Review by orporg
"A must have"
Halo 2 mostly lives up to its hype. It's a great game and the best console FPS experience there is right now. While it does have some flaws that keep it from being perfect this is a game that is well worth the 55 bucks (limited edition) it costs.
This review will be for the single player campaign.
Storywise, it's about as good as the first Halo. You really needed to have played the first game to understand everything and it also helps a great deal to have read the Halo novel "First Strike" as well. The plot meshes well with the gameplay. There is more voice acting and more characters, which really does help to move the plot along.
Graphically, the game is great. The first Halo had (and still does have) great graphics. Halo 2 improves on them. Not hugely but enough to satisfy your expectations for sequels. There is one pretty big graphical flaw however and that is the faces in the cutscenes. Bungie has tried to make faces and facial movements more detailed. They succeeded but the faces just don't look right. All of the faces have some unpleasant puffiness to them. Everyone looks bloated from the neck up. This isn't a huge thing however, as it doesn't really come across when in combat. And besides, when in combat you're more worried about blowing away the enemy than your allies' eye sockets.
Musically the game is just as good as the first and Halo's music was very good. I'm glad they kept mostly to the style of the old Halo music and didn't bow to pressures to make it more pop like. The music fits the game beautifully.
The sound effects are equally good. The bangs and smashes and crashes and voices are superb. Some sound effects were recycled from the first game, which is no problem at all. Others were re-done and sound even better. The sound, quite simply, rocks.
On another note, the use of controller vibration is well used as well. It isn't overdone (except in a few cutscenes) and along with the sound it adds well to the heart pounding action.
The gameplay, of course, is where Halo 2 shines. The biggest additions to the regular ground war (non-vehicles) are the dual wielding and the absence of a health bar. Your shields are all that lie between you and oblivion. Overall, I think this makes it a touch harder. But not so much that it'll piss you off. And not having to run around hunting for health packs is nice. And don't worry, you can take one or two hits of small arms fire when your shields are depleted.
The Chief moves and fires mostly like he did in Halo, which is with liquid precision and speed. Combat is an enormous pleasure, even more so than Halo. The controls are responsive and quick. I still have a been with having to push down the left stick to crouch, because it's hard to keep from moving forward while doing this. But the Xbox controller only has so many buttons.
Vehicle combat is better than ever. Vehicles look and control fantastically. The boarding feature also adds a great deal of tactical gameplay to Halo 2. Should you try blowing the vehicle up or stealing it? And should you take your vehicle into that pack of Elites and risk getting it ripped off from YOU? Pure genius.
A note on the Limited Edition version. If you can find it, get it. It's only 5 bucks more and it's well worth it. The Bungie DVD is nifty and some of the scenes on it can be pretty funny. The cool looking metal case alone is worth the extra 5 bucks. Especially when you consider how horribly ugly Xbox cases are. The metal case (well, metal on the outside) is also the size of a standard DVD case so it will fit nicely into racks.
My final word is, if you have an Xbox and you liked Halo even a little bit, buy this game. It's well worth it. Though the campaign is too short and ends somewhat abruptly, you can always jack up the difficulty and play through again.
I would guess that if there is a Halo 3 we'll see it on the next version of the Xbox. And I certainly hope it'll be a launch title.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/10/04
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