So here we are.
Thursday 9th September 2010.
Victoria House, London.
In 4 days, one of the biggest titles to ever grace a console will be releasing its latest title.
Of course, I am talking about Halo: Reach.
Tonight however, press (and a lucky select few) are here at the Blue Carpet launch event to see Bungie and Microsofts team of ‘celebrities’, headed by competiion winner Lewis Chapman, take on a rag tag team of Halo’s finest players, the ones who entered the competition anyway.
Upon entry to the venue, we are immediately greeted by a foray of press snapping some of the celebrity invites, to name a few Joe Calzaghe, Pixie Lott and ‘Big Brothers’ Sam Pepper.
Attendees seem to be much more interested in the two rather large (I was informed 7’5”) Spartans, kitted out on full battle armour and wielding a battle rifle and sniper respectively.
Right now there is apparently no time for photo ops with these two giants and we are led to the right where a row of waiters and waitresses hold trays of blue drinks, dubbed ‘Blue Spartan’, which one of the waiters informs me is a cocktail of rum and blue raspberry.
After taking a sip I’m pretty sure it was actually petrol and Grunt blood.
Most people seemed to concur judging by the vast amount of these ‘Dead Smurf’ drinks left half full (or half empty pending on your outlook on life) on the various surfaces around the venue and the universal question of the night becomes ‘Got any beer mate?’.
They did. By the truckload. I saw the trucks!
After a few twists and turns and a flight of stairs, which become more and more challenging as the nights free bar takes its toll, we arrive at a seating area littered with small chairs and sofas.
The latest Halo: Reach trailer is being projected onto a nearby wall and a few people stop to admire it but the mighty majority soldier forth, the rumour of an open bar ringing in their ears.
It is here I spot Sentuamessage’s notoriously handsome Andy Farrant and after an awkward Twitter moment when I receive a reply from Andy to my tweet about spotting him, I head over to say hello.
We chat about the Halo: Reach event, the impending release date and his thoughts on the latest Halo title until he mentioned that he’d come to the event just having been playing Dead Rising 2.
Me being me, I begin to grill him on his thoughts and start trying to prise any info I could from him.
The most I got were a few of his favourite weapon combinations, which were the vacuum and saw blades and the torch and gems, the latter of which equated to a probable lawsuit from a certain lover of Ewoks.
If there is one word I could use to describe the main room it would be ‘hot’.
I get hot fairly easily but it's like hanging out in the circles of Hell, which some will say we were being attendees of a Microsoft event.
The free bar quickly becomes my best friend, and one guys worst enemy as he left a nice trail of vomit from the bar to the gents later on in the evening.
Beer was easily the choice drink of the night and for some reason the bar didn’t seem prepared for this and were continually running out and having to getting more and more delivered by the truckload.
I suppose with people such as 'Big Brothers' Sam Pepper and the cast of Hollyoaks on the guest list they weren’t expecting a rag tag bunch of common gamers…at the launch of one of the biggest video game titles ever.
The main stage is currently vacant with the exception of a few chairs and a large projection of the Xbox 360 logo.
It is here that ‘Team Slayer’ and ‘Noble Team’ will do battle, or in Noble Team’s case, try not to get massacred. A task which they fail miserably.
A couple of hours and quite a few beers later, presenter Reggie Yates, compare for the evening, walks onto stage, mic and cue cards in hand.
Now I’m not quite sure how this happened exactly but for some reason that night, I became Reggie’s bitch.
From what I recall, Reggie was reading some facts about the Halo franchise, quite obviously, from his cue cards and trying to get the crowd riled up by asking who had pre-ordered Reach, who was excited for the match and so forth.
Now when Reggie asked who had pre-ordered Halo 3 I remember raising my hand.
The hand with my beer in.
The hand that I had for some reason moved into some sort of ‘gangsta’ pose.
The hand that I left in the air as I yelled ‘Heeeelll yeah!’ as if I was some sort of chart topping rap star asking if he liked guns, money and bitches.
Our eyes locked.
“Did you see what this guy did?!”
Reggie re-enacts my pose for the crowd. Badly, I might add.
“What’s your name mate?”
“Ben. You are the coolest person here tonight”
And so proclaimeth Reggie, I am the coolest person at this event, which honestly didn’t mean as much as you think it would.
For the rest of his time spent onstage, I was the guy who Reggie went to when his attempts to engage the audience didn’t work.
Each time I obliged willingly.
This is why I shouldn’t drink.
One by one, the celebrity team members are brought onstage, with Manchester United centre back, Rio Ferdinand and ‘Gadget Show’ presenter extraordinaire, Jason Bradbury provoking the biggest reactions from the crowd, unless you count mass confusion and murmurs of ‘who?’ when Mr Hudson was brought on.
It was pretty clear before any of them had even picked up a controller that Jason Bradbury was going to be the only celebrity on ‘Noble Team’ that was going to be of any real danger to the opposing gamers (confirmed later when I found out that he had the highest kill count out of the celebrities) and the only one who looked even remotely comfortable in a room full of gamers.
‘Noble Team’ are to be captained by 17 year-old Nottinghamshire local, Lewis Chapman, who fragged, beat down and teabagged his way to the top of almost 800 other entrants of the ‘Looking For A Leader’ competition and when talking to Reggie during his intro, seemed convinced that he had more of a chance of pulling Pixie Lott than winning these games tonight.
The opposition, ‘Team Slayer’ are brought onto stage, briefly harassed by Reggie and then everyone settled in as the matches begun.
In short, it's an unsurprising total massacre.
Round 1: Team Slayer win 51 – 15
Round 2: Team Slayer win 64 – 10 (9 of the Noble Team kills belonging to Lewis)
Round 3: Team Slayer win 94 – 27
Trophies are handed out to the winning Team Slayer and Noble Team captain Lewis. The captain of Team Slayer swaps his much larger trophy with Lewis smaller one.
True sportsmanship amongst gamers here tonight. We aren't so tough without our headsets.
Reggie rounds up the end of the evenings entertainment by announcing that on the far side of the room, 40 booths are available to us so that attendees can have a go on Reach before it’s official release date.
It's great to see that Firefight has made a triumphant return amongst some new multiplayer match types and to revisit some familiar maps from the beta.
There was some controversy around this time as all the attendees who decided that they didn’t fancy playing Reach and left, or as I call them ‘the freeloading non-gamers’, were the first to get to the goody bags, a fair few of which contained Halo Reach controllers, a hoody and strategy guide whilst the dedicated many got left with just the bags containing a press release print out.
Not even a Noble 6 Avatar code.
Now I’m not going to try and criticise the organisers too much, seeing as they’re picking up the bar tab, but surely it would have been a better idea to have given the bags out upon entry to the event, ensuring that those who cared enough about the event to be at the front of the line got the best of the freebies.
This was the general consensus on Twitter for the next 24hrs.
I catch up with Lewis after the matches to congratulate him on winning the competition and to ask him some questions about the celebrity team training.
Lewis informs me that he had about 30 minutes with the team just before the event and that the matches were the first time that Mr Hudson had even played the game.
He is also pretty annoyed that ‘you can’t teach Rio Ferdinand about spawn kills’ which I instantly want to have printed on a t-shirt with a picture of Rio in Spartan uniform getting assassinated from behind.
The rest of the night was spent doing what gamers do best. Playing video games and cussing each other out.
All in all, the night was a success.
I left feeling even more excited to get my hands on my own pre-order and in desperate need of the loo.
I might even get this printed.