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Halo madness! New H2 maps, H3 public beta!

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Okay folks, the big news is here. It turns out that the "BIG" Halo announcement is neither a Halo 3 release date nor the long awaited Marathon Arcade. Is it actually worthy of the capitalized BIG (we all remember the BIG GOW announcement)? Maybe we're overstepping our bounds here, but we're going to say yes. Big yes. It's BIG. It turns out the BIG announcement is actually three announcements rolled into one megannouncement.

The first announcement: new maps are coming for Halo 2! These maps will only be available for Xbox 360 owners sometime in the Spring. Frankly, we're excited. We never would have anticipated something that could make us dust off Halo 2, but there it is. We'd also like to point out that it's a brilliant -- if somewhat dastardly -- move on Microsoft's part to release these maps exclusively on 360. Naturally, there are thousands (millions?) of Halo 2 players that are quite happy playing it on their original Xbox. Sure, they'll probably get a 360 when Halo 3 comes out, and Microsoft knows it. So, if you can't sell those people Halo 3 until next winter, just sell them Halo 2 ... again! We should note that Bungie hopes that Microsoft will eventually make this content available for original Xbox owners, but in the meantime it's a great incentive (for Halo 2 addicts) to upgrade to 360 right now. At any rate, we're excited as hell to play us some new maps. Here's hoping they can squeeze out some new graphical effects offered by the 360. Also worth noting, the new maps mean that MS is taking another look at Halo 2's backwards compatibility glitches, so some of those should be ironed out in the future.



The second announcement is that a new 60 second Halo 3 commercial will air on December 4th during ESPN's Monday Night Football. The new commercial will be produced by a third party agency and actually won't feature any gameplay. The commercial will be all CGI, though Bungie has loaned many of its in game models and assets to be used in the commercial. So, it may be CG, but it will feature some in game aspects of Halo 3. If the Halo 2 maps are a clever way to get fans to buy 360s, then this commercial is a clever way to get people like me to watch football. However, if you can't bring yourself to do that, the commercial will be made available on Marketplace after it airs.

Now for the BIG part of this announcement, a public beta of Halo 3 multiplayer will be made available this Spring! It will be playable over Xbox Live and allow users to leave feedback to help Bungie improve the multiplayer experience. Unfortunately, that's about all we know about the beta. Right now, we have no idea how many people will be allowed to participate, exactly what will be available, or even how it will be distributed -- though we assume it will be downloadable through Marketplace. Here's hoping they take a page from the PSU beta and make it available to everyone for a limited amount of time. And, before it even starts, we'd like to ask Bungie two questions. One, you're letting the fine bloggers of 360 Fanboy in, right (or just me, that would be fine, too)? Two, can we play it right up to the day Halo 3 releases? Pleeeeeease!

Finally, we have the above screenshot (grab the hi-res version here). Bungie promises that the shot is an actual still from the current build of Halo 3. Looks pretty good, eh? Unfortunately, it is intentionally vague so as not to give even the tiniest thing away. It makes for a nice wallpaper though. And there you have it. Big Halo news indeed, with Bungie promising more info in the coming weeks. Hit up Bungie.net for Frankie's version of the press release. Alternately, you can check out Joystiq's angry, sleepless recounting of events (you'd think they would have learned that it's never worth staying up late for news by now ....).

So what do you think of this news? Happy? Sad? Indifferent? Leave a comment and tell us how you feel.

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