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Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Confessions of a Halo Junkie 2: La Venganza

I arrived late to the Halo party. The game was originally released when the Xbox debuted but I didn't pick up a copy until last winter. Immediately I became addicted to it and many a night were sacrificed in order to rid the galaxy of the Flood, a mutant hybrid that mutates other species into mindless drones ala the Thing. I beat the game and finally kicked this life-consuming pixel monkey off my back.

I was clean and off Halo for a good seven months. Then, last week, it happened. After over a year of delays, a sequel had arrived. As the old cliche goes, once a junkie, always a junkie. I tried to resist but the ads were all over the place; on the internet, endlessly aired during reruns of the Kids in the Hall. There was they no getting away from them. Halo 2 was even popping up on Regal movie screens around town. I did my best but I couldn't resist "the hunger," as they call it. Like so many others, I went to the local Game Crazy and slapped down $5 to reserve a copy of the sequel.

Last Tuesday I rushed home and dropped the disc in my syringe, er, Xbox. Master Chief, after successfully destroying Halo in the original, had made his way back to a space station orbiting Earth to celebrate his defeat of the Covenant. No sooner had the medals been broken out than a battleship appeared on the horizon. Their defeat at the Halo had been only temporary and a new batch of needler-wielding aliens were already on their way to conquer the planet. Undaunted, MC turned to his commanding officer and said...

..."I need a weapon."

ROCK! Five minutes in and I was already planning how to get through the next week with no sleep. Then the game actually started. Somehow everything was...different. This Halo was stronger than the original but less pure. The graphics seemed less spectacular than the original, somehow more cartoon-y, and they occasionally stuttered as if the Xbox could barely keep up.

And neither could I. The levels were more intricate and complex, making them dizzying and confusing. The ability to wield two weapons at once was great but with the difficulty level amped up and with hoards bloodthirsty aliens lunging at Master Chief, I felt like I was going to need the sort of "up pills" the military pumps in jet fighter pilots. As one member of the design group described the game:

"Halo 2 is a lot like Halo, only it's Halo on fire, going 130 miles per hour through a hospital zone, being chased by helicopters and ninjas. And the ninjas are all on fire, too."

That's an apt description. After dying a million times on the first level, I reduced the difficulty level and wasted hours leading him past the initial invasion of the station and the subsequent bombride-through-space cut scene. After wasting hours on the first Arbiter level (that spinning elevator is a $!@#$!!), I sat down last night to play to find that the Xbox's hardrive had decided to make me do it all over again.

Maybe I'm getting too old and my ADD isn't severe enough for this new wave of amped-up, first person shooters. Nevertheless, this doesn't change the fact that I'm still addicted, even if the Halo high is no longer as sweet as it once was. As a writer for the Mercury put it a few weeks back, "For gamers, this game is like Jesus coming back to life and giving everyone sacks of gold and Cadillacs made out of candy." Or something like that, I couldn't track down the original quote.

Nevertheless, this isn't a problem that a few case of B to the E can't solve. I'll just hook up a steady drip-feed

Halo 2: 7 life-consuming pixel monkeys out of 10

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