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by Ferrex (Dead)

Most of the E3 coverage came from the terribly impressive Halo movie, which was actually a recorded sequence burned onto a DVD, not actually the engine doing things in realtime for each performance. However, prior to each showing of the movie, we were treated to a realtime demonstration in which Bungie's Joseph Staten demonstrated weapons, vehicles, and other cool things about the engine. These haven't received much attention in light of the movie that followed, but they did yield a few interesting tidbits.

The first thing one saw in these demos was the new marine standing in the foreground, and the jeep (which has been called a hog in the movie, presumably a contraction of warthog) dropping from a few dozen feet and coming to a rest in the background. A nice touch, as it shows off the jeep's very cool suspension modelling.

The marine is substantially more impressive than the first screenshot of him would have you believe. He certainly has more upper body bulk than it first appeared, and the new armor has a more coherent feel to it. The green color does look a bit awkward, given that nobody else and none of the terrain is that shade of green, but it doesn't distract a great deal from his appeal. Apparently, the little lights seen around his body are part of a shield system, but I didn't have a chance to see if they actually glowed in the dark.

The first weapon demonstrated was the single barrelled, pump action shotgun. The modelling and animation is fantastic--the blast kicks the marine's shoulder back exactly as you'd expect, and the pump action goes off smooth as silk. The shot itself kicks up a good deal of dirt if discharged into the ground, and it's easy to make out the points of impact if fired into the distance.

The second weapon is the familiar assault rifle. As with the shotgun, the recoil and reload action is smooth and believeable, with the marine shuddering with each burst. An interesting fact about the grenades was also revealed--unlike Marathon's, they have a timed fuse, meaning a grenade won't necessarily explode on impact. However, they also don't appear to explode in midair... we figure the grenade will not explode until x seconds have passed and it has hit something. Interesting possibilities there, especially for using the grenades at close range and indoors.

The third demoed weapon was the sniper rifle, which is actually looking very good (and this from a person who frowns upon sniping ;). The bullet does create a short lived vapor contrail when fired, which means an attentive person can pinpoint the location of a sniper who isn't careful. The reload time is also reasonably long, which means a player who survives the first shot has a good chance of avoiding a second. The weapon sounds also have a lot of promise--the zip of the bullet in flight is downright terrifying, and the time delayed crack of a distant gunshot is a magnificent touch. Total Audio's Marty O'Donnell confirmed that that particular detail wasn't just there for the movie--Halo's sound engine will support appropriate time delays to accurately depict distant sounds.

In addition to the weapons, the Warthog jeep was also sporting a few improvements and featured in the demo. The machine gun turret now boasts a three barrelled gatling gun in place of the previous machine gun, and large plate shields to better protect the gunner. The interior of the jeep was also shown off a bit, revealing status displays and readouts on the dash. Joseph never zoomed in closely enough to make out what they said, claiming some rudeness in the scrolling displays, but it's good to see the attention to detail is there.

In some later demonstrations, the Covenant flyer was also shown off a bit. Like the jeep, the cockpit interior boasts displays and similar attention to detail. In demonstrating the flight charactertistics of the craft, Joe showed off several stall and hover maneuvers, things that players who specialize in piloting may come to refine and exploit. Joe also stressed, on several occaisions, that he was using the exact same controls to walk, drive, and fly, which should ease the complexity of the controls a great deal.

There were some flaws in the engine as demonstrated, but we'll go over those in a different article...

Originally posted May 14, 2000