Meet The Championship Finalists
Posted by Evil Otto at 8/28/2002 6:15 AM PDT

Halo Tournament Finalists

By Evil Otto
August 28, 2002

With the finals of the Halo National Championship tournament just a few days away, we're getting all warm and fuzzy. Not just at the prospect of seeing some of the best Halo players in the nation face off against one another, but also by the hoopla surrounding the event. G4 TV will be recording the festivities in their studio in Los Angeles and broadcasting them later for the enjoyment of anyone lucky enough to tune in. That's right: a tournament featuring the game you love, and people who love to play it, on cable TV. Not many games get that sort of treatment, but if I may be blunt, Halo isn't your average game.

We realize that many of you, in this era of Survivor and Pop Idol, are eager to find out more about the finalists so you can pick your favorites and call your bookies (not that we encourage that sort of thing, mind you). So we've whipped up this handy-dandy guide to the men who'll be fighting for the title of Halo National Champion on Friday.

Dustin "-Hp- Darkman" Langton of Manhattan, Kansas was the finalist at Tazraz. This 18-year-old has been playing Halo pretty much since it came out, and trained hard for the tournament, playing two to six hours per day with up to 12 other members of his -Hp- clan. His favorite weapon is the pistol, his favorite map is Wizard, and when asked if he thought he'd make it to the finals he replied "Yes, I knew I would make it this far...nobody [who knows how I play] was surprised." His message to his opponents: "Sorry I'll have to send you home empty-handed!"

Jay "Sgt. Slaughter" Zuehlk took the crown at Cyber Arena. Another young 'un at 18, he can remember the first day he played Halo (December 14). According to him, his biggest weakness is "burnout [from playing] too much Halo" which isn't much of a liability in a tournament such as this. His favorite weapon is the sniper rifle, his favorite map is Battle Creek, and his least favorite map is "Boarding Action, which isn't really a map." Obviously a man who knows what he likes, Jay thinks the tournament so far has been high on brawn and low on brains: "A few good players...good at slayer, bad at strategy." We'll have to wait until Friday to find out if his strategy will carry the day.

Eric "DM" Turk-Otero of San Antonio, Texas brought the other competitors at Velocity Games to their knees in the semi-finals. He's been training in the tourney games for an hour a day with a friend. His weapon of choice is the mighty grenade, his favorite map is Hang 'em High, and he seems confident about his chances in the final match: previous opponents were "not that tough" and he has no words for his fellow finalists.

Brad "Red Ogre" Griff won out at NeoQuest. A resident of Pennsylvania, Brad made it to the finals after a three-way tie-breaker game at the regional battle. He ranks the pistol as his favorite weapon and Chill Out as his favorite map, though he dislikes Wizard. "I start off slow until I get into the 'Halo Zone'," says Brad; presumably he starts mopping the floor with others at that point. He appears obscenely confident, and asks that the other finalists "prepare for the liberation of your testicles from your loins."

Elliot "Veritas" Epstein beat out the other semifinalists at GamersAlley. Another fan of the pistol, he's played Halo since it came out, likes Hang 'em High but doesn't like Chiron TL34, and has practiced about three hours a day for the tournament. He claims his biggest weakness is ghosts, and we presume he means the drivable rather than the ethereal variety. To the other competitors he will only say, "You're going down."

Doug "StrangePurple" Fabrizio walked out of Kings Games with a ticket to the finals. Like Elliot, he's a proponent of the pistol, enjoys a game on Hang 'em High and doesn't like Chiron. He found the qualifying rounds easy but says the regional battles were challenging, although he was in tie-breaking rounds both weeks which he describes as "brutally intense." Ever the pragmatist, Doug says he "hopes the other finalists aren't that good, because I really want that TV." Truer words were never spoken.

Joe "KissCharlie" Larama walloped the competition at Netwerk Games. He's been playing Halo for about nine months, loves the sniper rifle and Damnation but hates the plasma pistol, Wizard, Longest and Derelict. "The competition [so far] has been pretty stiff," he says. "Way too many great Halo players out there." As for his competition, he says: "May the force be with you."

Parker "PX" Trojanowski took it to the hole at Cyber-Max. Based in St. Petersburg, Florida, Parker says the first game he ever got addicted to was the old Raiders of the Lost Ark game for the Atari 2600. He digs the pistol and Sidewider but doesn't like Blood Gulch. According to him, his only weakness is that he's "too aggressive." He claims the level of the competition has gone "back and forth...sometimes tough, sometimes not." He's admittedly "shocked" that he made it this far, but also says: "We are the top sixteen in the nation. The weak links have been weeded out. Now it is time for the best."

Noah "Chumpp" Evans is the finalist from the Badlanz Internet Lounge. A member of the RRS ("Radar Requires Skill") team, he likes Damnation but can't decide if he likes the pistol, the shotgun or the sniper rifle most. His least favorite map: Chiron. "It gives me motion sickness." He plays Halo online for up to four hours daily, and claims that he and -Hp- Darkman "are gonna own."

John L "Zeus" Buckley III took top honors at Shockwave. He's been playing Halo since it came out, has developed a fondness for the sniper rifle and Blood Gulch as well as an aversion to Chiron. He ranks the competition so far as "about an 8 - every game for me was close, it just came down to strategic planning and not just plain headhunting." His advice to the other finalists: "Watch your head!"

Paul "Cain" Fly was the sole man left standing after the semifinals at NetLan Arena. Representing Franklin, Tennessee, this 19-year-old has been playing Halo since the holidays, learning to love the pistol and Damnation. According to him, his status as a finalist "doesn't feel real" - but you've got to give credit to a guy who stayed out late with his friends the night before the semi-finals and still pulled off a win.

Jesse "Vegeta Punk" Kuznia rocked the other semi-finalists at Wired Gamez. He's been playing the tournament games with his friends for a couple hours each day to train. He's another pistol fan, and while he likes Hang 'em High he dislikes Chiron. (Poor Chiron! It's not such a bad map.) He says he doesn't do so well in Oddball games but claims the tournament "[has been] very tough...I wasn't sure I would even make it past the first round." What does this man have to say to the competition? "Best of luck to everyone." A tough competitor, but a sportsmanlike one as well.

Aaron "BigSauce" Martin stormed over the other semifinalists at Cyberwiz to a slot at the Championship game. A meat-and-potatoes sort, he likes the pistol and Blood Gulch but does not single out any particular map as his least favorite. He's spent two hours a day training for the tournament, and ranks the competition so far as "decent." For the competition, he has only "four words: un-stop-a-ble."

Craig Cook took top billing at the Studio Movie Grill's semifinals. He ranks the pistol and sniper rifle as his dual favorites, though he claims his main weakness is an overwhelming compulsion to pick up the rocket launcher. He keeps two Xboxes at home and practices with eight friends every other day. "I'm glad I've made it this far," says he.

Ben Van Hauer was top dog at PC Palace, but unfortunately I don't have his answers to our questionnaire, so he'll be our mystery man for now.

Rico "Mob Masta" Lopez tore through the competition at NextGame, and at the stately age of 25 is the oldest player in the tournament. He made a comeback from fourth to first place in the first game of the regional games, so the many hours spent training with friends have obviously paid off. "I thought the competition would be much tougher," he muses. "It felt great to take the title even though my brother was the one I had to eliminate [in the semifinals]." The man walks all over his own family and doesn't bat an eye. You've got to admire that. It adds depth to his parting shot to the other finalists: "Good luck - you'll need it!"

And so we come to the end of the list. Sixteen Halo masters - one title. Who will win? Keep an eye on for more Halo National Championship Tournament news as it happens.

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