Halo 2

Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: May 31, 2007 (US), June 8, 2007 (EU)


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Xbox Preview - 'Halo 2' Part 2

by Inexhist on Sept. 18, 2004 @ 12:05 a.m. PDT

Halo 2 is a sci-fi FPS game that continues the story of the Master Chief, a genetically enhanced super soldier who is the only man who has successfully defied the Covenant, a coalition of alien races on a murderous march toward Earth.

Genre : Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: November 9, 2004

Pre-order 'HALO 2': Xbox

See 'Part 1' for a rundown of the available weapons ...

I have decided to write this journal of my experiences with a game that may or may not have been Halo 2. If it was Halo 2 it was without question an early beta version so it is entirely possible that many things have changed since. Now I can’t say one way or another if this is a preview of Halo 2, but if it is then I would expect that it’s jam packed with information that I would have gotten had I played the game. If I had played the game it would have been for 50 or so hours, maybe more, with a friend who may or may not have existed. If it was Halo 2 that I played for those many hours when I was playing a game that may or may not be Halo 2, then Halo 2 would without question be one of the best games I have subjected myself to in a long life of video game addiction. Please consider yourself adequately disclaimed and proceed to read the rest of my notes on this mystery game.

Chapter 4: Whatever happened to those GPS thingies anyway

Much like the original Halo and pretty much all video games it really does help to know how the stages work, so I started exploring the stages and taking notes all while dodging bullets, blades, and bombs. (By bombs I mean grenades, but grenades didn’t start with a ‘B’ and I had a whole…‘B’ thing going there.) It was sort of like Lewis and Clark only… with aliens, explosions, and plasma… and without the hot Indian chick… In fact now that I think about it, it’s really nothing at all like Lewis and Clark. Anyway I digress. Here are my notes on all of the stages that I managed to get my grubby little hands on.


Now based on the name and the design I initially assumed this was an alien space craft in some sort of a flying saucer design. However unless the aliens have really good autopilots and x-ray vision I can’t quite figure it out. Despite these minor nuances that really were hard to pay attention to in the midst of a heated battle, the stage is really well designed. It is the smallest stage I played on, however the size still felt larger than the smallest in the original Halo. It is complex with roughly three notable layers and many ledges in-between. The center of the stage has a platform that tilts like a multi-axis see-saw and the entire stage is peppered with strange alien devices that explode when they take enough direct fire (I know that if I was an advanced species I would be sure to keep as many highly explosive items laying around my spaceship too [Editor’s note: Hey! I keep high explosives on my spaceship all the time.]). The stage has a decent compliment of (primarily) alien weapons lying around and there is even a nicely hidden carbine tucked away. The weapons work well with the stage and I didn’t find myself longing for any of the weapons that I didn’t find on it. As to the strategic layout, there are a couple of decent sniper positions as well as a variety of paths to both of the side’s “bases”. Overall the design of the stage lends itself really well to all of the game types that I played on it and it was a fun, fast-paced, and high-action stage.


Anyone who has looked into Halo 2 before reading this article should have seen images of this stage as it was the first played, reported, and displayed. My lasting impression of this stage is somewhat akin to a hyper-speed siege of a castle. The stage seems without question to be geared towards team-flag and team-bomb games. There are two different sides you can start on - the beach side (offense) and the fort side (defense). The beach side starts with three vehicles at their feet -- two Ghosts and a Jeep -- and a number of other weapons sitting between them and their target. Their goal is to make their way into the center of the fort in order to steal the ever-coveted flag or plant the ever-dreaded flashy red ball of explodiness (technical term again). This might sound like a relatively simple task but it’s not, as the fort side has a very strong compliment of weapons and defensive positions including a rocket launcher and two turrets that eat people for breakfast. There are also only a handful of entrances which allow for concentrated defensive positioning. All in all, both sides have their work cut out for them. This stage also has some of the more interesting interactive environments. Sitting roughly dead center in the stage is a giant fan (Think of the biggest fan you can. No you are not thinking big enough… bigger than that, it’s quite a bit taller than the two story fort you’re attempting to siege/defend). This fan has very slow moving blades that you can stand on for a nice leisurely lift to the second story platforms (that just happen to conveniently connect to the defenders base). Once on this platform you get to the second of the interactive environmental pieces; a drawbridge-like item that can be lowered by firing a couple shots at an explosive panel. With a thunderous explosion the “bridge” falls into position creating a reverberating metallic ‘clang’ that can be heard throughout the stage (no sneaky ninja for you). From there we arrive inside the fort on the second floor where they keep the third of the interactive elements, a large button that opens the gate (look at that amazing security!). Once the gate is open the offense has a direct shot at the inside of the fort and can even get a vehicle in without too much trouble. This is a complicated but well-designed stage complete with sniper positions, places to grenade jump, and meat-grinding points of contention. This stage plays out in a very cinematic manner with all of the interactive environmental pieces and different paths for assault. There is nothing quite as fun as grabbing a Ghost and boosting around the bends, turns, and over the hills in an attempt to bum rush their base and make a beeline for the gate-opening panel so that the rest of your team can make a direct run for their wide-open defenseless front door.

Ivory Tower:

Intricate, circular, and medium in size this stage is visually appealing and well-made for both FFA and Team games. This stage was the first stage in which I really noticed how well the water effects were done and how cool the explosions looked when kicking up dirt and debris, mind you that these realizations were made while I was still grasping to the last fading lifelines of my silenced corpse that happened to be lying near the pool of water while grenades detonated all around. This stage is like an island resort – it’s complete with a waterfall, elevators, palm trees and explosive barrels. Now don’t get me wrong there is no actual island, more like a semblance of an island. There are three levels, with the top being a great offensive sniper position. Speaking of offense, that particular side starts near the elevator, allowing them three different routes towards the primary defensive position. The aforementioned sniper area is on top, the middle level connects to a ring that surrounds the center of the stage and provides a way to drop in on the position of the flag/bombing location, and the bottom area provides a generally circular route towards your objectives. This stage has the weapons placed in logical and useful positions. The sniper rifle sits in the sniper perch and the sword and rocket launcher require traveling across the open center area putting you at risk. There are a couple of shotguns sitting out to the sides and even a hidden carbine. For medium to small-sized team games this stage offers ultra-high-paced action as it’s a short run to either base from either starting position. This stage offers great fun no matter what your game is.


This cavernous stage is by far the largest I played. It actually seemed to be about twice as large as any stage in the original Halo. Sitting on opposing sides of a cavern are the bases, each fairly complex with multiple levels, defense turrets, vehicles, and a slew of weapons. Sitting between the two bases is a large piece of machinery that towers from the bottom of the stage to the top. This is the only stage that I played where the Banshee was available and it makes sense as no other stage has the same sort of ceiling height as this one. Speaking of vehicles it was also the only stage with the tank on it, which was without a doubt one of the most interesting tools for attacking the base at your disposal. Like all good caves this one is complete with very natural looking stalagmites and stalactites - the latter can even be blown off of the ceiling and dropped upon unsuspecting cave dwellers doing the kind of damage that you would imagine from a chunk of stone the size of a tank (can we say Covenant pancakes?). Just about every human weapon is available on this stage as are a couple of the more interesting alien options which makes for both strong close and strong ranged combat. This stage in all honesty tends to have slower paced action due to its overwhelming size, especially if you do not have a full roster of 16 players. However for 8vs8 team games it provides a lot of good opportunity for strategic planning and coordinated offense.


My time on this stage was very limited as it was only available to me for a day before I had to leave my secret underground cave of Halo 2 playing. If I were to try and summarize the design of this stage based on what I saw I would say “Flying base in the clouds with lots of platforms for no logical reason”. The stage is composed of roughly 3.5-4.5 buildings that are all of varying heights and vertical positioning with interweaving connecting ramps. This stage tends to become a veritable high-speed blender of explosive man-shredding death no matter what the game type was, the action all being forced into a fairly central area making for some of the largest piles of corpses I have seen (To be honest I cant think of any piles of corpses I have seen but if I had I am sure this would be among the biggest). From what I saw I would say this stage is most suited for small-sized games of either Team or FFA. The CTF games I played on it were fairly fun but extremely fast.

Summary of the stages:

Well now I have given you a brief but likely terrifying glimpse into my mind in regards to the few multiplayer stages I played. I must say that overall I was very impressed with the level designs and found them to be among the best multiplayer designs I have ever played. Now that I knew my way around it was time to get some wheels so I could cruise in style.

Chapter 5: My ride has all the “bling” yo

So I decided to start shopping for a new ride. I’ll begin with the similarities they all share. All of the vehicles are able to be taken apart piece by piece. (There is nothing quite like taking your rifle and stripping the wheels off of someone’s vehicle while they are still driving it.) Between the area specific damage and ability to be destroyed the vehicles seem far more realistic than ever before. I must say that watching a Ghost take a near blast from a rocket and go spiraling out of control before exploding in a glorious mass of flesh-shredding shrapnel is a beautiful thing indeed. Now each vehicle had some unique things to take note of, and I of course have taken said notes so here they are.


The Covenant must have felt the need for speed as they have installed turbo boosters into their vehicles which activated do not only greatly enhance the speed but also strip the vehicle of its ability to maneuver and fire. Now my personal experience with the boosters was that they were only useful when you had a long distance to travel, however I did not get into any real dogfights and they might have their merits under those circumstances. They also included automated barrel roll and back-flip functions which allow you to perform some enhanced evasive maneuvering. I imagine that these two maneuvers will also prove to be useful in dogfight scenarios which I never really managed to take part in. Otherwise the weapons on it worked very similarly to the first complete with the heavily damaging lobbed blobs of green goo. Ultimately it handles and flies in a very similar way to the original and the added options will likely make for some very interesting dogfights. There was one fairly entertaining use for the banshee that I must mention you could fly over your opponent’s vehicle and drop out in order to hoist them from their vehicle and steal it for yourself (Mid air banshee stealing can be quite the entertaining event if your ever bored. You just have to get you and a friend flying around attempting to steal each others banshee its particularly fun over bottomless pits weeeee.)


Aside from the booster upgrade that works exactly like the one on the Banshee this vehicle has remained largely unchanged from the original Halo. It remains a fast hovercraft that can strafe and has forward mounted plasma cannons. Like other vehicles it becomes hard to control as it takes damage and quickly can end up like riding a bicycle across ice (for those of you whom have not attempted this it sucks and hurts and gets cold very, very fast). Due to the fact that this has remained so similar to its predecessor I have not taken that many notes on it.


This vehicle again handles very much like the older one with a couple important additions. The first being the handbrake which provides the driver the opportunity to make much sharper turns and stops. The second being that the machine gun felt a lot more powerful than the one on the original Warthog, a nice improvement. Another thing to mention is that both passengers can fire now while the driver drives though that means any passengers including stowaways from the other team (Can you imagine driving while the guy sitting next to you is clubbing you with his gun?). The Warthog can be the king of capture the flag since the flag carrier can get in the passenger seat for a quick ride to their base. I think perhaps the Warthog was the most improved vehicle I used and was much more fun than its previous incarnation. Oops I almost forgot the best improvement of all they equipped the Warthog with a horn and not just any horn no sir they put the puniest sounding goofy little squeak of a horn they could on it. Nothing is as good as honking that puny little squeak of a horn while mow down a field of teammates.

Scorpion Tank:

Ok, I take back what I just said. I think the Scorpion Tank was perhaps the most fun vehicle to use now. There is a feature I have not mentioned prior to this which is the forced dismounting of the vehicles. That is to say that you now can leap up onto a vehicle and boot the driver out (as long as the vehicle isn’t moving too fast or you’ll end up stuck in the tread). On the other vehicles this feature is pretty cool as you get to see your character leap upon the side of the vehicle and kick/throw/eject the pilot from the driver’s seat before taking their place. On the tank it’s a different and slightly more… explosive matter, instead of trying to pull the guy out of the tank you just drop a happy little gift-wrapped grenade inside. Unless he evacuates the tank pronto you have yourself a brand new used tank complete with repainted interior. One other thing to note about the tank is that it moves MUCH slower. In fact it moves at about the same speed people run. It’s a strong vehicle but unless you have people with you to help protect you from rampant tank-mounting grenade throwers you might want to be cautious. Oh I suppose I should mention that unlike the rest of the vehicles this one cannot really be destroyed. Unfortunately while I was still toying around with the tank I was killed by a Covenant Elite in a pink uniform with a smiley face on his back. I was immediately intrigued and lost all interest in the vehicles in order to pursue the customization of my own character.

Chapter 6: Pink does NOT go well with a Covenant Carbine (also knows as the Lexicon of Options)

When you create your character you get the option to choose from being a Spartan or an Elite. You also get to choose your color, and let me tell you there is nothing quite like being a pink Spartan or Elite. Perhaps the best part is choosing your logo. There were only a few available in the version I played but one was a smiley face that was just too cool. Besides, super-secret ninja sources have led me to believe it may be possible to create your own logos in the final version. I hope that rumor turns out to be true because it would kick ass to be able to have a peace sign on my back while sending the corpses of my competitors flying about the room via rocket-powered explosives. The way your character looks, however, is far from the limits of the customization options in this beauty of a game. You get to alter the game types and choose what weapons are allowed or what weapons are not. There is nothing quite like the carnage that can be caused in a rocket-only match on Midship. There are also different modes for Team games such as: Two Flag where each team has a flag to defend; One Flag where one side tries defend their flag while the other attempts a race against the clock in order to retrieve the flag; and Assault where the goal is to bring a flashing red bomb into the enemies base, plant it, and keep them from disarming it for about a half minute. There are also options that change the way those games play such as touch return on the flag where if the owners of the flag come in contact with it, it automatically returns to its starting position, or no touch return where the opposite is the case and it just rests where it’s dropped till the offense picks it up again. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the options as they go on and on, however I was not able to access all of them in this version. What I can say for sure is to expect more options than a new car salesman would offer you in order to take away your every last penny. I have run out of clever segues [Editor’s Note: Long, long ago…], soooo… here is the next chapter!

Chapter 7: Human perceptions and subjective opinions


The character models took location-specific damage of sorts, and you could see scuffs and bullet holes in the armor which made them look like actual combatants instead of Barbie dolls. The area-specific damage on the vehicles was another good example and all of the things along those lines really helped to draw me in and eased the suspension of disbelief that we all must carry when we play video games. I do have a few complaints such as the carbine and its Screen-Overwhelming Glow of Blinding +1, but I am hoping those will be fixed before the game is released in its final form. The locations were beautiful and made sense both color-wise and even in the general design. The water was well-animated providing beautiful ripples and reflections and the dirt that kicked up whenever there was an explosion made me feel like leaping up and screaming “Save Private Ryan!” or some other drivel. When you take every little piece of this puzzle and put it together with 10 or so players all of a sudden you forget about your chores… your job… your plans… You forget about everything other than demolishing the opposition with every last weapon you can get your hands on. Visually the game was so immersive that I could have played it without sound and been fairly happy. That is a good thing too because sound was most likely the only real gripe I had about the game.


The statement I made previously could easily be mistaken as negative, but don’t get me wrong - the sound is generally just as good as every other part of the game. The majority of the weapons sound fairly realistic, the impacts have a nice crunchiness to them and the explosions have a deep bellowing boom. The exception to that would be that a couple of the guns seemed to sound a bit… wimpy, as though you fired off a couple of rounds from a pellet gun. One other thing I would have liked would be a touch more background noise of really just about any sort, be it a low 60 cycle hum of electronics or machinery or wind or anything. As it was I often felt like I was standing in an empty room firing guns at people (something I wish I got to do more often in all honesty). Again these few minor complaints I have made will hopefully be fixed before the final release as I played on a very early beta build. Oh gotta give a shout out to the voice chat since Halo 2 is online compatible it is also voice compatible which means proximity taunting. Yes that’s right you heard me correctly proximity as in the people you just tore down with the plasma sword lying at your feet can hear you call them countless names how fun is that. Oh and you also have team chat too for stragery.


My experiences with Halo 2 were wonderful and I expect the full version to be even better. The game isn’t a departure from the original but more of a realization as to the potential the original held. As such if you already liked Halo you should by all means love Halo 2 and perhaps even keep it next to your nightstand so you can sleep near it when it comes out. I also expect a lot of people who weren’t already indoctrinated to the world that is Halo to fall in love with this hot upcoming release. If I were able to rate this game based on this partial mutli-player-only build I would give this game a 9.5 or maybe a 10 but I can’t so you will have to wait for the full release to get a rating.

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