Hundreds queue for midnight launch of Halo Reach

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Media captionHalo fans queue to get the new game as soon as possible

Stores across the world opened at midnight for the launch of the latest instalment of the blockbuster Halo video game series.

Hundreds queued to get their hands on the first person shooter.

In the UK, more than 400 stores opened their doors at midnight, while glitzy events were held in New York's Times Square, Stockholm, Seattle, Sydney, London and Oslo.

The title is the fourth in the series and the last from US developer Bungie.

The previous edition, Halo 3, was at one time the biggest-selling game of all time. That record is now held by Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare.

The first edition of Halo was released as a launch title for Microsoft's XBox game console and became an immensely popular title, spawning a slew of sequels.

The game sees players engaged in a futuristic war between humanity and a race of aliens hell-bent on mankind's destruction.

This latest version sees the same game principles, but puts you in the role of a super-soldier called Noble 6 as he battles the alien collective.

Guy Cocker, editor of gaming website GameSpot UK, said the title was "quite a big deal" and had generated a lot of excitement on the web.

"We're able to track activity and Halo Reach is the most popular game on the site right now," he said.

"In comparison to Halo 3 though, I'm not sure how well it will go down.

"It's had a good critical reception, but Microsoft are certainly spending a lot of money promoting the game," he added.

The franchise has been a very successful venture for Microsoft.

The game has sold more than 34 million copies in the nine years of its life and helped boost the popularity of the Xbox 360.

In May, an invitation for users to help play test the game before its final release attracted more than 2.7 million players.

High hopes

Microsoft's entertainment director, Stephen McGill, told the games industry newspaper MCV that it was the firms "biggest Halo release ever".

Image caption Master Chief, the main character in earlier instalments, does not feature in Halo Reach

"The marketing campaign for Halo: Reach sees a 60% increase over what was spent on Halo 3," he said.

The run-up to the launch was overshadowed last month when copies of the game appeared on file-sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay.

Microsoft said any caught playing an unauthorised copy of the game ran the risk of a permanent ban.

But while Halo was the dominant first person shooter on consoles, it has been eclipsed by Call of Duty and, to a lesser degree, Medal of Honour.

"Halo is still a very important title in the industry," said Mr Cocker.

"But it will be difficult for Halo to match up to other titles, such as Call of Duty," he added.

The game, which has a recommended price of £59.99 in the UK, has also sparked a price war.

Among the supermarkets, Sainsbury's is selling it for £34.99, while Tesco is selling it for £28 when customers buy £17 of credit for the console's online gaming network.

Online retailers are also undercutting each other. New firm Gametail is selling the game on pre-order for £31.95, significantly less than the £37.99 that Amazon, Game, Play and HMV are selling it for.

Halo Reach is the last title to be developed by Bungie Studios, a former subsidiary of Microsoft.

Bungie split from its parent company in 2007, less than a week after the release of Halo 3.

Microsoft, which retain the rights to the Halo series, has handed it over to an in-house development studio, 343 Industries.

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