Editor’s note: Ryan Smith is a longtime gamer and freelance writer who lives in Raleigh, NC. A graduate of East Carolina University with a degree in business and marketing, he has written in the past for WRAL Tech Wire and GameArgus.com. He currently plays Xbox 360 and PC as well as Nintendo DS. For story ideas, tips and feedback, he can be reached via e-mail (ryannicksmith@gmail.com)

RALEIGH, N.C. – Shrugging off the threat of Hurricane Irene, hundreds of spectators and competitors kicked off Major League Gaming Raleigh, attending events all day and all night.

The fourth stop in this year’s Pro Circuit, MLG Raleigh is an incredible sight. Gamers from around the world have gathered to watch and play Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, League of Legends, Mortal Kombat and Starcraft II.

Bracket play is conducted on the floor, with huge gatherings for Halo and Call of Duty matches.

Teams of four battle it out shoulder to shoulder as friends and family cheer them on. 

Friday kicked off the Brackets for Halo and CoD, but League of Legends starts today, on its debut for the MLG circuit.

Pool play for League Legends will run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.Saturday, with the Championship happening Sunday at 10 a.m. (Can’t go? You can tune in via the web. Check schedule here.)

The real attraction for me as a spectator was of course the main stages.

Korean Coca stars in Starcraft II

Halo: Reach and Call of Duty feature sizable crowds and intense matches, however the real excitement for me was at the center stage: Starcraft II.

With pro players coming all the way from Korea and intense competition, these matches are a blast to watch. Proof alone that these matches are the most intense is the crowd’s reaction as a match is won or lost, they simply go wild, drowning out the sound of the whole convention center.

Starcraft is extremely popular in Korea, so much so that they have televised tournaments and even play championships to crowds bigger than our Super Bowl. So, naturally they have some pretty decent players, and by that I mean they have incredible players. I watched three matches, with a Korean using a more unorthodox strategy to win the first two matches. The third match was played by two Koreans.

Coca, a fantastic Korean-Zerg player pulled the best record of the day at 6 wins and 0 losses. His play was flawless and exciting to boot.

Gears of War 3: Team Epic loses – but valiantly

As exciting as Professional Starcraft II is to watch, the highlight of the night was a Gears of War 3 exhibition match played between the Gears of War 1 & 2 world champions: Nsan3z and Team Epic: members of the actual Gears of War 3 development crew.

Being world champions, I didn’t expect Team Epic to put up much of a fight. But when the first of three matches started, both teams came out so strong I was amazed. Team Epic went down in the first round, but it was close, only losing by a few respawns in Team Deathmatch.

The second round was incredible. Team Epic caught Nsan3z in a field of crossfire and took them all down without losing more than one or two respawns. However the Champs came back in round three to win the first game and eventually would go on to sweep Team Epic 3 games to none. It was a great fight though, the second game which was King of The hill, was close every time, with the Champs always narrowly hanging on.

This is the first time the public has gotten to see the finished version of Gears of War 3, as it releases in a few weeks on Sept. 20. We got to see the fine tunings they did to the Retro Lancer and Sawed Off Shotgun, as well as the maps themselves. Trenches had some spawn trapping issues during the Beta, but it has been fixed with an escape route. After seeing these two great teams battle it out, I can’t wait to get Gears 3, especially after they showed us a clip of some gameplay from the campaign, it looks intense.

Halo: Reach – Two teams go 6-0

I also had the chance to watch a Halo: Reach match between Status Quo and Team Classic, both teams were very coordinated and we saw some great double kills and objective play on Capture the Flag.

Status Quo would go on to be 6 and 2 during Friday’s play, with Teams Infamous and Eon Instinct pulling perfect 6-0s. Halo: Reach pro teamwork is always great to watch.

Saturday and Sunday promise to hold even more action, for Call of Duty as well.

Besides the bracket play and main stage areas, they also had some booths set up with merchandise, Mortal Kombat arcade machines, computers loaded with Starcraft II and more. They even had a National Guard booth set up with a push-up competition and other prizes.

Overall, Friday was fantastic, the matches were great, the crowds wild and they even had free merchandise. Saturday and Sunday will prove even better, with stiffer competition and the opening of League of Legends play for the first time.

If you can’t make it out, don’t hesitate to visit MLG.com for the live streams!

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