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Friday April 20, 2007 4:13 pm
Top Ten Improvements in Halo 2 for Windows Vista
So, Halo 2 for Windows Vista is launching on May 8, 2007, and we have been able to spend some time reviewing the title. Since everyone is familiar with Halo 2, we felt a full review wasn’t in order. Instead, we wanted to clue you in on the ten best improvements we experienced while reviewing the game. These ten features raise the bar for Halo as a whole, and may be a foreshadowing of things to come in Halo 3:
Achievements: If you are looking for something fun that adds another level of fun and challenge to the Halo 2 world, this is it. We have said it before, and we will say it again - Microsoft hit a gold mine with the notion of achievements. No sooner than when we finished a multiplayer deathmatch did we rack up a total of three achievements. Meleeing five people from behind (and thusly earning the Ninja achievement) was nice, but Meleeing someone who already had the Ninja achievement (and thus earning the Flaming Ninja achievement) was even better. We have the achievement to prove it. For those wondering, yes, the achievements you earn in Halo 2 for Vista (or any other Games for Windows game) is counted towards your Xbox Gamerscore.
Dedicated Servers: This is huge. In fact, I didn’t realize how huge it was until we experienced it first-hand. Microsoft had 24 dedicated servers available that we were able to test. To those that always wished they didn’t have to go through matchmaking because they wanted to play a specific map or game type, this is your answer. The Halo 2 for Windows Vista disc includes an installation for installing server software on a PC of yours too, and you can then have your own dedicated server available for which you can set playlists, game types, and permissions. We only wish this feature was available for the Xbox version of the game, and we can only assume that Halo 3 will have this functionality built-in.
Custom Multiplayer Maps: Oh, sweet nectar of the heavens. Did you realize that Halo 2 for Windows Vista includes map editor software? The software includes tools that allow you to take textures and geometry that you create in an external 3D program, import them into the editor, and then manipulate them to create your map. You choose placement of weapons and spawn points, and it uses the in-game engine so that your map visuals are as close to the “real thing” as possible. Once complete, you can invite others to play on your new creations over LIVE.
LIVE Interation Built-in: As mentioned earlier, since this Halo 2 for Windows Vista has achievements as a feature, it had to be LIVE aware. This is where Games for Windows LIVE comes in. The PC version of Xbox Live works great, allowing you to access key Dashboard features like your gamer profile, Messages, Friends List, Players, Private Chat, and Personal Settings - and navigating it is so much faster than using the “real thing” on the Xbox 360 itself. The best part? If you are already an Xbox LIVE Gold member, your Games for Windows LIVE account is included free.
Peripheral Support: We have seen no better use for the Xbox 360 Controller driver that allows you to use the controllers in Windows Vista. That means that for those of you who don’t want to change from your learned behavior, you can use the Xbox 360 controller. The improvement, however, is that you can choose to use a keyboard and mouse instead of the Xbox 360 controller. Word on the street is that the keyboard/mouse combo is the best way to play a first-person shooter, and now Windows Vista users have the pleasure of using that very control scheme in Halo 2. Something tells us that there will be a lot more headshots raining down in this one…
Improved Graphics: Like, much improved. We can now see why this game is only available on Vista. The game features much higher resolution, and higher LOD models. Everything just feels more realistic, especially when you crank the resolution up to 1680x1050.
Disrict and Uplift Maps Included: You know those two new Blastastic maps released on Xbox Live for Halo 2 for $4.00? Well, the District and Uplift maps are included as a free part of the package in Halo 2 for Windows Vista. You save yourself $4, and you walk away with better looking versions of the areas.
Tray & Play: We believe that Halo 2 for Windows Vista is the first game to use the new “Tray and Play” technology. For those who are unaware, most PC games require you to fully install the game before you can jump in and start playing. With Tray & Play, after you insert the disc and enter your activation key, you can start playing while Halo 2 finishes up the installation in the background. Once it’s installed, you don’t need to have the game in your DVD drive anymore, as it runs completely off your computer system.
Voice Communications: PC gamers have never had the level of voice chat support that is enjoyed on the Xbox platform. With Games for Windows LIVE, that changes, and Halo 2 for Windows Vista is the first game to take advantage of it. With no separate software to install, gamers can now inititate and participate in both in-game and out-of-game voice chat with friends across both Windows Vista PCs and Xbox 360. Same goes for text messages using the Guide.
Sets The Bar for Games for Windows LIVE: We must say, we are very impressed with the way that Halo 2 for Windows Vista has come off. Everything mentioned above is something that stands out to us as an improvement or added value, and that is the way to come out of the corner swinging. We know that Shadowrun is next, but after that, expect many more Games for Windows LIVE titles. If they all mimic what Halo 2 for Windows Vista has done with the service, Vista gamers are in for a treat.
Now it’s your turn to sound off - let us know what you think of Halo 2 for Windows Vista on our forums.
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