Sector 7 → Halo 2 Multiplayer: A Fresh Perspective
Halo 2 Multiplayer: A Fresh Perspective

Posted: May 11, 2004 |  Printable Version | Rating: 8.61 out of 10 (46 total votes)
Author: Bongo | Back to Article Listing
Get out from under that rock...

As I'm sure all of you know, this is the week that gaming itself lives for. The Holy Grail. A moment where fellow gamers and media journalists bond together in comradship, making the long trek across the country in a small, smelly, and poor ventilated car to the City of Angels -- the home of E3. Also known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E + E + E = E3), it is the event at which most developers in the gaming industry gather to show the world their newly developed technologies and products. As far as expectations are concerned, this year's expo is arguably the largest one yet, with massively-hyped titles such as Half Life 2, Doom III, and World of Warcraft all making their debut to the world under the same roof. However, none of this can compare to the sheer excitement and euphoria that has been generated by one of the largest high-anticipated sequel in decades -- Halo 2. Spectators have walked away visibly shaken and speechless from Bungie's booth, and now, for those who unfortunately could not make it to E3, we will be analyzing what elements will make this the best game of 2004...

The Armor
Everything we said was right.

Funny, this must be the third time a member of our staff has made a comment over what features the Halo 2 armor will have and what customizability the player with have over it. Regardless, the Halo 2 videos from E3 are a confirmation of what we have been speculating- custom design. Although it appears as though the general design of the human armor will remain the same, an announcer at the presentation did mention that the suits will feature "armor schemes and custom decals". One would assume this is possible for the Elites as well, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, the possibilities that this kind of custom online persona presents are endless, with decals being used to express personal interests, affiliations, or even status.

Unfortunately, and perhaps even strangely, Halo 2 will not be featuring battle scar marks on the player's character. While the prospect of inflicting damage to a player and actually seeing the after-effects of that damage was certainly exciting, it appears Bungie has decided against it. One may explain this as a means of reducing the online lag that the battle scars would produce, but I find this hard to believe considering the exceptions Bungie has made to destructable terrain (I'll be getting to that shortly...). Not all is lost, however; if Halo 2's modding community is anything like the original, I could very well see ambitious fans manipulating the Custom Decal system as a means of building custom textures.

Vehicular Manslaughter!
Get into my car...

Just as in the original, vehicles will once again play a vital role in any battlefield scenario in Halo 2. From what we've seen from the E3 multiplayer demo, the presence of the Human "Warthog" and Covenant "Ghost" are a certainty for when the game ships November 9th (2004). It would be safe to assume that the Warthog will have varients on what kind of armanent it will carry, based on inferences made from Halo PC and Halo 2 previews. What is noticable is the amount of detail that these vehicles now feature, with distorted waves from the Ghost's stationary hover, dust trails from the Warthog, and even a blinding burst of light from the Ghost's "boost". However, and I must be honest, the new addition of destructable vehicles is just damn cool. Period. Not just destructable in terms of wimpy smoke emissions before the machine explodes, but destroyable sections of a vehicle. Concentrated fire on a vehicle will damage (or even blow off) that part of the frame, resulting in spell-binding particle effects and reduced vehicle performance. Equally as interesting is the ability to "hijack" enemy controlled vehicles, such as the "leap, kick, and grab" featured in the single player movie a few months ago. This is demonstrated in great detail in the multiplayer video, and is a welcome sigh of relief; no longer we need fear those who would run us over without opposition.

Battleground: Earth
Epic battles deserve equally epic maps.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the original Halo multiplayer was the map design. Although there were a few notable maps (Bloodgulch was always a favorite), many of them were either very simple or just not large enough. Bungie is apparently aiming to correct this in the sequel, as is evident in the E3 test map entitled "Zanzabar", a beach-head style map located on the continent of Africa; the map itself is quite reminiscent to "The Silent Cartographer". The level of detail --no pun intended-- is astonishing, as is the animations that are encorporated into so many parts of the architecture and design. Crashing waves are accompanied by the spray of ocean water, strange mechanical turbines compress and contract as a large wheel rotates against the glaring sunlight of the detailed horizen, all the while in the presence of vicious battles between players.

The map is designed superbly, and is clearly orientated for a Capture the Flag-style match. The Human forces begin it what looks like a beachhead assault, surrounded by very primitive and meager stone fortifications. Covenant troops/players have infiltrated and assimilated a large human structure, and are now using it as a base of operations. The base features several fixed implacements, implying that the Covenant are most likely on the defensive for this scenario. However, the base features many points of entry (Some better defended than others), ensuring that a Human's difficult mission doesn't become an impossible one. Furthermore, the map is riddled with interactive devices, allowing for things such as the lowering of drawbridges and the opening of critical locations. The designers have also implemented the ability to destroy and deform parts of the terrain. Judging from the E3 video, one can assume that battle scars on the terrain will exist for a remarkably long time. Explosives appear to have a devastating effect on the landscape (pay special attention to the debris during the Warthog demonstration), and even the explosion of vehicles appears to leave large craters in the ground-- adding even more options for snipers in need of a new nest.

Weapons of Mass Destruction
More bams, bigger whams...

Many Halo original veterans can testify to the fact that some of the weapons in Halo 1, the pistol and plasma pistol for example, were just too overbalanced. By overbalanced I mean that when compared to other guns such as the Assault Rifle, these weapons were unquestionably superior. In Halo 2, Bungie has decided not to decrease the power of its weapons, but rather increase them in power until each is unique and effective. As far as weapons go, the selection appears to have only changed slightly, but that is not to say the guns themselves have not undergone some modifications. The needler, which was demonstrated at E3, is no longer a worthless means of telling players where you are (aka. the slow moving "tracers"), but is now a lightening fast and powerful tool of destruction. The same can be said for the SMG (the "new" assault rifle), which appears to be capable of inflicting a great amount of damage very quickly-- one can quickly imagine the possibilities of duel-weapon weilding. In addition to fixing problems that plagued the first game (rockets can now actually hit things thanks to lazer targeting), a new emphasis has been put on melee weapons with the addition of the new Covenant energy sword. Bungie certainly has more surprises in store, but what these are remains to be seen...

A Note About Spawning
We all need to get back in the game somehow.

While watching the E3 multiplayer video, I quickly became aware of how different the spawning in Halo 2 is when compared to the original. For one, the characters spawned much faster than they did in the original, with approximately a 3 second respawn time. This may be part of the game settings however, which might explain why the opposite teams spawned so close together. Unless of course, we are allowed to have mixed teams of Covenant and Humans, but I doubt it. Being an avid Battlefield: 1942 player, I began to wonder whether these spawning areas were the result of a level that was manipulated for the E3 event alone, or perhaps the possibility of being able to choose specific spawn points. Bungie has said in its weekly updates that they have been "redesigning respawn methods"-- could this be it?

Until November 9th
Another delay, but is anyone surprised?

Unfortunately, gamers everywhere will have to wait until November 9th, 2004 before they can get their hands on Halo 2's plastic (or metal) case. The delay should not come as a surprise for most gamers (It was delayed an entire year in 2003), but it is non-the-less frustrating. Until then, all we can do is wait, drool, and occupy our minds with the thought that when it comes out, we will be happy. So very, very happy.

~By Bongo
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