Indeed, despite instantly impressive sales in Europe and the United States, Halo 2 went straight onto the bottom shelves of cob-webbed corner counters all over Japan. It was claimed that even on the day of release, promoters couldn?t even give the game away to passers by. We can understand the lack of interest. The last video-game alien to make noise in Japan went by the name of Katamari Damacy: and scooping several nominations for multimedia design awards as well as stealing our hearts and charging customs and excise duties for the privilege, Japanese gamers seemingly understand that aliens are more fun this way. And we concur with them entirely. We want our imaginations pandered to, teased and titillated; we don?t want the product of a focus group of fat ten year olds who think that Linkin Park and stuffed pizza crusts are the defining moments in human civilisation.
But, for the most part, that?s our whingeing over. One of the biggest and most expensive (to produce) games of the year has decided to stick to a rather tired formula, and that is a disappointing thing. However, now that you know that?s the case, it?s time to have a look at the good bits. Halo 2 is the best console FPS game ever made, and the first console FPS to completely smash open the opportunities for online multiplayer shenanigans. Xbox Live has come on leaps and bounds in recent months, and the release of Halo 2 marks the service?s elevation to a new status. The framework has been established and this is arguably the first game created with the intentions of fully flexing it. The last console game to have been created with such an obvious online agenda was Chu Chu Rocket for the Dreamcast: clearly a world apart from Bungie?s eye-massaging masterpiece.
With the Halo 2 Live Starter Kit retailing for around £60, this could well represent the most critical push towards mainstream Live uptake before Microsoft starts muttering about Next-boxes and such like. And most importantly, not only does it represent a step forward for the functionality of online console gaming, but it is, in itself, extremely good fun. After you?ve experienced a few single player FPS titles, particularly high-grade PC fodder, there?s not much left to want for. No matter how big or elaborate the scale of the enemies, it can only ever be about shooting stuff. That?s why Halo 2?s multiplayer aspects are so welcome. As cunning as the AI may be, absolutely nothing beats chasing organic competitors around a digital battle zone, and now such sporting pastimes are no longer the reserve of Desktop-jockies. Importantly, this also means that you might find more casual competitors of a similar standard: rather than having to take on an ultra-hardcor3 cyber-g33k who can right-click 1,000 times in the time it takes you to spit a four letter swear word across the voice-communicator.