Official Xbox Magazine On-Line Preview Of Halo 2 (Summary)

By Rico - Ryan McCaffrey of Official Xbox Magazine recently played through the on-line beta of Halo 2 at Bungie Studios. Do yourself a favor and pick up the mag for a great preview of things to come for the most anticipated Xbox game ever. Key points highlighted in the article are as follows:

Matchmaking Playlists and the Party System : Bungie creates Matchmaking Playlists for use on LIVE optimized for specific playing styles. The host can load up a series of maps based on "Small Team" or "Free For All" along with dozens of other styles for quick action without the headache of taking player requests for maps. The Party System is where its at (though it will be unranked) by getting as close as possible to the feel of a LAN gathering. This mode allows a "Party Leader" to make a game and control all administrative functions, BUT does not necessarily host the games. Instead, once all players are in the room (and prior to game start) Halo's on-line optimization engine takes over and routes the fastest connection to be the server - hooray! Not only that, but if the host server leaves, the game simply pauses for a quick second while the next fastest connection is found! Once again Bungie pushes the envelope for all other LIVE games to follow.

Voice Chat : To alleviate the bandwidth problem Bungie has incorporated two voice over systems. The first is a ranged communication. If you simply speak into your microphone any player within a specified range will hear you. If, however, you press the White button all of your teammates will hear you. A well thought out compromise for smoother gameplay.

Weapons Breakdown : Mr. McCaffrey is quick to point out that the Pistol is back to stay! Sadly, it isn't what you've been used to in the original Halo. Weaker damage and the inability to shoot while zoomed in have reduced its overall effectiveness. Also mentioned was the Covenant Particle Beam Rifle which is the equivalent to the human Sniper Rifle, so much so that it overheats at four shots just like having to reload the sniper after four squeezes of the trigger. A final weapon brought up was the Brute Shot, a devastation grenade launcher with huge splash damage and a very limited ammo supply.

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