If you love action video games with sci-fi themes, “Halo: Reach” may be the highlight of 2010.
It may also be a highlight for Microsoft, which is counting on huge sales of the flagship game for its Xbox 360 console.
The launch of “Reach” at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday marks the start of an ultracompetitive holiday season with a series of blockbusters coming to Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii.
“Reach” sets a high bar. It’s a thrilling and occasionally breathtaking update of the flagship game for Microsoft’s Xbox console, with new characters, guns, vehicles and tools to build and share custom games online.
The game is also bittersweet for fans of the hit series that Bellevue-based developer Bungie first released in 2001.
It’s a lovingly crafted prequel that clears up any lingering confusion about the “Halo” story and the franchise’s artistic and technical ambitions before Bungie moves on to other projects.
Bungie stuffed “Reach” with new features and details. The landscape and design are brighter and crisper than previous versions, – memorable scenes include earthward views from a launching rocket, and twilight views across miles of open country — but the story is progressively darker, reflecting the grimness of today’s wars.
Critics for the most part are raving. Fans began lining up Sunday outside the main launch event in New York. In Seattle, the crowd formed Monday afternoon for the evening launch party at the Experience Music Project.
Here are a few numbers to put the tonight’s launch of “Halo: Reach” into perspective.
$2 billion: What the “Halo” franchise has generated in sales since 2001.
34 million: “Halo” games sold prior to “Halo: Reach.”
200: Employees at “Halo” creator Bungie in Bellevue.
93 out of 100: Average reviewer rating of “Reach,” compiled by Metacritic.com.
25: Countries where “Halo: Reach” is launching.
2.7 million: Number of players who participated in a May test of the game.
$59.99: The basic “Halo: Reach” game.
$149.99: A “Legendary edition” that comes with a model, books and a key to unlock a flaming helmet for your avatar. It was sold out Monday at Gamestop.
3.3 billion: Hours people have spent playing “Halo” online, up to “Reach.”
20,008,939: “Halo 3” players
1,804,128,125: “Halo 3” games played online (as of Monday afternoon).
6.3 million: Number of Xbox 360 consoles sold when “Halo 3” launched in 2007, generating a record $170 million in sales in its first day, just in the U.S.
41.8 million: Number of Xbox 360 consoles sold as of June 30, 2010.
1.9 million: “Reach” copies pre-ordered in the U.S., according to VGChartz.
$310 million: First-day U.S. and U.K. sales of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” last November, the one for “Reach” to beat.
8 percent: Decline in U.S. video game sales through August, per NPD.
343: The name of the Microsoft group working to continue the “Halo” franchise, now that Bungie has spun off into an independent company.
8 to 10: Hours it takes professional reviewers to finish “Reach” campaign.
10: Seconds a former lumberyard worker was able to drive “Reach” forklift in the campaign before being obliterated by aliens.
25: Thrilling but fleeting minutes you’ll fly Sabre space jets in “Reach.”
200,000: Number of credits you have to earn through game play to unlock “Birthday Party” mode, in which “Your death is softened by a joyful noise. And confetti.”
5,000: Number of credits you get to start.
703,341,500: Population of Reach, the fictional planet and military training base where the game takes place.
Noble Six: The squad number of your character in the “Reach” campaign.
Five: Armor options in “Reach” include: Jet Pack, Active Camouflage, Sprint, Armor Lock and Evade.
Four: “Reach” is in effect “Halo 4” – Bungie’s fourth and last full-blown version of the game.
Three: Years it took to make “Reach.”
Two: Gender options for players customizing their “Reach” avatar.
One: Opportunities to fire enormous space cannon.