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Fussing over Halo 2

Richard Giles wonders about the fuss being made over Halo 2:

Gadget Lounge has been wondering what all the Halo 2 hype is about. We've seen it in action and there is nothing remarkable about it at all, other than Microsoft's marketing budget. Sure there are different levels weapons and vehicles, but really the only new addition is the ability to wield two guns. In fact we'll go so far as to say that everything has been done before, and there is nothing special at all about this game. ID Software, the makers of the Doom and Quake series of games should pull out some patents and go to town. Even the game Unreal is the same game under different graphics, and yet years older. Granted, it's a fun first person shoot-em-up, and will give people hours of entertainment, but we've heard some claim it's the best game of all time. Perhaps console gamers are a new breed, and they missed the PC game revolution, but please, lets be realistic, it's just another first person shoot-em-up.
Halo 2 isn't the greatest game ever -- not by a long shot. But Halo made a good claim as the greatest first-person shooter for a console ever. Why? Partly because of the well-tuned gameplay, partly because of the solid story, and partly because of the fact that it was the first first-person shooter to be truly usable with a handheld controller (as opposed to a keyboard and mouse).

Why all the fuss over Halo 2? Partly it's sequel-itis. Remember how excited (and subsequently gratified) you were over The Empire Strikes Back? Remember how excited (and subsequently disappointed) you were over The Matrix Reloaded? It's like that, then add on the fact that it promised dead-simple Internet multiplayer action, with ubiquitous voice (headsets come with every Xbox Live subscription kit), and you've got the makings of a monster hit before a single review was written.

It would be a mistake to chalk this up to Microsoft's marketing machine. Every person I know who has played a lot of the original Halo has been dying to get their hands on the sequel. Halo 2 is a big deal because its predecessor was so good.

With that said, how does Halo 2 measure up against the hype? I haven't played much of the single-player game, but it seems to be a reasonable continuation and extension of the original. As for the long-awaited online multiplayer capability, the developers have taken a potentially risky step by providing a very different implementation from what gamers are used to. It seems they're trying to appeal to the much broader market of people who haven't played online games. We'll have to see if it works. First, though, they have to deal with what must be incredible loads on their servers so that players don't have to wait three or four minutes for multiplayer games to start -- that's just unacceptable.


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