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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Halo: Reach

Halo

Halo: Combat Evolved

Xbox magazine cover

Halo manual

More Halo manual

Halo concept art

More concept art

Render

Halo 2

Halo 2 screenshot

Master Chief rendering

Edge cover

Halo 2 concept art

Halo 2 storyboard

Halo 3

Pulse pounding climax

Halo Wars

ODST

Halo 3: ODST

Johnson rendering

ODST concept art

Reach screenshot

Skirmisher concept art

Scorpion rendering

Falcon concept

If you're reading this, that means that Halo: Reach, the fifth iteration in Bungie's multibillion-dollar video game franchise is finally for sale. Around the country, thousands of people have lined up to be among the first to buy a copy, and you can bet that there will be no small number of people calling in "sick" to work or school on Tuesday after having spent the night in front of their Xboxes.

Though there's no way to know if Halo: Reach will break any sales records, it's a sure bet to be one of the biggest sellers of 2010 and will give Microsoft yet another exclusive title to tout when it promotes the Xbox 360--none of the Halo games is available on Sony's PlayStation or Nintendo's Wii consoles.

But Halo: Reach didn't come out of nowhere. Bungie released the original Halo in 2001 for Microsoft's original Xbox, and the hits haven't stopped coming: first Halo 2, then Halo 3, then Halo Wars (developed not by Bungie, but by Ensemble Studios), Halo 3: ODST and now, finally, Halo: Reach.

To commemorate the game's release, CNET has put together this gallery of screenshots, artists' renderings, concept art, and magazine covers spanning the nine years and six games in the series.

Caption by / Photo by Bungie
A screenshot from Bungie's original Halo: Combat Evolved, which was released on November 15, 2001, for Microsoft's first Xbox. The game became one of that console's biggest selling points and helped it hold its own against Sony's PlayStation 2.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
In the original Halo manual, players were introduced to the story line that would go on to support millions of sales and billions of dollars of revenue: "The year is 2552. Planet Earth still exists. But overpopulation has forced many of her former residents to colonize other worlds."
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
The Halo-themed cover of Xbox magazine, from 2001.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
The opening pages of the original Halo: Combat Evolved manual.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
With the Xbox 360 now nearly five years old, these pages from the Halo: Combat Evolved manual, giving tips on how to operate the joystick of the original Xbox seems quaint. But the franchise became a monster hit and helped make the Xbox platform a legitimate peer of Sony's PlayStation 2, and later PS3.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Concept art for the original Halo: Combat Evolved.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Artist Shi Kai Wang created this concept Halo art for Bungie in 1999, two years before the game first launched.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
A color rendering of Halo: Combat Evolved imagery.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Three years after the original Halo was released, Bungie put out Halo 2 on November 9, 2004. Three years later, the game was released for Windows Vista. Halo 2 built on the success of the original game and added new layers of complexity and countless new players.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
In Halo 2, released in 2004, the "plot sees Master Chief and Cortana returning to Earth in an attempt to stop the onslaught of the Covenant, a terrifyingly aggressive alien civilization, bent on the conquest and destruction of any species that dares defy them. Master Chief will be called on to save the greatest prize in the Human colonies--Earth itself."
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
A rendering of a Halo 2 image of Master Chief.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
The art for a Halo 2-themed cover of Edge magazine.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Concept art for Halo 2.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
A storyboard shows some of the original work on Halo 2.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
When it was released in the fall of 2007, Halo 3 scored what was then the biggest day in entertainment history, at least as measured by revenue. According to Microsoft, the game brought in $170 million that first day, and went on to be one of the biggest sellers in history.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
When it was released in the fall of 2007, Halo 3 centered on a story line in which "Master Chief returns to finish the fight, bringing the epic conflict between the Covenant, the Flood, and the entire human race to a dramatic, pulse-pounding climax."
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Halo Wars, which was released in February 2009, was the first title in the franchise's history not to be developed by Bungie. The game, which came out in between Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST, was "set early in the iconic war between the Covenant and UNSC...Halo Wars provides a new angle on the war while bringing new heroes to the battle.

"In Halo Wars fans will be able to control armies of units that are familiar to them from the [first person shooter] games, such as UNSC Marines, Scorpion Tanks, and the iconic Warthog."

Caption by / Photo by Ensemble Studios
Originally, Bungie and Microsoft had led fans to believe that Halo 3 would be the franchise's final chapter. But with fans' thirst for the game still strong, as evidenced by substantial sales of Halo Wars, and unable to let go of what was clearly a major money maker, and a driving force behind sales of the Xbox 360, Bungie and its onetime corporate parent Microsoft--Bungie split from Microsoft shortly after Halo 3 was released--couldn't resist continuing the franchise and teamed up once again. In the fall of 2009, Bungie took control of the Halo franchise again and released the franchise's fifth iteration, Halo 3: ODST.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
This was the story line for Halo 3: ODST: "The year is 2552. The Covenant control the city of New Mombasa. They are searching for something beneath its darkened streets. You are an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. Your orders: Stay alive, meet up with your scattered squad, and escape the embattled city. Stop the Covenant and we just might win this war."
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
A Halo 3: ODST rendering showing Sgt. Johnson.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Concept art from 2009's Halo 3: ODST, the fifth release in the hit franchise's history.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
For months, Halo fans have been teased and tempted with potential access to the Halo: Reach beta as well as with other tidbits. The game finally launched at midnight eastern time on Tuesday.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Concept art showing Skirmisher, from Halo: Reach.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Millions of fans have been eagerly awaiting Halo: Reach, the franchise's fifth iteration. The game's official site promotes the game this way: "Armed with a decade of experience crafting Halo games, Bungie is raising the campaign and multiplayer bar to unparalleled heights, plunging players into the cataclysmic finale of their definitive Halo title. Warfare on Reach is waged on an epic scale, the Covenant war machine is at the height of its power, and humanity's ultimate survival hangs in the balance."
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Concept art showing Falcon from Halo: Reach, which hit stores at midnight eastern time on Tuesday morning.
Caption by / Photo by Bungie
Updated:
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