Review by Galactus21

"Not quite as good as the first."

Halo 2 is quite possibly the most anticipated game ever. There was a vast amount of hype behind Bungie's sequel to its highly acclaimed first person shooter. Halo was a launch title for the Xbox and it single handily put the Xbox on the map. When released Halo received high scores across the board from numerous review sites and many considered it one of the best games of all time. The multiplayer in Halo was unrivalled and many played Halo for years. As you would expect Halo 2 is the game that many Xbox fans have been waiting for patiently. Many were extremely excited to play as Masterchief once again and many were excited about the addition of Xbox live. Halo focused on the story of Masterchief and with Halo 2 the story follows both the Masterchief and the Arbiter who is a Covenant Elite. I really loved the fact that they allowed you to play both sides and play as a Covenant. In Halo the Covenant were just creatures for you to kill, but in Halo 2 it shows that the Covenant are not just vile creatures, but also a race with a deep heritage. This really involves you into the story, while many complained about the story, I for one liked it. While there are points that Halo 2's story can be confusing, but one must keep in mind that Halo 2 is an fps and not a rpg. But one thing is certain, the campaign mode seems truncated, as the very last scene seems to prepare you for a massive battle, but then the credit rolls. So with all that does Halo 2 live up to its massive hype? Keep reading my review and find out.

When Halo was released it showed right off the bat what the Xbox was capable of doing. Halo had beautiful and large environments, it ran smoothly for the most part, the cutscenes were gorgeous and the animations were smooth and gorgeous. The first time I saw Halo in action I was amazed by the graphics it was capable of. Halo 2 is similar to Halo, there are bits of improvements from what I can tell, but it isn't a huge improvement. While the graphics in Halo 2 are still great and does look very good, it still holds a back seat to the other great looking games on the Xbox. One thing though is that the game runs more smoothly than its predecessor and the environments like the first are huge. Ragdoll physics has been applied nicely and vehicle damages look very good. All in all Halo 2 looks very good; it's not as amazing as its predecessor and definitely does not leave a mark that the first did, but the overall quality still provides plenty of eye candy.

Halo while not revolutionary was evolutionary; it took the best parts of other fps and made one fantastic game. There where a few flaws however, such as repetitive level designs, it seemed to drag on for too long and became a hassle to play, and there was no online play. Luckily all these problems have been fixed in the sequel. The levels now offer more of a variety and the game is shorter than the first. And while I felt the first dragged on for too long and ultimately got a bit tedious towards the end, Halo 2's single player campaign seemed a bit rushed with its sudden ending. Despite having a coherent story that featured both sides of the war, the story mode itself felt incomplete. Despite its truncated length, Halo 2 still offers a very good storyline with dynamic gameplay and it doesn't drag on for too long, but it does leave a gaping hole towards the end. I think fps should always have a good single player, but the multi-player is what makes the game really great. That is what Halo was best at and playing it in the past was a phenomenol experience Now I will break down both the single player and the online portion of the game.
Starting with the single player I must say I am actually quite impressed with it. The battles with the covenant were intense, heart pounding and very fun. The A.I is very good; it does a good job of swarming you, dodging and taking cover. Unlike Halo you don't have a lot of marines with you in Halo 2. You still get some, but not as much. Also ammo for your weapons are limited which forces you to use the covenant weapons more. While this makes the game more challenging, I really liked fighting with the marines and using the battle rifle. So every time I was forced to use a covenant weapon it took some of the fun out of it. In addition, the lack of marine support made Masterchief seem lonely and lacked any support, which detract from the amazing experience that the first offered. Now that is just a minor gripe, but one of many that sends it spiraling down. While ultimately it is probably better than the first, the second doesn't make the same mark, and is definitely not as memorable. In the single player as mentioned in my introduction you can play as both Masterchief and the Arbiter. I really love how they included this because it shows the story from both sides. In the single player there are missions that include protecting your marines, assaulting a covenant camp, retrieving an icon and other types of mission. One thing that Halo 2 does more than the original is the usage of vehicles. You will be flying banshees, ghosts, driving warthogs and scorpions more than the first. One cool new feature is the ability to steal someone's vehicle by holding X down when you are close to it. Speaking of new features, the dual wielding in Halo 2 is phenomenal. While this has been done before, the dual wielding felt especially slick and polish. An additional weapon is the plasma sword, while it is not a favoured weapon of mine, I do find it to be my favourite among the Covenant weapons. Anyways as you progress through Halo 2 you will find that the storyline is very enjoyable and that the battles are quite intense and will find yourself glued to your TV screen.

Now onto multi-player and online and one word sums this experience up and that is dissapointment. Halo's multiplayer not only rivaled some of the best online games like Rainbow Six 3 or Counterstrike, but it very may have surpassed them. Playing Halo 2 online felt so sluggish and imbalanced that the overall expederience felt detrimental. The modes online are what you would expect from other online type games. Vehicles can be used online also, but the controls were sluggishly implemented. However, nothing really beats one of your teammates hopping on a warthog, then honking the horn for teammates to join him to wage war on your enemies. You can also use banshees, ghosts, etc. Some of the modes include slayer, team slayer, and capture the flag and many other modes. My personal favourite is capture the flag. It is extremely fun if you can find the right map. Most of the maps are huge and are perfect for warfare. Zanzibar and Waterworks come to mind immediately. You can steal others vehicles online also, but be careful it is not as easy as it seems because not having the right timing could lead you to being ran over. Now if you don't have Xbox live, then you can play system link or split screen. Despite its huge levels and chaotic action, Halo is insanly imbalanced. Ranging from the sniper rifle to the sword, the whole game is more about finding the best weapon rather than testing the skills of the player. At first Halo 2 seems like a dream come true, but once it starts sinking in, then the player will notice the astronomical problems of its online components. Consequently the beginning of the game will see people running towards the rocket launchers and swords, and the people that get there first tend to have a distinct advantage. Halo 2's online modes are fun at times and has its moments, but make no mistake about it, after the game starts to sink in, you will notice the flaws and lack of balance in many facets of its mechanics.

Halo 2's theme song like the first Halo never gets boring, it fits the mood completely. The voice acting is near perfect and the voices for the covenant really shows their culture, what I took out of it was that they are a ancient and very religious race, just by their tone of voice. What is also impressive is the chatter that you can hear in the background, this makes you feel like you are in their world. Now the music for the most part is great. When you're in a dark room the mood changes and etc, but sometimes the music gets a bit repetitive, but overall still great. Halo 2 offers some of the best voice acting around and also a great soundtrack.

Despite having an online mode implemented, the overall quality felt rushed and lacked the same type of depth that many online games have. I was truly excited about the online portion, but after a while, I realized how horrible everything ran. Skills weren't tested, it was a test to see who can reach the best weapons first, and even then, the aiming is so easy that anyone who shoots first will basically have the kill.

Halo offered one of the best fps experiences to date, and while Halo 2 has some improvements, the overall butchering of the online modes is what makes Halo 2 easily forgettable. The level designs were superb and the overall gameplay felt good, but lets not kid ourselves, the game is a major disappointment, considering the amount of time, effort, and hype that went into this game. The online modes were suppose to give this game plenty of longevity, but instead it left me disappointed. Not to mention the online interface can take quite a bit of time before the match is loaded up. Also the way it is set up seems unorthodox and really lacks the well organized interfaces that many games have.

Overall Halo 2 is a good game in its own rights. While the single player was fun while it lasted, it felt rushed and left unfinished, but coupled with the disappointing online portion, the game is easily a forgettable experience. And while the story was quite good, and the action quite intense, Halo 2 just seemed to leave a lot to be desired. Halo 2 is a worthy sequel to a great game, but it improves on the original and offers what the first was missing. If you're looking for a multiplayer treat, then get Halo, and if you're looking for a good online game get Rainbow Six 3. The fact is, despite its astronomical hype, once you get past all that, the game remains a bit uninspired and lacked the balance that the first. But make no mistake about it, Bungie didn't completely butcher the game, it's still a fairly good game, but one can only wonder what happened? Anyways I would say a rental is your best choice.

Graphics - 8/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Sound – 9/10
Value - 7/10
Presentation - 8/10
Overall – 8.1/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/12/04, Updated 12/14/05


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