- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

ach week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Halo buzz

The biggest video-game event of the year arrives Sept. 25 with the release of Microsoft’s Halo 3 for the Xbox 360.

For those devoted to its sci-fi mythology, Microsoft ran an alternate reality game, Iris, a few months ago as part of its viral video campaign that is well worth a recap.

This challenge allowed gamers around the world to find clues on multimedia elements both online and through sources such as newspaper ads and voice-mail messages. The clues led to Web addresses to open up parts of the Halo 3 Web site (www.halo3.com).

For example, an online comic (http://halo3.com/comic/) revealed some of the African origins of the Forerunners. Clever readers were able to take apart the panels from the last page of the comic and uncover an IP address that led them to the first part of the Iris mystery.

Another slick option allowed cell-phone users with a special Halo ring tone (http://halo.msn.com/ downloads/na/default.htm) to play it to their computer’s microphone and activate a hidden part of the Web site.

For those of us not consumed by the Halo experience, die-hard fans have done all of the work and the cool rewards are available to appreciate the now-completed cyber-stop.

After a bothersome age-verification screen (type in any date before 1990 to get in; why do they even bother?) visitors are greeted with five deep-space servers, each a floating, metallic resource embedded with secrets.

Visitors can grab and manipulate the noisy machines to discover circular glyphs. Click on them, and they may download photos, text messages or open the machine to present a special animated message.

The site also offers a look at the characters, vehicles and weapons of the Halo world along with videos, screen shots and concept art.

Of course, Halo 3 also has been touted through various other media campaigns and Web sites.

Most important is an MSN area (http://halo. msn.com/) that offers two multimedia features.

First, a 1½-minute live-action short from director Neil Blomkamp (who was slated to work on a Halo film) offers a typical day in the life of a supersoldier and another six clips about the Halo project available in high definition. Viewers will need the Microsoft Silverlight media player plug-in (www.microsoft.com/ silverlight) to enjoy the action.

Next, visitors can create their own Halo trailer through a drag-and-drop interface using about a dozen great-looking clips.

Pepsi and 7-Eleven also have a promotion in which gamers can drink a special brand of orange Mountain Dew called Game Fuel or Slurpees in limited-edition Halo cups and use the products’ UPC codes to unlock virtual content on a Web site (www.beinthegame.com/).

Be in the Game’s main attraction, besides a contest (entries will be accepted through Sept. 30) is the ability to create a personalized e-mail message.

Users register with the site and then choose an animated Halo clip, type in some words and pick their friend’s name from a drop-down list. The humorous digital cartoon e-mail reveals a couple of Spartan super soldiers fixing a Warthog vehicle when a computer voice registers a new message has been received and shows the transmission (the personalized e-mail).

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www3.washingtontimes.com /familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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