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Halo 2 Hands On

General Zot

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Hey Folks,


I figured starting a new thread with this info was the way to go. I don't want to spoil anyone's freshness by globbing up the other Halo thread, but figured there were some players here that want info above all else. I won't give away plot points on purpose, but sometimes to talk about what is new requires examples, which then gives a little spoiler. So be warned...





What you expect, excellent. Beautiful levels, maps, and the whole shebang. Sound is every bit as good as Halo 1. There is new music, but the "chanting" also returns. It's all good.



The Gameplay


I remember reading that Halo 2 was redesigned from the ground up. This really shows as soon as you start playing. The controls are 98% the same but they just have a slightly different feel. Not better, not worse, just not Halo 1. Master Chief jumps higher and a little slower in the air, I think it's for melee combat balancing (we'll get back to this later.) Stuff in the game world reacts to MC's influence a lot more. For example, while running towards a window in a waiting type area I ran into a couch, the impact sent the couch flying into and carrening off the back wall. Another level I threw a grenade at a bunch of covies next to a truck. They blew up, but the truck was also destroyed and lifted up and away from the explosion in a realistic fashion.


Dual weilding rocks, but oddly enough is not unbalancing. It seems to be most useful as a situational advantage rather than a mode of playing. Typically you have a main weapon in your right hand. If you want to pick up a 2nd weapon for the left hand, you just walk over it and press Y. As soon as you switch to your alternate gun, get in a vehicle, melee attack, almost anything MC will drop the left hand weapon. So you might pick up a 2nd weapon for a series of alley fights or such, but as soon as you need to pull out that sniper rifle or bust an elite in the chops it's gone. To tell the truth using one weapon with grenades is equally good, I usually switch to dual weild only when I'm low on grenades or know that I'll need hardcore close range firepower.


Melee combat is much bigger in H2. Not just because of the plasma sword, but just in general. A lot of the fights are much closer quarter than last time and being handy with the B button really helps. Be warned though, enemies are much better at using melee attacks than last time, staying too long in tight fights equals an MC beat-o-rama. The combo of dual weilding and more melee makes the action in H2 faster, tenser, and (feels) wilder.


The physics engine is cool in H2. There are levels where gravity changes halfway through and the game handles this without a hiccup. For example, in the first level you step out of the space station and take a spacewalk for a bit, then back in the station. Inside it's earth gravity/physics, outside you can jump 5-10x as high and your perception of up/down is all screwed up (hard to explain, but kind of a frame or reference issue. Is this piece of station I'm on moving up, or is that part ahead of me moving down? You have minimal frame of reference floating in space!)


One of the last bits that is interesting is that MC is weaker in H2. This is subjective as he still has same shields/health/abilities, but he just seems to get beat down a lot more than H1. This could be due to the enemies having been upgraded (they are much improved soldiers/shooters across the board) or the weapons/vehicles being stronger. Regardless, as MC you need to be aware you using cover and getting help from your marine buddies more than in H1. It really feels like you are at war and it takes more than one man to fight a war. Dashing into a sea of enemies before your teammates catch up in H2 is a shortcut to restarting from the last checkpoint. ;)





They're everywhere. Ghosts fighting warthogs fighting scorpion tanks fighting banshees fighting planes fighting ???


The warthog is easier to control, the ghost has had some upgrades (boost and better guns), the banshee can now barrelroll for better dogfighting. There are many new vehicles both for and against you, but I won't go into them. Some of them you can't pilot but they defy description and are uber cool (one hint - think of how useful the AT-AT was for a ground assault in Star Wars.)


Since there are so many vehicles on some levels, you can kind of pick and choose your play style with them. Want to go it solo, grab a ghost. Want some help? Snag a warthog and let some marines join you for the carnage.


BTW - DUI runs rampant in H2. I don't know where the marines/covies learned to drive, but reckless is an understatement. They are crazy and always rip around the maps at top speed. You really need to drive defensively in this game, or at least be aware of where your buddies are in relation to you while driving. They will mow you down big time. They also kick a lot more butt, so it evens out I guess.





Shame on you, I can give that away! In the 3 levels I've played though there are already twists and turns. A lot of time spent with the covenant and their background, interesting stuff. Wherever the plot is going, I don't think I can guess it at this point (little parts of it, but not the endgame.)





The tone and feel is spot on. I love this game and can't wait to try the multiplayer. I might actually just wait for the official release as there is a lot of talking in the gameplay that isn't translated. It's easy enough to figure it out (shoot anything that deosn't have a green reticle :green: ), but this game is SO GOOD I want the experience to be total immersion.


From what I've played so far, 10/10. If this game isn't the perfect console FPS, there might never be one.


Any questions? Specific stuff you all want to know about or were wondering? Ask away...

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Something else I forgot to mention is that some weapons act differently when dual wielded. Like if you have 2 SMGs firing full auto the reticle will steadily creep upward (recoil from guns.) So you have to hold down a little bit to stay on target. Or with dual plasma rifles the pulses begin to spread more and more as you continue full auto. When single weilded, these two guns don't have these problems nearly to the same extent.


So again dual weilding has its ups and its downs, there isn't a clear cut advantage to doing it all the time. It's a new tool in MC's arsenal, but someone who's a maestro with the grenade/weapon combo could easily smoke a server of average dual weilders. One isn't fantastically better than the other.

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Originally posted by Snakefish@Oct 19 2004, 10:30 AM

Something else I forgot to mention is that some weapons act differently when dual wielded. Like if you have 2 SMGs firing full auto the reticle will steadily creep upward (recoil from guns.) So you have to hold down a little bit to stay on target. Or with dual plasma rifles the pulses begin to spread more and more as you continue full auto. When single weilded, these two guns don't have these problems nearly to the same extent.


So again dual weilding has its ups and its downs, there isn't a clear cut advantage to doing it all the time. It's a new tool in MC's arsenal, but someone who's a maestro with the grenade/weapon combo could easily smoke a server of average dual weilders. One isn't fantastically better than the other.

Yeah, I expect that's a product of trying to handle two two-handed weapons with one hand each... :)

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I think they mean memory size, not size in game. The Halo 2 game is like 4.9 GB large, I think original Halo was around 2.4 GB? As far as I can tell, all that extra space is dedicated to more detailed graphics and not using repeating architecture templates like the first game.


Now the levels are freakin huge, no doubt. But not all of Halo 1 in a single mission huge. I would say that it has very similar types of maps to Halo 1, but for each type the Halo 2 maps are 10-30% bigger. Just like in Halo 1, the first map is more like a trainer level for new players. Not small, but not overpowering. As the game wears on, the maps start to get very large. The great thing that H2 has over H1 that I've noticed so far is that with all those extra textures and architecture bits, you rarely feel like you are going through the same room or canyon 10 times like in Halo 1. The landscape is much more varied and the only time it feels similar is when you are in a sentitent made structure for a long period of time (like if you are in a covenant base for an entire level, obviously there will be some similarity to each area in the base they built. I mean they built it all!)


The richness of detail in the models and the new landscapes are really the strongest parts of H2 over H1. Like the grunts and other covie characters 'glow' faintly in the dark, they have LEDs or something on their suits that you don't notice until it is dark. Kind of like Tron where certain areas have highlights, but no where near as extreme. It's kind of an odd 'blacklight rave' effect when you first see it, but it's really cool in game. Escpecially if the room is both light/dark, you can see the model switch from normal to the darkened day-glo as they run toward or away from you. Other characters have similar effects, but I don't want to give anything too juicy away. But it's a really cool effect and something I wasn't expecting.


Does that answer your question, or did I just go off in the weeds completely?

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Actually, there is one map I've seen so far that could fit all of H1 in it. There is an alien world where you eventually fight to the edge of a lake/ocean and can see a structure way off the shore in the distance. You battle out to that structure (over the water) and end the level there. But it's way out there and if you consider all the ocean/whatever you can see on that map as 'gamespace', you could probably fit most of H1 in that map.


That's kind of a bogus claim though because you can't travel into all that water, but it is modeled and you can see it. The path to the structure is pre-deteremined (you don't swim/drive to it GTA style ;)), but you travel a healthy distance over the water to get there.


PS - Something fun is that the maps have local flora/fauna all over the place. If you have a sniper rifle or are a really good shot you can nail them (they are real models and they die.) Like in that ocean level there are 'seagulls' flying over the water, you can enjoy a little skeet while travelling.

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Thanks for the info, Snakefish!


Btw, you said that the enemies are much better now. We've all been reading for a few years now on how H2 is going to have revamped AI. What impressed you the most about the new AI or, at least, what made you take notice that these guys are smarter now? You know, like a "holy shit!!!!!" moment? ;)


Speaking of which, are our buddies better now, as well? I always hated how I really had to babysit the marines if I wanted them to live long enough to enjoy their company. Did you notice if they die as easily as in H1? It would be cool if they were smart enough to use health packs as well. There were plenty of times in H1 where I wished I could've helped out some of the seriously wounded marines.


Sorry for all the questions but, I just can't take the waiting. Every bit of info helps appease the tension. :P

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It's kind of hard to nail down. Just like in Halo 1, when fighting 5-6 grunts and 3 elites at the same time it's hard to pin down how any one of them is acting in the situation. General things I have noticed though are that they will take cover more, they won't shoot each other, if in trouble they will even run and hide (setting an ambush usually.) They work together as well which makes them seem smarter. Sometimes I will hear fighting on the other side of the room but I wait in cover to recharge shields. By the time I leave cover and head over, it wouldn't be unusual for your "friendlies" to have elimated the opposing force. Both friends and foes seem to use the same AI engine, so yes the marines are better at staying alive but so are the bad guys. The difference being that the human player is still much better than either so your guys tend to stick around longer. All in all, they are 80% identical to Halo 1, just that extra 20% is mostly for the better.


In Halo 2 you are given more firendly units and drops than in Halo 1. You WILL chew through just about everyone they give you by level's end, but it makes you feel like more of a larger war effort than a lone survivor having friendlies come and go (sometimes they leave to pursue other objectives and you move on alone.)


The one area I see a major overhaul in is the driving skill of the AI. The only word that comes to mind is wild. These people drive vehicles like a Nascar race on crack. Not just the humans either, everyone is nuts. Riding in a ghost with some marines giving support in 2 warthogs makes the enemies the least of your worries. The jeeps are going to run you over and they are going to do it multiple times. Not even in combat, just zipping down a street they will bash into: you, the walls, or each other to get to the next objective. It sounds lame but it's actually pretty exciting (and entertaining), especially when you get in a 8-10 vehicle battlezone where you can't possibly predict what is going to happen with all these maniacs ripping about. Add to this that Elites will semi-hijack vehicles (jump up and pull marines out in mid motion) and you get an idea of the chaos going on.


They are very good at shooting though. That lame ass dude in the rear of the warthog from Halo 1 is gone, AI will use turrets and such with deadly accuracy in Halo 2. You just concentrate on the driving, they will kill anything that you get close to. On the flip side, when you face a stantionary turret or a dropship with plasma cannons you damn well better find some cover or you're toast.


I haven't seen any health packs in the game, so not sure if they use them or not. You have health but it's not shown and it might regenerate with your shields (not sure since it's not shown.) Once your shields are down in H2 you are super vulnerable, time to hide and recharge.


They never seem run out of ammo though so that's cool. You can swap weapons with your friendlies anytime you want, so if you want a guy to use a needler instead of a battle rifle you just press X and swap your needler for his weapon. So if they are not optimally equipped for the type of enemies, you can give them some help (or more likely like me you want their weapon and just swap to steal it.)


The AI will also make use of some of the new "secret" features in Halo 2. They teach you how to use some new skills/abilities to great effect, as they are quite good. Think delta force types compared to normal marines. That's as far as I'll go there, hard core spoiler territory down that path. Let's say they are proficient under most circumstances, sometimes surprisingly so ;). Makes me wish they had allowed bots in multiplayer games, at least for defense and such. They are all pretty bright and do a good job of supporting you while staying out of the way of the heavy lifting.

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Well, I finished the game last night.


Couple fun facts I noticed towards the later levels. One is that there is rag doll physics and it's quite well done. You would have thought I would notice this earlier, but in truth I wasn't looking for it. Where I noticed it was when sniping a running Brute. He dropped, slid to the edge of a rampart, then slowing fell over it. First his arm swung down, then his body slowly shifted, then the whole thing went over, fell naturally, and settled below. It really flowed like a body with mass would, it was impressive.


The other piece was just how much personality each unit in the game has. You get a chance to fight with most every type of unit in the game for and against you at different times, as well as A LOT of them fighting each other. It's killer to actually watch grunts or hunters defend a position instead of attacking, or seeing the tactics Elites use with their allies. Each unit type has a lot more flavor in Halo 2, more personality in how they fight.


The brutes might be the best new unit. They are like Planet of the Apes (Tim Burton version) in the Halo world. Civilized, but just *barely* so. If you get too close to a brute in combat or hit one enough from a distance, they will rip off their armor, throw down their guns, and just go ... well ... apeshit. Melee anything that steps to them and tear around in a rage throwing and beating any objects they can get a hold of. It is quite humorous to snipe a few from long distance until they lose it and enjoy watching them rip their base to shreds from the inside out. They won't attack friendly units, but they will haul eight kinds of ass on boxes and stantionary turrets. And you do not want to melee one without a plasma sword, they are hardcore.

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