Halo 2 Updated Impressions

Bungie representatives show off a tiny piece of Halo 2’s multiplayer capabilities.

“The year is 2552.” That’s how Bungie representatives began their brief demonstration of the company’s upcoming first-person shooter, Halo 2. The demo, which took place at Microsoft’s annual pre-E3 press conference, focused on some of the title’s multiplayer capabilities as well as some of the physics modeling that is going into the game.

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The demo started with a brief look at the Spartan soldier. The Master Chief model is looking as shiny as ever. Halo 2 will contain some customization features for multiplayer, including custom emblem design for your armor as well as an array of different color choices.

Firing on a Covenant elite was up next. The game’s dual-wield functionality was shown. Basically, Halo 2 appears to have some of the same weapon-carrying limitations as Halo 1, but if you hit Y when standing over a weapon you can place that weapon into your off-hand for some serious akimbo action. Dual-wielding appears to be possible with any pistol-style weapon, and you don’t need to pair up two weapons of the same type. When packing a double punch, the two triggers work independently, letting you fire each weapon individually.

The game will also contain some melee weapons in the form of a Covenant energy sword. The energy sword has a basic swipe attack, as well as a more advanced lunge that really does some serious damage. When the Spartan attacked the elite, the elite was sent flying from the force of the blow.

The demo then moved on to vehicles, showing off the Warthog and the Ghost. You’ll be able to execute boosts in some of the vehicles, making for a nice dash in the Ghost. In a Grand Theft Auto-like twist, you’ll also be able to steal vehicles from other players by approaching a slow-moving or stopped ride and hitting X. The animations for the carjacking were pretty solid, showing the Spartan hopping on top of the Ghost and kicking the elite off.

Vehicles can be destroyed in Halo 2. In fact, they can also be damaged. Shooting up a vehicle will cause pieces to fly off of it, and that damage will also reduce a vehicle’s handling ability. When destroyed, players will have to flee from the wreckage, because vehicles blow up with a satisfying blast shortly after they’re damaged beyond repair.

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A large segment of the demo was devoted to showing that the Halo 2 engine could handle some of the same physics-based reactions as other modern first-person shooters. When hit with rocket launchers--which now have a new target-tracking feature for lock-on shots--Warthogs go flying. Large boulders and other parts of the scenery can be blasted around. At one point the Spartan soldier even pushed the wheel of a broken-up Warthog around with the butt of his gun.

The entire demo took place on a map located in Zanzibar. The level was outfitted for one-flag capture-the-flag, and the level looked like it was set up for the Spartan troops to storm a beachfront base that was populated by Covenant players. A quick flyover the level showcased some of the other destructible objects. Turret emplacements and other strategic points of interest can be destroyed by sustained fire. Once inside the base, Spartan troops can activate a terminal that opens the front gates, making the siege a little more vehicle-friendly. There’s also a secret spot in the map that can only be found by blowing up a portion of the level and causing a large platform to fall into place, forming a bridge that leads to the ever-popular energy sword.

The level--located in a futuristic Zanzibar and referred to as Hell on Earth--appears to take cues from Unreal Tournament’s assault mode, or the objective-based multiplayer of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, in that there seems to be a definite progression for moving through the levels and into the base. Also from Unreal Tournament, the game calls out players for killing sprees after you kill a specific number of enemies without dying.

Graphically, Halo 2 looked as sharp as ever. The models looked impressive, reacted to impacts well, and had that same generally shiny look that you’ve come to expect from Halo. The environment seemed large and looked more like a natural environment than a standard first-person shooter multiplayer map. Finally, things appeared to blow up really well--the destruction of vehicles was truly a sight to see.

Halo 2 is currently scheduled to hit the Xbox on November 9. We’ll have more on this game as it becomes available.

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Jeff Gerstmann

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.
Halo 2

Halo 2

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