Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Halo 3: ODST Boot Camp Official Toronto Launch Party

At midnight this morning, stores all across Canada and the US opened to begin selling copies of Halo 3: ODST, the much anticipated stand-alone expansion for Microsoft Game Studio's smash hit IP, to eager fans. Prior to select midnight launches, however, Toronto-area gamers had a chance to score some time with the game early by "enlisting" for Boot Camp at Xbox Canada's official Halo 3: ODST Launch Party.

Officially beginning at 7:00 pm, Xbox Canada took over The Fermenting Cellar and prepared for enlistment, with no less than ODST drill sergeants standing guard inside and outside the perimeter. But like any event, fans just don't show up at 7:00 pm, oh no. Recruits lined up for hours in advance to be the first inline, however one thing many of these recruits did not know about was the leaked intel.

Last Thursday evening, a viral marketing campaign kicked off, of which you can find the full details right here. The reward for cracking the code: Early access to Boot Camp. And guess who was on the front lines for gathering this intel? That's right. Me! The squirreliest, Popeye Cigarette chewingest Marine there is.

Just after 6:00 pm, a drill sergeant barked orders for anyone who solved the puzzle, and the barcode text on their mobiles to prove it, to form an advance line, after which we were called upon in groups, about six at a time. Lined up in single file in the rain with no shelter (with the rain coincidentally providing a nice contrast for the Announcement Trailer), the drill sergeant inspected us, and gave us our two standing orders: 1) To reply with "Sir, yes sir!" when spoken to, and 2) to repsond with "Hoo-rah!" when addressed as "Recruit." Once we passed inspection, we were ushered into the building to begin processing on our way to training. Passing through a camo-net covered door, we were issued our standard uniforms (UNSC t-shirts), and ordered to quickly complete a registration via a touch screen display. Once done, we were ushered in double time to a waiting area, with drill sergeants yelling at us all the way, to stand single file and watch the awesome "We are ODST" live action ad.

Next, we were led into a field tent where we all took our seats for a mission briefing. With a Halo 3: ODST Controller layout card waiting for us, two ODST's informed us about our imminent deployment into New Mombasa to combat the invading Covenant forces. We were made clearly aware that, while as ODST's we were the best of the best that humanity has to offer, we were _not_ Spartan-II's, and as such we'd lack their armour and shields. In short, we'd need to work together, to rely on one another, and be counted upon to leave no man behind. The briefing was concluded with a screening of the second Halo 3: ODST ViDoc, "Bip. Bap. Bam. Welcome to Firefight," and then we were called up to file out and proceed into the training area.

Dimly lit and filled with mist, the training area had several hubs of Xbox 360 consoles set up waiting with the new Firefight Co-Op mode. There were two large TV's suspended from the wall showcasing one gaming booth's battle, and all around the area were VISR outlined Brutes and Grunts, demonstrating with wonderful realism what to expect from the expansion's new VISR display mode that replaces the series' traditional Flashlight.

Myself and two other Recruits took up our Controllers and started up a match, under the watchful gaze of yet another drill sergeant. He offered tips, criticism, and praise for our performance in battle, encouraging us to function together as a unit. Firefight was quite challenging, with enemies coming at different points from all directions. We began with a Sniper Rifle and the new, scoped Pistol right from the get-go, however I immediately swapped out my Sniper Rifle for the new Silenced SMG. And it's true, you're much more fragile than a Spartan, as I found out the hard way when I was looking at my own corpse in a matter of seconds. Even those silly Grunts were putting up a nice fight. After I re-spawned, I decided to take a more cautious approach, using walls as cover, flushing out targets with various Grenades (I was pleased to see your max Grenade capacity has been increased from Halo 3), and picking off stragglers while staging orderly retreats and defending choke points.

In brief, I didn't notice much of a difference with the Silenced SMG from the original one, save that you can't dual-wield and it's quieter, and the Pistol functions much as it did in Halo: Combat Evolved. Great for quick headshots. The Brute Plasma Rifle, not seen since Halo 2, functions like it did 5 years ago and is great for quick suppressive fire, but of course, I ultimately favoured my Covenant Carbine. Excellent for mid-range encounters, and quick to snipe some headshots. Thank you Jackals!

Once our training session was complete, we were provided with coupons offering us Xbox 360 accessory discounts at EB Games, and given some Maynard's candy to snack on.

I then bumped into and had a quick chat with Jade, thanking her for her hand in organizing the event, and was taken outside with Mister Switch and Jaken Bear for an interview, where I was pleased to meet the lady and gents behind the excellent viral marketing campaign. Seriously, I had a great deal of fun working on figuring this campaign out, and it really got me psyched for Halo 3: ODST itself. As Switch himself mentioned, who doesn't enjoy a good treasure hunt, and my only request for future campaigns would be to give us a little more time to solve them, seeing as how many of us all contend with conflicting schedules balancing work, relationships, family, friends, and games. A solid week would have helped a lot, but regardless, kudos to the promotional team on a job well done!

Shortly after the interview, Jade was kind enough to escort Mister Switch and I to a back press room, where we were privileged to see a Halo 3: ODST themed jeep, with a TV and an Xbox 360 Halo 3 Special Edition Console showcasing the Campaign. We were shown first hand the free-roaming gameplay unseen in the Halo franchise before, as the Rookie player character can roam and explore the ruins of Covenant controlled New Mombasa. And yeah, the Covenant Engineers look awesome, and a lot more imposing than they were described in the novels, and they certainly look uglier than they did in Halo Wars. Great to finally see them in a Halo FPS.

We also got to examine the limited edition Halo 3: ODST Xbox 360 Wireless Controller that comes with the collector's edition of the game. It's the same Olive Green as the Halo 3 Special Edition Console, however it has a lot of custom etchings and detail all over it, and it looks extremely impressive. We also learned that this Controller will truly be a limited run. Once all the collector's editions of Halo 3: ODST are sold, that's it, these Controllers will never be offered again.

After watching some more Campaign action and chatting with some additional Xbox personalities, we wondered around for a little longer, and then my time at the Boot Camp launch party itself came to a close. I had well over 2 hours of pure awesome, and I'd like to thank Jade, Jaken Bear, Xbox Canada, and their marketing partners for putting together such an awesome event. I'd also like to give a shout out to the Xbox Canada community itself, who always make these events something special with their enthusiasm and courtesy, and here's to many more solid shows!

Lastly, I know many of you are wondering about swag. Well, I'll just leave you with a few pics of what I picked up. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, sounds like a great time. (Luc Deveraux)

patomica said...
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