Bungie tweaking Halo 2

Auto-update balances weapons and fixes cheats and bugs; automatic update available for download April 18.


Halo 2 fanatics who log in to Xbox Live after this weekend may notice that opponents wielding the notoriously sluggish brute shot aren't just fodder anymore. This Monday, Bungie is overhauling its wildly popular first-person shooter with its third auto-update. While the update addresses the standard bugs and glitches most patches do, it will also tweak several elements of gameplay.

This is the third auto-update for Halo 2, and the biggest change gamers will see is in the weapon balance. After rigorous testing on Bungie's guinea pigs, the company decided to revamp various elements to the game's arsenal of weapons to make the multiplayer aspect of it more entertaining.

"The scale of the auto-update gave us a unique opportunity--a chance to implement balance changes on certain weapons to smooth out the Xbox Live and System Link experience, and in a couple of cases, we feel, subtly improving the overall feel of the game," said Bungie representative Frank O'Connor on Bungie's Weekly What's Update.

The biggest change will be to melee attacks. Jumping attacks will most likely result in an instant kill, and the brute shot's melee strike will now be more lethal, on account of the giant scythe on its barrel. Now, hammering the butt of an assault rifle, or any other gun, into an opponent's face will cause more damage, minimizing the unfair advantage players had when close-combat dual wielding.

"Now if someone charges too closely with dual SMGs, you can melee them and actually kill them faster than they can kill you," said designer Jaime Griesemer. "You have viable options again."

Grenades get the second-biggest overhaul. Both plasma and frag grenade damage has been increased, lessening the gap between dual wielders and grenade lobbers.

"A common complaint among critics (and Bungie employees!) was that grenades felt very weak and often simply ensured that a player would be hurt rather than killed," said O'Connor.

The fuse on both grenades has been shortened to give those last desperate attempts at blowing an attacker up more plausibility. Plasma grenades, in particular, have been juiced up. Players who now see the familiar blue aura of the sticky grenade at their feet should no longer expect to run off with a few scratches, but rather, they should have a teammate deliver last rites.

Other guns have also been tweaked to lesser degrees. The magnum's damage has been slightly reduced to emphasize headshots. The power of the plasma rifle/SMG combo has also been reduced.

Says Griesemer, "With these changes, the stories get a lot more interesting and varied. Now, sometimes it's 'He came up behind me and started shooting. So I ducked around the corner and dropped a grenade, and he ran right into it!' or 'He jumped down at me just as I was reloading, but he got in too close, and I beat him to death with my battle rifle.' The fights last longer, and each player has several options."

The auto-update also helps relieve the modem standby cheat, eliminates flag bouncing and the "flag-grab-through-solid-walls" problem, as well as "sword flying," which let a player fly from one end of a map to the other when wielding the Covenant energy sword. In addition, The Red Team no longer wins ties, and the split-screen's heads-up display is now less cluttered.

Halo 2 players not connected to Xbox Live will be able to get the update with the retail version of the additional multiplayer maps, which will be released June 28.

Halo 2 is rated "M" for Mature and retails for $49.99. For more information on the game, check out GameSpot's full review.

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