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Fans in heaven over 'Halo 2'

Highly anticipated video game hits the stores

Jen Wilson, right, rings up a purchase for Eric Carlson, who came to the Game Stop store in Orem to purchase "Halo 2."
Jen Wilson, right, rings up a purchase for Eric Carlson, who came to the Game Stop store in Orem to purchase "Halo 2."
Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

OREM — Only one video game character has the ability to draw the kinds of crowds and manic sales that most rock stars dream of.

His name is Master Chief, and he is the star of "Halo 2," one of the most anticipated video games ever, and he made his debut Monday at 12:01 a.m.

"As a personal gamer myself, I personally believe that 'Halo 2' is probably one of the best games ever made, and the most expected," said Brent Tishler, a store manager for Game Crazy located in Orem. "My phones are going off the hook today for this game."

At Game Stop in Orem, people started lining up at 9 p.m. to get a fresh copy of the $50 sequel from Microsoft Corp., knowing very well that the doors wouldn't open until midnight. According to a store manager, between 400 and 500 people stood in line until the late hour, ready to cash in on premade reservations.

In the recording industry, 1 million records sold would land an album in the hall of fame, but "Halo 2" broke those expectations before even being stacked on the shelves. According to Microsoft, the company had 1.5 million copies pre-ordered, and it predicted that sales on the first day would break $100 million.

"I was, like, hallelujah," said Billy Madison, a 9-year-old from Highland who counted the hours until the game went on sale. Having beaten "Halo" three times already, he said he was looking forward to a new challenge.

"I heard that ('Halo') was the best game of the year, so I tried it at one of my friend's house, and I was like, holy crap, this is fun."

But "Halo" draws a much older crowd as well, with increasing popularity among college-age students and adults. Three years in the making, "Halo 2" pits intergalactic soldier Master Chief against throngs of vicious aliens called the Covenant.

It begins where the previous game ended, in the year 2552, where Master Chief has just destroyed a giant ring world called Halo. But after decades of skirmishes with human colonies, the Covenant has finally found humanity's home world. Thus, it falls to the player, who assumes Master Chiefs role, to stop the aliens at all costs.

And though players are attracted to "Halo 2" for it's 3-D effects and killing machines, many are also drawn to the game by its multiplayer feature. Players across the world can meet online and do battle against each other.

John Kote, 25, has a cable connecting his Provo house to his neighbor, making late-night gaming even easier.

"I was up till 4:30 in the morning (playing 'Halo 2')," Kote said. "I kind of like to hang out and play 'Halo' with my boys because it's a bonding experience and you can relax and cut loose. It's a good way to get aggression out."

"Halo 2" is one of many video games that are expanding as part of the living room entertainment options. According to some gaming enthusiasts, the current popularity of the games is just the beginning and will only get stronger over time.

"You're starting to see that media and entertainment are converging in such a way that it's coming more and more into the home," said Russell Page, a Utah-based technology consultant. "It's not just video games anymore, it's like video games on steroids."

Contributing: Associated Press