Review by PurestProdigy
"Not without it's flaws but much better than it's predecessor"
With an improved story, online play, better graphics, and less questionable weapon balance, Halo 2 is a major improvement over the original game. It cleans up many of the major issues I had in the first game, but it still falls short of being above average. Multiplayer is obviously improved due to Xbox Live as opposed to local multiplayer and Xbox Connect. The story no longer keeps you in the dark as long as before, and has twists and plot elements that actually make it interesting this time around. The graphics are improved, and it feels as if the gameplay balance has been toned slightly to feel smoother.
As with the original game, the story is a cavalcade of science fiction elements that may not have been seen to often in videogames, but have been run through so many times in other forms of media. You have the aliens, the genetically enhanced super-soldiers, the Artificial Intelligence with a personality and many other pieces that are not necessarily exclusive to this game. Now I'm not going to spoil too much of that here, but to describe the story of this game may spoil the story of its prequel. First off, the original scene takes place from the point of view of the antagonists, finally giving viewers some insight as their motives and behavior. It is revealed that the Covenant's interest in Halo has to do with the activation of the rings. One of the Covenant, known as an Elite, is stripped of his rank, and branded as a heretic for not stopping the destruction of the Halo ring from the first game. Meanwhile, we see our hero Master Chief being commended for his victory in the first game when a Covenant fleet comes in and attacks the ship that everyone's on and the game begins. Throughout the game there is definitely an increase in plot twists and development. First off, you play through campaign as Master Chief as usual, but the Elite mentioned before is also playable (I won't spoil how or why here, just know that he's playable). This switching of perspective is a brilliant refresher from the dull storyline of the first game.
Gameplay is improved and balanced in this game as mentioned before, but mostly it has been expanded. There are more vehicles and weapons, more enemies, and generally this adds more to the game. You can have a weapon in each hand this time around and the health gauge system has been switched around a little. There are no longer individual shield bars, but the health bar will regenerate when the player has not taken damage for a while. The campaign mode is definitely more of a challenge especially on Legendary difficulty. On Legendary you can't just wait for your buddy to respawn somewhere while you hide in a corner, so it is definitely more intense than in the previous game. As mentioned before you can play from the other side's view in this game, and when there are situations that call for that, Master Chief's flashlight is replaced with a cool cloaking device that employs stealth instead of power when dealing with enemies. There are also a multitude of easter eggs in campaign including the infamous skulls that can drastically change the gameplay.
Multiplayer is also improved enormously due to Xbox Live, and this is probably the most populated game for the original Xbox. Personally, I had no trouble finding matches during any time of the day. The only downside to this is that you need to update your maps, which takes a long time but they are free so it's not a big deal. You can play a whole lot of different game modes from free-for-all, to teams, to really big teams. You can join into a clan and once you do, your kills will help your clan move up in rank. It's not exactly a form of social networking, but it's fun interacting and talking with people in your clan. The maps are a better variety than those offered in the first game, and it feels that the placement of vehicles and weapons is much improved. My one gripe is that when you kill other players, they spawn way to fast and it is literally possible to get in a firefight with the exact same person you just killed who now has full health and a full clip while you're still dying and have no ammo left.
Graphically, the game is actually impressive. There still is the problem of similar looking areas causing a player to get lost in campaign mode, but cutscenes and action look crisper and clearer. Glitching still occurs but it is a very rare occurrence and does not happen often enough that it's a major issue.
All-in-all this game improves and expands upon everything that the first game has done. The story does not thrive upon leaving you in the dark until the end of the game, and switches perspective enough that you won't be too bored. The campaign itself is more of a challenge and although it appears as if an effort was made to eliminate similar looking areas, they are still present and noticeable. Graphically the game is greatly improved over it's predecessor and there are no real complaints in that area. Multiplayer is where the game really shines and the competition is good enough to keep one occupied for a good while. This game really does lack a tilt factor that brings it above other games, but it's not an awful game.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/21/09
Game Release: Halo 2 (US, 11/09/04)
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