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An Oral History of the Halo 2 E3 2003 Demo


There are millions of whiny 5-year olds on Earth, and I AM THEIR KING.
I remember how naive I was.

Fuck Bungie and their lies. 15 hours of Halo 2 and not a single moment as cool as that demo.
Awesome work. I still hope to track down a copy of it. I could get it playing on some piece of hardware here :p

It's really surprising with how many bungie staff have left and transitioning locations and parent companies that there has never been a build of it leaked to the internet.

They should just put it out there on the internet and let people pick it apart and run it on old modded Xboxes.


I remember how naive I was.

Fuck Bungie and their lies. 15 hours of Halo 2 and not a single moment as cool as that demo.

Why do people always jump to this lies crap? When they were making the demo they had every intention of delivering a final product equal or better to it.

Do you think they chose to waste months of work and development time only to have to scrap it all and kill themselves to finish the game?
The announcement trailer was absolutely incredible. When the chanting chorus was playing (with female vocales) in the end, I lost my shit. Unbeliveable cinematic and larger-than-life.

They totally created this sense of the world is ending and its all over and its just a desperate and hopeless attempt to go down in flames as Chief just plummets from space like an emotionless cyborg enhanced super soldier.

Which spoke to what I was missing about the games earth scenes when it came out. The earth levels had no civilians running away, no mountains of corpses. It was a totally abandoned (but well designed) series of levels.

When I saw that announcement trailer I thought it would be like billions of people would have died. That's how you'd imagine an invasion of earth would have looked like.

HL2 that came out in the same year, was a game where I was not invested emotionally in the grandness of the story or the characters, but undeniable the immersion factor from how the fascist takeover of the world was so much more unsettling as you saw many npcs and non-soldiers get killed, suffer, be tortured or controlled.

The Halo 2 announcement trailer was absolutely incredible. Saw it countless times. had the trailer music (ripped audio) on my Ipod from Limewire. That was life back in the end of 2003.


I'm kind of torn between my desire to express how incredibly crazy and exciting that E3 demo was, and my disgust at how it was basically the beginning of smoke-and-mirrors E3 demos that didn't represent where the game was actually at or what the final product would be like. A year later we got Doom 3 and Half Life 2 demos that were largely rigged, and it was off to the races after that.


This demo was a watershed moment in gaming. Halo 2's marketing made a powerful impression, and that demo sealed it. If only the campaign had measured up.

I was so looking forward to playing that level... It was on repeat in my brain all the way up to the point when I got to play the game on premiere night.


Joe Staten: The original script was pretty ambitious, and we were crazy enough to stick to it (much to the detriment of our sleep habits, hairlines and marital harmony). We really only cut one thing...and I'm not allowed to talk about it. Let's just say if you thought the Brute boarding the Warthog was cool, this would have been, without a doubt, too cool for school. Or at least too big to fit into the classroom. [2]

How crazy is it that Halo 2 is nearly 15 years old, and one of the writers is still sworn to secrecy about a feature or idea that got cut? Who really cares, at this point?

How many years will it take before we can get the full story on the development of games like this?

EDIT: Nevermind, I'm stupid. That interview is from 2003. I'm still curious about what it is they cut though :)


What a great post! Thank you for this!

I live this demo, and am able to replay it scene by scene in my head.

I really wish 343i would be able to release it I some form for us to play.. Would be amazing.


Man, I still remember the excitement of buying Halo 2 at midnight and rushing home to play an all-nighter. One of my best gaming experiences ever.
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