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I've always been a big fan of team deathmatch games. The raw skill at strategy required to beat another team really appeals to me. With the exception of the occasional class-based game--I'm looking at you Team Fortress and Battlefield--team DM has been my game. So naturally, Halo 2 on Xbox Live was a huge draw for me. It was the first game with a large community and a focus on team DM to come in years. When my copy of Halo 2 for Vista (a topic for another post, some other day) arrived yesterday, I couldn't wait to take it home and fire it up.
I was excited about many of the new features I've been hearing the Games for Windows team talk about for years: Tray and Play, Xbox Live for Windows, and achievements for Windows games. Unfortunately, things didn't work out too well. Here's a rough sequence of events, starting when I dropped the disc into my drive and clicked the autorun icon.
8:35 PM: Click autorun
8:37 PM: Halo tells me to update my videocard drivers, which seems unusual for a three-year-old game
8:40 PM: Downloaded driver update, clicked install.
8:42 PM: Reboot to uninstall old driver.
8:44 PM: Reboot again to uninstall another old driver.
8:47 PM: Finally install new driver. Reboot a third time.
8:50 PM: Configure the resolution. 800x600 is a bit small for my 30" panel.
8:51 PM: Start Halo 2 again. Installer complains that my performance index score needs updating.
8:57 PM: Finish retesting my computer.
8:58 PM: Restart Halo again. WTF, I have to activate a game? Weak sauce.
8:58 PM: Attempt to sign into Live.
9:08 PM: Live login process informs me there's a patch.
9:15 PM: Live autopatch process fails twice. I exit Halo 2.
9:20 PM: I find the patch on the web and download it manually.
9:25 PM: Start Halo... again.
9:27 PM: Attempt login to Live again
9:32 PM: Halo completes its background install as I wait for the log in to succeed.
9:38 PM: Login fails. I go get a beer when I see an error code.
9:40 PM: I sit down on the couch and fire up my 360 to play Halo 2.
Finally, I was able to connect to Live and enjoy the seamless multiplayer experience that the service has to offer!
This is not what I'd describe as a seamless, easily-accessible experience that will help encourage more neophytes to get into PC gaming. And frankly, I might even cut a developer some slack if this were a new title, taking its first tenative steps into a larger world. But it isn't Halo 2 was released on the Xbox in November 2004--almost 30 months ago.
After I created an offline account--sans achievements, of course--I played the game. This is exactly the same game I played two years ago. The graphics are the same, and the gameplay is the same. While there are a couple of new multiplayer maps, it's just not enough to justify a $50 pricetag for a two and a half year old console port, especially since it doesn't work. Oh, and by the way, it also requires Vista.