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Used with permission.


Mission: "The Angels Sing"

What's the mark?

Halo is the 3D third-person perspective action extravaganza that Bungie Software hopes will vault it into the gaming history books. And we're going to tell ya right now that if the graphics are any indication of the potential of this title, the world had better tremble like a bunch of French girl scouts. Getting information out of Bungie is like pulling teeth out of hippopotamus. It's only because of the dedicated effort of the PCXL P.I.'s that we have any information at all. So while we've got good juice, you can expect a lot more in the future.

Based on a science fiction story centering around the mysterious Halo ring system, the lush backdrop is the setting for one group of humans' last stand. The crew of an escaping human ship discovers, and subsequently crash lands on, what it believes is an abandoned alien-made ringworld. The survivors of the crash are scattered about the ring, and soon begin the process of reuniting and defending themselves against a pursuing alien consortium knows as the "Covenant." Of course, nothing is what it seems in this science fiction storyline, so you can expect that whoever made the planet hasn't just left it completely empty. Technology left behind by the creators of the ringworld can drastically change the balance of this small war, perhaps saving humanity itself from the threat of the Covenant.

The Bungie team isn't taking any shortcuts and is including both a complete single-player and a devoted multiplayer game as well - a rarity these days. Single-player will focus on an officer from the ship and his part in the struggle the survivors face in order to save themselves and humanity. That's not to say you are alone - this officer will definitely run into other survivors along the way. NPC humans who you'll meet along the way won't be under your control but you will be able to join up and help them in their battles. You can bet those vehicles that have a driver and a gunner aren't just for the multiplayer experience. Nope, you'll do whatever is necessary as battle and missions progress and expect the AI to be alongside you.

(Multiplayer will be run through a Halo'ized version of Bungie.net and will focus on teamplay. Our cover story last month detailed multiplayer in Halo and how it might just change the future of multiplayer gaming - but we're sure you already read that.)

Whether it sparks a revolution or not remains to be determined. What is readily apparent right now however, is the amazing work Bungie is doing with the graphics engine. Characters at their highest detail are about 2,500 polygons and even more impressive than that is the multilayered texturing on top of those polygons.

The artists over at Bungie have taken this technique and pushed it to what must be the limits. Characters look believable not only because they are 2500 polys, but because the glint of sunlight that reflects off the sci-fi metal of an armored suit - not to mention visual tricks that can make the nose of an aircraft really look round when it's actually square.

Bungie aims to give you science fiction with a story, single-player, and multiplayer that aims to revolutionize gaming - haven't seen anything like that since a little game called Half-Life. Only time will tell.

Where is it?

Founded by Alexander Seropian in 1991 but headed by the famously reclusive visionary Jason Jones, Bungie has two locations - Bungie West in San Jose, CA, and Bungie HQ in Chicago. Bungie has been in the game making business for 10 years, though its most successful titles have been the Myth series and Marathon trilogy. Marathon is widely recognized as the Quake of the Mac world, while Myth: The Fallen Lords was named Game of the Year by several magazines. Currently the public knows of two Bungie projects in the works: Oni being developed at Bungie West and Halo at Bungie Headquarters.

What's the Security?

There are a few things stopping Bungie from stealing the hearts and minds of the gaming public. Truth be told, Bungie hasn't made an action game in years. In that time, the bar has been significantly raised and they've opened themselves up to competition from the PC developers who are legion in the action genre. While the engine looks great, nobody really knows what gameplay will be like. Bungie encourages this actually, and has kept many of hte details of the game secret. Perhaps those secrets belie a weakness?

What's the Payoff?

Open your beady little eyes and look at the screenshots on these pages... if that doesn't get you excited, then you don't know shit about games. Obviously we think this operation will be a huge success. Our only concern is whether the game will be finished while the graphics are still above average - if the cycle takes long enough then even these visuals won't be impressive anymore (see Messiah for example).

Inside Information

Our man on the inside (Joe Straton [sic]) let us in on the multiplayer aspects of the game.

Q: Where does Deathmatch go from here? Is it fully evolved?
A: The evolution comes when developers create new situations and tactical elements that put deathmatch in a new context. The obvious way to do that is to add strategic goals like Capture the Flag, and while we are definitely adding goals like that to Halo, we are also adding depth and complexity to the tactical aspects of the game.

Q: Do you see massively multiplayer and teamplay merging in your ideas of the future? How so? Is it fun?
A: The problem with combining the two concepts is that while massively multiplayer games are fun with large numbers of people, the number of people you can actually coordinate with on a tactical level is small. Our goal with Halo is to include all of the community and sweeping feel of a large online game while keeping the actual gameplay tactical.

Q: Powerplay? The future or an idea?
A: The future, beyond a doubt, is high-bandwidth, low-latency online gaming that is as mainstream as cable TV and Internet shopping. Powerplay appears to be a smart approach to achieving this ideal and Bungie will be participationg in future Powerplay discussions, but it's too early to say if any of our games will make use of it.

Q: Communication is the key to a great teamplay game, what does your game do to make this easier?
A: Communication itself isn't the key to great gameplay. In fact, communication is the main obstacle. Instead of making communication easier, we are striving to make cooperation in Halo as simple and natural as possible.

Q: What is beyond Capture the Flag?
A: Capture the Flag added an entirely new dimension of tactical gameplay; you had a goal besides carnage to consider. The real innovation beyond Capture the Flag is adding depth and subtlety on the tactical level and that is where Halo excels. Every movement, every shot, every decision has tactical implications and errors in judgement kill just as fast as bullets.