well worth the wait."

Whether or not you believe it when corporations say that they're "doing it for the fans," it's heartening to note that the movie is not canceled (though AICN isn't so sure). Then again, oftentimes, movies that take forever to develop eventually fall flat (D&D, anyone?). At any rate, we'd speculate that you won't see any Halo movie before 2008. But hey, at least they're finally rolling out new info about Halo 3, right?

[Thanks, Paul]

Halo Trilogy theme on XBLM

A Halo 3 theme is now available on Marketplace for 150 MS Points or as a bonus with the new Halo faceplate out tomorrow. Here's the official description:

The Halo Trilogy dashboard theme is a must-have for serious Halo fans. Available as a free gift with the purchase of the Halo 3 Xbox 360 faceplate, or right now as downloadable marketplace content, the theme features never-before seen scenes from Bungie Studio Halo 1, 2 and 3. Each blade presents a re-imagined view from the Halo universe, including all three iterations of the Master Chief's iconic Spartan armor, from past, present and future.

Buyers please weigh in with your review. Does everybody agree that just about all of the game-related themes on XBLM make the text too hard to read?

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