When Game Magazines Attack!
All of the screens, renders, and concepts you see here are subject to change. Level names may also change. Placements of objects, windows, rockets, you name it, everything can and probably will change. So if we were you, we wouldn't use these screens or maps to come up with strategies. Oh, and these are all taken from an earlier graphics engine. So the graphics and lighting will change too.
We very seldom have visitors here. Bungie Towers is sealed up like Fort Knox. Not to mention the fact that we're located in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. While all the other Microsoft campuses are located in the beating heart of Redmond, we're stuck between a swamp and a quarry, and the nearest store is a country vet. From whom we procure our horse tranquilizers.
So when people
come to visit, and the cab makes a right onto a country lane, instead of delivering them to a steel and glass futureplex, our visitors assume they're getting whacked. That's certainly what Game Informer's Jeremy Zoss thought, when he came by before E3 to see what we'd been up to.
Now that the Halo 2 issue of Game Informer has been on shelves for more than two months, we thought it was time to update our gallery with hi-res versions of the assets we gave them, and just to make things more interesting, some minor updates on those levels.
The stuff we showed Game Informer was WAY primitive compared to what we demoed at E3. Although a lot of the graphics and textures were representative, the gameplay stuff, like dual wielding, vehicle boarding, all of that, had been disabled since this was the now-infamous Alpha build – designed solely to test networking. But the levels they played were real enough.
Anyhoo, Jeremy Zoss, Associate Editor of
was always asking us questions, and he'd be all, "Hey Bungie, what happens to Master Chief at the end of the game and does he get married?" Or, he'd be like, "I heard that Halo 1.5 got made for the Gamecube and you guys sold it to Nintendo and they're gonna call it 'the MeGaToN' and release it on Nintendo and Neo Geo." But we were all, "YOU shut up. We're the ones asking the questions!"
Jeremy, How was your visit to Bungie Towers and did anyone try to whack you?
My visit was too brief. I would have loved more time to really check out the inner working of the studio. And, of course, I would have loved to have spent more time with the game. But the time that I spent there was certainly exciting.
We showed you different levels from the one featured at E3, how did you like ‘em?
The three levels I was shown were definitely cool. I liked how each map had its own distinct feel and emphasized different types of play. I especially like Burial Mounds, which I felt had a great sci-fi flavor to it.
How much had changed between what you wrote about in the mag and what you saw at E3?
The version that I saw at Bungie was the network test build, so it didn't have a lot of the key features in place. I was actually fairly shocked by how much had changed in a fairly short amount of time.
What was your favorite thing about the E3 build?
It had only been a couple of months since I saw the game at Bungie, but it looked like it had been a year! The game looked even prettier and had tons of new features in place, some of which hadn't even been hinted at.
What other games is GI looking forward to this year?
Tons. Splinter Cell 3, Gran Turismo 4, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Metroid Prime 2, Fable, MechAssault 2... there are nearly too many great games on the horizon to even list.
All other games are jerks! What’s your favorite new feature in Halo 2?
Definitely stealing vehicles. It's a really cool new feature that I don't think anyone would have guessed would be in the game. Kicking someone out of the driver's seat of a vehicle? That's pretty sweet.
What was your biggest Halo 2/Bungie surprise?
Honestly, the biggest surprise is that Halo 2 finally has a concrete release date. Of course, that's a very good surprise!
That's enough of Jeremy. As you well know, video game journalists lay around on Pac-Man shaped couches all day, being fed grapes by chicks dressed as Zelda. Then they play games for thirty seconds and claim that it's not as cool as the original GunHed on the PC Engine.
We've updated our screenshot and concept galleries with hi-res version of the GI assets, and you can read more about those lovely pics here. So here's a brief rundown of the features, atmosphere and gameplay of the levels GI played.
This is already shaping up to be a classic level. It's changed since we showed Game Informer, but not that dramatically. There are some very cool graphical enhancements not shown here, but nothing too dramatic. Lockout is popular with the agoraphobic. Although it's set in the mountains, and features plenty of brisk outdoor battles, there's a ton of narrow, twisty corridors and horrifying shock moments as you run into shotgun blasts. This map features heavily in the Sketch-Frankie official deathmatch battles.
Dark corridors give way to bright courtyards, or the eerie green glow of underground installations. It's a lot bigger than the early map concept art indicates. And certainly more complex. Two central towers make excellent sniping platforms, although close-up battles happen there more often than not.
Another cool thing about this level is the audio. When outdoors, you'll hear, in awesome digital surround, wind whistling and howling through the mountaintops. Eerie and tense, it makes sniping a solitary and frightening job. Of course inside, you hear the gentle hum of machinery, or footsteps above as your assailants take the high road. This level has many, many vertical levels, and lots of ways to reach them. Carefully timed jumps can be a tremendous shortcut in Lockout.
This is an early concept of the Lockout map.
Two Spartan teammates find themselves trapped in a room full of plasma death!
A dead end leads to a grim conflict.
Spartan, plus alien weapon, plus crazy plasma rippling in background!
Every map has its sniping spots. Lockout is no exception.
Waterworks is one of those rare maps that kinda works right off the bat. Of the maps that Game Informer played, Waterworks has remained the least changed. It's a big map, as this concept shot shows, and while at first glance it seems like a huge, mostly outdoor locale (if an enclosed underground cavern can be considered outdoors) there are actually a lot of tunnels, buildings and structures to explore. Even a simple structure like a bridge can make the level seem multi-layered and much more complex.
One thing we've noticed while playing this map is that players tend to follow the artificial constructs – such as roads and bridges, even when a leap into the rocky cave might be faster. Sheep!
The flags, when playing CTF on this map, are located inside bunkers and are impervious to aerial attacks, but a back door and a rooftop ramp make each bunker vulnerable to sneak attacks.
Of course, Waterworks as it stands, is a great map for Banshee flying and the new Banshee boost feature means that it's often the fastest way from base to base. There are however teleports to add to its complexity. But a long flag run across open ground with Blue Elites in pursuit can be a lonely and terrifying experience.
Waterworks bears little resemblance to this early sketch.
An early map rendering of the Waterworks layout.
A higher camera view of the Waterworks map, with very early lighting and textures.
A rare quiet moment in Waterworks.
The very definition of spawn camping.
Of course, vehicle kills are more entertaining with boosting.
Another big outdoor map, and famous for spawning the expression, "He's goin' ribs." For reasons that will become clear to you on November 9th. It takes place in a narrow red canyon…and that's where the similarities with Blood Gulch end. This one is strewn with wreckage from Covenant attack and makes a great place for vehicle assaults, although the terrain is challenging in places.
This level too has cool sound effects. Creaking metal, the whoosh of sand blowing through a desert landscape and of course the crunch of boots on the sandy slope above you. The open level is especially good for excellent grenade throwers, since there's plenty of cover and unlimited ways to arc well-placed pineapples, and get bad guys to flee their hidey-holes.
The turret gun is a very nice way to take care of pesky varmints.
Burial Mounds has come a long way since this early concept sketch.
This map is a fairly accurate indication of the final Burial Mounds layout, although it will change a little.
You never know, we may do something similar with the OXM assets real soon.