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Now with added Beta!

And so the great Halo 3 Beta sign-up continues in all its various guises with the announcement that Beta keys will ship with copies of Crackdown, the super-powered GTA-a-like from the creator of the original GTA Dave Jones.

Now whilst I am quietly looking forward to this title, the prospect of tearing up a city by not only conventional means but using an over-powered cop who can leap tall buildings with a single bound appeals to me, I do know many people who are simply not impressed by what they have seen or are underwhelmed by the demos they have managed to get their hands on.

Extrapolating slightly, I think it is quite safe to say that this sentiment reaches out further than the gaming circles I move in and Crackdown is not going to be the nailed-on success that Gear of War was, something which you could have predicted for the latter months before its actual release. Gears was Microsoft’s big mature-rated game for the festive period and it hardly left the gaming public’s conscience in the run up to Christmas as Cliffy B and co kept ramming it down our throats. By comparison Dave Jones et al have had their moments in the spotlight but there nothing like the media coverage we saw for Epic’s show piece.

So, what do you do when you have a product that you think will under-perform in the market place? That’s right, slap a demo of your next highly anticipated release in with it.

Call me cynical but I believe this is exactly what has happened here; someone at the top of Microsoft thought of a great way to increase the sales of Crackdown and it was to bundle in with it the ability to get your hands on an early version of Halo 3. There were rumours that they may charge for the privilege of beta-testing and this is probably their way of doing so.

Of course they are not the first to play such tricks; back in the late 90s Konami released Zone of the Enders complete with a demo of their highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 2. ZoE went on to shift well over a million copies and whilst it wasn’t a bad game it was definitely the demo that helped shift it in such large quantities.

Will Crackdown hit six-figures if the Master Chief comes as a pack-in? I doubt it, but then again I do believe this game can stand on its own merits and not just as the opening salvo of what is sure to be year of Halo 3.

There is, of course, a second way to get a Halo 3 Beta key but to get it means facing a three-hour session of online Halo 2 play where your patience will constantly be tested by whiny American twelve-year olds as they complain bitterly that someone took “their” sniper rifle whilst at the same time proclaiming your “n00b” status to anyone unfortunate enough to have their headsets turned on. Me, personally, I’m going to spend the £40 on Crackdown.