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Tycho / on Fri, May 28 2004 at 6:05 pm

Halo 2

I told you I would write something for you, something in addition to the product I am sworn to produce, and I have failed thus far.  Every time I sit down to write something, I remember with a level of joy usually reserved for the birthdays of children that this machine - the same machine I’m typing on - can also be used to play Thief 3, also known as Thief: Deadly Shadows.  I will complete a mission in Thief, realize the extent of my failures toward you the reader, and say that I will only allow myself to complete four or five levels in Mario Vs Donkey Kong - four or five, and no more.  What typically happens then is that I feel like playing a little more Thief, and having completed another level I will be overcome with guilt at not having written anything, declaring that I will play no more Thief forever, I grab the GBA because really each individual level takes only a few minutes to play through.  This loop reiterated itself virtually all day Saturday, and other than pure joy, indeed, joy concentrate, I have nothing to show for it.

I said that Microsoft had a very solid booth this year, solid not only because it contained a sturdy roster of cross-platform, exclusive, and online titles but also because it was itself a sort of fortress.  If one of the other booths has been able to rally the adjacent exhibits, somehow leading them in an assault on the Microsoft Complex, my money would probably be on MS - aside from an easily defensible ramp and one other entrance, emerald light and high white barricades surround it.  The plasma screen televisions fitted into the facing wall could even be used to broadcast dark messages, weaponized imagery that might sap the fighting spirit of their assailants. 

We were invited to the Bungie Fan Fest, though there are certainly people whose enthusiasm for Bungie has been more pure or of longer duration, but we appreciated it very much.  The Red Vs Blue guys were also there, for reasons which are probably obvious, and they made a custom movie expressly for the event which was well received.  The Fan Fest itself took place in the Microsoft booth after the hall had closed.  I’d never really been in the hall while the show was dormant, they have an assortment of gruff men who take a grim view of that kind of thing, but with the lights low portions of castles and evil creatures frozen in their moment of triumph could be seen.  The attendees essentially had the run of the booth, and in the absence of crushing crowds you could actually get some gaming underway.  I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t stress it enough - usually, playing games at E3 is like trying to read a book while a poltergeist destroys your apartment.  Comprehension suffers.     

I know that people would probably like to know about Halo 2 multiplayer, but even having played several rounds there are things I don’t know - information they’re reserving for release.  So, things I do know:  if the host drops, another player is automatically chosen to be the host and the game continues.  The needler, always my weapon of choice, has been nudged up in terms of damage - to see an enemy rocked by cascades of exploding shards from dual needlers is pretty spectacular.  Of course, that’s just one manifestation of dual wielding - feel free to use a needler and a submachine gun, two subs, whatever - just be aware that you can’t throw grenades in that state.  How would you, really.  You can customize your model to a greater degree, including decals.  By training the Covenant energy sword on an opponent for a few seconds, you can kill with one strike - first you have to get it, though, and as you can imagine it’s something of a hot commodity.  If an asshole is firing on you and yours from a mounted heavy machinegun, you can pulverize his ledge with a rocket destroying him and his fancy gun.  Like Battle Armor He-Man, vehicles can now take progressive damage - and eventually, even explode.  The ghost, which now has a special super boost fasty mode, will actually shudder before exploding in a manner which says “Get The Fuck Away.”  Speaking of vehicles, you can absolutely kick somebody out of one and take it.  It probably goes without saying that you can play as the Covenant, now.  If you’d like to see these things in action, buy all means - avail yourselves of the videos over at TeamXbox.   

Those are all facts, and it’s important to have them, but speaking qualitatively this is the actual Halo and the Halo you have now doesn’t even belong on the same continuum.

They have made it clear that they will be using online play in ways that other Live titles don’t, ways that will better emulate the camaraderie of Clan play.  We know that features have recently been added to Live to accommodate some of this:  teams can be formed that exist between multiple game sessions, tournament and ladder functionality exists in-game, and even player-made logos or decals can be created and applied to models if the developer chooses to expose that feature.  Every time I have brought these things up, in fact, any time I suggest anything at all, I hear, “No, it’s better than that.  Better.  No, better.”     

It didn’t sound like some vague concept, vast, undefined and therefore able to contain the set of all things.  It sounded like they already knew and weren’t telling anybody.


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