NewsSpots: Gears of War, Halo 3, Auto Assault

Hidden Fronts map pack soon free; Microsoft peripherals dated; NCsoft's MMOG hits the skids.

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Gears bonus arenas gratis on September 3
Despite Epic Games' original intention of releasing it for free from the get-go, the Hidden Fronts Map Pack featuring four arenas for Gears of War have been available on Xbox Live for 800 Microsoft points ($10) since May. However, Epic vice president Mark Rein did note that the maps would eventually be made free, and true to word, Microsoft today sent word that the map pack will be available free of charge come September 3. Microsoft also noted that since release, the Hidden Fronts map pack has garnered nearly 500,000 downloads and is the number-one premium download on the service.

Halo 3 accessories join Messenger Kit on September 4
Microsoft announced today that the previously revealed Xbox 360 Messenger Kit and Halo 3-centric peripherals will all be available September 4. The Messenger Kit, a QWERTY-style miniature keypad that plugs into the Xbox 360 controller, will retail for $29.99. Microsoft's limited edition Halo 3 Wireless Controllers featuring the artwork of Spawn creator Todd McFarlane will run for $59.99, and the Spartan green-and-gold Xbox 360 Wireless Headset will cost aspiring Master Chiefs $59.99.

Auto Assault towed off tonight
As reported in July, NCsoft will be shuttering its ill-fated massively multiplayer online game Auto Assault tonight. According to a post on the game's Web site, "Friday night we'll be doing all sorts of nutty things in-game--whatever you request, we'll try to make happen. Most of the fun will be in and around Ground Zero (don't worry if you don't have a high-level character, we'll boost you), but we'll be doing other stuff all around the game." The vehicular mayhem game's last hurrah will begin around 7 p.m. Pacific.

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