I've seen a ton
of reviews on Halo 2 but few mention the biggest change made. The online capabilities. Many moons ago I used a laptop and some unofficial software to get Halo working over the Internet. It half worked but since only a small minority of people could figure out how to hook it all up there wasn't a lot of competition. Halo 2 is built for online play... for a price. You have to sign up for Xbox Live to make it work. It's about $50 a year, that's about the price of an Old English 800 and a burrito per month, reasonable. Halo 2 supports progressive scan and widescreen TVs, nice touch. I played Quake 3 a few times and the online audio for Halo2 is lifted, bit for bit from that game. I'm not saying they did it without permission but it is identical.
The menu system to play online is far from intuitive but I suppose that after a few hours it becomes clear. Lag was almost a non-issue, probably because of the gazillion nearby players and possibly because Bungie optimized the online code for more lag / less bandwidth than Halo 1. One ugly feature is the limited options for cooperative play with a friend. They claim that it'll mess up the ranking system if your friend joins as a guest. My thinking is that it's just a sneaky way to encourage people to buy another Xbox live account. It's odd that a feature that worked in Halo1 online is no longer available(though it was unofficial in Halo1).
Back in ye good olde days people used to use pigeons to fly chess moves back and forth, wireless gaming was born. I first played a game over the Internet back in 1998. It was just a sort of curious trial run. I was sitting on the track waiting for the flag to drop and some guy in Italy was next to me and all of a sudden I starting getting nervous. I didn't want to screw up and ruin everybody's race. I was interacting with people
albeit in a strange way. People make online gaming what it is.
Halo 2 is going to be the public's first mass exposure to online gaming. My prediction? The Betty Ford clinic is going to need to add a wing or two.
Gotta write this down before I forget it. Consoles of the future are going to act as the router as online gaming becomes more popular. You won't need a broadband router to share internet access you'll just plug your coax cable into the back of the console and it'll share the connection with the rest of the computers in the house.
Why? You ask. Because it solves the port forwarding issue. If a game can modify the routing table then anybody with a standard broadband account can host a game, obviating the need for a centralized system and therefore a monthly fee paid to Microsoft. Microsoft is trying to use the exact same techniques to monopolize online gaming that they did to gain a stranglehold on the computer industry. Unfortunately for Microsoft the Home Theater PC is a direct threat to that way of doing business. That's why you see MS now getting into the Media Center PC business.
So you plug your Linux based PC into your HDTV, all of your music, movies(even DVDs) and games are stored on it. You don't have to pay anybody to play online and some of the games are free(open source software). I'm having a hard time seeing how Microsoft extracts money from that configuration.