The guys from Microsoft somehow managed to get the guys from Weta to lend them their replica Warthog, and I spent this afternoon checking it out. The attention to detail is amazing!
The Warthog, which is essentially a Nissan Patrol combined with some fancy hydraulics, is a one of a kind wonder that was constructed by Weta back when Peter Jackson was supposed to be making a Halo movie. It has three different driving modes: normal, four wheel steering and crab mode, and it's as easy as pressing a button to switch between them.
The hydraulic system inside lets you raise and lower the body of the Warthog over any wheel, making it great for real off-road action (even if I didn't get to enjoy it off-road). Because of the monster tyres, driving over small things like gutters is barely noticeable though. As one of the PR people at the event said to me, it's just like driving the Warthog in the Halo games.
Apparently the guys from Weta have had about 20 or so requests from wealthy Americans wanting a Warthog of their very own. The problem is that it was a custom build - they don't have any casts to rebuild the vehicle, so to really rebuild one it would take about $200,000, and really need a new company to do the building.
Another interesting fact worth mentioning is that the turret on the back of the Warthog isn't the actual turret the Weta guys built - apparently the insurance company wasn't willing to cover the chance of Australian customs confiscating the replica weapon, so they got some Aussie dude to build one locally. He did the job in about a week, and the only thing letting it down is the short barrel. Aussie FTW!
The attention to detail is breathtaking, from the bullet holes tracking across the back of the car, to the body count on the front window. There are even fake registration stickers on the side to fit the Halo universe.
You can check out the Warthog for yourself this weekend, as well as having a bit of a play with the upcoming Halo: ODST game. If you're looking for something to do this weekend, I'd highly recommend it.