Review by bbears
"The Most Hyped Game Ever"
INTRO: Halo 2 is quite possibly the biggest freak show of a game ever created. The first Halo was extremely popular and very successful. In fact Halo is arguably the single best reason the XBOX got off it's feet. So naturally the sequel is going to be highly anticipated. But Halo 2 takes that anticipation to a whole new level never seen before. Sure games like MGS2 and FFX were hyped up to laudable extremes. But Halo 2 created such a buzz that it's mid fall release over shadowed everything else. So is this game worthy of that much attention? Yes, Halo 2 is a good game. But is it the best game ever as the media would have us believe? No, Halo 2 still suffers from much of the problems of it's predecessor. Despite the long gap between the two in release dates Halo 2 seems a little bit rushed. There is few new features to the game, but nothing dramatic. And the game does still have level design problems as well that still creeping feeling of repetiveness. All in all Halo 2 is a good game but falls short as sequel and as a hyped up phenomenon that supposedly would change the FPS genre.
GRAPHICS: The first Halo was a very sharp looking game for it's time. So it is to be expected that the sequel would be one too, and it is. Actually Halo 2 is one of the best looking games of this console generation. All the characters are highly detailed. One of my problems with the first game was the enemies just simply did not look menacing, with the level of detail in this sequel that problem has been addressed and solved. The frame rate is also very impressive even with quite hectic action on screen. The getting stuck in wall problem that curses most FPS games in pretty much non existent, which is a very impressive feat in itself. Some people have criticized the cinemas in this game. I really don't see why, they are much better than the original and in my opinion some of the best for the XBOX. The character design is also amazing, the alien the characters are especially well done. The biggest problem of the first Halo was the unchanging level design. The environments this time around though are varied, you will actually go with a pretty impressive array of locales. The animations are impressive too, all the weapons come alive. The sticky grenade as always provides some very fun physics too watch. The new edition of the energy sword also has some great animations.
SOUND: The soundtrack for the original Halo was probably it's single most impressive feature. Why would it's music be considered it's best part? Because it elevated the game above the typical trudging video game plot with something that had real tension and character. Not only that but it was perfect at being cued for the right time in the middle of the action too truly immerse your self in the game. And of course Halo 2 continues this which furthers adds to an even better and more involving plot than the first one. Most of the tracks will be recognized from the first one although a few new ones will come about. The voice acting is top notch as well to help add the dramatic punch of the CG movies. Even the sound effects are great. All the weapons, explosions, vehicles, and carnage sound spectacular. And blowing up that banshee still creates the really cool and unique sound!
CONTROLS: Although I never was really a fan of the Xbox controller that doesn't matter because my 360 controller fits like a glove. Guiding Master Chief through the hordes of Covenant will be no problem. Halo 2 does use the typical two joysticks on a y and x axis for movement. This should come as no surprise as the first one did as well and pretty much every modern game does. The triggers fire your weapon or use your grenades. And when you duel wield the other trigger is used for the second gun so no grenades can be thrown at that point. Aiming and all context actions are easy enough too. Overall I have no qualms with the controller scheme and it does it's job well.
STORY: The first Halo surprisly featured a some what engaging story line. Which is something rare for the first person shooter. That is one of the main reasons I feel the first game was such a success. Halo 2 has a much more in depth story line to it. In fact the plot is the most improved part of the game for the sequel, and it's most distinguishing feature to set it apart. After the first Halo ends with the destruction of the halo, the covenant have found Earth. The covenant are a heiracrchy of aliens of different species on a religious crusade to ride the universe of humans and go on their great journey. Now that they have finally found Earth the launch an invasion against humanity, this of course is where you come in. One thing leads to another and soon your traveling to several different locales and discover that there is in fact more than one Halo. There is also a detachment from Master Chief as you will play a high ranking alien as he leads mission to solve personal matters of the covenant. I know some people didn't like this departures but I thought it did wonders for the game. It gives us a personal look at the covenant and even their politics. This keeps them from becoming a mindless swarm drones. The only real complaint I have in this department though is the very abrupt cliffhanger ending.
REPLAY: The most talked about new feature of Halo 2 is course online multiplayer. Up to this point XBOX has not had a killer app for online play. Which that is a bad thing for Microsoft considering that they charge for online service while Sony does not. Regardless the Halo franchise is more revered in the multiplayer department than anything else, it's the Goldeneye of this generation. Halo 2 still retains the full co op mode. You and another friend can play the entire game together on any console. Even in this mode all the high quality graphics and frame rate hold together. And of course there is all the split screen modes that you would expect. But like I said Halo 2 is about online deathmatch, which is called slayer. There is the typical king of the hill and capture the flag modes as well. The online matches play at great speed and very little problem with ping and lag, unless of course someone is playing with dial up. Halo 2 arguably plays smoother online than Soccom 2, but unlike Soccom has very uninspired leader boards and rooms. Where in Soccom you can sit in room till a friend comes or go explore the myriad of rooms and servers yourself, Halo 2 either puts you in quick match, or you must create your own. Halo 2 because of this moves faster between games, but I liked the freedom to move between rooms at my own preference.
GAMEPLAY: Halo 2 is by large is your average ordinary first person shooter. Basically you headstrong rush through the levels killing enemies until you are overwhelmed, then retreat and make an according counter move. The first Halo did have great AI, which is still present in this sequel but unfortunately they did not try to improve on it at all. Enemies will use cover, retreat, flank, and use grenades effectively. The first game's biggest detraction was absurdly repetitive level design. Halo 2 tries to solve this problem by moving you around to different types of environments. But even still the environments are very limited in themselves. Your still going to get that annoying sense of deja vu as you progress through the game. That's another thing, progressing though the game this time is a much shorter affair. All you need this time 8 hours at the most. That is really disappointing These things combined with cut short plot give the game a rushed feel. But besides the new online feature there plenty new features to keep the game fresh. Namely dual wielding, still working off the premise you can only carry one weapon on your back, grenades, and something with your hands. Your hands then could carry two pistols, sub machine guns, needlers, or even a combination. Large weapons like the assault rifle or rocket launcher require two hands though and can not be dual wielded. The infamous pistol whip is back as well. The melee attacks are just as fun as they were the first time around. Your melee arsenal does get upgraded with the addition of the alien plasma sword that cursed you in first game in the hands of your enemies. And speaking of your enemy, will play him (can't think of his name Arbiter?). The only difference while playing as him is you have a cloak that slowly drains when used but recharges on it's own. Although the game never forces stealth on you it can lead to some fun with the plasma sword.... The only other big change is your health. You no longer have a health bar, just a shield. So of course it charges much faster this time around and is more resilient. This means there is no need to search for health items ever in the game. However this does lead to charge and retreat tactics that make the single player a little too easy, yet it does add tension to the already multiplayer.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/05/06
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