It's a big year for Bungie. Not only does it celebrate its 20th birthday but, with the impending release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, it's also formally signing off custodianship of Master Chief to 343 Industries.
Bungie has banned "several dozen" Halo: Reach players who "habitually" idle or exhibit "AFK behaviour" (go away from their console) while playing Firefight Matchmaking.
Stop us if we're getting too technical... on the other hand, don't bother! When the opportunity arose to talk tech with Bungie on any topic of our choosing, let's just say that we didn't hold back. And luckily for us, neither did the studio. What we have here is a titanic 6000 word insight into the technical make-up of the Xbox 360's biggest exclusive of the year.
In this new series of opinion pieces, some of Eurogamer's favourite writers reveal how they really feel about some of the world's most renowned, or most reviled, videogames.
"Interactive entertainment will never be the same, with the launch of one title that has changed the way the world thinks about video games."
The long wait is finally over. It's been three years since the mighty Master Chief bowed out in 2007's epic Halo 3, and while last year's ODST exhibited plenty of minor tweaks and improvements to the base tech, there was little doubt that the vast majority of the Bungie engine had remained untouched. While the gameplay delivered, core gamers spoiled by the cutting-edge graphical techniques seen in titles like Killzone 2 really wanted to see what a next-generation Bungie game could deliver.
You've got to admire Microsoft's determination. Millions of dollars spent on marketing, years of work spent on promotion, and still only 12 people in Japan own an Xbox.
"You are a cybernetic warrior in the future." Who can forget the words of Bungie, introducing Halo during the first Xbox E3 press conference in 2001? And, oh, how we sneered. Could you make it sound any more generic? What's that? You're "fighting with a small group of human soldiers against the group of aliens"? Next!
It's been an interesting year for Halo creator Bungie. In April the US studio signed a mammoth 10-year publishing deal with Activision for the worldwide rights to "bring Bungie's next big action game universe to market".
So, the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta is now open to all - well, all the people who bought Halo 3: ODST anyway - and now that the obligatory first-day rush has finished pounding the servers into digital paste, we're starting to get a clearer picture of how this tactical new twist on a classic multiplayer formula is going to work.
On Thursday night UK time, Microsoft and Bungie began to distribute the first Xbox Live redeem codes for the long awaited Halo: Reach beta, and Digital Foundry was one of the first 300 to acquire access to the sampler.
You saw a selection of 40 screenshots taken in-game yesterday, and of course Eurogamer posted some of our most early video captures. 36 hours on, we're ready to present our first tech analysis based on hands-on gameplay.
In terms of the beta itself, currently we seem to be limited to eight-player action set over two different maps, featuring a range of team-based and lone-wolf game-types. First impressions are that this is indeed "Combat Evolved".
Earlier today Activision announced a 10-year deal to publish and distribute games based on Bungie's new, non-Halo IP, and the internet went predictably mental. We got Bungie's Brian Jarrard on the phone this afternoon to talk about the deal, the new IP and what it means for the developer.
Hello! Like a lot of concerned citizens, for the past few weeks I've been very worried about jetpacks. How worried? Well, if I was writing about it in a text, I would write, "I'm *very worried* about all these jetpacks. (LOL)."
I don't mean I've been fretting about jetpacks because of their awful carbon footprint, or that I've been panicking over whether or not they'll spoil the nation's youth with idleness. No, I've been worrying about something far more serious: I've been worrying about how they're going to fit into Halo.
I've been worrying that they'll bust multiplayer right open, turning matches into nasty little bee storms filled with buzzing annoyances, that they'll break the game's tight convergence of weapons, environments and tactics, and that, really, they're only there as a gimmick to tempt people back from Modern Warfare 2.
"Bungie's greatest game ever and truly, in our minds, the defining Halo title from Bungie." Brian Jarrard, community lead at the Seattle developer, isn't mincing his words when it comes to this year's Halo: Reach. Neither is Marcus Lehto, art director on the previous games and creative director of this fifth sci-fi shooter in the Halo universe the studio created, which it firmly states will be its last. Lehto says it's a "darker story of honour and sacrifice on a scale greater than anything we've created before."