They're Random, Baby!

Translation of Super Play May 2004 Article

Original Article posted in our Press Scans area, on 15 June 2004
Translated by Victor Andersson from the original Swedish on 29 September 2004


Halo 2
New reveals - 30 new images

Page 52 -53


The second battle against the Covenants is about to begin but online the bullets are already whistling. This is the story about the soldiers that fought on Halo, those who within half a year will be forced to defend the Earth and those who always have fought online. Text_Thomas Wiborgh

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Roughly two years since Master Chief crashed on Halo with his life pod, the armed conflict is still active. I don't believe that a day have gone by without me devoting it a thought. Sometimes it's a small one, like the time I saw the first beetle of the summer and imagined it running on two legs through the lens of a telescopic sight. Sometimes it's much larger, like small psychical training camps where I reflect on how I could enhance my gaming by means of handling the plasma grenades more wisely.
    It can sound as a textbook case of obsession but actually it is a necessity in order to survive in a war which outcome is determined on a level of detail. To be able to see the fall of the last alien group-leader sooner or later you must force yourself to start to use previously unused weapons. You must start to consider on what technique that will take out a body shield most efficiently and on how a handful of grenades and a gun tower can neutralize a whole platoon of covenants when the bullets no longer are enough.

Disclosed Secrets
I would like to say that Halo will live forever. Of course, in some way it will. Master Chief is standing on steady legs next to my screen with his reflecting visor and worn out body armour. He is an icon. A Mario for a new generation of gamers, leading actor in the best action game of the decade so far.
    At the same time the model of Master Chief that first was drawn on an Xbox in North America on November 14 2001 is aging. The technical development makes his emerald-green charisma to faint slowly at the same time as the number of bullets that is fired off from the muzzle of his rifle is somewhat smaller then the day before. It is not strange. We have already found the mistakes in the programming that allows us to climb the mountains of Blood Gulch. We have discovered the tiny rhinos on the shells of the shotgun, the ones you only can see with full magnification through the telescopic sight of a sniper rifle. We have learned to make use of the characteristics of the different levels in order to waste a minimum of both lead and time when we move as deadly ninjas in a pyjama of sheet-iron. We have both seen and done it all.
    But the war never really ends, it just alters shape. Ever since most of us have defeated the alien alliance on all fronts and at all difficulty settings we have instead turned against each other. In networks of joined screens and over Xbox Connect tens of thousands of rockets have been whistling through the air. All over the world, twenty four seven. Small groups of soldiers with different coloured body armours are fighting for their survival by drilling every single movement to perfection.
    But every fired bullet, every new game in Slayer and every movie with flying terrain vehicles are of course nothing else then a red, twinkling digit in a drawn-out countdown. Between every death match we're following the happenings in an

Figure 1:
This is a drawing of Burial Mounds, one of the three new multiplayer maps that have been presented.

Figure 2:
Burial Mounds once again. Here we can see that the previously mentioned ATVs will be included on the level.

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insignificant office premise in Redmond, Washington. Minor progress reports on the net and one near to meaningless web camera are our only means of communication with the individuals contained in the building. In there, Jason Jones and his Bungie are finishing the next chapter in the story of Halo. At intervals of a couple months new images of the game are released, often just one at the time. We analyse every shadow and light (Could that particle effect really have been created by an ordinary grenade?) and returns to the work of preserving our reflexes waiting for the continuation of a war that never ended. Two years of truce are almost over.

History repeats itself
Halo 2 is turning into exactly what Halo was until it was released and blew holes in the grading scales all over the world. It tends to be delayed, antiquated and doubted.
    In order to prepare the demonstration at E3 last year, the progress of making the game was halted for more then four months. That wouldn't have been necessary had Halo2 only been as complete as we thought it was. To show an "almost finished" game, 40 minutes of preparation is needed, not four months. In fact, it is very likely that the completion of Halo 2 only was half done, at best. Bungie was forced to create a game in miniature, a piece of a level that looked perfect despite the fact that everything else in the production were at an early stage. It can seem as a strange decision, equally strange as keeping the original Halo wander between genres and platforms for more than three years. Perhaps the decision was in the hands of Microsoft. The screen dumps that Bungie release are from a technical point of view inferior to what we already are playing today. Not on Xbox of course, but definitely on other platforms. Halo 2 will never be as graphical impressive as Far Cry no matter how many polygons that have been added.
    With games such as Half-Life 2, Stalker, Killzone, Doom 3 and Goldeneye: Rouge Agent on its way the genre has never been as almost impassable as it is today. It will take something extra not to end up as just one of many. This time around we're not starved to death. This time you have to be amazing just to be seen. Again Bungie is somewhat of an underdog.
    I believe that it suits them well. A couple a years ago they were disregarded. Halo shouldn't, considering everything that happened during the development, have turned out as good as did. It should have been another Galleon or Duke Nukem Forever. Instead it became the standard bearer for a new generation of action games. Not just because it defined the genre for consoles but also because it did it with style and a feeling for details that created rings on the water that reached deep into the considerably older and more self confident PC-platform.
    All this from a game that almost was disregarded even before it was release. The fact that there are those who have their doubts about Halo 2 is therefore paradoxical a bit of a comfort.

While the most of us are still waiting to be called up for the second battle in the war for Halo, the first thousand soldiers have already been recruited. These consist of full-time employees within the Microsoft Corporation, lives all across the USA and have access to broadband and Live. In order to evaluate the online functions of Halo 2 they had access to three arenas and a number of new weapons for a period of five weeks. The image that opens this article is an illustration of Lockout which is one of the three levels. It is narrow and hectic, suitable for two or four soldiers but deadly entertaining with even more participants. Be prepared to fall to ground every fifteenth second. Lockout is to be brief the next Chill Out and have thus the potential to be the most frequently visited multiplayer level in Halo 2.
    The second level goes by the name of Burial Mounds, takes place in a fastidious desert landscape and contains a military base which makes it suitable for one of the new game types, Assault. The players are divided into two teams and one of the teams must place a bomb in the fortress that the other team is trying to defend. For assistance, the defending team has a mounted machine gun similar to the one implemented on mans best

Figure 1: Waterworks is huge. Military bases are located on each side of the building located in the middle. This is the level that will replace Blood Gulch.

Figure 2:
One of the bases on Waterworks. Both cars and flying crafts will be used on the level.

Page 56 friend, the Warthog. The teams switch sides at equally lengthen intervals and the tug-of-war can begin all over again. It is of course stuff like Assault that we want to see when Halo 2 goes online and every competition can include 14 players without the need of three hours of moving television sets.
    The third and final level in the demo version of Halo 2 is called Waterworks. If Lockout is here to replace Chill Out this one can be the one that makes us to forget Blood Gulch. Two bases contained in an enormous primary rock with an alien building stretching from floor to roof placed between them. It is full of corridors, sniper openings, stairs and ledges.
    Waterworks lets the player to control vehicles like Warthogs, Ghosts and Banshees. All alien-built crafts have been given a technical renovation to face the approaching battle. By holding down the left axis button the player can accelerate into velocities that not even the drop-ships could reach.

Even if the chosen thousand indeed are enviable all they got was a limited gaming experience. Online Co-op was not available, they were not allowed to board vehicles controlled by other players and they did not get the opportunity to use two weapons. To be able to dual wield

Figure 1:
Say hello to Brutie. He brings justice to his name and will not stand down to anything or anybody.

Figure 2:
Never before have we seen these small, chubby foot-soldiers so angry. With all right considering all the meele attacks that's going to be delivered to the back of their heads.

Figure 3:
The opponent in the game with the least guts, The Jackal, still crouches up behind its shield and empties a nail gun as soon as there is an opportunity.

Figure 4:
A prophet. Exactly how this type of character will fight has not yet been revealed by Bungie but it is most likely that they will operate as war strategists far from the battle front.

Figure 5:
One Elite with a sword. To that, add invisibility and you have the most frustrating enemy of the first game.

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and feel the adrenaline flow all the way to the finger-tips is something that they also have to wait for until the day of release.
    The thousand soldiers could witness how object moved and tumbled down the slopes as the bullets tormented them. In the final product the interactive surroundings will be expanded to include walls that can be destroyed in order to create strategic advantages. We got a demonstration of this during E3 last year.
    Even though these individuals got to wage war using a larger part of the covenants assembly of machinery they never got to see the renowned new tank. They did not climb into any of the promised different versions of the Warthog. And most of all, they only got to control human soldiers never Elites in multiplayer. Therefore I'm not even a bit jealous. Nor am I a good liar. The fact that Halo is a pronounced single player experience is as established as the fact that Quake III is the opposite. No matter how good it feels to own every second that is spend in the purple shimmering building known as Chill Out, it doesn't come close to the chaotic feeling one gets by joining a full-scale battle field and becoming a soldier of many in the Assault on the Control Room.
    Its follow-ups will probably not change that view of mind. Xbox Live will of course bring new life into co-op, perhaps the most underrated gaming experiences that exist, but we are many who will have focus problems online before every square-inch of the Earth are out of harm's way.

Few game developers have been able to keep hot news away from publicity as good as Bungie and the details surrounding the single-player adventure are their best kept secret. The images that surround this article are all taken in a way so that a minimum of the environments is shown. It seams as if Bungie have forgotten that the only people that are more zealous then themselves are their admirers.
    For those who look closely and are willing to perform a little detective work of their own there are more information within these images compared to all other stuff that has been said during the past six month from the polished spokesmen of Bungie. For example, in the background on a couple of the images some green hills and pools of water are noticeable. The image could be taken on Earth but that is not so likely considering that our planet was sooty black and bomb-wrecked during E3 last year. It could also origin from the other ring world that already has been confirmed by Bungie. If this second ring world also was built by the so called Forerunners, the ancestors, is something that the company refuses to comment on.
    By reading the books The Fall of Reach and The Flood we can see the nuances of a complex story about genetic experiments, betrayal and religious war. Halo 2 will probably not be the final game in the series and definitely not the game where John takes off his mask and reveals his past, but it will show us more of the motives and means of the alien alliance. The new characters Brutes and Prophets have already been revealed. What's not so known is the fact that the latter ones together with the Engineers were a part of the map file in Halo where they were moved from the story line during the production due to lack of time. There was no way to see them, but with the help of modified Xbox they could be controlled.

Figure 1:
Master Chief is in the progress of steeling a ghost from an enemy.

Figure 2:
The most hectic multiplayer level is called Lockout and this is an example of how it can look when ten players share the same space.

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A lot of things that would have been a part of the game were cut out at the very end of development. The Flood was originally as intelligent and scheming as the Covenants but instead ended up as brain dead cannon fodder.
    Some of the levels were restricted, among them the despised The Library which was shrunken and became more drawn out and illogical then first planned.
    Guilty Spark and Cortana had a lot more to tell us. The sound levels in the game were never particularly balanced, a simple mistake that obviously was shipped to the stores due to a merciless ticking clock.
    This are details that Bungie has the ability to fix in Halo 2. If they succeed to build an equally earthshaking, varying and solid game as the first five levels of its precursor Super Play will be forced to initiate the eleventh grade.

This text is written approximately two weeks before E3 open its doors and 50 000 of the people that represents the core of the gaming industry will set foot upon the red carpet. This year around there are more things then ever to see. Amazing games, new consoles, co-operations soon to be announced. E3 2004 has the possibility to become one of the best ever. But no matter how tempted I am to bend Gordon's crowbar and pay a visit to the hell of Carmack I am fully aware where my feet will carry me the very second the gates are opened. I promise to tell you everything as soon as I land again.
    Until then all that you and me can to do is to carefully study the images from one of the most anticipated sequels of all time and the most important game to ever hit the Xbox. The sharp teeth of the Jackals, half-closed flame-coloured eyes and wiry arms are finally drawn with desired clarity from where they are crouched up behind their energy shields.
    For the first time I can distinguish all the meters on the dashboard of the Warthog through the eyes of an Elite about to board the vehicle. If Master Chief would turn around he would have seen detailed jaws through his visor.
    Those jaws will eat lead from my shotgun on the red carpet in two weeks time. After that I will continue to butcher the covenants all the way until the bitter end sometime at Christmas, when Xbox Live steps in. And then it's your turn. Sharpen your taste-buds.

Figure 1:
Unfortunately the Covenants are also able to board vehicles. Here we have an Elite halfway in the progress of boarding a Warthog and it scares the living day lights out of us.

Figure 2:
A bad player with an obviously bad taste (check out the choice of armour colour!) is preparing for the most distant sniper attack in history. The name of the level is Waterworks.