Highway to Halo 3

Microsoft already closed one door to Halo 3's beta test when it cut off applicants who tried to register for it through Bungie's Web site. But when Microsoft closes a door it also opens a window, or makes lemonade or something like that: two new avenues will allow would-be Master Chiefs to play Halo 3 before its release.

Thirteen thousand and some-odd people will be able to join the Halo 3 multiplayer beta test by joining through Microsoft's "Rule of 3" program. Here, players will need to sign on to Xbox Live and play at least three hours of Halo 2 before February 3, 2007. Doing so will enable them to log on to the Halo 3 Web site to register for the beta test. Many will enter, as the cereal commercials say. Only 13,333 will be accepted.

The second path to gaming nirvana winds its way through Crackdown, an Xbox 360 game set to release in February. Buy the game, which features you as a superhuman agent of law enforcement trying to protect and serve a city on the brink of anarchy, and its disk will let you download the Halo 3 beta via Xbox 360 Live.