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Halo 2 Preview
game: Halo 2
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Bungie
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue May 20th, 2003
last revision: 06:47 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

Although representatives for Microsoft and Bungie Studios remained seductively tight-lipped about Halo 2 at E3 this year, they did put on one hell of a demonstration for those of us lucky enough to be invited to the Microsoft Press Conference, and the hearty souls willing to stand in line for hours on end on the show floor.

Let me start by saying I am such a huge fan of Halo that the mere appearance of the Bungie logo, and the moment or two of dead air preceding the first cinematic, gave me chills. What followed was an in-game demonstration that left the audience cheering.

The demo begins with Master Chief being transported via dropship to a war zone in East Africa. That\'s right: the Covenant, apparently unhappy with our success in kicking their butts on planets afar, have invaded Earth. Upon exiting the dropship, the player (in this case a Bungie representative) takes control of Master Chief, guiding him through the human base camp. The dead and wounded line the streets. Medical personnel attend those who can be saved. Soldiers advance on the enemy, firing from every vantage point.

Reminiscent of the opening scenes of the first Halo, the player is moving through a series of scripted sequences that guide Master Chief both into the story and into the action. The superb production value of these sequences, mixed with an interactive rather than passive cut-scene approach, make for an experience unlike any I have had since playing the first game. As Master Chief makes his way through the camp, you hear medics converse with the wounded, and soldiers comment on the battle taking place. All the while the sounds of gunfire, explosions, and screams intensify. This is interactive drama in rare form.

Punctuating the scripted events, Master Chief is able to zoom in with the scope of his machine gun and take out the aliens making their way toward camp. Soon he comes to a fortified position where there is a heavy machine gun he can use to cut down the advancing enemy. This time around the environment is more interactive. You can use the heavy machine gun or grenades to explode the abandoned cars that line the streets, killing everything within the blast radius and scattering debris even farther.

Shortly after reaching the heavy machine gun, an air strike is called in to destroy a Covenant cannon. Master Chief then encounters a wounded soldier who tosses him another machine gun, and he enters the fray with a two-fisted volley of gunfire. He then climbs into the back of a Warthog and takes it to the streets, shooting down hulking Covenant tanks and hovercraft. Again, the special effects are superb and the pacing is intense. But it isn\'t long before one of the alien troops leaps onto the front of the Warthog and causes it to crash. Back on his feet, Master Chief must steal one of the approaching Ghosts. He leaps onto one of the Ghosts as its pilot attempts to run him over. He then pulls the pilot out of the seat and jumps in it himself. This is a new move that, according to Bungie representatives, players can use during vehicle combat.

And what a move it is! (Sorry. We are allowed one melodramatic exclamation per quarter. What better game to use it on than Halo 2?) This will certainly change my cheap shot multiplayer tactics-if all else fails, sideswipe them with a Ghost. Unless, that is, there is a chance they will jump onto it and throw you out of the cockpit.

A cinematic chase sequence follows wherein Master Chief outwits and outruns his attackers by leaping from his Ghost through a closing armored door. Everyone else crashes. The demo ends as he is met where he lands by several falling pods, from which Covenant troops armed with energy swords emerge and stand ready for a battle to be fought later.

Needless to say, everything presented in the demonstration is flawless. The graphics are of a caliber heretofore unseen on any platform. No matter how much is happening on the screen-and there is no screen space wasted-the game performs without a glitch. The sound effects, music, and voice acting are perfect. The story is engaging, the pacing perfect.

Outside of the demo, very little information was made available. We know that Halo 2 will include all new vehicles, weapons, and enemies. It will support split-screen, system link, and Xbox Live multiplayer gameplay. However, all of my further inquiries into online interface, multiplayer options, bots, maps, and more were met with a firm \"maybe,\" \"no comment,\" \"I can\'t tell you,\" or the ever popular \"stop bugging me or I\'ll have you removed from the show floor and beaten in an alley.\" It seems that Microsoft and Bungie are taking a less is more approach to build anticipation. It\'s working. Quarter 1 of 2004 belongs to Halo 2. Why would you play anything else?