Review by Rhask
"XBL is highly recommended"
This review will be split into 3 main categories, the general overview, the campaign and multiplayer.
Halo 2 is the sequel to the amazing Halo, a game that Bungie had trouble deciding what to do with, at first it was going to be a 3rd person action/rts hybrid for the Macintosh, then Microsoft bought Bungie and we got ourselves a good first person shooter highly similar to Marathon, a previous Bungie franchise.
Halo 2 was hyped to a new level for games, set media sales records, and many people took a day or two off of work for it. Did it live up to the hype? Well yeah, but was it really that hyped up? Not really, just advertised to a new level. Halo 2 ads and merchandise were everywhere, I think Shrek 2 was the only media item more obnoxiously advertised than Halo 2. For the most part Bungie kept pretty quiet about Halo 2.
I would give the graphics a lower rating (8), they aren't that impressive but remember what you see on the big screen will run split screen just as smoothly, that is amazing. With some nice bump-mapping and normal mapping. The aliens generally look more believable than the human models do too, excluding the MC himself. Besides that note you've heard enough about them that I shouldn't need to get into detail.
The sound is good, especially with 5.1 surround set up. Although some of the weapons seem to sound weaker, namely the plasma rifle.
The voice acting is pretty good too, the Master Chief still sounds bad ass, Cortana still sounds smart and sophisticated, and putting Keith David on for the Arbiter was a great choice. The girl who did the voice for Keyes daughter didn't cut it for me though, she sounded like she was bored out of her mind just reading off a script.
Gameplay 8 (sp only)
I actually found the combat to be less intense than in Halo, I beat the game on Heroic the first time through and died an awful lot, but I felt it was due more to cheap enemy placement than the AI. The vehicle missions with the endless wave of Ghosts was annoying too. The game is still fun, and using the sword was a blast, but the original game seemed to have much more intense fire fights to me. Anyone remember T&R on legendary? no moments like that in this game. A few moments stuck out like the Scarab. And a certain character flipping provided a twist to gameplay.
You have to admire Bungie for trying to make a new and interesting story. The problem is they made you sympathetic twoard everyone. There is no "true" bad buy in the game, and even the major antagonists are just mislead or confused, or truly belive in their cause. More true to life, sure, but I don't want to feel sorry for the guy who just kissed my shotgun slug. The ending wasn't that terrible, very Matrix 2 and Xenosaga like, raised more questions than answers.
I have played first person shooters online since the first Quake came out back in 1996. I've played all the big name games, Unreal, UT, Tribes, Q3, ect... I know what multiplayer for a first person shooter is. Halo 2 multiplayer is extremely fun, and although the system for matchmaking is awkward at first, it is a great system to use for ranked games.
If have to say one thing it is this: gun fights happen fast. My average gunfight lasts less than 5 seconds before someone is dead, usually less than 2. It doesn't take long to wear down an opponent, and the shotgun is pretty much instant kill at close range. Learning proper duel wields can also severely shorten battles. (Plamsa pistol + smg = near instant kill).
The gameplay is very balanced, their is a specific use for every weapon, and duel weilding certain weapons is devastating. Despite the constant bickering that the sword is cheap it is actually balanced, just don't stand still or get close, and if they snuck up behind you it was your fault and you deserve to die, keep aware.
Things also seem a little to easy at times, there is no way to run into a firefight filled with many people and not die really. Skilled players can pull it off, but it also depends alot of on luck, if someone gets a good respawn while your shields are recharging your pretty much screwed. I also hate the fact that you spawn with a somewhat capable weapon, I don't like having my exp penalized because someone 4 levels lower than me spawned in the room I just finished with a firefight in and shot me for a split second with the smg and killed me.
Back to the online match making system though. At first glance it is the most crude, ugly and repulsive system ever made. Keep in mind though that it helps make sure that similarly skilled players are matched against eachother though, and not mopping the floor with newbies forever. Still one can help but beg for a gamespy like list of games, or the ability for anyone to join a custom game. Not everything needs to be ranked, some people want to play for fun and not gloating purposes. Playing with more skilled players can help you learn tricks and tactics too. A perfect system would include the current optimatch for the ranked games and an Unreal Tournament-esque setup for unranked games.
The length of time it can take to find a game is unbearable too. I have had time to piss, make a sandwich, smoke a cigarette, and grab another can of pop, before a game was found before. I know its busy and all but good lord, sometimes you wait to play longer than you play.
The gametypes are interesting too. Team Slayer could use a higher kill cap, 25 seams to low for 8 people (makes for 3 minute games). The larger assault levels could use a higher time limit for the offense (at least for lower ranked players). Crazy King is fun as all hell, its king of the hill only the hills move around, just because your king now, doesn't mean you will be later when the hill moves. Oddball is also fun, but they need to make the ball shoot up the jump tunnel thing when its dropped.
One last gripe, sometimes it seems like my weapons don't do near as much damage as normal, I have actually stood on top of someone with the shotgun and shot their head 6 times before killing them (no they didn't have overshield), but other times a few rounds to the head from the smg kills very efficiently. It might just be the built in auto-aim trying to help too much at times too. Maybe the hit detection is a little buggy as well. I noticed once with the sniper rifle that I flat out missed someone, but I still killed them with a headshot too (and other times I've wasted all 4 rounds on someones head and watched them live).
In the end, Halo 2 on XBL is incredibly fun and engaging, I hope this game will bring pro gaming to the masses.
My closing thoughts are this, the single player experience is a good one, but not really worth the $50 hard earned dollars, I'd advise renting it first if you don't have XBL. If you have XBL this is a no brainer. Only Splinter Cell:PT, Crimson Skies, and Kingdom Under Fire, are really played (CS doesn't count, that is way more enjoyable on a PC), and this is an excellent starting game for Multiplayer First Person Shooters.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/16/04
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