It seems an eternity since Halo was first announced. It was going to be a massively multiplayer experience, taking it higher than their last game series’ Myth, and Marathon.
The truth was however, tough times, answered with big numbers from Microsoft, twisted the game’s fate. It was going from MMOFPS, to an epic sci-fi adventure, based exclusively on Xbox. November 15, 2001, was when the game hit shelves, and ever since, The realm of first person shooters have been turned upside-down, from violent, gory, blood fests, into elegant, exciting interactive adventures, with shooting thrown in, to add harmony. However, now, almost a year after the first Halo released, the official announcement came of the heir to the FPS throne, and with that, I bring you a first look on Halo 2.
Bungie set high standards. They outdid themselves, really. And when Halo 2 was announced, people almost doubted how Bungie could ever possibly improve. However, when they released the infamous real-time trailer, skeptics were left in a flood of drool. Now graphical improvements are expected, however, and even though the graphical overhaul is magnificent nonetheless, It might as well be a movie, without good gameplay, new features, and more good story elements.
As far as the known plot, I cant tell you much about Halo 2 without spoiling Halo’s wonderful surprises. If you have yet to play through Halo’s single player experience, please skip through. Bungie has posted an official announcement at their Truth and Reconciliation website, and this is what they say about the goings on of the new game:
Their [The Covenant’s] defeat at Halo was only temporary, and they are pursuing their goal - the complete obliteration of humankind - with renewed zeal. Human military forces are exhausted and unable to stave off the Covenant's rapid advance toward Earth. Even with the Master Chief back in action, the situation looks dire - and this is at the beginning of the game, before things get a lot worse. In true Bungie tradition, the solo campaign in Halo 2 deepens and expands upon the story that began in the first game: old questions will be answered, new mysteries will unfold, and the truly epic nature of the story will finally be revealed.
Now, these are good words. This means that many mysterious quotes and objects will be answered, and new problems will arise. This also means that we have a big fight ahead of us for the fate of humankind. Note how they mention that this is the beginning of the game. Bungie has said that the war between the Covenant and the Humans will come to an end, in Halo 2. They also have described how the Flood will return, for they had a relationship with the Covenant long before they started beating up on the Humans.
Halo had something almost unthinkable in an FPS, the limit of only 2 weapons at a time, and with that, a limited arsenal of weapons to choose from. However this meant strategy and balance was brought to the game. When Halo 2 was announced, people wanted to know what lay in store for them, and their somewhat empty arsenal. Well, worry not, for Bungie promises at least twice the weapons of the original, while keeping the old ones to use, when nostalgia strikes. From what is available at such an early time, there are only two new weapon models to marvel upon. Most notably there is the SMG, a weapon that fires caseless ammunition. It is said to fire faster than the AR, which was a blazing 15 rounds per second. If the power was that of the original pistol, this will be a most fearsome weapon indeed. The other weapon that was unveiled, is the Battle Rifle. It looks like a hybrid between a FA-MAS, of current times, and the MA5B Assault Rifle, from the original Halo. It fires at a slower speed, but with higher accuracy. In the Trailer, MC readied a Battle Rifle, and it was sporting a nifty scope. If there is a scope on the final BR, then all will be happy in the sniper camp of Halo players.
Enemies are crucial to an FPS, and Halo had something novel. Enemies who hid and retreated when they were outnumbered, or in a bad way. For example, an Elite would charge and attack, until you dropped it’s shields, then it would retreat to the safety of a rock, or building, and try to shelter itself while it’s shields recharged. However, they were still predictable. In Halo 2 the Bungie crew plans on increasing the AI to unprecedented levels. They are going to kick over objects for cover, shoot through flimsy cover, climb walls to get better angles, and the Human soldiers (may be more than just Marines) might just be able to drive those Warthogs. The things are here, Is that most of these events aren’t scripted. There’s no telling weather that Elite is going to climb that pillar and jump down on you from behind, or wait until you approach, and shot it down on top of you. Then, the sheer numbers of NPC troopers running around with this AI, engaging each other, strategizing their push, it makes you wonder what really is under the hood of the Xbox.
Vehicles were one on the many strong points of Halo, and sped up slow portions of gameplay, and opened up new possibilities. Halo 2 is going to get more models of Warthogs, and there are many brand new vehicles to boot, Twice the vehicle count in fact. From what ONI can tell us, we will have the ATV; a 4 wheeler akin to a ghost sized Warthog. There is now a ’hog with jungle cammo, a snow ’hog with treads and Plexiglas gull-wing doors, and a king cab hog, loaded with 4 seats in the back, and a big roll cage, to keep passengers safe. These environment specific vehicles mean that we are probably fighting in jungle and snow at some point of the game, which means good things are to come. The Covenant too have brought new rides into the mix; the Covenant shadow, originally planned for the first game, is planned. It is similar to the ‘hog, in that it holds a driver, side seat, and a plasma turret, however, it also had hand holds, for buddies to saddle up on the short ‘wings.’
Ok, the graphics are updated. Wait...that’s actually an understatement. The graphics engine is being totally redone! The system uses features such as: Full Bump mapping, Self Shadowing, and less poly counts. Those polys are being replaced with the bump mapping, meaning that those extra polys shaved off a vehicle or weapon, or Master chief, can go into extra marines and enemies, meaning that while graphics improve, so does the epic nature and feel. Remember the detail on Forerunner walls? that’s bump-mapping at work. The feature was used on the environments of Halo, while models were using traditional poly and texture methods. If you look, you can tell the difference.
Halo had a involved story, a very enigmatic one. Enigmatic, because a year later, We are still trying to figure out what the hell a lot of the things in there mean. For instance, in one level 343 said:
“You can't imagine how exciting this is! To have a record of all of our lost time! Human history, is it? Fascinating.”
This would imply that for some reason, the Alien construct, 343 GS, has a period of ‘lost history’ which is Human. That means that the Humans probably had some relations with the ‘Forerunner.’ The other enigmatic babblings from this hovering, blue orb include references to the Master Chief as the ‘Re-claimer Its assumed he is reclaiming Halo, but why would he use MC? MC is Human, but also foreign to Halo. and this:
“But once the others follow suit, this galaxy will be quite empty of life, or at least any life large enough to sustain Flood. But you already knew that. I mean, how couldn't you?”
343 should know MC then, and then this last tidbit:
“Last time, you asked me, if it was my choice, would I do it? Having considerable time to ponder your query, my answer has not changed.”
That was 343 querying the MC. 343 knows, or thinks he knows the MC. Well, it’s puzzles like this that really screw up the minds of those who play the game for the story. Luckily, the minds behind Halo 2 have decided to let us know that we will be given answers to these little mysteries. However there is probably a tradeoff. If I know Bungie, I think they will be adding many, many more enigmas. Damn I love a good story!!
The direction of Halo 2 seems to be turning from a guerilla/survival stance, to a defensive to offensive stance. This means that at the beginning, we are trying our damn hardest to stop these alien mo-fos from demolishing Earth. In this situation, It seems we will be in vast demolished cities, and while the only available views of Earth are from orbit, where it looks like a black orb with explosions and fire, but Jason Jones has said “The picture we want to give of Earth is that it is the most important thing in the Galaxy for the Humans to Defend”
“Halo 2 is designed from the ground up to support internet multiplayer games over Xbox Live™.”
That’s what was said at Bungie.net. That’s excellent news, especially since the first Halo missed out on the opportunity to get online with Xbox Live. The multiplayer in Halo was still the best non-online stuff around, and so WITH Xbox Live, Halo 2 will have no trouble being a mega hit. And what’s more, is that you won’t have to shoot fellow Spartans in multiplayer, when you will have Covenant vs. Human Battles. Hopefully a ranking system will apply, where one starts as a Marine or Jackal, and can upgrade to Spartan or Elite! While this particular aspect has not been confirmed, leveling up is a likely addition.
All told, Halo 2 seems like it will surpass Halo in every regard, and Bungie has pulled all the stops. However, a year is a year, and with over year of production time remaining, a date has not been chosen. Luckily for the game, Bungie has adopted an, ‘its done when its done!’ attitude. However for the jaded fans waiting with baited breath, it leaves them a whole load of time to ponder. What happens between now and then hopefully will not delay the game any further, because I am ready to play right now!!