Gamers aren't quite sure when they'll be able to get their hands on a copy of Halo 3 since its release date is simply "2007." The release date got narrowed slightly in November, when Bungie revealed that it would be launching a beta program for the Xbox 360 game this spring. To qualify, gamers were pointed to the Halo 3 Web site, where they were asked to enter information, cross their fingers, and wait for an e-mail confirmation of acceptance into the beta test.
Microsoft and Bungie have said that there would be multiple ways to enter the program, and now it appears that just about anyone can get one of the highly coveted seats in the test...provided they're willing to purchase a separate game.
Over the holiday break, the online arm of gaming magazine GamePro drummed up some interest in the February issue of the print publication by pointing out a tidbit from an ad that appears in said issue. In a two-page spread (scan available at TeamXbox.com) promoting the near-future police shooter Crackdown, the phrase "Includes invitation to Halo 3 multiplayer beta" appears in the lower-left corner. The beta keys will apparently be offered for a limited time and will appear in "specially marked boxes."
When asked for confirmation by Microsoft, a rep told GameSpot only that "there will be details in the coming days, stay tuned." Microsoft Game Studios is publishing both Crackdown and Halo 3.
As for Bungie, in last week's Weekly Update, the company acknowledged that information on how to enter the beta was "floating around the interwebs" and that Microsoft would have new details this week.
While quiet on most fronts, Bungie did talk about a small pre-beta program it is planning. The developer hopes to offer up "thousands" of spots to "experienced and active players" of Halo 2 as well as "people who spread Bungie love." Bungie will provide more details on its Web site in the future.
Of course those that absolutely have to play the Halo 3 beta have one other method of virtually donning Spartan armor right now--enlist in the US Armed Forces. Bungie apparently surprised troops stationed in Iraq with a three-day Halo 3 gaming session just before the new year, says GameSpot member "Cowboy082288." The forum poster has uploaded videos and pictures of the event (with some footage of gameplay) on a MySpace account.