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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Microsoft
DEVELOPER:
Bungie
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-16
RELEASE DATE:
November 09, 2004
ESRB RATING:
Mature


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Halo 2
Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on May 04, 2005

Specials: Changes, changes and more changes ? that's the name of the game with the autoupdate and map pack DLC for Halo 2.


Halo 2 has one hell of a multiplayer mode, no doubt about it. However, nothing is absolutely flawless, not even Bungie Studios' epic sci-fi sequel. For this reason, Bungie has recently released an autoupdate and the first wave of DLC to appease the hordes of gamers who still frequent the online arena of Halo 2.

The autoupdate's purpose was twofold: to fix several bugs/cheats/issues with the online experience; and to tweak certain weapons in order to balance out gameplay and make various combos more viable. Towards these ends, the autoupdate seems to have done the job, as the online experience is much fresher due to the absence of many annoying exploits, and combat strategies changing considerably due to the weapon refit.

On top of the update, four new maps have been released for download (2 free, 2 pay), and these will be implemented into matchmaking in the near future (the pay maps will be placed into a mode called ?team preview.?) For the moment, you can try these maps out to get used to the feel, or play them in custom game types.

The Autoupdate

One of the main problems with Halo 2s online component is? heh, was? the cheating/glitching and all that jazz. It's good to see that fraudulent players can no longer grab a flag through a wall, nor can they ?dummy? glitch someone inside your base to take a flag. Once a boon to griefers everywhere, these hair-pulling exploits are nowhere to be found after the update, and you and your friends will be able to play matchmaking with a bit more ease. Additionally, the silly ?tie? glitch that gave red team the win after a game is gone, and soon the sudden death timer will even be removed on assault variants (once the playlists are updated shortly).

Of course, ?standbying? has been a real problem for competitive online gamers, and now it has been addressed. Not only will the stats be nullified in a game featuring this modem-abusing glitch, but offending users will also be temporarily (and possibly permanently) banned from Halo 2 matchmaking. So, this means that you may still see some people teleporting around once in a while, but you can rest easy as those people will not gain anything from this exploit, and they won't be on Live for a while.

The changes in the weapon balance are for the better, in my opinion, and it seems that Bungie wanted to give gamers more options when dealing with adversaries. Previously, you had plasma pistol/battle rifle, snipers, and certain dual wielding as the desirable choices, but now you'll have uses for many more guns as significant changes have been made to certain weapons. The battle rifle seems to have been given a boost, which is tolerable since the plasma pistol isn't quite as effective. The human pistol isn't quite as deadly, but can still be a formidable dual wield with an SMG. The Brute Shot is actually quite useful now, thanks to the grenade rounds being more potent, and it's bladed scythe weapon providing quicker melee kills.

Of course, the Brute Shot grenade rounds and melee damage isn't the only change to those two areas, as grenades in general have been given a boost, and melee attacks are more viable. The end result of this is that holding only one gun and using grenades can be quite effective now, and you won't (necessarily) get steamrolled by some dual wielding adversary. All it takes is about half a clip of SMG and then one melee to take someone down now, which gives close encounters a whole new feel. Grenades also make hallway confrontations much different, as both plasma and frags will have a larger blast radius and do more damage in general. Grenades can get annoying in certain spots on certain maps, but usually it makes sense in relation to the game now, as you'll have likely put yourself into a difficult spot (on Headlong or Zanzibar, for instance) and will have to deal with the consequences.

Overall, these changes to weapons and game exploits are more than welcome, and even provide Halo 2 with more of a ?Halo 1? feel, especially with the grenade and melee upgrades. Of course, the autoupdate was only part of what was changed?

The New Maps

Containment is the first map you'll get in the ?free? download from Bungie, and it will be well suited for some matchmaking, in particular Big Team Battle. Covered in snow and filled with caves, Containment features a mix of medium-range base combat and open-field mayhem. Each team will have a large multi-tiered base, and a giant trench running down the middle of the battlefield will link these structures. Some notable features about the battlefield include scorpion tanks, several rocket launchers, and plenty of invisibility and overshields. I don't think this map is quite big enough in some respects (definitely not like Sidewinder, like some thought it might be), but it will provide some fresh gameplay to the Big Team Battle matchmaking. Props to Bungie on the creative gate/ramp structure in each base, too?. way cool.

Warlock is the second map of the ?free? download, and it pays homage to the Wizard map from the first Halo. All bases (red, blue, green, yellow) are completely symmetrical, and each features identical weapons around it. This is something I really dug, as each base has one extra SMG, a shotgun, a battle rifle, a plasma rifle, and some grenades ? that's it. I think this is great, as there will be no rockets, swords or snipers to mess with the matches, and you can bet flag running across this extremely small map will be very intense. Of note on this map are the great water, color, and lighting effects, all of which are top notch.

The first of the ?premium? maps is Sanctuary, and this map reminded me quite a bit of Foundation, both because of its color scheme and symmetry. Each base has a stairway leading up to it, but there are also side structures and a centre area for duelling over the sword. The whole arena is made of stone and mortar, and it has an ancient feel that was employed in some of the campaign levels. I think the weapon loadout is fairly good in this map, much like Warlock, and it will lead to competitive duelling, rather than weapon whoring. Games of CTF and Slayer should provide an interesting romp, indeed.

Turf is the last map of the four, and it is part of the ?premium? download. While the map isn't quite the size I thought it would be, it does still provide one hell of a fight, especially for smaller (4 on 4) conflicts. Set in an urban city environment similar to ?Outskirts? from the campaign, this map features large swinging doors, tight alleyways, a crashed scarab, and a seemingly out-of-place warthog. Snipers are included on this map, and the can be entertaining on the rooftops (of which you can prance along?. Huzzah!!), but they don't totally get in the way or lend themselves to whoring. CTF, assault, and territory variants on this map are great, as the warthog and scarab (it's a base) both come into play. In fact, there's nothing really better than crashing through the swinging doors with the warthog. Be prepared for close-quartered action, but don't be surprised if this map becomes a new favourite.

I'm ultimately happy with the new maps, and I feel that they all add something decent to the online aspect of Halo 2. It does seem that Bungie may be saving the best for last (the future 5 maps), but this is a good start, to be sure. On top of this, all maps will be free at some point so holdouts need not worry about being snubbed forever.

Outlook

The autoupdate and the new maps have added quite a bit to the Halo 2 experience and there's still more to come. Not only will more maps be released in a couple of months, but the playlists will also be revised (very shortly) to feature some new maps and gametypes, and to just generally freshen up the order of things. It did take far too long, but Bungie has delivered some welcome and intriguing changes to Halo 2, and most seem to be for the better.



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