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November 09, 2004

Halo 2: First Look

I didn't think I'd be writing this early, but it turns out that I have a break at work. Yes, I'm at work.

I picked up my copy last night at EB Games in Torrance. I was 26th in a line of about 75. The headlines say that MS has already done 100 million worth of business. I have no doubts. I was going to wait actually, but last evening I saw my MS communicator show that a couple of my buddies were already online playing. I couldn't stand that kind of peer pressure. I felt midnight pass through the states like New Years Day.

I got back to the crib at 12:28am and popped the disk in calmly. I hate shrinkwrap like the next guy, but I wasn't going to do something stupid with my big knife. So I patiently created my profile, inverted my look and logged onto Live. As I expected, there were already people I knew online playing including eedad, my fearless clan leader. I decided to go the long way and start a new campaign offline.

The trailers pick up the story reasonably well. The head Covy is getting branded for goofing the Halo mission and the Master Chief is getting a medal for his participation in the same. We're in orbit. I basically played a couple deathmatches and CTF online for about half an hour last night and another 90 minutes or so to complete the first chapter last night and this morning.

The gameplay seems smoother and faster. I've been playing Black Arrow for the past few weeks and I can tell that my aim is a lot better than it has been. At Medium, the grunts and other aliens come and drop at a predictable pace. The opening is not quite as heartthumping as the first Halo but then again, I'm hardly the noob I was. I dual-weilded all the indoor battles and it's brilliant. With a couple of plasma rifles, the MC is about as deadly as any FPS character ever. It rather reminded me of Berserk mode in 'Brute Force', except that the two rifles fire independently. So you can go lefty or righty or both. It will take me a while to get used to the different combinations of dual-weilding, but it's really a great dimension to gameplay.

The headsup is disoriently different at first. It took me a long time to get used to looking for life bars in the bottom left instead of the top right. Also, in multiplayer I had voices coming out of the TV and the communicator. Furthermore you can really jump high in the new game. As I get used to these fundamental changes, Halo 2 should soon feel natural.

The AI is definitely improved. You can immediately see that when you get to do a little Warthogging. Let a Marine drive and ride shotgun. He'll drive you to the right places and with the gunner, get the job done even if you kick back and relax. I noticed a bit of a glitch in firing if the driver does a quick 180 - plasma goes in weird directions, and your range isn't that good, but shotty is good.

Recharging is quick. Not only your shields for the battle armor suit but for the big gun on the Scorpion. Spend all your time fighting and no time looking for health packs. Brilliant again.

The music is noticeably brighter and grungier. The earth city is very cool looking - concrete futuristic. The graphics are snappy and seamless. I actually started to get nauseous on one particularly up and downy part of the station in orbit. It's a lot crisper than the original, and I found myself making a lot more long-distance shots without zooming than I'd try in the original version.

New weapons. I don't know what their official names are but I like them. Plasma grenades seem a lot more powerful than before, whether they are or not, the explosions they make are a lot cooler looking. The minigun is very smooth and accurate. The bursty assault rifle seems a little weak, but it's actually pretty effective at knocking the sheilded Jackals off-balance.

The new Covy drop ships look vulnerable to big guns. The Scarab is ultra-cool. The hover-hooches are cool too. I've done the hijacking of a ghost. It's not hard at all. Secondary explosions haven't played a big role yet.

I stopped just at the incredibly wierd plot twist in the campaign, so I haven't gotten my hands on a sword yet. More later.

Posted by mbowen at November 9, 2004 11:36 AM

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