Available :November 9, 2004

Halo 2 Multi-Player First Impressions © Microsoft Game Studios
By: Thomas Cap


In the year 2004, on September 21st, the incredible, the simply unbelievable happened: I enjoyed playing a console shooter. Even casual followers of my work are aware that, while I conserve and protect my ever growing collection of console titles, yet there is one major genre that never stayed in my console collection: shooters. A gamepad will never be able to replace my dear mouse and keyboard. So what caused me to waver and pick-up a controller and cause havoc among some fellow gamers? Well first of all: the location. Microsoft Austria invited a selected few to test out a beta version of an upcoming game of theirs. Second: the enemies, in this case fellow journalists, most of them from the competition – the perfect occasion to settle a few disputes...

And last but not least the game: who wouldn’t waver if he were given the chance to be one of the first to be part of a serious Halo 2 Multiplayer battle? Yeah, THE Halo 2...

Gentlemen, start your debuggers:

10 debug consoles, 10 TVs, 10 gamepads and a little over 10 journalists and representatives from Microsoft was everything needed for the first not-really-official Austrian Halo 2 Multiplayer battle.

To warm up, and give less console shooter experienced people like myself a chance, we played some 5on5 Capture the Flag on the Zanzibar map. Switching between playing the attackers or defenders we had the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the gameplay, something no trailer can offer you.

The first thing everyone noticed though is the undeniable leap the game made in the graphics department. Zanzibar is a perfect example. The attackers start on an extensive beach and before the defenders are in view they have to cross through a partly destroyed fortress that includes a gigantic rotor (in which the most observant of us soon found the well hidden but powerful plasma sword) to the actual fortress. At all times the environments were detailed and the graphics crisp and even with 10 players, hitting each other with everything they got, explosions rocking the place and warthogs and ghosts on the scene the frame rate never dropped a bit.

Gameplay in the year 2552:

In the actual gameplay department the possibility to wield two weapons at once had only a positive impact on the game though you obviously loose the ability to throw grenades for the extra firepower. The default pistol (and by the looks of it the “classic” assault rifle as well) had to make room for a small SMG that I in fact prefer (especially when dual-wielded) at this point in time. Of course a well-aimed jab with the plasma sword is second to none when it comes to “stylish” kills.

A few changes were made to the GUI. The health bar has totally disappeared and only the shield meter remained. Once it is drained you better start running because you can’t take much more damage and your shield needs a few moments to recharge.

Of course the classic elements of gameplay remain and a warthog with 3 Masterchiefs on-board is still very impressive to look at, especially when a well-aimed rocket blows them sky high. Beware: this time round you can also damage vehicles, distributing smoking wreckages across the landscape!

After 2 hours of one-flag CTF it was finally time to get down to business. Everyone for themselves, 50 frags the limit, and it was a real fragfest with an average survival time of 10 to 15 seconds per respawn.

After 10 minutes it was all over and yours truly – that’s me – somehow didn’t do too bad and, at least for the moment, could claim to be Austria’s Halo 2 MP co-champion!

Conclusion:

I won’t change my mind – shooters are best played using a mouse and a keyboard. But being able to play a fantastic game like Halo 2 and continuing to do so in the future is worth a sacrifice or two.


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