Anyone remember when Halo 2 released way back in ’04? It received critical praise and people just loved everything about it. It had a great campaign, fantastic multiplayer, a not-at-all-infuriating ending that provided some kind of closure… Okay maybe that last one is more or less the opposite of the truth, but while a lot of people still haven’t recovered from that painfully abrupt ending, it wasn’t the only point of contention surrounding the game. Ladies and gentlemen who may not remember (or never knew in the first place), may I present to you the E3 2003 gameplay demo!
Yes, I realize the video title says E3 2004 but it’s wrong. This demo appeared in ’03, and it was at E3 ’04 that Halo 2’s multiplayer debuted and included but wasn’t stuffed with content that didn’t end up in the final game. It showed the multiplayer map Zanzibar, but also included a warthog that fired rockets (the exact rockets fired from the SPNKR, rather than the burst rockets that appeared in later games). Okay, sorry. I’m going on a tangent. Where were we?
The campaign demo. Right. In short, Bungie showed off a mission that looked phenomenal (for its time). This was when they revealed beloved features like dual-wielding and vehicle boarding. In addition to those tasty licks, there was a whole segment set in the streets of New Mombasa featuring exciting vehicle combat, Brutes on Earth, and marines as competent drivers. There’s even an instance of the AI using a “frag and clear” tactic that got me really excited.
As the demo goes on, you see Master Chief performing a brutal melee combo with the Battle Rifle (which, in this demo, was a single-shot rifle, essentially making it the DMR). He then boards a ghost and pulls a whole group of Covies away from the marines so they can complete their mission. He gets away from his pursuers and ends up on a highway, where he is surrounded by drop-pod Elites wielding swords. He then pulls out a plasma grenade, prompting Cortana to utter the classic phrase “Bet ya can’t stick it.”
“You’re on,” he replies before throwing the grenade as the music swells and the title card appears. I still remember that moment clearly. Adrenaline was pumping through little Brett’s body at a rather impressive rate. The last nine minutes had blown my mind, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this game and kill Covenant in the streets of New Mombasa. There was just one problem.
This mission wasn’t in the final game. Sure, there were missions in the city, but they didn’t include the locations shown in this demo. The closest thing we got was a minute-long part of the “Metropolis” mission that had a tiny, tiny Warthog section. Not only that, but many of the gameplay mechanics shown off were also cut from the game. Dual wielding and boarding fortunately made the cut, but melee combos and marines with IQs above 50 were nowhere to be seen. Also, Brutes never set foot on Earth in the final game.
When you add all of these omissions up, it’s a pretty big gut punch that gamers never got to experience this mission themselves. I’m sure there were reasons behind it. The original Xbox probably couldn’t process all of that at once. The AI seen there was too good to be true. I get it. I just can’t help but think I would have had a blast in Bungie’s original vision for New Mombasa.
It’s not all bad. We still got a great game (though it’s my least favorite in the series). The city missions that didn’t end up on the cutting room floor were really great! I’m just slightly sad I will never get to experience this. No closure or anything. Hell, it took three years, but we even got closure for the end of the campaign when it just abruptly st–