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mnemesis Goes To The Movies

Our very own mnemesis snuck in the back door of the Microsoft Press Briefing at the opening of E3 2003, and though he's a little tired from running from the cops, he still managed to bring you some details. This is a taste of what folks visiting E3 will get to see this year. Without further ado, we bring you mnemesis.

Just got back from the Microsoft Press Briefing, and I thought I might drop by and tell you a little about what I saw. ;-)

I'll skip the non-Halo 2 stuff and cut to the chase. The Halo 2 demo was the definite high point of the evening, as evidenced by the tremendous reaction when Ed Fries brought out Joe Staten to do the demo.

It opens with the MC and a bunch of Marines in a pelican, cruising over a city on Earth. First off, the Pelican is almost the same as the one we know so well. Almost, in that, instead of one pilot seat in an closed cockpit, there are two seats up front, and the cockpit area seems to be accessible from the main cabin area. Another thing noticeable here is that the some of the marines have been upgraded. A few were wearing almost-but-not-quite MJOLNIR armor with helmets. The graphics, of course, are beautiful. The depth-of-field effect, first displayed in the initial trailer, was used periodically. It really does an excellent job of moving your eye to the action, while providing a level of detail that would otherwise be confusing.

The drop ship lands (with real landing gear this time), and the live part of the demo begins. The MC is lead, in much the same way as in the Pillar of Autumn level (but this time with a weapon: the AR), through a first aid area and up to the front line of this particular skirmish. Throughout the makeshift hospital zone there is a lot of dialogue. Snatches of conversation, acknowledgements of the MC, story elements (nothing I could glean, however) all fade in and out as you move through the area. A medic is attempting to resuscitate a wounded soldier, but is unsuccessful and logs the time of death. The amount of detail on screen, in this scene alone, with no combat taking place, is unbelievable. Remember on AotCR when you climb the ramps towards the Control Room doors? Remember those paltry few bits of debris that the Covenant used for cover? Well, if you're a player who wants to check every nook and clear out every corner, be prepared to spend an eternity poking around. There's a lot of stuff - buildings, debris, supply containers, architecture, etc. - for you to check out. ;-)

Past the first aid area, we come upon our troops being shelled pretty hard. We see a section of the building that we are in get destroyed, and run past the new hole to see an enormous Covenant mortar-type unit perched a few blocks away. Looking over the edge of the promenade, we see a few Grunts and Jackals getting into trouble down on the ground. The new and improved AR, with a handy-dandy scope, makes short work of these guys. Moving downstairs, we come across an injured soldier, leaning against a partially-destroyed wall. Adjacent to him is a stationary chain gun, much like the LAAG we remember from the warthog. The current interface is a bit different, however, with the camera moving to a third-person perpective just behind and over the right shoulder of the MC. Your head is a bit of an obstacle here, which definitely will make some battles a little more challenging. The transition was quite smooth and fluid, just as in Halo:CE. After taking out a mess o' Grunts n' Jackals, the MC relinquishes the chain gun. The wounded soldier however, has a present. He offers his gun, which allows the MC to fire two weapons at once. To be totally honest, I wasn't looking close enough to tell if they were two ARs or two SMGs, but they were both the same. At this point, the big Covenant mortar-type-thing that has been mercilessly shelling the building we started in is finally targeted by squad of Longswords, dropping bombs and completely annihilating it. A quick jaunt down the last set of stairs and a few more Covenant forces out of the way and we're off through the streets.

The street area is pretty big. Lots of debris piles, exploding (and explodeable) vehicles, and the requisite Covenant forces making a big mess of things. The number of enemies and Marines on-screen is astounding. At one point I figured there were at least 15-20 different Covenant, a handful of Marines, and a whole mess of explosions, projectiles, and moving vehicles, all vying for rendering time. If there was any lag, I certainly didn't see it. Anyway, the MC shortly gets into the gunner's seat of a Warthog, only to find that someone removed the LAAG when we weren't looking. I suppose that's what he gets for parking it in such a crappy part of town. However, all is not lost, as whoever did it has graciously installed something better! Another moment of honesty here, I don't know what the thing was. ;-/ It fired a plasma-like bolt that exploded much like a rocket. So hopefully Someone Who Knows will step in here and tell what it was. Anyway, it blew stuff up real good, so our boy drove around and did that for a while.

Allow me to point out here that the streets look like the perfect place to go racing. A multiplayer level like this, Ghosts and Warthogs, and no weapons, just hijacking vehicles endlessly. Gawd, that would rock. :-)

Rounding a street corner, we get our first glimpse of the Brutes. They were pretty dark, but quite large and evidently strong. The MC got out of the Warthog to dispatch them, but a bunch of shots to the body didn't do anything, and a punch in the chest didn't either. Luckily, a well-placed grenade under a vehicle caused enough of an explosion to eliminate that particular threat, so the situation ended happily.

Then something miraculous happened. A couple of Ghosts were coming down the road towards us, and things looked pretty grim for the MC, when he jumped up onto the wing, and with one hand hanging on to the cowl, pushed the Covenant driver out and took his place! Man, that was incredible. I could watch that part over and over.

Now, using the newly-acquired Ghost, the Chief cruised the city streets, messing up the Covenant whenever and wherever he could. By the way, a new Covenant dropship, the Phantom, is a wicked-cool looking thing, and it makes a satisfying WHOOMPH when it explodes, falls to the ground, and rolls down the street. :-)

After a bit of hovering about and shooting things, the live demo portion ends and a cutscene takes place. The MC heads off, trying to lure the Covenant forces away. Many of them take the bait, and soon there is quite a large group of Ghosts and Phantoms following him down a kind of highway. There is a large door-type barrier, however, that is being closed, and the MC has to lean out of his Ghost in order to clear the gap. The cowl is ripped off of the Ghost, and the MC falls to the road. The barrier closes, however, and we are treated to a close-up of an Elite's reaction as he plows into the resulting wall.

The MC stands, ready for action, and looks around. Something strange happens. The sky is filled with falling objects. Are the Covenant bombarding Earth from orbit? Is it relief squad of Helljumpers? It seems like maybe, as the things land and open, much like the ODST pods described in Halo: The Flood. However, they're not the Helljumpers they're black Elites. A whole LOT of black Elites, surrounding the MC. Not only that, but they all have the same weapon: an energy sword. The final shot is of the MC, who reaches back with his right hand and exchanges his gun for a plasma grenade. He then charges toward the camera as the scene fades to black.

This game is going to eat your soul.

-mnemesis, panting heavily in an unnamed alley in LA, 12 May 2003, 11:22 am