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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 25, 2007 at 12:10 PM

Second take on “Halo 3,” and its first kerfuffle

When I opened a “Halo 3” limited edition last night, both discs in the tin box were loose and jangling around the package. Then the console said it couldn’t read the game disc, which was awful because I had a friend driving over to play.

The console suggested taking the disc out, wiping it with a clean cloth and restarting the system. I found a thick black hair and a smudge of something sticky, like jam, on the disc, which was weird since I hadn’t eaten anything like that before opening it up.

But after a wipe on my T-shirt and a push of the green button on the console, the disc worked fine. So fine I was up until the wee hours playing a two-person campaign, assuming the role of the alien Arbiter.

Apparently, Microsoft opted for style over substance in packaging the premium “Limited” and “Legendary” versions of the game.

For an extra $10 to $70 over the standard $59.99 game, it comes with a disc of videos and other bonus material, fancier booklets and, with the Legendary version, a plastic helmet. The discs come in metal boxes that suggest an Army mess tin.

The boxes may look tough, but the disc spindles are weak, and reports are coming out about buyers being peeved about scratches, though so far I’m not hearing much about real damage making them unplayable.

Microsoft jumped on it and offered to replace any damaged discs via a posting at Xbox support.

It may be the fault of a vendor somewhere and hardly worth mentioning if the discs work fine and better spindles are added immediately.

But Microsoft doesn’t need any more hits for overly stylish packages that don’t work as they should — like the initial run of Xbox 360s that overheated because the tapered case put components too close together.

A bigger risk for the business is that customers will get wise to Microsoft’s aggressive upselling of extra-profitable premium versions after episodes like the Halo discs and the flap over Vista Ultimate extras that never arrived.

My second impression of the game: It was more fun to play through with two people. I assumed the character of the alien Arbiter who seemed nearly invincible when I was playing as Master Chief.

Under my control, Arbiter was surprisingly vulnerable. Not just because I’m bad at the game, but his (is it a male?) shields didn’t seem as strong as MC’s. Or maybe I should have picked up and activated a shield doodad somewhere to thicken the skin. Either way, I spent a lot of time dead on the ground, waiting to revive and get back into the game.

Hearing it again, the dialog between MC and Cortana, the pivotal gal pal who mostly appears as a Princess Leah-ish holographic sage, seemed cornier than I remember. That’s probably because the initial halo of anticipation and discovery was gone and I just wanted to keep playing. I was also wondering which one of them left the hair on my disc.

The new weapons are fun, especially the crazy Gravity Hammer that’s like Wotan’s axe.

But I’m not a fan of the “Hog” — an alien chopper that’s not as fun as it sounds to drive around. It doesn’t seem to fit and feels like it was inserted to appeal to a particular demographic.

Apologies for sustaining the river of “Halo: news. I know that more is happening in the world and I’ll try and return to reality soon.

But then I’ll have to try “Cake Mania 2” on the PC, a new version of the hit casual game created by Bothell’s Sandlot Games going on sale in October.

From the “Cake Mania” release:

“Cake Mania 2” offers the same tension-building, cake-baking action and adds in new game play elements that will have fans salivating.

For perspective, the initial version of “Cake Mania” was downloaded more than 50 million times. That suggests it’s been played by four or five times as many people as “Halo.”

Even without a Gravity Spatula.

Comments | Topics: Games & entertainment, Microsoft

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