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was posted on there last night.
HALO 2: ULTIMATE ONLINE HANDS-ON WITH BUNGIE'S MASTERPIECE!
Part one: The full lowdown on Halo 2's multiplayer modes and customisation options
17:58 Here's the first important thing about Halo 2: with a cursory glance it's
not hugely different to the first game. It's almost disappointing.
But we can't criticise it for being like the original, because Master Chief's
first outing got so close to perfection it could smell her knickers. So here's
the second important thing about Halo 2 that becomes clear very quickly: it will
be God. Think of it as everything you wanted - and then a whole lot more.
We know because we sat down with the guys from Bungie and played Halo 2's
multiplayer modes - online and offline - for a whole, glorious day.
We were led into a darkened room where clusters of top-notch plasma screens
nestled amongst huge stereo subwoofers, then eased into armchairs so comfy it was
actually impossible to get up from them.
Not that we wanted to. As the Halo 2 title screen faded onto our monitors and we
reclined on our cushioned thrones, we could have sworn we were in heaven.
What did we learn? While at first it doesn't feel that different, Halo 2 actually
has more intelligent tweaks and tune-ups stuffed into its combat armour than
almost any sequel we've ever seen, and the multiplayer modes are going to push
Xbox Live into the stratosphere.
Over 8,000 Microsoft employees worldwide have already signed up for the Live beta
test, and we were about to go head-to-head with them across five new multiplayer
maps. First, though, we had to customise our outfit. Hey, a Master Chief's got to
look good on a killing spree, right?
Who would have thought choosing colours for your Master Chief or Elite armour
(you can choose to play as either) and designing a logo would be so captivating?
We mucked about for so long in the customisation menus one of the guys from
Bungie actually asked us if we were okay.
You choose your colour scheme by selecting five colours from a huge selection,
which fit together to give you a unique look. At the moment it's a bit awkward
working out where each colour is going to go on your armour but we're sure
that'll get simplified in the final game.
Next you've got to design your logo. There's a huge selection of preset patterns
and symbols to choose from and since the finished article's going to get slapped
on your armour you better get it right. We hooked up a white cross on a blue
background with a silver bio-hazard symbol banged on top, which everyone agreed
was well cool.
It might sound like a little thing but being able to customise your player model
is awesome because it means chumps will recognise you as you batter them in the
face with your assault rifle.
Even better, if you set up a clan or team you can all rock the same logo and
colour scheme, instantly causing opponents to mess their armour as you enter a
game. We guarantee certain logos and colour schemes will become legendary in the
world of multiplayer Halo 2, so it'll be worth spending a bit of time getting
Online, On Fire
Once our character model was kitted up and looking good it was time to get into
the game. First of all, it looks like 16 players is the upper limit. We're not
saying we wouldn't have like 24, or even 32, but 16 works brilliantly and gets
really impressive on some of the smaller maps.
Excitingly, it's looking increasingly likely that those rumours about four
players hooking up to Live through one Xbox are true. We know for a fact that two
players can do it split-screen, so it's not such a stretch of the imagination to
consider four players on Live, on one screen, all at once.
The Live interface has been designed to be as quick and as smooth as possible.
You can either dive straight into a Free-For-All or Team Optimatch where Live
automatically hooks you up against players of your ability, or set up every
single parameter and launch an Arranged match for you and your mates.
Optimatches operate on a ranking system, so rather than starting off and getting
your **** kicked by a bunch of fatties with no girlfriends (which is obviously
what people who beat us in online games are) you'll have a level slapped on your
newbie butt that will dictate who you get matched up against. As you rack up the
kills and develop your skills you'll level up and begin to face off with more
You'll be able to dip into Halo 2 at any point after its release and instantly
get a match against gamers of your standard. What's more, you'll have a separate
ranking for individual and team game modes, so your solo score won't get damaged
if you're useless playing in a team.
Since no individual player is acting as a host in Optimatch games, Halo 2
automatically chooses the person best suited to acting as host without them even
knowing. If they drop out someone else becomes host, and so on. Easy.
Arranged matches, on the other hand, don't count towards your ranking. Why? To
stop cheats bumping up their scores by arranging matches against easy prey or
their similarly loser-ish mates. That's also why ranked Optimatch games are, at
present, pretty random in what game mode you play other than letting you choose
individual or team games. The idea is to give everyone an equal chance by forcing
players to perform in a multitude of different game types rather than
concentrating on a speciality.
It might sound annoying being forced into random games if you want to build your
ranking, but the system works so well we didn't mind. It's cool moving from a
rocket launcher game straight into a plasma sword-only Slayer match because it
keeps things fresh. What's more, Bungie is planning loads of cool interactive
ranking stuff that's still under wraps but will definitely involve Bungie.net in
a big way, so you'd be daft to miss out.
P, A, R, T, why?
If you want to stick together with a group of mates you can arrange a party that
will travel en masse from game to game until you disband it. It's kind of like a
clan, but only lasts until you switch off your Xbox.
Support for clans themselves is still pretty secretive, although we're sure
Bungie has got some amazing stuff planned and Bungie.net will again figure
prominently in these plans. With the customisation options on offer and the ease
of Live multiplayer, the possibility for tournaments, alliances, and bitter,
brawling rivalries is awesome.
Rules of Destruction
We were able to try out three game modes: old favourite Slayer; team legend
Capture the Flag; and the hot from the kitchen Assault mode. While you can't beat
Slayer for good old fashioned free-for-all madness, the Live set-up is
particularly suited to team games so we got a real kick out of CTF and Assault.
The most exciting thing about the team modes is that you'll be able to set up as
many teams (each with a minimum of two people) as you want, so you could have
four teams of four or a team of six and two fives and so on. This adds a whole
new spin to classic CTF and although we could only play it with two teams you can
imagine the chaos if there are loads of different teams - each with their own
flags - chasing after each other.
Assault is a totally new game mode. Primarily team-based, it involves one team
planting a bomb in a strategic position while the other team desperately tries to
stop them, or desperately tries to defuse it before it blows. The player carrying
the bomb cannot use any weapons, and if he carks it a teammate has to recover the
device. Sure, it's Counter-Strike, but who says that's a bad thing? There's even
an individual variation called Neutral Assault where everyone's out for
themselves, resulting in some crazy shootouts as sixteen people try to nick the
bomb off each other.
Offline, Off the Hook
Don't despair if you don't have Xbox Live (although you should probably sort that
out really quick), because Halo 2's offline multiplayer modes are just as solid
as the original's. Every game mode available online is present and correct in
single Xbox multiplayer (2-4 players) or System Link (up to 16 players, each with
their own TV, Xbox, and voice communicator).
-Part two coming soon-