The city of Toronto was turned into a war zone yesterday as hundreds of fans descended upon the corner of Queen and Soho, where a typically nondescript parking lot was turned into the site of a Covenant invasion. Officially beginning at 4:00 pm, fans lined up for hours in advance in one of two separate lines: the regular line, and the VIP line for those who solved the challenges of the recent Halo: Reach viral marketing campaign. The objective: to enlist in the UNSC and help drive back the Covenant's forces!
Halo: Reach launches in about 9 days, and eager fans not only got to partake in a game of laser tag at this event, but they also got to sample a sneak peak at Halo: Reach's Firefight game type!
Having arrived about an hour and a half early, I muscled my way through the VIP line to where my buddies were already waiting (sorry to anyone I pushed past!), and we all chatted and caught up while awaiting the start time. With clouds and scattered showers coming and going, many of us were forced to deploy our umbrell... er, Bubble Shields, to stay dry, but luckily the weather mainly held out and soon enough the event began (and to the random kid with the katana-hilted umbrella, we weren't pointing at and making fun of you, we were going on about how cool your umbrella actually was!).
Paired into groups of six at a time, we were filed into a tent for registration using touch screen monitors. As a drill instructor yelled at us to hurry up, my touch screen apparently didn't like the way I was touching it and would require several attempts to properly register any character, so this classified me as a "grandma" in our drill instructors eyes. Even though she gave us our snazzy Halo: Reach T-shirts, I can tell you I'm not baking her cookies any time soon!
After registration we were ushered into another tent to meet our commander and to receive our orders. After a mission briefing in which the commander gave us a "You-can-do-it" speech pretty much ripped from Troy, we were ushered out to await the dispersal of our kit.
After being yelled at by a few more instructors and watching one unlucky recruit do push-ups, we were given our UNSC issue laser tag vests and guns and prepared for deployment. We were also told to name our guns, and I called mine Vera; my very favourite gun. After quickly getting acquainted with Vera, we were deployed to the field under our new captain, who instructed us to watch out for Covenant infantry in the nearby sniper tower and behind cover.
Now, our vests had a sensor on the chest and shoulder and there was one in our guns as well. We could take 5 "hits" before being "killed," but a medic at the back lines could respawn us. Our guns had about 20 shots before needing to press a button to reload, and you could toggle between full auto and single shot.
The battlefield was a collection of crates and other debris that allowed us to take cover and slowly make our advance towards our goal: The UNSC Tower, now a generator, that was placed there a few weeks prior. To win, we had to incapacitate any Covenant (guys in purple T-shirts) that were gunning for us and to reactivate the generator by touching a sensor on it.
Unlike the last time I played laser tag, this was actually fun, and in an outdoor arena to boot. The game was paced well, with our captain telling us when to advance and when to take cover and our team picking off Covenant whenever we could. I needed to respawn once, but after an advance, retreat, and then a final push, theBruce was able to reach the generator and the game was won. The match was set up so that we couldn't lose, of course, but it was a good time.
After we got our pic taken and returned our kit (Bye Vera, I'll always love you!), we were given a lanyard with an official Halo: Reach pass which permitted us to be in the tent that had Halo: Reach itself. Several TV's were set up so people could play Firefight, and after a short wait, I got my hands on a Controller and give it a whirl (and one of the new Xbox 360 S console Controllers to boot with its black sticks and chrome Guide button). The game only lasted for about 10 minutes and the Controller was mapped out to the Halo 3-style, but it was fun. I picked the Medic Load Out, but didn't end up trying out my new ability at all. Instead, I found and drove around the new rocket Warthog, which of course splatters stuff good but also allowed one of my teammates to blow stuff up in style with its twin rocket turret. The physics did feel a bit odd though, but that could have been just me, as I'm not used to playing on such a large screen and standing so close to it.
Also in this tent was a display case featuring the Xbox 360 Limited Edition Halo: Reach bundle, the new Xbox 360 Halo: Reach Controller, and the statue of Noble Team included with the Legendary Edition of the game. Very, very cool. TV's were also set up showing various trailers of the game, and there were posters all over showing the different members of Noble Team.
Like all these events however, the best thing is not the game, not the loot, but the community. Not only did I have the pleasure of chatting with several new friends, but of course such prominent community members as Mister Switch, KowZ, theBruce, and DJDatz were in attendance. JunkInTheTrunk and JadeLive were also there for Xbox Canada, and it's always good to catch up with them!
So all in all, a good public event! Laser tag was fun, and while the promotional staff's military acting wasn't exactly spectacular, you could tell the younger kids in attendance were really getting a kick out of the whole event, as they should have been. The quick sampling of Halo: Reach was great, and actually getting to check out the limited edition items was sweet!
Thanks to Xbox Canada and their marketing partners for planning this event, and for those who did make it out, I hope you had as good a time as I did!
Update: Thanks to theBruce for the heads up that Gameshark has posted a video of the event. KowZ, theBruce, and myself all appear in it. You can check out the vid below.
- Halo: Reach T-shirt ("Remember Reach" on the back)
- Halo: Reach lanyard and guest pass
- UNSC dog tag (from viral marketing campaign)
- Halo: Reach sticker (from viral marketing campaign)