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Halo 2

The numbers are! Halo 2 currently claims the title of the highest-grossing opening day for any entertainment release. How’s $125 million cool ones sound to you? That’s over three times the amount for Spiderman 2’s opening day of $40 million, the highest grossing opening for any movie in history. Granted, a movie doesn’t cost you $60-$80 dollars to view, but then again a movie certainly isn’t 10-15 hours long with unlimited replay value online against live human opponents!

Perhaps the greatest indication of Halo 2’s popularity is the massive swarm of online players who have converged onto Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online network of Xbox players (you have to pay a subscription to use it). Reports have indicated that the simultaneous number of players online on the opening day peaked at 90,000 players-just 10,000 short of the most popular online game of all time, Half-Life (and its associated modifications like Counter-Strike). Whether or not this will sustain, only time will tell. The average load at the time of writing appears to be stable at 40,000. Still, that’s a whole heck of a lot of people to go up against and it’s unlikely you’ll run into the same people on a given server.

So what’s the big hubbub about? We’ve discussed Halo 2 briefly in our FPS section but I never got a chance to describe the game. Anyone who owns an Xbox has most likely played the original Halo, which shipped with the system. It was by far the best FPS ever made for a console system. It successfully mixed an intriguing science fiction story with intense action and frighteningly smart artificial intelligence that gave players a run for their money. While not up to the technological levels as its PC competitor, Half-life 2 (due Nov. 16, 2004), Halo 2 expands on the original Halo with bigger levels, more enemies, smarter AI, and more guns! To make things even better, the new dual-weapon system allows players to have many different combinations of weapon payloads at a given moment, further enhancing the dynamics of combat.

Perhaps the only real complaints surfacing so far have been related to the single player campaign. While Halo 2’s developers, Bungie, promised a slightly longer story, most hard core gamers are finding it all rather easy and think of it mainly as a ’weekend game’ that takes about 10-15 hours to complete. There have also been complaints about specific story elements that Bungie chose to pursue (I won’t spoil them for you... just don’t expect to play as Master Chief the whole way through).

Overall, everything looks smashing about the game. Crisper graphics, bigger levels, missions based on Earth, dual weapons, and the best multiplayer experiences available for a console system to date. It’s almost enough to convince me to buy an Xbox... but as for me, I’ll wait for Half-Life 2!