Bungie has lifted the veil of silence surrounding its massively anticipated Xbox FPS Halo 2, releasing an FAQ that aims to answer some of the more nagging questions still to be answered about the game.
Q: When is Halo 2 coming out?
A: Bungie has always stood by our policy of not giving out release dates for any of our titles. To put it simply, Halo 2 will be done when it's done. We're all as eager as you to get our hands on this amazing game but perfection takes time.
The Summer 2003 dates being shown on various retail websites are definitely not accurate. When we do have a solid release date, we will post it here on Bungie.net. Until then, any Halo 2 release dates you hear should be considered extremely unreliable.
Q: What new levels will there be in Halo 2?
A: We can't reveal the full extent of your travels, but we can confirm that some of the battles will take place on a wartorn Earth, a moon base, and several other completely new locations. You can check out a few early environment concepts at bungie.net/halo2.
Q: What's new in Halo 2?
A: So far a ton of new features have been announced. For example, Halo 2 will offer new vehicles, destructible environments, new weapons, low gravity levels, online play, Human vs. Covenant multiplayer battles, improved AI, and more.
There are a lot of surprises you'll have to discover for yourself by playing the game, but you can read the rest of this FAQ for more details about what we've already announced. Keep in mind that Halo 2 is still a game in development and all of the information included herein is subject to change before the final release.
Q: Will there be a public beta test for Halo 2?
A: Unfortunately, no. Halo 2 will undergo rigorous internal testing but it will not be available to the public. Anyone who claims to have a beta copy or to be a participant in the beta test other than a Bungie employee is pulling your leg.
Q: Will Halo 2 support online play via Xbox Live?
A: Absolutely! Forget everything you know about Xbox Live. We intend for Halo 2 to become the definitive Xbox Live experience with well-designed and extremely robust support for online play. We'll have much more to say on this subject in the months ahead.
Q: Will Halo 2 support the Xbox Live communicator in online games?
Q: Will Halo 2 support downloadable content?
A: We can't answer this just yet, but stay tuned...
Q: Will flying vehicles be available in multiplayer games?
A: You better believe it!
Q: What multiplayer game types will be offered in Halo 2?
A: All of Halo's multiplayer modes will return, including Oddball, Race, Slayer, CTF, etc.. In addition to these classics, we have some big plans for Live that we'll reveal a little later.
Q: Will there be multiplayer bots?
A: We have not made a final decision regarding bots yet. The team has heard the cries of fans and we're exploring ways to make multiplayer games more enjoyable for gamers with only two controllers and no Live access.
Q: Which characters will be returning in Halo 2?
A: Naturally the Chief will take centre stage again in his efforts to save mankind from the Covenant threat. And what would MC do without his favourite AI construct Cortana? We can't reveal anymore than that just yet but stay tuned...
Q: What about the Music in Halo 2?
A: The same team responsible for Halo's award winning music and sound design are working busily on Halo 2. While we can't share the fruit of their labour with you at this writing, we can safely say Halo 2's audio will definitely kick ass.
Q: What new weapons will be available in Halo 2?
A: So far there have been a few new weapons revealed. The Battle Rifle is an evolved version of the original assault rifle and features increased accuracy, a scope, and a slower rate of fire. The SMG (Sub Machine Gun) is a rapid-fire gun that trades a high volume of bullets for decreased accuracy.
Of course these are others, but we can't tell you about them yet.
Q: What are the new Covenant races?
A: The Brute has been described as a cross between a gorilla and a rhino and will be a serious force to reckon with on the battlefield. The Prophets have been referred to as "giant space popes" and they provide the political, religious and spiritual leadership in the Covenant.
As for the others... you'll just have to wait and see.
Q: Will the Halo 2 environments be interactive?
A: Yes! This time around, the worlds of Halo 2 will feature destructible objects to add to the realism and strategy. Windows, columns and doors will shatter into pieces when they take damage. Enemy soliders will be able to recognise these objects and strategically destroy them to make you an easier target. In addition, MC will be able to shoot out lights and hide in the shadows when stealth makes more sense than confrontation.
Q: Will the Artificial Intelligence be improved over Halo?
A: Absolutely. The enemies in Halo were no slouches, but this time around expect your opponents to be more cunning and tactical in their attempts to annihilate you. Covenant forces will use the environment to their advantage and make your job that much more difficult. You'll see the Covies scurrying under ledges, leaping over obstacles, and climbing up structures. They'll fluidly move with animal-like grace while talking and coordinating amongst their squads. They'll even use flashlights to hunt down Master Chief in the darkness. It will take all of your wits and skills to overcome your adversaries this time around.
The Human forces will also be smarter this time around. They'll work better as a team and flip over objects to create cover. The Marines will also know how to call in support from a Warthog or point out an enemy sniper for an ally to take down.
Q: How has Master Chief changed?
A: Besides sporting an improved graphical look, MC will get his hands on a new suit of armour, some "tools", and a few new moves. Check out the 'Characters' section of the Halo 2 gallery for a glimpse of the Chief's new look.
When things get hectic, the Chief can lower his gun and sprint at almost twice his normal speed. Before rushing into battle, MC can peek around corners and scope out the situation. When the action gets up close and personal, the Chief can string together melee attacks into devastating combos.
The Chief is sure to have a few other surprises up his sleeve so stay tuned for future updates.
Q: What graphical improvements are being made over the original Halo?
A: Besides a pumped up bump-mapping system, Halo 2 will really shine due to the inclusion of a new advanced real-time lighting engine. Dramatic lighting and shadows will behave realistically and interact with characters and environments. We've also got a new subtle technique called "self shadowing" where every model in the game will cast shadows on itself as well as its surroundings.
Most of our new graphical effects are still in heavy development so we can't say too much about them yet. We can say that our goal is make sure that Halo 2 looks better than Halo in every way!
Q: What new vehicles will be in Halo 2?
A: We've created several new vehicles for Halo 2 though we've only shown a few. The Human four-wheel ATV and several Warthog variants can all be seen in their early stages in the Halo 2 Gallery
The Covenant Shadow has also been confirmed and you can check out an early concept sketch at bungie.net.
Q: What is the plot of Halo 2?
A: The full story is a closely guarded secret but so far we can confirm that the Covenant forces will attack Earth, another Halo ring comes into play, and Master Chief will take the battle to the Covenant. As with the first Halo, there will be a few new twists that you definitely won't expect.
We?ll keep you fully updated on all things Halo 2, including a hands-on report when the code is released, which will hopefully be before E3 this May.