September 17, 2021

The Infinite Loneliness of Halo 2

By the time I got an XBox, the XBox 360 was in full ascendancy. To compound this, I never had a Live subscription. A CRT TV - if two people were playing splitscreen, you each had about the size of a paperback to work with.

I played Halo 2 until the disc wore out.

Having only ever played single player or split-screen with a single person at a time (mostly my sister), the maps in my memory are empty. Even the single player campaign is filled with empty areas. I would spend hours exploring after the initial rush of the campaign had propelled me forward. I learnt all the nooks and crannies, alternate paths. All of them empty - corpses strewn and battle-damage.

I did the same with the multiplayer maps. I don’t remember if you could start a game alone or if I just left a second controller connected to start the lobby, but I know I spent time in the empty arenas. There is, still, a sense of something lurking in the empty spaces. I would imagine the terror at finding something else that moved - some impossible entity haunting these quiet corridors, in the caves in Blood Gulch. The unseen corners of the map teemed with secrets and denizens. I never found any.

Even when I was playing with another, the maps were built for 16. With two it becomes looking seeking periods, hunting through the map, using their half of the screen to seek them. Short, sharp engagements - then back to hunting. The emptiness still lurked, two combatants swallowed up by the digital architecture.

Is it possible for a level to be haunted?


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