If you were like the majority of people out there, the biggest draw of Halo 2 for you was the online play. Xbox Live gamers have, since November 9th, made it the most played Xbox Live game ever, and the numbers just get more and more staggering. With millions of hours played, and loads of bandwidth hogged, it’s safe to say that Halo 2‘s multiplayer mode is definently something else. But if you’ve been listening to the voices in your headset, your probally hearing how a select few gamers are tiring of Halo 2, looking forward to the next big online title (or, “When the hell are new maps going to be available?!?”. One or the other).
Battlefield: Modern Combat
At first, this may seem like an odd choice, but remember, back in 2002 at Xbox Live launch, there were two glaring peices of software that Xbox Live users were screaming to play online: Halo and Battlefield 1942. We got our online Halo with Halo 2 and we’re going to get our BF 1942 in the form of Modern Combat. Although the title isn’t slated for release until this November (ARRGH!), BF: Modern Combat will feature all the things that made BF 1942 a winner: addictive game types, vehicular warfare, and authentic military weaponry. While the game will only support 24 players over Xbox Live, there’s always hope that the number can be boosted, given the fact that through recent updates, Star Wars: Battlefront has been able to smoothly run 32 player matches for those with a 1.5 MB up and downstream connection. Couple this with the fact that Novalogic, developers of Black Hawk Down, are tinkering with getting 50 player matches on Live for ANY connection, there’s certainly hope for some 32 player madness. We’ll simply have to wait and see.
Fans who clamored for some Battlefield action in 2002 won’t be disappointed with Modern Combat
In all honesty, Im surprised somebody hadn’t thought of this sooner. Iron Phoenix is a unique game to say the least. Not to say it doesn’t look freekin’ sweet. The game features kung-fu movie styled thrills, Ninja Gaiden-esque acrobatics, and weapon based combat. Unlike most fighting games, Iron Phoenix features controls akin to that of a shooter, as well as shooter styled maps in which to wage war in. The game will feature a single player campaign, but the biggest draw will undoubtedly be the multiplayer over Xbox Live. In a nutshell? This will be the Xbox’s Power Stone.
This is just a taste of the frantic, aerial multiplayer you’ll encounter in Iron Phoenix
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow had quite arguabally the finest multiplayer mode released last year. There will likely be many votes for titles such as Unreal Tournament 2004 and Halo 2, but Pandora Tomorrow is definently a serious contender with these heavyweights. However it did have inarguabally, the most innovative and fresh take on competitive online multiplayer, with it’s unique spies vs. mercenaries gameplay. With a swift blow, Ubisoft proved that yes, you CAN have a multiplayer component in a stealth game. And with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, it would appear that they are getting ready to completely flip the genre on it’s head all over again. Chaos Theory will ship with the adversarial mode we loved from Pandora Tomorrow, albeit with a few new additions. Most of the familiar game types from Pandora Tomorrow will return, though under new names, as well as two new adversarial modes. The biggest addition, however, is the co-op mode, which will take teamwork in video games to astounding new levels. If you and your partner can’t decide who gets to be the ladder and who gets to be the ladder, you may encounter some difficulty. Come March 29th, I’ll gladly let those creepy orange visors adorning the faces of mercenaires haunt my dreams.
Dont worry kids, the hot spy-on-merc action will be returning for Chaos Theory
Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict
If MechAssault and Ghost Recon were the wonder children of Xbox Live’s launch, then Unreal Championship was the unwanted red-headed step-child. While the game was a decent peice of online software for Xbox Live to establish itself, the game reeked of a bad port. Laggy framerates, horrid textures, boring gameplay, and perhaps worse of all, controls not optimized for the console, which as we all know, is a BIG no-no when bringing a first person shooter to any console. And Unreal II: The Awakening? Well, perhaps it would be best if we just shy away from that topic altogether. Luckily, the third time seems to be the charm for Epic Games, as Unreal Championship 2 looks to be one of the most promising Live enabled titles to come our way in a long while.
Epic has made sure they do things right this time, and have built Unreal Championship 2 from the ground up with the Xbox specifically in mind. For starters, the game will allow for players to switch on the fly from first to third person. While this will open up the field of vision, it will also allow players to send their character flying across maps with relative ease, and allow players to utilize the game’s highly touted melee combat. Each character packs their own custom melee weapon, and using them is extremely satisfying, especially in the midst of battle, as shredding a random stranger to peices with a set of swords is too much damn fun. And since Midway, the purveyors of Mortal Kombat, are publishing the game. Accordingly, Epic has tossed tons of Mortal Kombat-esque influences into the game, such as the inclusion of the Thunder God, Raiden, as a secret character and the Mortal Kombat announcer assuming the duties of yelling out “Headshot!”, “Rampage!”, and the other duties the Unreal announcer usually has covered. Come April, Halo 2 will have some serious competition in the sci-fi shooter department.
It’s a new, deeper breed of melee combat to be found in Unreal Championship 2
Rainbow Six: Lockdown
Tom Clancy deserves an award. He’s probally got a couple for writing all those books, but he should truly be bestowed with an “Xbox Live MVP” award. Nearly all of his games spend time at the top spot or at least in the top ten of xbox.com’s ‘Top 25 Most Played Xbox Live Titles’. The Ghost Recon titles were kings at the time of Live’s inception, and Pandora Tomorrow had arguablly the most unique multiplayer mode to come down the pipeline in ages. His greatest success in the broadband arena, however, was Rainbow Six 3, which enjoyed resting upon the top spot for a good ten months until it was cruelly dethroned by Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow which reigned until the release of Halo 2. With a good year of being the top online title, it should stand to reason that Rainbow Six:Lockdown will be the next top Live title. Lockdown will be a whole new flavor of Rainbow Six. Xbox Live play will proudly feature a Career Mode. With this, you can create a persistent online avatar for your online self. With it, you can create a custom character to your exact specifications. Want a female counter-terrorist officer wearing a helmet with your choice of camo uniform? Knock yourself out. Taking a cue (a small one, but a cue nonetheless) from Counter-Strike, you’ll need to buy equipment later down the road through your online gaming, as a Kevlar vest will not last forever. Lockdown will, um, lockdown your Xbox this March.
Rainbow Six: Lockdown features robust character customization options
While all of these titles are equally mouth watering, we’ve still got Halo 2 to enjoy until these games come out. And who knows? Maybe these great games won’t even put a dent in the Spartan’s armor.