On March 3, Microsoft Game Studios will release the latest edition of one of the most successful video game franchises of all time. "Halo Wars," which is available only for Xbox, is a strategy game set in the larger "Halo" world, the basis of "Halo," "Halo 2," and the record-setting "Halo 3." The new game was created to be played by multiple players in the recently-launched Xbox Experience, the newest version of Xbox Live.
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When "Halo Wars" launches on March 3, "players will command the armies of the UNSC warship Spirit of Fire, consisting of familiar and new UNSC units in its initial encounters against the Covenant, an alien coalition threatening to obliterate mankind.
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Beasley's Covenant vs. Covenant
In "Halo Wars," players will investigate the "Halo" universe in a chronological period before the original "Halo" game. The idea is that they will get to take part in many of the events that precipitated the original "Halo" story line.
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Warthog vs. Wraith
In the new "Halo Wars," "with the guidance of Serina, a spirited artificial intelligence persona, gamers will direct legions of UNSC soldiers, Warthogs, Scorpions, and more, each group having its own strengths and uses in battle."
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If "Halo Wars" players are ambitious, they can also command "ancient Forerunner technology," assuming they can discover where it's hidden in the game's battlefield.
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Spirit drop at Alpha Base
"Halo Wars" players will have access to both new and existing Covenant units, including Scarabs, Grunts, Elites, and Ghosts.
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The first three "Halo" games were developed by Bungie Studios. But "Halo Wars" was developed for Microsoft Game Studios by Ensemble Studios, which was previously best known for its work on the "Age of Empires" franchise.
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Battle at relic entrance
In the "Halo Wars" campaign mode, players who finish the kill objectives, for example, "Kill 100 Grunts," will have a skull appear on their map. Also, they'll discover that "Black Boxes" unveil new information about the "Halo" timeline.
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Chasms Horizon Hook
In the new game, barrels and methane tanks can explode into each other, resulting in destructive chain reactions. "You would be surprised how many things you can kill sometimes," tout the game's press materials.
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Pirth Outskirts waterfall
In "Halo Wars," players receive a big benefit and boost from staying in cover. According to the official game materials, one Marine squad that stays in cover maintains as much combat potential as three normal Marine squads.
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Chasm icy showdown
"Halo Wars" supports multiplayer skirmishes of up to six players, each of whom can command either the UNSC or the Covenant.
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Docks courtyard battle
Microsoft is clearly hoping that "Halo Wars" will drive significant new business to the Xbox platform, including its online Xbox Experience. Previous versions of the franchise have helped sell large numbers of Xboxes.
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Chasms pinned down by Scarab
"Halo 3," the previous edition of the franchise, set what was the all-time record for revenue for an entertainment product in a single day--at the time, anyway. It earned $170 million in its first 24 hours.
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Blocked subway entrance
Microsoft is touting "Halo Wars" as evidence that it has more attractive exclusive titles for the Xbox 360 than Sony has for the PlayStation 3. Of course, Sony has its own exclusives, but it's hard to argue with the value of the "Halo" brand.
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While Bungie Studios produced the previous versions of "Halo" for Microsoft Game Studios, it became independent after "Halo 3." However, Microsoft retained the rights to the franchise, which is why Ensemble Studios made "Halo Wars."
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"Halo Wars" takes place in 2531, 20 years prior to the first "Halo."
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With the economy stumbling, Microsoft--as well as the retailers who will sell "Halo Wars"--needs the new game to do well, both because of the revenue the game itself will bring, as well as the Xboxes it could sell, and subscriptions to the premium Xbox Live.
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Blood Glutch hook battle
"Halo Wars" was rated "T" (for teens) by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, and will sell for $60 at retail.
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"Halo Wars" will also come in an $80 collector's edition. The collector's edition of "Halo 3" included one of major character Master Chief's helmets.
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"Halo Wars" is the last announced game in the "Halo" franchise. But given the success each of the previous iterations has had, Microsoft may well choose at some point to keep the franchise alive. And, given that the demo for "Halo Wars" broke the record for most downloaded demo on Xbox Live, with more than 2 million copies downloaded, there is every reason to expect "Halo Wars" to do well.