Microsoft-owned developer Bungie has finished work on the hugely anticipated Xbox exclusive first-person shooter Halo 2, according to the latest weekly update from the team, with the game on track for a November 9th launch.
"It's finished and shipped to a nebulous region known as RTC (Release to Certification)," according to the update, "where it will be dumped from eight digital tapes onto a DVD and go through some final testing."
Bungie will shortly be discontinuing its weekly updates, since development on the game is now all but completed; while the title is not officially "gold" as yet, with some quality assurance work still to be completed, the actual development process is largely wrapped up.
This leaves the game right on track ("barring any unexpected shenanigans," as the update puts it) for its launch on November 9th in the USA, and 10th/11th in Europe - putting the game a couple of weeks ahead of Half-Life 2, if dates revealed to UK retailers by Vivendi Universal Games last week hold true.
Bungie started work on Halo 2 almost directly after finishing Halo, but with the company now considering its future plans, it would appear that Halo 3 isn't on the menu just yet - with plans to develop "something different" next.
"After Halo 2 we are planning to do something different," Bungie studio manager Pete Parsons told the BBC recently. "We will do something else and we have a few ideas."
This will, of course, raise speculation that Bungie may not be planning to do a Halo title as an Xbox 2 launch title, as had been widely expected, since for a new Halo game to be ready for the launch of Microsoft's next console - expected in late 2005 - work would have to begin right away.
It seems unlikely that the console would launch without some kind of offering from Bungie, which is the jewel in Microsoft's internal development crown. Rather than Halo 3, then, the firm may be hoping to create a new franchise of similar value on Xbox 2, just as it did with Halo at the launch of Xbox.