Updated: 12/7/04; 11:05:02 AM.
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Friday, November 12, 2004

I took yesterday off and immersed myself in Halo 2. Some thoughts:

  • "Heroic" (hard) difficulty is pretty challenging; "Legendary" would probably scrape out my brain. I'm surprised I haven't wussed back out to "Normal" yet, but I think I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the campaign.
  • Playing on "Heroic" means I regularly get my butt kicked if I just charge into a room and start firing. This has caused me to discover that, this time out, a lot of the set piece rooms have lots and lots of paths through them. There was one room on the first space station that was giving me a lot of trouble -- my initial entry point had a fairly covered approach, but I couldn't do enough damage to the Elite on the other side before I had to wait for my (and his) shields to recharge. Then I realized that I could actually get across the room to another side passageway that led up to where he was, and that I could do this without him noticing I've done it, and that I could club his sad self with the extremely handy B-button melee attack. This was pretty satisfying once I figured it out.
  • Loading is super fast this time out. There's no in-between-chapters loading. There are cinematic between chapters (but also sometimes cinematics within chapters, I think), so sometimes I only realize it was a chapter change when I go back and look at the "start from this chapter" menu. This does a good job in sucking me into playing more.
  • The core gameplay is clearly still Halo. This is good; I jumped right in. For some reason, I'm enjoying the vehicle sequences more this time -- either they tweaked it, or I'm used to how it works this time out. There have been a couple of aerial dogfights that were freaky fun and felt seamlessly integrated.
  • On that note, I'll just sing a short paean to why Halo's mechanics rock (free verse). (Cough cough)
    Halo's me-chanics rooo-ooock because you have to ma-ake choices
    about which two guns you wa-ant to ho-old and don't just have the
    in... fin... ite... in-ven-toooory.
    Al...so... the recharging shi-eld means you don't have to
    ra-tion-alize dropping magic health
  • Taking over enemy vehicles is fun.
  • Multiplayer rocks, but being the party leader sucks when you don't know any of the maps or mission types :). However, all game types we tried last night were lotso fun. We played team slayer, and jch, peterb, and I ran around in a Warthog for five minutes, being unstoppable death machines. Hoo baby. Also, there's a game type called "Ninjanaut" -- what's not to love?
  • The aesthetics are still Halo 1, but the graphics are notably (and subtly) improved. There's a lot of blurring and furryness and high dynamic range (bright shiny reflections) this time out. It kind of makes it more clear that XBox + TV is not the ideal delivery ground for really really nice graphics, sadly, but it still looks cool. The level-of-detail adjustments seem more aggressive this time out -- you see some LOD popping in the cinematics, for example. And they went to town on the craggy bump-mapped faces; the admiral at the start actually looks a little ... wrong .. because of it. But the eyes are shiny and impressive.

Upshot: single player campaign fun and has a wide variety of stuff to do. Multiplayer works great and has a huge number of game types. Given that there's a "plant the bomb" gametype, Counterstrike may finally be dead (although there's still something to be said for "if you die you're out for the round" mechanic of CS, as peterb points out).  11:07:16 AM  (comments []  

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Last update: 12/7/04; 11:05:02 AM.