Halo 2 was officially announced in September 2002 with a cinematic trailer. The trailer was subsequently packaged with later Halo: Combat Evolved DVDs. A real-time gameplay beta video was shown at E3 2003, which was the first actual gameplay seen by the public; it showcased new features such as dual-wielding and improved graphics. Bungie informed the public on development with weekly Halo 2 development updates which started on January 16, 2004 and ended June 25, 2004; the weekly updates became standard on the Bungie website even after the release of Halo 2. With only a year to go until release, Bungie went into the “mother of all crunches” in order to finish the game. The cliffhanger ending of the game was not originally intended, and resulted from the frenzy to ship on time. [Info from Wikipedia]
Thanks to FullMetalMC, Randy 355 & Earthwormjim for the contributions!
A beta enemy cut from the game called the Flood Juggernaut! Although it is still in the disc it does not have any spawn points and no dying animation. Some people think its a Hunter Flood form but the Hunter can not be turned into a Flood because it is made up a bunch of worms and have no central brain system. Personally, I think its a Flood version of an enemy that was also cut called the Sharquoi. [by FullMetalMC]
This beta vehicle was called the Mongoose and although it didn’t make it to Halo 2 it has been officionally announced that it will come out in Halo 3. This vehicle’s advantage was its speed and was good at getting to places in a short time but did not have any weapons. [by FullMetalMC]
Another cut enemy or the Drinol. It is based on an enemy from Bungie’s previous series, Marathon. Since the other Covenant have human nicknames such as Elite for the Sangheili I believe that the Sharqoui and the Drinol are in fact the same enemy. I have come to this conclusion because there are no other beta pictures that prove otherwise. [by FullMetalMC]
A Jackal Carrier? Whatever it is, it was obviously cut from the game. Also still in the disk but unused. [by FullMetalMC]
From an article at EuroGamer we can read more info on the development of Halo 2:
“The graphics engine that we showed at E3 2003, driving around the Earth city… That entire graphics engine had to be thrown away, because you could never ship a game on the Xbox with it,” Butcher sighs. “Through putting ourselves through hell, we were able to do a five-minute demo of it, but after we came back from E3 we had to admit that this graphics engine was never going to work – it was never going to support the kind of environments that are really important for a Halo game. So we literally scrapped the entire graphics engine and started from scratch.”
“Even that whole environment, the Earth city, was way too big for the engine at the time,” adds Carney. “We ended up cutting out huge parts of geometry from that level, so you never actually saw that.” […]
“We were building stuff that just couldn’t be played, in any engine,” says Butcher. “We built, and detailed, and went a huge way down the path with a whole bunch of environments and levels for the game that just totally didn’t make it. If you look at the level with the Flood, inside the quarantine area – that is the remaining 20 per cent of a gargantuan, sprawling level that was meticulously built and hand-constructed, but that could never, ever have shipped in any engine.” […]
“It was too ambitious. We had a lot of ideas about other games we’d played, and things that we really wanted to try – but when we got in there, we realised that it was going to require a lot more effort to make it as good as our single-player and our standard Slayer and CTF experiences. We had to cut our losses and just ship with what we were all happy with.” […]
“The original plan had you returning to Earth at the end – which you did, at the end of Halo 2, for about three seconds before it abruptly ended,” says Griesemer. “I think if we’d been able to finish that last couple of missions and get you properly back on Earth, a lot of the reaction would have been placated.”
Another removed feature was a sort of “sea monkey fish tank“:
We should have a little fish tank like thing that had little flood tadpoles in it swimming around. We affectionately called them the “flood sea monkeys.” […]
I remember Harold clearly told us we were going to be locked out of the source depot at 6 am. Well Vic is trying to get these things to animate in a cool way keeps making tweak after tweak to them as we’re hurtling toward 6 am. At this point everyone’s slap happy because we’ve been crunching so hard and for so long. Somehow at the last minute that we’re checking in we notice that Vic’s last tweak to the sea monkeys totally breaks their animations and now they were floating around in their tank it a hilariously ridiculous way, but it’s 6 am and Vic is freaking out. […]
In the videos below you can see more about the game’s development and the removed weapons, levels and characters.
More light was shed on Halo 2’s hectic beta development by the extra content in the Halo 3 collector edition. The first iteration of the space station was expansive enough to drive vehicles around it. Master Chief was to tow the Covenants’ bomb using a Warthog and dispose of it. Following this he boarded a Covenant ship (in place of that deleted level is the cutscene where decimates with it an explosion). Miranda Keyes was introduced inside the ship, and the Chief was tasked with destroying it from the inside. He accomplished this by using a Wraith and shooting its power core.
Miranda had a different role in older plots. She distrusted the Master Chief because of her father’s death and did not comprehend the Spartan’s dire concern for the activation of the rings. Arriving from a mission, the Chief stumbled into her making a truce with the Prophets inside a Phantom. The unlikely allies conspired to plant an explosive on the Spartan’s back and detonate it to eliminate him and the Gravemind. The Gravemind appeared more frequently in older builds. Its tendrils emerged from fissures in the levels, occasional attacking and obstructing pathways. To reach the Flood mastermind the player had to go through some caverns.
On the topic of removed campaign segments, a map that went by the codename “Forreruner Tank” was abandoned. The Arbiter was to race the Master Chief to the Activation Index. Bungie’s original plan was to have the player play through three additional stages instead of ending the game with the Chief arriving in Earth’s orbit. The heretic faction was initially compromised of only Hunters. They were fought on a moon adjacent to one of the Halo Arrays.
Various Concept Arts:
Tech demo + Prototype UI & Live
Making Of and team’s comments:
Removed Scenes, Weapons Vehicles and Characters: