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.
begins with Master Chief being transported via dropship to a war zone
in East Africa. Thats 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
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.
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.
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
isnt 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.
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 tacticsif 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.
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.
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 screenand there is no screen space
wastedthe game performs without a glitch. The sound effects, music, and
voice acting are perfect. The story is engaging, the pacing perfect.
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 cant tell you," or the ever popular "stop bugging me or
Ill 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. Its working. Quarter 1 of 2004 belongs to Halo 2.
Why would you play anything else?