by MaxPower

The R4NT team in Toronto had the pleasure, nay the honour, to attend X’04. X’04 was, for invited guest only, a sneak-peak at the hottest and most anticipated Xbox games due out this Christmas season. X’04 was held in mid-August in the trendy Sound Emporium nightclub located in Toronto?s entertainment district and we were there. Yes, that means we feasted our eyes on Halo 2 in its single and Xbox Live enabled multi-player goodness. Yes, that means we tried out Fable, Star Wars Battlefront, Prince of Persia II and Knights of the Old Republic II. Yes, we spoke to representatives from over a dozen game developers including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, THQ, Activision, Temco, Lucasarts and Microsoft. And yes, it owned.

The set-up was like a giant arcade crossed with a dance club. Xboxes were set up under huge LCD screens with strobe lights and pounding music completing the effect. Most of the reviewers and media who were there appeared to be having a very good time, and indeed the time we spent sampling the games and talking to the reps made me envious of people who do this full time. I counted no fewer than five TV stations as well as numerous hosts and camera crews for video game-centric television shows in attendance. The crowd was just as enthusiastic as you would expect from a gaming extravaganza. E3 it wasn’t, but I think this is as good as it gets in Canada. The R4NT team was represented by Beauty and myself, armed with a note pad for instant game reactions, reviews and developer rep interviews along with a digital camera to capture the mood. Granted, the aforementioned ?club-like? atmosphere put a significant damper on our ability to get high-quality screen shots, specifically in the circular roped off and darkened Halo 2 room.

This information is so cutting-edge that some of the facts included in our exclusive special feature reviews were restricted from being published until the start of September.

We at R4NT are also excited to have compiled a comprehensive list of the new games on the Xbox for this Christmas season. We look forward to bringing R4NT readers more sneak previews for games, movies and music in the not-to-distant future. A thanks goes out to Xbox Canada for throwing X’04 and for extending the invitation to a progressive news media organization like R4NT.

On to the reviews: Halo 2 for Xbox

Screenshot from Halo2

Genre- Action
Publisher- Microsoft Game Studios
Developer- Bungie Studios
Projected Street Date- November 9th, 2004
Projected Price- (CAD) $64.99
Rating- Rating Pending
Xbox Live Enabled- Yes

Trailers- 123

When I heard about the opportunity to test-drive Halo 2, the most anticipated game for the Xbox and arguably any gaming system, I obviously jumped at the chance. In this sequel, the battle comes to Earth and our man – the Master Chief, is the only thing standing between the Covenant and the destruction of all humankind. How is that for a setup for a sequel?

It isn’t all action however, like Combat Evolved (which sold 4 million copies world-wide), Halo 2 tells a story which you unlock through your single player questing. A focus of Bungie Studios was just that ? to tell a better story utilizing the power of the Xbox, which in most likelihood, has not been close to fully utilized. The actual Halo 2 plotline is closely guarded and we got a chance to check out the multiplayer action, which of course is non-plotline related. Multiplayer is conducted through Xbox Live and you may join a clan, play on some of the many new multiplayer maps as either the humans or the Covenant, customize the look of your armour to standout among the gaming hordes, and keep track of your online stats. The multi-player action can be team based (as we tested) or a free-for-all.

Even without trying the single-player function, I was impressed by the quality of the sound and graphics which are in the same vain as Halo and are instantly recognizable but much improved. (Witness the new Halo 2 TV commercial which plays up that recognizable Halo ?chord?) Game play, like graphics and sound is familiar but improved. There was no noticeable lag or graphical degradation even in the middle of the wildest multiplayer firefight ? a very solid offering. In addition to graphical superiority there are many more options and variations on the original Halo theme. There is an enhanced AI (no more picking enemies off from a distance while they stand around clueless) destructible and interactive environments (note the cool screen shot of the damaged Warthog), and an advanced real-time lighting engine. The new weapons (yes you can score the Covenant plasma blade for use as a melee weapon) and some old standbys, come fast and furious as you are once again able to gather weapons from defeated enemy?s corpses. Players now have the option of picking up two weapons allowing for many more (and highly lethal) combinations. How many times did I wish for the ability to carry a plasma gun in one hand to disable shields and a pistol in the other to deliver the killing headshots? Be forewarned however, it doesn’t appear that you can throw grenades when going cowboy style ? or at least I couldn’t see a way in the limited preview time.

Drivers who decried the lack of enough driveable terrain in Halo should rejoice as there are twice as many driveable vehicles available to be driven on a larger amount of driveable terrain. However, I witnessed many a gamer jump into one of the vehicles in multi-player mode and get instantly fragged as the vehicles are massive targets seem pre-disposed to blowing up, making me wonder about their utility in the single-player game.

From the hoots and exclamations of excitement from the testers who were seated around a large circular podium at X’04, I bet the multi-player action of this title will be second to none. Expect a huge following to develop immediately. By far, one of the most impressive games I have witnessed.

  • X’04
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on September 1st, 2004

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