Halo 2 - Hands On

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Yeah, you read it right.

If you're wondering how GWJ got behind the scenes for a closed door look at Bungie's big sequel, you can rest assured that we're just as mystified.  What can I say, sometimes you get lucky.  But lucky or not, Halo 2 was at E3, and we got to sit down and play some of its upcoming Live supported multiplayer.  Yeah, it was a high point.

Our time with Halo 2 began with a brief description of the story that will dominate the single player campaign in which where the Covenant have laid siege to earth, though no significant new information on that single-player campaign was delivered, .  The graphic engine still has that familiar Halo ambiance and crispness about it, though it looks cleaner and more detailed.  A couple of years development experience with the Xbox hardware has made Halo even better with age.

Once we were set back into time, place, and context we got a look at a few new features of Halo 2.  Vehicles and vehicle combat has gotten a huge upgrade, as the familiar Warthog is now equipped with a powerful rocket launcher (and horn, which can be used to taunt online opponents as you run them down), and the Ghost now has a boost feature activated with the left trigger.  All vehicles will have location damage.  We watched happily as a Ghost had its wing blown right off, and then as a Warthog was slowly torn apart from hubcaps to tires to the final satisfying explosion of parts. 

All vehicles will be boardable, often from multiple positions, meaning that you can hop on as an enemy passes by, kill them, and steal their vehicle all in one elegant motion.  The demonstration used a Covenant plasma sword to hijack a ghost, hopping onto the back, stabbing the driver, and then kicking him off.  It looked oh so satisfying.

Additionally we were given a demonstration of how dual wielding works.  Once you pick up a second weapon, you can pull the right trigger to fire the right-hand weapon, and the left trigger for the left.  And, of course, you can just hold them both down and lay waste.  The demonstration used the Needler as the alternate weapon, pointing out that the oft maligned gun has gotten a serious upgrade and is now actually useful.

We only got a look at one level - a single flag CTF map - but it was highly detailed with multiple routes of assualt onto a single base, machine gun encampmants, and littered with hidden nooks and crannies.  If this level is indicative of the kind of detail they'll be putting into their much more interactive environments, then there's a lot to look forward to.

But, the heck with all that.  You probably want to know how it felt to play it.

It felt good.  Damn good.  We played five on five single flag CTF where the humans (Spartans) were pit against the defending Covenant (Elites) in retrieving the single flag and bringing it back to the beach.  The Covenant have an advantage of firepower with machine gun placements, and a rocket launcher, while the humans have the advantage of vehicles.  There are multiple ways into the base, and more convenient paths can be opened from interactive points - such as activating a panel in the base to open a vehicle bay door allowing the offense to drive right in and take the flag. 

In part of the focus of upgrading the environments parts of the defending structure - particularly where the machine gun banks wait - can actually be destroyed.  Not just the machine gun, but the entire platform on which the machine gun rests.

We got a look at two new playable weapons in this level, the first plasma sword, a furiously destructive weapon that is wholly lethal at close range.  Its standard attack is painful enough, but get some time sneaking up on your target and you can unleash an ungodly head stab.  Yeah, that one's pretty much instakill.  We also got our hands on a combat rifle with a three burst shot close range attack and a medium range zoom mode. The rocket launcher has also had some tweaking that gives you a guided rocket capability, and like I mentioned before the Needler is much more useful.  Other familiar weapons like the shotgun and plasma rifle felt similar to their original incarnations.

The dynamic of the game is also somewhat different than normal as a dropped flag does not instantly reset back to its home when dropped and recovered.  Instead it sits at its drop location for some time after, meaning that defenders might have to constantly work as a team to stay flexible and defend the flag, and also that a well oiled assault is that much more deadly.

Our time with Halo 2 was far far too short, but entirely welcome.  Having it ever so briefly in my hands left me with little concerns about Bungie's treatment of its sequel.  The gameplay was both familiar and improved, and the smooth multiplayer felt polished.  I think it's safe to say that Halo 2 is shaping up to meet some pretty high expectations.

- Elysium 

Comments

Xbox [email protected]! Oh noes!!!

There's just no pleasing you!

If the Halo2 port is going to be as crappy as the first one, it can stay X-Box only.

How arethe frames one the Xbox? Is it still nice and steady or its rollercoster...

Felt every bit as smooth and sleek as the first.

Nice shots! Was that on an HDTV?

Thank you, Ely. Aside from the green cast around my gills from envy, I think you for scooping appropriately.

Everything is shaping up really nicely for Halo 2. CTF was a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be in part because I tossed a grenade at a jeep and it killed one guy, flipped the jeep and then landed on a second enemy. Double kill!

Arh... I got so exited about the game that I completely forgot that it's not coming out any time soon.

If you're wondering how GWJ got behind the scenes for a closed door look at Bungie's big sequel, you can rest assured that we're just as mystified.

It's got to be the GWJ shirts, for sure. I mean, they just look so official and everything.

TheGameguru wrote:

Xbox [email protected]! Oh noes!!!

:P

Bungie's blood will spill!

Those tires look sick on that warthog!

fangblackbone wrote:

Those tires look sick on that warthog!

It's for picking up the ladies.

Nei wrote:

Arh... I got so exited about the game that I completely forgot that it's not coming out any time soon. :cry:

Official release date of November 9th, 2004.