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Halo 2 Preview for Xbox
Posted on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 @ 06:36:03 pm E.S.T

Just face it – the hype’s all around you. Avoiding it is impossible. It’s everywhere you look; on television, in magazines, on the Internet, even in movie theaters. The sequel that many gamers around the world have been anticipating since the launch of the Xbox is coming closer than ever. November 9th, to be exact (and yes, that is an official date that falls within this year). Halo 2 is coming, and hype for a game has never been stronger. Whether you’re a proud Xbox owner, a Sony junkie, or a Nintendo fanboy, you’ve surely heard something about the sequel to the best-selling Xbox game of all time. Now prepare to hear it all.

When Bungie released Halo as a launch title for the Xbox in November of 2001, many were blown away by everything the game had to offer. With some of the most amazing graphics seen at the time, alongside one of the deepest stories ever in a game, and the addicting multiplayer modes, this game seemed to have it all. But what few knew was that this game had barely scraped the surface of what Bungie’s original vision was. Fast-forward three years later. Halo 2 is coming closer than ever, and we now know that everything that the original did, this sequel plans to do thousands of times better. That doesn’t just mean an expansion to the story, along with new weapons, vehicles, and enemies. When many predicted that Bungie was going to go all out with this sequel, nobody knew how far "all out" really was.

Picking up the story where the first game left off, the Covenant have managed to trace and destroy all of the human colonies in the universe, and are homing in on their final target – Earth. Master Chief, ever the hero, takes off in the Covenant ship he used to escape Halo to return to his home planet. However, when he reaches his destination and disembarks, he comes to find a world scarred by invasion. With the planet being slowly taken over by Covenants, Master Chief must defend Earth and bring the battle back to the home planet of the enemy and end the intergalactic war once and for all.

Now, anyone that’s played the first Halo knows at least something about the Covenant enemies. This continuation of the story plans to expand on everything that’s known about the group attempting to exterminate the human race. The Covenant is made up of two groups – the Elites and the Prophets. The Prophets, who were never introduced in the first Halo, are the spiritual leaders of the Covenant forces. They seem to play the role of the commander when in battle. There’s also another alien race who wasn’t seen in the first game, known as the Brutes. Similar to the Flood of the first game, the Brutes are friendly neither to the human nor to the Covenant. Their role is currently unknown, but speculation has led people to believe that they are somehow connected to the building of Halo and containing the Flood.

One of the things that made the original Halo so fascinating was the enormous amount of weapons available. Halo 2 will greatly expand on the weaponry available to the Master Chief. So far, there have been two confirmed new weapons: the battle rifle, which is a hybrid of the assault rifle and the sniper rifle, and an automatic machine gun that closely resembles the original assault rifle that was seen in the pre-release form of the first Halo. Although those two are the only weapons that have been revealed, don’t expect the number of new artillery to stop there, as Bungie plans to add many more pieces of hardware alongside the classics from the first game.

The Master Chief will also be given a plethora of new animations and actions to help enhance the gameplay. Gone are the old days of running into a horde of enemies without any forewarning; you can now lean around corners to listen into and take a peak at enemies lurking around the bend. Even though he can’t throw a grenade into the fray, or unload a couple of bullets into unsuspecting adversaries, the advantage will still go his way with the knowledge of upcoming enemies. In battle, Chief has also been given a leg-up, now that he can double-wield certain guns and string together combos in melee attacks. Needless to say, Master Chief’s battle will be a lot more interesting with these new moves at his disposal.

Much to the dismay of fans of the now-famous “Red vs Blue” video series, the Warthog hasn’t been renamed "the Puma." Thankfully, Bungie has added an abundance of vehicles to Halo 2, more than doubling the amount available in the original game. One of the new vehicles is the Shadow, which is the Warthog for the Covenants. It seats four, and has a plasma cannon on the back. Other vehicles include the ATV, which is a slimmed down version of the ol’ Warty. If you were hoping there were more variations of the most famous video game vehicle in recent memory, you're in luck, as there are three other modified Warthogs that have made it into the game as well. These include the Jungle Hog (which features modified wheels, a camouflaged body, and a chaingun), the Snow Hog (unarmed, but has an enclosed interior and snow tracks) and the Transporter Hog (no attached weaponry, but can hold up to 6 Marines).

One of the more hotly debated topics that sprouted from the original Halo was the level design. Many complained that the different maps were very bland and looked a lot like one another, with certain points even needing markers to help stop players from getting lost. Thankfully, Bungie listened to the fans and worked hard to greatly improve the level design. This game will have an entirely different look and feel, since it takes place on Earth, and will feature architecture that we’re more used to seeing here at home, rather than the alien-constructed buildings of the first Halo. Also, the environments will be destructable, allowing everything from shooting down trees to shattering lights, giving Master Cheif the option to use stealth to overcome the Covenants. All of the adaptations to the levels are a very welcome change to a formula that didn’t quite work perfectly in the previous game.

The biggest addition to the game though, by far, is online play. While the first game limited gamers to split screen and LAN play (which are still in tact), the multiplayer format that made Halo a legendary game will be taken online via Xbox Live. Sixteen players will be able to battle it out on a number of maps in a multitude of modes. The one level that’s been revealed to the public so far is Zanzibar, an African beach that contains a rundown reactor station. Those who have been fortunate enough to play it have touted it as being perfect for modes such as Capture the Flag.

The most amazing thing about the range of multiplayer modes is how Bungie has managed to reinvent how to play the standard first-person shooter multiplayer modes. Instead of the standard Capture the Flag play, which usually entails one flag at each base, there is one flag in the center of the map. One team protects the flag, and the other attempts to infiltrate their area and return the flag to their base, sealing the win. The team that is attempting to snatch the flag has a Warthog and two Ghosts at their spawn point that they can use to help them win the match. At the end of the first round, the teams swap sides, with the team that was attempting to seize the flag is now defending it, and vice-versa. Such innovations to the typical forms of gameplay that we’ve grown to love are what look to make this game one of the best ever to be played.

For any game to outdo what Halo did is a feat, but if Bungie keeps going with the momentum that they currently have developing this game, we may see one of, if not the, best games ever to be released. Expanding on the deep story, improving the innovative gameplay, bringing the stellar multiplayer game online – the ideas are all there, but the execution is what counts. That delivery is what the world is looking forward to, as the countdown to November 9th continues…

Preview By: Matt Hack - 7268 Reads

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