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If there’s something PC gamers don’t want it’s console ports, especially when they’re used to launch a new operating system and hailed as the next big thing in PC gaming. Halo 2, the Vista only title that MS hopes will encourage gamers to upgrade from XP, is the latest console game to hit PCs, but while Halo 2 was a great Xbox title, I’m not sure the PC crowd is going to take to it quite as readily.
Halo 2 has been covered to death over the past few years so it’s pointless going over it in too much detail once again. To summarise, Master Chief returns and is once again fighting the Covenant army. While the game still features some excellent AI for enemy behaviours the campaign itself is pretty disappointing, falling someway short of the game that wowed gamers at the launch of the Xbox. On the PC, and a few years after the sequel’s debut, the campaign’s rushed feel and lack of satisfactory conclusion is even harder to take.
It doesn’t help that Halo’s pace isn’t really suited to PC gaming. On a platform that revels in high-speed reaction and twitch shooting, the almost plodding nature of Master Chief will come as a shock to the system for many PC gamers. Plug in a 360 controller and things start to feel a little more like home, but it’s a console shooter through and through. To be fair, the keyboard and mouse controls feel far improved over those in the original Halo for PC, but that’s not saying a great deal.
Of course, it’s Halo 2’s online functionality that has given it such strong legs long after the demise of the Xbox. This service is replicated well on the PC, and has new features such as Achievements that aren’t in the Xbox original, but the game requires PC gamers to adopt a new way of playing. Anyone bred on the likes of Unreal Tournament and Quake will feel completely lost. Adjust to the slower speed and floaty physics and the experience is great, but for many that won’t be an adjustment they’re prepared to make.
Speed problems aside the PC game is a great option if you’re after online play. It includes 23 maps (2 more than the Xbox original) dedicated server support for improved online play and a map creator. Of course, the degree to which the map builder will be used within the community will only become clear over time, but it’s an option that is unique to the PC game. In terms of multiplayer the co-op play from the Xbox game is sadly absent, which is strange considering it substantially improved the experience.
Considering Halo 2 for PC has launched as a Windows Vista only title it’s somewhat of a surprise to find it to be such a buggy piece of software. During my time playing through the single-player campaign I encountered numerous graphical glitches, game crashes, loss of video and more. Game performance was also unsatisfactory and this was on a top-end system. The ideas behind Windows Vista sound good for gamers, but Halo 2 isn’t the best example of the future it may hold.
With a 360 controller plugged into your PC Halo 2 for Vista is a decent, if rather dated FPS. For a game that is spearheading Microsoft’s new operating system though, it’s just not good enough. As a way for PC gamers to see what all the fuss was about it serves its purpose, but most people are already making plans to fit Halo 3 into their schedule.