I am sure that no one really cares what I think about the current release of Halo 2 for Windows Vista, I am not a journalist, or a video game reviewer I’m just a casual player and webmaster but I have this big honken’ popular website to air my opinion and for once I have decided to do just that. So here is what I think. To the media and all the whiney forum boys: Just Stop.
Stop comparing it to the Xbox version.
I don’t care about the Xbox. I don’t use a gaming console, probably never will, I play my video games on the PC. Halo 2 may be a 2 year old Xbox game but it is new to the PC. It is new to me. Knowing the gist of the story, having heard it from you Xbox fans, has not taken away from the single player experience in the slightest. As a matter of fact it has added some pleasant surprises as the various cut scenes I have seen before now make sense in the context of the game.
Stop complaining that the game only runs on Vista
The XP operating system is seven years old and is scheduled to be discontinued
January 31, 2008. Vista is what new Windows based computers will be running by the end of the year. It just makes sense from a support and development standpoint to be Vista only. Change can be hard but it is inevitable. I’m old compared to most gamers, I pre-date PC’s by 20 years, and you don’t see me complaining about Vista. If you are going to use Windows on your PC start preparing for Vista.
Stop complaining that nothing new was added
Bungie never said they would add anything new. Besides, if you are an Xbox fan why are you buying the same game, albeit with better graphics, on a PC in the first place then complaining that nothing new was added? Duh!
Stop complaining about the Editing Kit
The Halo 2 Vista game comes with a map editing kit to allow users to create custom maps. All I see in the various forums are complains that it is limited. Of course it is limited to just maps. What I find strange is how people could not know it would be. People got use to the HEK for the Halo Custom Edition game. It basically allows you to edit everything in the Game. The Halo CE HEK is a game editor. The Halo 2 Vista map editor is restricted to just maps. Well… of course.
Unlike Halo CE, Halo 2 Vista is integrated with the Windows Live system and has multiplayer achievements. Achievements mean that everyone playing Halo 2 MUST have the same user experience in both standard and custom maps in order for the achievements to have any meaning. If you can edit the entire game, like in Halo CE, someone could make a map with nuclear explosives that generate multi-kills and thereby make the “Killtacular achievement” where you need to Kill 4 opponents within 4 seconds absolutely meaningless. People seem to forget that the more centralized the player community goals, as in the Live system and Achievements, the more restricted and equal the games must be or else the goals have no meaning.
I can also see a number of other reasons to limit the custom content to just maps such as cost of development, cost of support, standardizing the user experience look and feel and maintaining control over the Halo Intellectual Property to name a few. The H2 Editing kit also limits the ability of people from making maps using other company’s Intellectual Property such as the Sonic, Zelda and Metriod conversions in progress for the Halo CE platform. Since custom maps are downloadable from servers via the Live system, which is essentially a pay for play system, there are copyright and distribution issues I cannot even imagine and am sure the lawyers are cringing.
The Halo 2 Vista map editing kit is fairly easy to use is nicely packaged and integrated and it allows you to make maps not change the way the game is played. So make maps.
What I think
Now that you have stopped complaining for a moment, or at least turned your ire toward me, here is what I think of the game: I pretty much like it. It looks like Halo plays like Halo, has nice if not the best graphics and scenery and moves the compelling story along from the original. Being a casual gamer I am still only about half way through the campaign portion of the game and although there are things I wish were different I don’t feel ripped off. There are new weapons, more varied settings and better interaction with the environment; having movable crates and destructible vehicles. The Multiplayer portion has a different feel than the original; I still haven’t gotten used to dual wielding yet, but it is visually enticing. Over all I like it.
But, but, but you say, don’t you have any complaints? Well yes I do but they haven’t made me feel like I didn’t get my monies worth by purchasing the game.
I don’t like the Windows live system.
I don’t like the pay to play concept it promotes, yes you can get a limited free account but I don’t like the concept of a centralized system that knows what I am doing and what and when I am playing. I shouldn’t have to login to Live to play when I am not going to use the live system in any other way. Being “old school” and a technologist I fully understand the ramifications of the loss of privacy. I also understand the market benefits and why companies want the information. I just don’t like it on a philosophical basis but it is the cost of playing the game and I know I am in the fringe minority.
The Keyboard configuration process was painful
I suspect it is the mindset of developing for the Xbox but PC gamers like their own personal keyboard mapping. Changing the Key mapping was hindered buy the fact that you had to first remove or remap a key in use before you could reassign it. In other games when you reassign a key the old mapping automatically gets removed. I map every game’s controls to be basically the same: PC in this case means personal controls.
There is no Spectator mode:
Many games with multiplayer servers allow for a spectator to connect to the server and move a game camera around to take unimpeded screenshots and/or monitor the game play. This is absent in Halo.
Bungie seems half hearted about the PC market
I don’t begrudge them as I understand the difficulties but Bungie has not been very supportive of the PC game market focusing instead on the lucrative Xbox console. Even their support structure and web site has little mention of the PC games, combining the PC 1 & 2 games into the same forum almost as an afterthought. I don’t know their business strategy but it has the appearance of being all about the Xbox and begrudgingly allowing Halo to reside on the PC because the parent company wants it.
I still like the game and I still like Bungie as a company. I may be an old-school PC gamer, emphasis on “old”, and not in their primary Xbox user market but I realize they have to focus on what they do best in order to be successful. And I hope Halo 3 is sucessfull. Because if Halo 3 is to be brought to the PC at some point then the Halo franchise must succeed. So to all you Xbox fan boys: Buy Halo 3 when it comes out. Buy two or three copies. Make it successful so they can bring Halo 3 to the PC. I’ll wait.
Webmaster Halo maps