Halo 3 golden

Two weeks after the game was "99.9 percent complete," the Master Chief is now on a direct course for a September 25 launch.

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It's official: Halo 3 is done. Two weeks after developer Bungie Studios announced that "99.9 percent" of work on the game was complete, publisher Microsoft Game Studios announced today that the eagerly awaited sci-fi shooter has gone gold. Rated M for Mature, the Xbox 360 exclusive is available in three versions: the $59.99 regular edition, the $69.99 limited edition, and the $129.99 legendary edition, which comes with a miniature helmet of the game's hero, the Master Chief. Microsoft is also releasing a special Halo 3 edition of the Xbox 360 in September for $399.

Halo 3 is the culmination of the trilogy that kicked off in 2001 with Halo: Combat Evolved. Despite having no online support, the Xbox exclusive was a multiplayer phenomenon, and greatly aided Microsoft's entry into the console fray. The online-enabled Halo 2's debut in 2004 provided a major shot in the arm for Xbox Live, Microsoft's gaming service. With over one million preorders of Halo 3 in the US alone, Microsoft is hoping for a similar boost for the Xbox 360, which has been recently losing market share to the surging Wii and the temporarily discounted PlayStation 3.

Story-wise, Halo 3 will chronicle the invasion of Earth by the pan-species religious crusade known as the Covenant. As outlined in GameSpot's extensive previous coverage, its single-player campaign will support four-player online co-op play, and will feature both the human Master Chief and the ex-Covenant Elite warrior known as the Arbiter. The game's online multiplayer modes were tested extensively earlier this year in an open beta program, and will feature many new maps, weapons, and a limited level editor.

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