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'HALO' RETURNS

Jason Cartier went to work around 10 a.m. Monday. By lunchtime Tuesday, he was still there.

"We've been going for over 24 hours and none of us have slept," said Cartier, owner of Game Glitch, a video game cafe in Cherry Road's Love's Plaza.

Cartier, his staff and the rest of Rock Hill's gaming community have been swept up in the national craze for "Halo 3," the new video game that hit store shelves at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Game Glitch stayed open all night so customers could play the popular shoot 'em-up game as soon as it was released.

Cartier had eight copies of the game loaded in Xbox 360 game consoles shortly after midnight. Crowds waited to play the game all night so Cartier set up a projection screen in the parking lot so more people could watch.

"The whole building was a 'Halo' game," Cartier said. "People were going crazy."

The popular game rose to fame in 2001 when the first "Halo" game became a favorite choice for Xbox players around the country. Video game experts called Tuesday's release of the game's third installment one of the biggest video game events ever, placing the "Halo" franchise in the same company with "Mario Brothers" and Madden Football."

The hype wasn't limited to Cartier's cafe. At Gamestop, a video game store at Manchester Village, a clerk said the shop opened at midnight to a long line of gamers waiting to get their hands on the game.

Ryan Hockersmith, 20, of Rock Hill went on a 12-hour "Halo 3" binge Tuesday. He had a copy of the game waiting for him at GameStop, but he paid $40 to reserve space at Game Glitch for the midnight release party. Then he racked up a $50 tab playing the game all night.

But was it worth it? "Oh ... yeah," a droopy-eyed Hockersmith exclaimed Tuesday morning after his all-night affair. "The graphics are beautiful, and the gameplay is so intense."

Cartier said another wave of fans was expected to hit his store Tuesday night as teens who were in bed during Monday's release caught wind of the new game.

He said the store would likely be open all night again Tuesday.

"We expect things to be wide-open all the way through the weekend," Cartier said. "We're gonna have to start taking sleeping shifts."

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