June 02, 2005

My Halo 2 Experience

When I read awhile back that there were people actually making considerable tournament money playing the popular X-Box game sequel, Halo 2, I was naturally intrigued. You can make money playing video games? It’s like every geek dream I’ve had since I was 12 years old.

The drawback, however, was that I didn’t own Halo 2. What’s more, I didn’t own an X-Box. What’s even more, ever since PC-based Command & Conquer came out years ago, I’d barely even touched a video game console. The last console I owned was a Sega Saturn, so my opinion of game consoles had ended on a particularly sour note.

The obvious solution to not owning an X-Box or Halo 2 was to go out and play Halo 2 on somebody else’s X-Box. To accomplish this, I consulted the 14-year-old step-son of a good friend of mine. What transpired was about three hours of getting schooled in Halo 2 by a 14-year-old who made a habit of sighing loudly at my incompetence, and pointing out obvious facts like “you’re really bad at this” and “I’ve never played anyone this bad.” Not surprisingly, such constructive criticism did little to improve my game play.

Don’t misunderstand me, I did actually enjoy playing the game. Visually, it’s a stunning achievement and, as first person shooters (FPSs) go, I can see why it could be an addictive pastime with legions of devoted fans. That said, I don’t think I could ever be one of those devoted fans.

It boils down to this: PC-based FPSs have spoiled me. I have been conditioned by nearly a decade of PC gaming to play using a mouse and a keyboard. It’s what I know and understand and, in my opinion, there no better way to play an FPS than with a mouse and keyboard.

Playing Halo 2, I was consistently vexed by the X-Box controller. There are just so many buttons, to say nothing of those maddening dual thumb-sized joysticks that I couldn’t toggle to save my soul. Oh, sure, I could see the avatar being run by the impatient 14-year-old sitting next to me, but I couldn’t target him even if somebody offered me a briefcase full of cash. The right thumb toggle required a precision touch that most surgeons would envy. I’d see my enemy coming toward me, and I’d try to maneuver my targeting reticle over the oncoming assailant, only to pass by him by several yards. Then I’d try to come back, and I’d overshoot him yet again. Only about one out of every 20 shots found their mark, which simply wasn’t enough to finish him off before he got within range and fragged me with a sword (which he used because “it at least made it a little challenging”).

My solution, such as it was, was to run around the map until I found a tank I could drive. I learned that landing precision shots with a tank wasn’t all that necessary. All I had to do was get a round in close, and the concussion would do the rest. This technique worked for awhile, until my opponent started zooming in close with a speeder, disembark, jump aboard my tank, and slice me where I sat.

I experimented with other techniques, weapons and vehicles through the course of my Halo 2 trial. Some worked briefly, others not at all. So, we switched over to collaborative play which. . .whereas I thought a 14-year-old sighed a lot and was overly impatient during combative play, I was in no way prepared for the level of impatience encountered during collaborative play.

“Come ONNNN,” I’d hear. “What’s taking you so long? Where ARE you?”

Again, such impatience did little to actually improve my Halo 2 playing ability.

So, I won’t be playing Halo 2 again in the near future. Although I thought it was visually stunning, and the overall FPS game concept was great, I just can’t see myself weaning away from the mouse and keyboard approach to FPSs, on which I’ve grown to depend.

Besides, I didn’t win any money playing Halo 2, which was what attracted me in the first place.

Posted by Ryan at June 2, 2005 02:58 PM

I felt exactly the same as you... for a while. I bought an xbox a couple years ago and started out by playing RPG's, racing games, sports games, and fighting games. I didn't really try FPS's b/c I was spoiled by a mouse/keyboard. Eventually, though, after a little bit using a controller finally clicked and I found I actually like using it (but a mouse/keyboard is still better). I say go buy an xbox 360 when it comes out this winter and just start playing games!

Posted by: Rick at June 2, 2005 03:38 PM

That's pretty much what turned me off to video games for a good decade and a half. I never had Atari or Nintendo, but when I went over someone else's house they always wanted to play video games. This was back when "two player" meant each guy gets three lives and you take turns playing. Cooperative or Competitive modes didn't exist.

To make matters worse, games like Mario Brothers seemed to rely on knowing secrets that you could never figure out on your own. Like jumping on invisible boxes to hit other invisible boxes. You know, stuff you could only find out about by reading Nintendo Power magazine.

So what would transpire would be me playing for about 30 seconds before getting killed, the kid who's house it was making some sarcastic comment and playing for 20 minutes. Then I would get another 30 seconds and he'd get another 20 minutes.

They never understood why I found this boring.

Posted by: David Grenier at June 2, 2005 03:48 PM

I tried playing Halo once. And I failed. Miserably.

I usually just blame it on my lack of a penis.

What's your excuse?

I'm rule the school in Mario Kart though. Wanna play?

Posted by: Tammy at June 8, 2005 11:50 PM
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