Halo 3 to Get Online Test in 2007

Microsoft has announced that it will offer a pre-release, beta version of Halo 3 via its Xbox Live online gaming service in spring 2007. The test edition will mark the fifth anniversary of the company’s Halo video game franchise; the pre-release will only be available for the Xbox 360, but will offer multiplayer capability.

To tease the third installment of the game series, Microsoft will also stage a one-time airing of a 60-second Halo 3 advertisement on ESPON’s Monday Night Football on December 4, 2006. The company also plans to offer new, Xbox 360-exclusive downloadable content for its existing Halo 2 game this holiday season.

“The ‘Halo’ Nation has a nearly insatiable desire,” said Jeff Bell,corporate VP of global marketing for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business. “We hope a taste of advance Halo 3 gameplay satisfies some of their appetite as we count down to the game’s launch later in 2007.”

According to Microsoft, Halo 3 will offer a climax to the Halo story, following Master Chief as he brings the conflict between the Covenant, the Flood, and the human race to a conclusion. Halo 3 will boast a number of technical and gameplay improvements by leveraging the capabilities of the Xbox 360 console; Microsoft plans to use the pre-release to collect feedback and refine the eventual commercial release of Halo 3. The installment will offer enhanced AI, improved high-definition visuals, an advanced real-time lighting engine, plus a myriad of new weapons, characters, and obstacles.

Microsoft also plans to introduce new multiplayer makes for Xbox 360-equipped Halo 2 players in early 2007.

Microsoft has inked a deal with Oscar winners Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh to craft a new game series set in the Halo universe, as well as an original game franchise. Jackson and Walsh also started work on a Halo feature film, although production was recently suspended after studios Universal and Fox backed out of financing the project.

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