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Halo 2: We've played it!

Microsoft unveiled Halo 2's multiplayer Zanzibar beach level at their Monday E3 conference - and we've since had the chance to play it for ourselves. The beach-based kill-fest pits the Spartans against the Covenant's Elites and it's huge fun.

One of the first aspects to leap out at us was the fantastic Energy Sword - the game's most powerful weapon. There are three ways of using it. Press B for a diagonal swipe. Hit the right trigger for a huge uppercut that results in a one hit kill. Or if you hold down the right trigger and lock on to your target you can perform a five metre super-quick power lunge which, again, results in a one hit kill.

Firearms-wise, we made ample use of the new dual gun-wielding ability. While you can still press X to swap between weapons, with certain guns you can hit Y to pick up a second gun and have one in each hand, with each trigger on the pad corresponding to the relevant gun. It's a great method with which to wipe out loads of enemies with minimum fuss.

A new assault rifle fires six shot bursts in its normal mode but, hit zoom, and you'll instead get a three shot burst out of it. It's a bit like having an automatic sniper rifle. Meanwhile, the rocket launcher also boasts a secondary function in that if you aim at your target for an extended time, the rocket turns into a homing missile.

The new Warthog buggy now also has a rocket launcher in the back (similar to the version in the PC multiplayer mode) and is fully destructible. As it gets shot at, it becomes harder to drive as parts take damage and fall off. Eventually, after becoming really disfigured, the vehicle blows up. Just to make sure that you're paying attention, there's then a secondary explosion, which will no doubt catch out loads of unwary gamers.

As for the purple Ghost bikes, they are similarly destructible, so you can shoot their wings off, for instance, while the left trigger now gives you a speed boost. Just as good is the fact that you can actually commandeer enemies' Ghosts. If you're close enough, and it's slow-moving, the option to hijack it pops up on screen - one press of X later and it's yours.

As for the multiplayer game itself, we played on the blue Elite side in a six-on-six Capture the Flag game. There's actually only one flag, with one team defending and one team attacking a heavily fortified compound. The trick is for the attacking team to sneak someone in to open up the gate, through which you can then drive your Warthog. You need to watch out for a well-placed machine gun turret though.

Overall, in terms of feel, it's much like original. It's also incredibly solid. Even with 12 players online at once, there were no signs of glitching or slowdown. Bring on November.

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