Halo 2 Vista Review

Microsoft (and Bungie) have made a monumental decision when it comes to their cash-cow gaming franchise, Halo. In an effort to push the new gaming features of Windows Vista, the decision was made to make the PC port of Halo 2 to Vista only. That is correct, you XP diehards are out of the game. While some of you may view this as a giant and obvious push to make Vista a viable gaming platform (and you’re probably right), there is slightly more to it than that.

Keep in mind we’re working off a pre-release here, but Halo 2 is pushing some exciting new features for PC gaming that could revolutionize the platform, or the very least, how we install games… Not sure what I mean? Well rather than tell you exactly what you already know about Halo 2 as a game, I’m going to give you a small education on what’s under the hood in this famously awaited port. Halo 2 does something rather new and exciting from the minute you put the disk into your computer. It pops up a screen with an option that says "Play now," and it works! Within seconds of inserting the disk into your system you can launch the game and begin playing a la console. It’s something that we’ve all wondered about console games (or maybe not) for years, that they just play when you put them in. While PC gaming can’t be (and shouldn’t be) simplified to that extreme due to the need to control and configure your system, its just gotten a lot easier.

Now you’re probably thinking, "The whole game runs off the disk?" Not precisely. The game will boot up and allow you to start playing but in the background; it will actually install itself and copy the files over to your PC, while you play. It does this by using spare cycles (or dual cores) to manage the load and not impact your performance by any appreciable margin. If you’re of the hardcore variety and just want to install the game there’s an option for that, too. So you can let the whole thing copy and then get your game on if you want, but from my experience with a decent system, there’s no reason not to use this exciting technology.

Pretty groundbreaking huh? Well that’s not all, folks! Halo 2 also ushers in the realization of Xbox Live service on a PC. When you fire up the game you’re presented with a Blade-style Xbox Live interface, utilizing either your existing Xbox Live account or a Windows Live account (i.e. hotmail). It’s slightly different, but so completely familiar to the console style version that it’s incredibly easy to navigate and use. More than that, the buttons are color coded just like the console at the bottom of the screen to help you navigate with a controller, which you can do. If you have the adapter or the wired Xbox 360 console controller, you can use it with no problems whatsoever instantly. Yes, you can even use the headset, too. So now you can fight, chat, and play with your Live buddies from your PC — of course, only on Halo 2 for the time being.

This sets a standard for using the Live service on a PC; using a unified format for multiplayer gaming and content is one thing sorely lacking in the PC world. It’s somewhat filled by services like Steam, but takes it one step further and giving you abilities to play with console gamers worldwide. This is also a big step for gaming that has nothing in particular to do with the game itself.

Getting on to the game itself, there’s a limited amount of differences; suffice to say it’s a solid (upgraded) port without much in the way of changes to the actual gameplay. The original game was of course meant for much lower resolutions than are available on a PC, and to that end, Microsoft/Bungie has hired developers solely to upgrade the textures and graphics included in the game, and it’s outstanding. More shaders, higher res textures, and modern hardware breathe new life into the experience of Halo 2. I for one have waiting a long time to see this, as the aging Xbox (original) system couldn’t handle the ambitious upgrades of Halo 2’s graphics very well at all. I feel like this is how the game should have looked from the start. Everything is sharper, clearer, and given more depth and detail. Graphics don’t make a game, but these ones help a great game look much better.

The story and style is untouched for this faithful port, and to that end if you’ve already played your way through the original version, the weak storyline may not be enough to carry you through a second time. But for those of us who just weren’t on the bandwagon for the Halo experience, there is no better time to try out the story. The first Halo’s roots shined through on the first port of the series, and once again the controls are tight and exemplary for use in PC or console style controls.

In short, Halo 2 is what you would expect coming from console to PC, with the obligatory upgrade in resolutions and graphics, and no real fiddling with the formula that has sold so many copies worldwide. The developers did manage to piggyback the game onto some exciting and revolutionary technology, and that should prove interesting in the months to come. If you’re a PC gamer who has ignored the Halo craziness up until now, or just a fan of the series and happen to have a Vista equipped PC, check this one out.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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