Review by Megarex2002
"Simply the best FPS on XBox..."
At long last the fabled (no pun intended) Halo 2 is here at last. Selling 2.38 million copies and making more than $100 million on release day, Halo 2 is quickly headed to be the biggest seller on XBox and another killer app for the console. While it is clear that Bungie worked very hard on the game, and it shows in a deep storyline, beautiful graphics and incredible gameplay, Halo 2 is not without its flaws. In the following review I will attempt to break down the game into its different components and grade each one to allow you, the consumer, to decide whether Halo 2 is a good buy.
Bungie essentially took the approach that other game developers have taken, such as those of the Soul Calibur series, and that is the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" school of thought. The game plays beautifully with balance being the main concern. The good old pistol has been nerfed with no scope, a 12-round clip and less punch in each shot, and many Halo players will instantly realize the disappearance of the beloved, if not weak, assault rifle. While many people may complain about this, it was necessary to make the game fair and make each of the weapons fun to use. Bungie succeeded very well in this aspect, and indeed each gun is fun to use and this allows for a broader range of killing options.
The single player portion of Halo 2 is excellent in and of itself, although it does falter in some areas, such as the repetitive cut-and-paste technique used in the original Halo, and the time it should take the average person to finish the level being about as long, if not shorter, than the original Halo. In spite of this, the single player still tops that of any current generation FPS games. You travel across a wide array of well thought out environments and the objectives are much more interesting this time around, instead of just going from point A to point B like the original game. Not only that, but the levels are actually fun to play in and are very well fleshed out. As I mentioned before, Bungie did cut-and-paste in a few levels for reasons unknown even thought they claimed to have heard the complaints about the original game, but in general you will be staring at all the amazing graphical details they put in this time around. All in all, the storyline is still better than 95% of the other games on the market.
Because I do not want to spoil the story for those of you who have not played the game yet there is not a whole lot I can say about my low score, although I will attempt to explain as much as I can. The bottom line is that Bungie should have focused on a broader story, because Halo 2's plot is lacking in several ways. For one, the guys at Bungie attempted to tell too much too fast. You will find yourself jumping back and forth between two different, but connected, stories, and at times it gets very confusing. Also, the story is not told very well. The story does not go in depth into most of the sub-plots and will leave you craving more background on a given storyline. Of course, most you will have now heard about the ending to the game. Let's just say that your adrenaline is going and you're pumped for the next level, and the last cut scene makes it seem like you're about to dish out a good old Covenant ass-kicking, but then the game ends. In spite of this, the story is not all bad, and if you take the time to look into it, it is fairly interesting and some parts are in fact very well done, although they are few and far in between.
Bungie really kicked the graphic up a notch in Halo 2 and it shows. Just by watching various combat situations you will instantly see the increased fluidity of the gameplay. Normal mapping is implemented everywhere, giving the same effect as bump-mapping, while saving more disk space in its simpler mechanics. The amazing attention to detail is probably the best part as you will find yourself staring at the needles in your needler, or the armor of your fellow marines. And even better is that fact that the game still runs at a solid 30 fps taking hits only a when the action gets heated on co-op. The only other place where the graphics falter is the excessive amount of pop-in textures and objects in cut scenes. In each cutscene you will usually see several textures or objects, if not everything pop onto the screen over the period of one or two seconds. However, this was done so that there would be no load times in between levels and cutscenes, thus maintaining the overall pace of the game. Even so, the framerate, detailed environments, animations and the fluidity of the gameplay make Halo 2 one of the most graphically impressive games on the XBox.
Along with the graphics, the sound is also top notch. With over 20,000 lines of combat dialogue, compared to Halo's 4,000 or so, you will find yourself rolling on the floor laughing at some of the conversations. For example, at one point during a cutscene early in the game the human AI, Cortana, asks what a message she intercepted from a Covenant cruiser, that reads, "Regret. Regret. Regret," could mean. Sergeant Johnson replies in kind, "We regret being alien bastards, we regret coming to Earth, and we most definitely regret that the Corps just blew up our raggedy-ass fleet." On top of the combat dialogue, which is done by a host of semi-well known actors including Orlando Jones, Michelle Rodriguez, David Cross and Keith David, there is also the ambient sounds and weapon effects. Each weapon has a distinctive noise to it, which you will sometimes listen to, just because it's a cool sound, as well as the ambient combat noises that you can hear in the distance or close by. Altogether, the sound adds tremendously to the atmosphere of the game and earns its high marks.
You know, I would give this an 11/10 if I could. It is that good. I have been playing on XBox LIVE since day 1, and this is the most fun I have had in a video game in a long time. The maps are all excellent and well thought out to fit various game types. Compared to Halo's relatively bland and symmetric maps, Halo 2's are amazing. Maps like Zanzibar, where CTF rules the field, are what make the multiplayer so incredible. You will find yourself wanting to play both offense and defense because the gameplay changes so much from one role to the other. Also, Bungie has revamped Blood Gulch and Battle Creek from the original Halo, made them more interesting, and thrown them back in Halo 2 as Coagulation and Beaver Creek respectively. New modes such as Assault, where one team attempts to carry a bomb into the enemy base and detonate it, and Territories, similar to King of the Hill, are also new additions and add to the level of replayability the game has. On top of all this, Bungie implemented XBox LIVE very well, with a random, although sometimes too random, matchmaking options. This means that there is no defined host who can boot players, and end the game if they leave. Now the host is the player with the strongest connection, and if they leave, the person with the next strongest connection becomes the host. This works very well, and with the addition of downloadable content and rankings/stats on bungie.net, multiplayer is the biggest reason, but not the only reason, to buy Halo 2.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/04
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