This is a clipped down version of this really long talk. I didn't try to connenct it all, I just took the important/good bits.

It was the E3 build, or at least something close. The build we played had most older game modes on it, and 4 modes simply listed as *classified*.

The health bar is different. There is a shield, with no health blocks under it. Once the shield goes down, you don't know how much health you have left. I personally liked it.

At any time, you can click the right stick, and zoom in 2x. With any weapon, but unless the weapon has a scope, you have to zoom back out to fire. Grenades bounce a lot more. Jumping is a LOT higher, and LOT farther. You can quite easily jump right over a ghost. The jump/duck technique still works for higher jumps.

You need to be much closer to melee.

When you have the flag, not only do you walk about half as fast [note: this could just be their settings], but you can't pilot or man any vehicle or turret. The passenger seat of the warthog was the only vehicle seat you could have. The only way we found to move faster was jump, throw the flag, and chase it down.

From the pause menu there is a lot of stuff people would have killed for last game. Team swap, edit your control scheme, set handicaps, and so forth.

While I was playing there were all these onscreen indicators. They were like the green arrows in Halo, except above the arrow there were these boxes with symbols in them. Occasionally they would change color. The symbols inside the little box matched the symbols used to customize characters. The arrow was green when the player was not in a conflict, yellow when the player was firing a gun, and red when the player took damage. The red X remained for a short bit to tell you where your teammate had fallen.

Destructible environments. While not every wall was able to be obliterated, walls in high action areas and strategic positions were definitely not made to be permanent. Grenades, rockets and gunfire were all ways to turn a hiding spot into an early gravesite. One time, I was guarding the flag when a rocket hit the pillar above my head. It did a little bit of damage at first, then a second later, I died and my body was under a few large chunks of rock that had fallen off the pillar. My death looked like the same animation getting run over with a warthog looked like. I might have died from being shot, but I'm fairly confident the falling cement did me in.

Another gameplay change was the interaction with the flag. The defending team did not return the flag simply by touching it. There was a set time until the flag returned to the base. The twist on this is a little status called a 'contested flag'. Anytime a player of the opposite team was near the flag, the message "The flag is contested." would appear at the bottom of the screen. As long as the flag was contested, the timer for the flag return would not go down. Also, you have to hold X to pick up the flag. If the attacking team had possession of the flag in the last 4 seconds, the round timer would freeze. It would start counting again when the flag was no longer contested.

Every kill made by every player appears on your screen. Kills give different modifiers such as "Bill killed Hell Hor" (for shooting and exploding kills) "Bill beat down Anomaly" (melee kills) and "Bill splattered assclown" (vehicle kills).

Boarding. When Bungie says the vehicle has to be moving slowly, they mean moving really slowly. I guess the most opportune time to board is when someone is cornering or has hit an obstacle.

The other new feature - dual wielding. Hold Y over any weapon you can dual wield, and you'll pick it up. Press Y to switch to your other weapon. So for instance, you could be dual-wielding an SMG and Needler, with Rockets in waiting. However if you switch to your rocket launcher, you'll drop the second dual wielding weapon you picked up. The weapons that I found dual-wieldable were the SMG, Needler, Plasma Rifle [note: you can also fire 2 pistols at the same time. Tthey are probably dual wieldable]. I didn't try to pick anything up with the plasma sword, but I'm fairly confident you can't dual wield Plasma sword with anything else. When you reload while dual wielding, it takes a lot longer. You can fire one gun while reloading the other. L trigger fires left gun, R Trigger fires the R gun. You can't throw grenades while dual wielding.

The weapons.

Sniper Rifle - Pretty much the same as the last game. 2 and 10x scope. Four round clip. The biggest difference is the recoil, it throws you pretty far off your target. The trail left by the bullet is a lot less noticeable. It's much more transparent, and is not around for very long.

Shotgun - Virtually unchanged. Close range domination. 12 Shells. Reloads with a single shell at a time. The old shotgun blast/melee combo still works really well. There are about three areas on the shotgun that glow green.

Rocket Launcher - This is almost an entirely different weapon. First off, the fatal blast radius feels to be about 50% smaller than Halo. Also its rate of fire is dynamic. When you first fire the rocket, it moves really slowly. Then it picks up a fair amount of speed really fast. There is also the homing feature of the rocket launcher. If you get a red aiming reticule on a vehicle, and fire, the rocket will chase the vehicle.

Plasma Rifle - It still freezes opponents I think... no one ever used it on me. The people I used it on typically looked sorta frozen. It has some nice particle effects.

Needler - The needles move a lot faster, and track opponents a lot better. If you've got an opponent in an open area, and tear a whole clip off at them, odds are, they are gonna die.

SMG - High rate of fire, does decent damage, but the recoil is terrible. As you shoot, you steadily shoot farther and farther above your opponent. So anyone who has trained themselves to go for the headshot, you'll spend a lot of time firing over your target's head. The recoil only gets worse with dual wielding. Reload time is bad with dual wielding as well. It's close to 4 seconds. This is the only gun in which recoil is a problem. Its not bad enough that you need to get rid of it at the start, but it's not good enough that you can kill from a reasonable distance.

Battle Rifle - Three shot burst owns. No recoil, minimal spread on the shots, and 3 three shot bursts will lay an opponent out. I really liked this weapon. Everything from rate of fire, to accuracy, to reload speed, to stopping power; this is the new pistol. It's nice to zoom in and shoot, but the rate of fire drops to one shot. I think the least amount of shots I fired while zoomed in for a kill was 6. I think there's minor recoil when zoomed in, but it's very minimal.

Plasma Sword - In the first 5 minutes of the very first game, Chris threw a grenade into the compartment, and blasted the plasma sword directly to him. Anyway, this sword rocks pretty hard. The B button melee is quick, and can be done several times in succession. The regular melee with the sword seems to be just a bit stronger than a melee with another weapon. The range on the plasma sword feels to be about the range of a typical Halo melee. There is very little delay between swings either. Then there is the uppercut dash. Get within a certain distance of your opponents, and the reticule turns red. Pull the R trigger, and you dash right through your opponents, leaving them dead in their tracks. The dash is quick, but not instantaneous. The problem is, if you miss with your trigger dash, you stand prone in one spot for quite literally 2 or 3 seconds. I had my only triple kill of the day with this weapon, and seeing as it was 3 on 3 most of the day, that's not bad.

Grenades - Both varieties are back; plasmas and frags. The plasmas remained the same for the most part. The frags changed a bit. They bounce a lot more than they used too. Also, the fuse is triggered on first impact. This game, grenades will explode in the air if it's timed right. The kill radius has been reduced much in the same way as the rockets. Besides that grenades still blow stuff up.


Warthog - Our particular model of Warthog was outfitted with a rocket launcher in the back. The controls for steering the Warthog have not been changed. Also, two new features have been added for the driver. Pulling the R trigger sounds a horn, which you can use to distract, taunt, or annoy your opponents and teammates alike. The other feature is an E-brake. Pulling the L trigger causes the brake lights in the back to light up, and brings the warthog to a stop. The brake doesn't seem very useful, because this Warthog is much tamer than its Halo brethren. The new Warthog does a lot less skidding around, and drives much more like an actual vehicle. It still catches crazy air, though. It seems like every surface on the vehicle is ready to react to a bullet. Even the turret on the back is capable of being destroyed. Someone from my crew said he thought it drove different damaged.

Ghost - . Well, it's still fast, it still hovers, and its ammo still stuns, but now it blows up. And not only does it blow up, but it looks spectacular when it happens. In all seriousness, this Ghost is a lot like its predecessor. It handles the same, and losing a wing or two didn't seem to affect its flight too much. Pulling the L trigger causes you to streak forward in turbo mode, and pretty much lose all turning, maneuvering, and shooting capacity. An interesting note... Ghosts did not automatically kill a player if they got run over. The faster you were moving, the more damage you did with the Ghost. There were a few times I got clipped by a Ghost and lived through it. A turbo Ghost killed every time. The durability of the Ghost isn't as great as that of the Warthog. One or two explosions would render a ghost unusable, while the warthog would take 4 or 5. The new Ghost has been somewhat toned down and balanced in Halo 2, but I don't think I'll ever get over my hatred for it.

Glitches - The fun stuff. There were a few bugs that surfaced in our time there, and even though the Bungie Rep assured us this game was built from the ground up, a few older errors were still present.

Shin Melee - Any weapon, when swung at your opponents' shins, immediately killed them. After seeing this, the Bungie rep made me go around and get a few different weapons and strike a few different spots, and said he was going to talk to the programmers. I think that means that I found a bug in Halo 2. I should be in the credits, damn it. Got that Bungie? Game Play Tester/Bug Squasher/New Hotness - Bill Daiber (Not Kidding)

Missing glitches - No more double melee. I don't think the quick reloads trick worked. Also, Sorry to all the Red vs Blue fans (myself included), but when you look straight down, not only do you see your feet and legs (not kidding), but your character model is actually looking down.
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