The much-delayed arrival of Halo 2 has been confirmed for a November 9th release date at Microsoft's traditional pre-E3 showcase event in Los Angeles.
Having been tentatively scheduled for a Christmas 2003, then April 2004, then 'fall' release, Microsoft finally committed tonight to its first solid release date for the all-important sequel to the platform's most commercially successful title to date. Any further slippage would prove a massive blow for the format, but it looks likely to be a realistic goal for Microsoft.
The firm announced to a packed Shrine Auditorium that a two disc Halo LE limited edition of the game will also be released at the same time. Packaged in a lavish metal box, the set will include "The Making of Halo 2: Behind the Scenes of Bungie Studios" documentary, along with featurettes on the game's design, animation, and music, commentary, along with discarded cinematics and even an art gallery. This unprecedented level of DVD-style extras will certainly keep the obsessives happy - but it's unclear how many copies of the LE edition will be made available.
The assembled were also treated to the first footage of the game running over Xbox Live. The predictably intense demonstration was a Capture The Flag map set in a deserted military post in Zanzibar, of all places.
On hand to demo the map, Joe Staten and Max Hoberman showed off new weapons including a Covenant energy sword, a cunning ability to utilise different guns in both hands, as well as improved Warthog ATV and Ghost ship - with the fantastic addition of an on-board rocket launcher. Nice. Now imagine that in eight player online action...
Damage is now a big feature, and it'll be possible to target your shots to the extent of being able to shear off the wing of the Ghost in mid air, or turn the Warthog into scrap metal, spinning gracefully through the air in a shower of shards and flame. Impressive, needless to say.
We'll be bringing you our full assessment of the game on Friday morning, once we've had a chance to have a hands on with the game. It's understood that a playable version of the game will only be shown to a select few behind closed doors on the Xbox stand (unconfirmed), and is largely being kept hidden from the general public's gaze during the course of the show - no doubt to the collective fury of general attendees keen to sample one of the star attractions. More news as we get it.