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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

Xbox One X
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4

Game Profile
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-16
November 09, 2004

Halo Wars 2

Halo 5 Guardians

Halo: New 343 Industries Game

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Reach

More in this Series
 Written by Nick Doukas  on September 10, 2004

Updated Multiplayer Preview: The best game of 2004 ? even though it's not out yet?

Halo 2 has achieved legendary status already (no, that's not supposed to be a pun, but it works, doesn't it?). The single player campaign ? as seen in the 8-minute demo from E3 2003 ? looks to take the story and characters of Halo to the next level, as everything from enemy AI to the graphics engine has obviously been lovingly overhauled during the past 2 years or so. However, the most anticipated aspect of Halo 2 is the Xbox Live support, and now that major details have finally been revealed, I'm here to tell you ? Halo 2 will kick your ass all the way up around your ears, and then pour some mud down your shirt just for good measure. Read on to see why Halo 2 Live means no sleep for at least six months?.

Bungie recently did their first real world test of Halo 2's net code. Utilizing Microsoft employees as guinea pigs (hey, where do I sign up for that? It's a lot better than getting your privates hooked up to a car battery in the name of science), they sent out demo discs (which had to be returned after the experiment was over) and allowed some very lucky folks to taste the sweetness that is Halo 2 online play.

The total number of maps is still unknown, however, the ones we know about at this point are:

Ivory Tower ? A huge courtyard centered around muli-layered levels that feature access through lifts, as well as stairs, Ivory Tower looks like it will be one hell of a frag fest. The Plasma Sword and Rocket launcher spawn in the courtyard, so expect plenty of frenzied firefights as your opponents flood the area (another bad pun) looking to get their hands on either one of these babies.

Lockout ? A small map that features a multi-tiered concrete structure set against a rocky cliff. It's interesting to note that the structure was built by the Forerunners, the enigmatic beings who constructed Halo itself. The building is a central tower with levels connected by bridges, as well as ladders and ramps. This map also features energy beams that can be stepped into by the player, who'll then be carried up the stream. You can even fire your weapon while in transit!

Burial Mounds ? A moderately sized map that features a military base in the middle of a desert, surrounded by huge pieces of metal imbedded into the landscape. Teams assault the base, or defend it, and the rocky, barren areas bring to mind Planet P from Starship Troopers. Fitting, since Halo is obviously influenced by that film.

WaterWorks ? A huge, hemmed in area with each team's base at opposite ends of the map. The entire thing is set within a huge cavern, and features a tremendous alien machine in the center. Capture the flag should be the preferred gametype on this board.

Midship ? Featuring many long and winding passages, as well as platforms, this level looks quite cool, as it all takes place inside a massive Covenant cruiser. There's a central control room in the middle of it all, so expect some nice choke points at the entranceways.

And finally ?

Zanzibar ? Bungie demonstrated this level at E3 2004. A huge power substation set back from the shoreline of a wide beachhead, it features an assault team spawning on the sand, with a Warthog and two Ghosts at their disposal. This is described as a "hard insertion tactical drop" by the developers. The Elites must guard the base, which features several access points, the most obvious being a massive door that can be breached if the Spartans can get inside and release the lock. Once that's done, vehicles can be driven straight into the main courtyard for an easy flag snatch. The teams have 3 minutes to either get the flag, or hold off the assault. The substation features mounted miniguns, as well as strategically placed weapons. A good midfield defense ? best mounted by a sniper ? is key to holding the station. The base features some cool secrets, but I'll let you figure those out for yourself.

Now, as far as the actual gameplay goes, it looks nothing short of astounding. Graphically, the Zanzibar level looks amazing, with clean, sharp textures and stunning detail. The character models, weapons, vehicles, and environmental effects all look beautiful, and Halo 2 looks to stand tall as the best the Xbox has to offer.

You'll be able to knock an opponent from a Ghost and steal his ride (the animation looks perfect), but be careful, because your enemy can do the same to you. All the vehicles are destructible, and you can blow the fins off a Ghost, or blast the tires out from under a Hog. Eventually, the ride will finally blow, and the secondary explosion can easily kill an unwary adversary. The new Warthog comes with a mounted rocket launcher (with unlimited ammo) while the Ghosts and Banshees feature the speed boost. You can use this to rocket away from ? or to - an area with lightning speed. The handheld rocket launcher has a new "lock on" that allows you to sight a target, wait until the reticule turns red, and fire the now "seeking" missile, which will track the unlucky object of your affection and demolish them. The physics are spot-on, and you can even bank a rocket off of a cliff face. The resulting shock wave can toast anything in the immediate vicinity. Sweet.

You'll also be able to wield dual weapons in Halo2 multiplayer (just walk over to the secondary weapon you want, and press Y), and the Bungie demonstration featured a Spartan with an SMG in one hand and a Needler in the other. Firing both at the same time utterly destroyed an Elite, toasting his shields and then finishing him off with the ballistic weapon. Very cool stuff indeed. In addition, there are many new weapons in Halo2 (as well as some old favorites). These include the Brute-Shot, (a Covenant grenade launcher that pumps out grenades in an arc, perfect for getting that Elite hiding behind a wall), and the Covenant Beam Rifle (basically a sniper rifle with various zoom modes. The Covenant Carbine is essentially the alien's answer to the human's assault rifle. The human pistol (now called the Magnum) has been modified, and is now slightly less powerful and lacking a zoom. The assault rifle now features a zoom and burst fire, so it looks like the team has managed to balance all of the old - and new - weapons well.

You can customize your online warrior with either an Elite skin, or a Spartan skin, and you'll then be able to take it further with personalized color choices. You can mix and match numerous hues, as well as utilize different emblems and backgrounds for a unique look.

Halo 2 multiplayer games will work as follows: You have 2 choices ? arranged games (which are unranked) or ranked, match-made games. Surprisingly, in either mode, there's no way to guarantee who hosts. Yes, even if you create the room. Bungie has implemented a system that detects the person with the strongest connection, and automatically switches hosting chores to them. Even if the host leaves the game, the duty will fall to the next best connection, so you can keep playing all night.

Arranged games will allow you to have control over every nuance of the experience. You can choose gametype, as well as the weapons, vehicles, and every other variable imaginable.

Matchmade games will remove stat-whoring from Halo2 (or at least, we hope so). You have very little control over parameters in matchmade games. No weapon choices, no special rules, and no way to control who you play with. This will hopefully prevent players from stacking rooms with n00bs, or killing their friends (who just stand there and let them) to improve their rankings.

Final Thoughts
I don't need to tell you that Halo 2 is one of the most anticipated titles in gaming history. A huge part of that anticipation is the online play, and from what we've seen so far, it looks likely that it will surpass all expectations. Expect to be up all night for months when Halo 2 finally releases on November 9th. Look for more details here at Gaming Target as they become available, and polish up that armor. It looks like you're really going to need it this time out.

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