By: Daniel James

This past January, the Halo Classic brought competitive Halo 3 back. Ultimate Gaming Championship assembled the world’s best Halo players for a celebration of the game’s history. It came at the end of an era defined by the game’s modernization. There remained, however, a large community hungering for a return to the game’s roots. The Halo Classic delivered this, and more, at a pivotal time for Halo fans.

Halo 5’s esports lifespan had drawn to a close with its last Halo Championship Series (HCS) sanctioned event at HCS Atlanta. In an exciting grand final that saw the TOX dynasty reclaim their throne from an upstart Splyce squad, another era of the near 20-year old franchise had ended.

Fans of Halo esports were looking forward to the game’s next iteration. The next title, Halo Infinite, isn’t slated to release until Fall 2020, however. For two years, fans of competitive Halo would presumably sit dormant in anticipation of its arrival. After undergoing a series of performance updates, though, The Master Chief Collection’s matchmaking population had begun to skyrocket. More specifically, players were overwhelmingly drawn to a single game within it: Halo 3.

For many, Halo 3 –now over a decade old—represented the peak of the franchise’s nostalgia and gameplay. It was the final chapter of Master Chief’s war on the Covenant and the culmination of a multiplayer experience that had evolved, for many, with their own childhoods. It was also an era where Halo was the undisputed king of American esports. Legendary players and iconic teams were at the peak of their popularity.

A new generation of Halo fans and professionals joined veterans in embracing this return to classic Halo. This resurgence came to a head in November 2018, with the announcement of the game’s first major tournament in nearly a decade.

On November 18th, 2018 alongside the final officially sanctioned Halo 5 match at HCS Atlanta, Ultimate Gaming Championship’s Halo Classic was revealed.

The response was overwhelming. The initial 32 team passes offered had sold out instantly on the first day, prompting UGC to double them with a second wave. These faced a similar fate, selling out in just 48 hours, forcing UGC to offer a third wave. Hype from players, creators and professionals was at a fever pitch heading into the event. The Halo Classic was suddenly on track to become one of the best-selling events in the game’s history with over 92 team passes sold.

The event itself lived up to its name: it was a celebration of Halo’s legacy. With competitive Halo 3 on display for the first time in nearly a decade, the game’s most legendary names stepped up to put on a spectacular show.

Viewers were able to witness a number of familiar faces. Gandhi, Bravo, Walshy, Heinz, Flamesword, Neighbor and more former players returned for the event to compete and commentate. The latter two regrouped with Ace and Assault to revive Status Quo –a team sporting a rich history in competitive Halo.

Much of Halo’s greatest talent throughout the years would spend a weekend under the same roof. They would be facing off against newer teams that had since risen to dominance. TOX Gaming, a squad of veterans themselves, were entering off the back of three Halo 5 World Championships. Reciprocity, too, with renowned players like Snip3down and Pistola, had proved a perennially top-ranked squad. A familiar brand –Denial—had also re-entered Halo with strong results.

The Halo Classic proved to be a rare moment. It presented neutral ground for some of the greatest players of Halo to battle. For fans looking to watch exciting matches, expectations were reasonably high. Just as 2018 saw the twilight of Halo 5 – 2019 would open with the rebirth of Halo 3. On January 11th, The Halo Classic kicked off in St. Louis.

In the early games, GMS, Status Quo, Reciprocity and Denial rose to the top of the bracket. TOX Gaming, as expected, cut a path through the field, only dropping a single map. After eliminating Status Quo, Denial Esports, too, made a strong showing, but fell short to TOX in semi-finals. In the loser’s bracket, they promptly defeated Reciprocity for a second shot to face the former Halo 5 champions—this time, in a grand final.

Here, the Denial squad put up a fiery rebuttal to their previous match. In a confident first volley, they took four maps off TOX, while allowing them only a single win. It was a nail-biting match of Halo 3 at the most vigorous clash of competition that had been played in nearly a decade. By the end, Denial had brought themselves redemption: a second chance to defeat TOX and claim the trophy.

TOX had built a dynasty, the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Final Boss. This was their shot at extending it beyond the confines of a single game. Denial, meanwhile, had faced a brutal path to the grand final. They had fought their way through Status Quo, Reciprocity and TOX. They’d faced the latter twice—and been the first to draw blood from the prestigious team in their latest encounter.

The penultimate match was played deep into the night as Denial and TOX battled across the most legendary battlegrounds of Halo 3. Denial had lost none of the momentum that brought them to this point. TOX, however, had found new strength. After a long, grueling battle waged over 11 maps, they reasserted their dominance and claimed the trophy. TOX’s dynasty had been extended beyond the confines of “modern” Halo. They weren’t merely champions of Halo 5, they had demonstrated mastery of Halo itself.

Fans were treated to an unprecedented show. The greatest of Halo’s past and present had assembled for a single event. For many, it was a show of nostalgia. Halo 3 had defined an era for millions of gamers around the world. For others, it was a new challenge. New players who’d missed the game’s competitive scene at its peak were given their own opportunity to show their skills. For all involved, it was a community that had gathered around a single, shared love: Halo.

Ultimate Gaming Championship has stepped up to furnish yet another premier competition with Halo Classic Atlantic City from September 6-8. The second installation of Halo Classic will feature Halo 3, Halo 5 and of course everyone’s favorite classic, Halo: Combat Evolved.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit UGCHalo.com.

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