Midnight release of ‘Halo 4’: the tale of a virtual veteran

On Nov. 6, “Halo 4” was officially released. If you are a gamer, you likely understand why the release of “Halo 4” was a big deal. If you are not a gamer, imagine “Halo 4” as being analogous to the blockbuster releases of this past summer, but instead of say, a group of superheroes saving the world from an alien army, there is one super solider in hands of the player. I first played Halo back in 4th grade.

My friends and I role-played as lead Halo character, Master Chief, when we took the occasional break from playing to go outside. We would run around making fake gun explosions imagining the epic figures we made laying waste to legions of inhuman foes. Since then, the series has always been a favorite and the reason I bought an Xbox. As high school went by and college started, gaming went from being a key part of my life to social activity to enjoy with friends and indulge in on school breaks.

As the release of “Halo 4” approached I felt a mild excitement, but no overwhelming thrill. Honestly, I felt that if I missed the midnight release I would not have missed much. A couple hours before midnight I found myself at Foothills Mall surrounded by other Halo fans. I had gone with a few friends of mine from campus to enjoy the atmosphere. Free wings from Buffalo Wild Wings were passed around and giant televisions were set up with the last version of Halo.

A crowd full of guys, a few reluctant girlfriends and the rare parent passed the time until the big moment. Midnight arrived and the whole crowd got caught up in the excitement. There was a constant barrage of joking, shouting and when a copy of the game was finally obtained, celebration. As soon as our copies of the game were in hand, my friends and I fled the mall in great haste. We swore at the lack of parking around Gibson Hall and finally sprinted from the Copeland parking lot in a mad rush of giddy thrill border lining on frenzy. I had been enjoying the whole experience so far, but when the moment came to finally unwrap the game, place it in the console and hear the haunting music of the main menu pop up, the whole scene hit me.

All the excitement I had yet to feel for the game came crashing on the shore of my reality and overflowed in a manic grin and constant fidgeting. Then we started to play. Two friends and myself had gotten ourselves set up across two TVs and began the main campaign on co-op mode so we could all play together. The first cutscene flashed across the scene with some of the most realistic, virtual figures I had ever seen, and before I knew it, we were off into the fray. The changes to the new game met with our approval as we experienced the new weapons and adjusted to the slight changes in style compared to the past games.

I must now mention the air of foolhardiness to this entire venture. We began actually playing close to 2 a.m. for a variety of circumstances, and as the spirit of hardcore gaming had come upon our souls, we unanimously agreed to play on the hardest setting, “legendary,” for which the symbol is a grinning skull. First time hopping in a Warthog (the basic RV vehicle in the Halo series) we turned a curve and were promptly blasted into oblivion by a couple of the weakest enemies in the game! The tone was set and we settled into a slog of death, destruction and resurrection.

As the night went on we overcame constant setbacks, explosions and hordes of foes that thirsted for our virtual blood. Slightly bleary eyed, my heart pushed an unhealthy mixture of caffeine and adrenaline through my veins as my fingers played upon the controller an orchestra of blood and war. By the time we reached the later levels we were no longer fresh soldiers, returning to a conflict they had been long absent from. We were hardened vets, masters of using whatever weapons we could find to keep up with the constant loss of ammo. Tanks fell to our bare hands and aircraft were shot out of the sky with pistols.

I remember charging down a hallway, assault gun blaring, with a seemingly endless tide of monsters in my way. I reloaded rapidly, not daring to let my fire let up for second in fear of being overrun. Taken captive by the need to survive and my own daredevil tactics, I was stunned to find myself still in one piece and the hallway piled with corpses. The fraught-filled and exhilarating game came to a close at 8 a.m., approximately six hours after we had started playing.

The final cutscene ended and I felt myself drained emotionally, physically and I may even dare to say, spiritually. I walked slowly back to my room across campus in the morning light feeling content and the strange hovering of consciousness that only sleep deprivation can provide. My bed called to me and I answered happily.

I drifted off to dreams of sticky grenades, distant planets and Master Chief dancing in my head. The beauty of a game like “Halo 4” lies in escapism. Taken in the right dosage, being able to step into the shoes of the legendary figure you have always wanted to be is an amazing experience. Do I wish I did not wake up the next day with a sore throat? Do I feel bad about the one class I missed? Of course I do, but I have no regrets. For six straight hours I was that 4th grader role playing as Master Chief with friends all over again, and I loved it.

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