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Halo 3: Dallas Finishes the Fight

Andrew Breshiers, a.k.a. "Cmndr Tatz," beams as he cradles his new love -- Halo 3.
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7 p.m. Sept. 24

: Five hours before the most anticipated video game in history,

Halo 3

, will be released. Lines are forming. Droves of devoted fans all around the metroplex lined the streets waiting for the final installment of the epic sci-fi game served exclusively on Xbox 360.

Introduced as a relatively unknown first-person shooter for the original Xbox in 2001, Halo has exploded into a worldwide multimedia phenomena. Deemed “revolutionary” by fans and critics alike, Halo went on to spawn the No. 1-selling sequel of all time (Halo 2), multiple novels, comics, countless toys and accessories and a movie in development with Peter Jackson.

All of which pale in comparison to the release of the final installment, Halo 3. With a marketing budget of more than $10 million and more than 10,000 retail stores opening for the midnight release, Dallas was standing directly on the front line of the battle.

7:30 p.m.: Inside of EB Games on N. Central Expressway, a handful of fans are already eagerly planning which part of the game they were going to play first. “The multiplayer. I mean, that’s the only reason I bought it,” says Jimmy Faryewicz, reviewer for Xyrotrl.com and the first person in line. “I’m beating the entire game tonight.”

While preparing for the 100 to 150 gamers expected at midnight, the store's Senior Game Adviser John Brown couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement. “It’s going to be huge, like, Star Wars huge,” Brown says.

And huge it would be. Best Buy, GameStop, Wal-Mart and even 7-Eleven competed for a slice of the 150 million dollars in sales expected in the first 24 hours following Halo 3's arrival. Despite Dallas not being on the top tier of Microsoft's marketing list, local gamers still camped outside stores as early as 6 a.m. Monday morning.

8:45 p.m.: Leo Mitchell, store owner of Play n’ Trade Games in Plano, stacks his shelves with the already sold copies of Halo 3. He says he is nearly sold out of the collector's edition, dubbed "Legendary," which retails for $129.99 (more than double the regular game price).

Mitchell prepares his store for an all-night tournament with the amateur game league G-Con and a local gaming group Team Flawless Cowboys. "It's going to be a long night," he says with a smile.

9 p.m.: A few miles away at Park and Preston roads, Mountain Dew and GameStop kick off their regional release party. Fans compete on jumbo screens mounted to the Mountain Dew “Game Fuel” truck for a chance at door prizes and free drinks. Kids with parents in tow take pictures with a virtual Master Chief, Halo’s main character, while teenagers gawk and name-call while blasting each other to pieces on life-size screens.

10:35 p.m.: Play time is over. The receipts have been stamped, and everyone is in line. An eerie silence fills the lot, as everyone is asked to line up single file. Three years of waiting has boiled down to these final hours. Scattered jokes mixed with cigarettes and Dr Pepper keep a few dozen mildly entertained. The rest wait (most sending text messages) to make the time pass faster.

11:58 p.m.: It’s time. We process into the store, calling out what edition of Halo we purchased, and quietly exiting to the parking lot. Midnight passes faster than most notice. We sheepishly exchange “gamer tags,” our online screen names: Localgod 325, Aschen Engel, Cmndr Tatz. Video gamers have never been known for fluent social skills, and whatever had been gained in our forced wait was quickly dashed as we left to try the game first hand.

12:32 a.m. Sept. 25: I boot up my Xbox 360, warm up my new 44-inch LCD screen (yes, I bought for Halo 3) and quickly load a multiplayer session. The game is prettier, and the weapons are fantastic. But as Master Chief, the mission for Dallas, for the world, is the same: to finish the fight. I quickly grab the nearest shotgun, loading it with precision speed as I head straight toward the nearest enemy. We pause, but only for a moment. This is Halo 3. -- Sam Bohon

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