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

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More in this Series
 Written by GT Staff  on November 10, 2004

Special: So, the ninjas really are on fire!!!

We sat and waited. We went out into the dark and proudly took our place amongst the nerds and geeks. We beheld the magic hour of 12 midnight, and we walked out of our respective gaming stores with the Holy Grail in our hands ? Halo2. What do we think? Read on for various first impressions from the editors?

Nick Doukas
Well, what can I say? I was home from the store by 12:20, and popped my copy into the disc tray. Moments later I was online, fragging my buddies and marveling at the goodness that is Halo 2. In a word ? stunning. From the gorgeous alien vistas, to the unbelievably deep multiplayer options and excellent net code, Halo 2 truly is something special. Bungie has managed to put the Live interface of virtually every other game out there to shame, while also crafting an incredibly fun, fast paced shooter that all titles should aspire to. Amazing vehicles, top notch physics, phenomenal weapons ? it's all there. Multiplayer will keep you busy until?well?.forever.

As for the campaign - So far, it's an incredible thrill ride, full of intense battles, excellent friendly and enemy AI, stunning graphics, a cool story, and everything you could ask for in a sequel. The lighting, colors, intensely detailed normal mapping, and gorgeous bloom effects make Halo 2 look unlike any other game out there. Slight graphical glitches aside, this game is a visual and aural masterpiece. Excuse me while I go back to playing?.

Troy Matsumiya
A month ago I wrote a column entitled, ?What If Halo 2 Sucks?? in which I played devil's advocate and questioned whether Halo 2 could live up to the overwhelming hype and fanatic expectations; I also promised that if it could, I would happily eat my words.

Now that I have the game in hand, I only have one question: do you serve red or white wine with crow?

Simply put, Halo 2 is good. It's not perfect ? there are several flaws, albeit minor, that dull the shine a little ? but overall, it is a remarkable achievement. I will leave it up to my colleagues to talk about the beautiful eye-candy graphics, the amazing music, and the exciting multiplayer action. Instead, I want to talk about the little details that will make you go, ?Cool!?

From the lengthy cinematic opening videos worthy of a Hollywood summer blockbuster, to the Half-Life-like beginning, Halo 2 single player grabs your attention right from the start and doesn't let go. But what really impressed me is the multitude of multiplayer options at your disposal. There are seven multiplayer gametypes (all of the originals plus two new ones: Assault, where you have to plant a bomb in the enemy base; and Territories, a Battlefield 1942-like mode where you have to capture and control map points) each with many variations, including four-team CTF. Even better is the greater flexibility and options available for you to create your own unique custom variations ? but unfortunately, on Xbox Live you have to wait to download the host's customized gametype, which is irritating since you can't jump into the game right away.

Your character's armor and trim can be customized from a palette of 18 different colors, and you can add one of 63 unique uniform emblems with 30 different backgrounds. In other words, no two Spartans or Elites will look alike, making your character really feel like it is yours.

Similar to many World War II shooters, you are awarded medals at the end of each multiplayer match recognizing special achievements like melee kills, multiple kills, sniping proficiency and so on. But the coolest feature of all is something you can't even see on your TV. The website keeps the stats of every player for every game, allowing you to not only look up the results of any match, but view the position of each kill and death on specific maps from multiple angles. Very cool indeed!

On the flip side, there are a few things that I don't like: Master Chief's jump is much higher, but it feels too slow and ?floaty?; lag doesn't appear to be an issue on Xbox Live (so far) but I noticed some flaky voice communication issues where people were cutting in and out; and I'm disappointed at the ?push to talk? feature for private team communications. But I will reserve final judgment on everything until after I complete the game.

They say that the first impression is the most important, and on that front, Halo 2 has succeeded so far.

Leigh Culpin
As I held my shiny silver package in my hands (which required well over an hour of standing outside and waiting) I felt like a 10 year old kid who had just received a gift of great mystique and unimaginable wonder. I finally had it. I'd managed to avoid most of the hype surrounding Halo 2 ? hype never does much of anything but create unrealistic expectations and sell games. Holding the box in my hands, however, seemed to energize me, brining my thoughts to the first time I played the first Halo. I didn't even own an Xbox at the time ? I went to my local video store and rented a ?Box and Halo, had a buddy over and we played it for 2 days straight. Even after finishing the game numerous times I still felt the urge to rent it again and again, so I ended up buying the console and the game before I spent the same amount of cash on just renting the two.

So last night at a little after 1am me and that same buddy get home, momentarily admire the silver casing, glance at the manual, and throw in the disc. And I have to be honest. I was disappointed.

Let me get one thing off my chest ? Halo 2 IS NOT a bad game. I'm not going to be the fool that says it sucks, because it doesn't. But it does still need some work, and worst of all, it doesn't really FEEL like Halo.

The menu's (in my opinion) aren't as nice, the new Master Chief model doesn't look as good, the normal mapping is over the top and not particularly well done, and the game has graphical glitches everywhere ? pretty much all of the cutscenes and even in game occasionally. The weapons are mostly different, and not necessarily for the better ? the human weapons now feel more like true military weapons than the fantastic ones that exist only in the world of the first Halo, and while they are pretty damn cool, they don't have the same feel. The Halo feel. Neither does the game play ? enemies are more plentiful but significantly easier to dispose of, making what is occasionally more frenzied battle but not more frantic; again, while it's very fun, it just doesn't feel like the first Halo. It doesn't feel like a sequel, it feels like a game with some of the same characters and name but with few other similarities.

Maybe it's how they turned down all the shine ? maybe it's because I've spent most of my time playing co-op so far and the graphics were toned down a bit for that. But either way, I'm not half as impressed as I was with the first game.

Now, the experience is significantly more advanced, both technically and visually, and truth be told the further you progress into the game the more it feels like the first. I'm still not completely satisfied, but I ended up crashing at 6 this morning to get some sleep for work so I haven't played through the whole thing yet. These ARE just first impressions. They just aren't the first impressions I was hoping for.

If nothing else the multiplayer will be technically excellent this time around, though it still remains to be seen how Halo-like. There's no assault rifle (or rather it's been modified into the battle rifle). The pistol no longer has zoom. The rockets seek; the needlers don't suck. You can wield two different weapons at one time as well as holding another. There's even energy swords. But does it feel like Halo? No. Not yet. Hopefully by the time I've finished it with my friend and finished it again by myself it will.

So is it a good game? Yes. Would I score it high? Yes. But would I feel good about it? Most certainly not, at least not at the stage of the game where I am right now.

Editors note ? Leigh, come and play some multiplayer with us. I'm sure you'll rate it top-notch.

Ryan Genno
We all waited a long time for this, and here it is. ?Halo 2 is finally here!? After standing in my first 30 minute line up for a video game and 80 bucks later, I was finally able to get my Limited Edition copy of Halo 2. Was it worth it? You better believe it was! The Limited Edition has a bonus DVD with some well done behind the scenes information, as well as a cool looking silver case. As for the game itself, if you are a fan of the first Halo you need to get part 2! The game's story expansion, online features, and new weapons and vehicle upgrades just have to be experienced. Even the new multi-player stages have secrets to unlock.

If for some reason you didn't like the first Halo, then this isn't going to change your mind since both games are still very similar in design. My friend and I tried the game's new Co-op mode and the first level quickly got us frustrated by the overly dark backgrounds (there is a Flash light option but it only lasts a few seconds so you have to keep turning it on) and I personally hated the fact that the game still has no map. Sure, shooting a bunch of alien invaders is still lots of fun and the graphics are incredible, but it wasn't quite perfect. Still despite a few minor issues here and there, you would be a fool to miss this game.

Glenn Wigmore
Wow? is it finally here? Well, if my first taste of the most anticipated Xbox game in 2004 is any indication, Halo 2 is here to stay in a big way.

Sampling the multiplayer aspects first was a bit of twist for me, but man was it worth it. The Halo 2 Xbox Live experience easily ranks up there with my top XBL moments; it's really a true synergy of blood, sweat, and good ol' Bungie know-how. Whether you're playing a dramatic CTF game on Coagulation or a frantic slayer match on Ascension, Halo 2 on XBL delivers like no other before ? and that's the straight truth. Lag? What is this ?lag? you speak of? Halo 2 has never heard of such things (well, at least very little) and gives a true example of what can be done with optimizing an experience so that you make small compromises in order to make the game extremely playable. Honestly, most of the games feel like they're over a LAN ? it's that smooth.

Dual wielding really does add a lot to the strategy of the Halo universe, as you now have to manage your two-weapon inventory and decide whether to go with grenades or take advantage of the added punch that dual wielding provides. It's really quite seamless in its integration and this really is evident once you play the game.

But when I think of gameplay, there's nothing cooler than boarding a vehicle (any vehicle is susceptible to this tactic). The image of an elite grabbing onto the bottom of a banshee and being dragged through the sky before he swings up and boots the pilot out is just? well, it really speaks for itself.

Truly, this is the tip of the iceberg for this exceedingly impressive title.

Closing Impressions
There you have it, our first impressions. So, there may be some dissention in the ranks regarding the details, but we all seem to agree on one thing: Halo 2 is good. In fact, it's very, very good. Some might say simply amazing. How will we finally score it? Stay tuned for our full Halo 2 review featuring all the editors coming soon. Until then, go play the game. Try and take a break every couple of days for food and rest though, ok?

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