Review by Nahtanoj
"A Worthy Successor"
Everyone has heard of Halo 2. It is the sequel to the most popular Xbox game and the it became the fastest selling game of all time. Unfortunately Halo 2 is THE most hyped game of all time, on midnight November 9th 2004 people were lined up at stores to get their copy of Halo 2. It has a lot to live up too. The question is, did it live up to its own hype?
Halo 2 is, obviously, a continuation of Halo's story. You play the role of the Master Chief who is the last of the cybernetic super-soldiers called Spartans. The first game had you fighting against the Covenant, a religious order consisting of several races that had decided that humanity was an affront to god. Your battle led you to the gigantic ring world called Halo. There you discovered the Flood, a parasitic species that could infect and mutate any living tissue of a big enough bio-mass. In order to contain the Flood Halo is activated; however Halo contains the Flood by destroying the whole galaxy. The game finishes with you, the Master Chief, being the sole survivor of Halo after you destroyed it and saved the galaxy. Halo 2 begins with the Covenant invasion of Earth and the story flows from there. However during the course of the game you won't always be fighting with the Master Chief. The story does its job and keeps you interested in the game, especially if you are a fan of Sci-Fi. There are a few plot twists to spice things up, and the game certainly ends with you wanting more(maybe a bit too much more). But don't walk into looking for the most entertaining story of all time because you won't find it.
If you are familiar with the First Person Shooter genre Halo 2 won't do anything to surprise you in the singleplayer aspect. Meaning you kill anything that's trying to kill you. Like the original you will rely heavily on cover in Halo 2. You have a shield that recovers around every fifteen seconds. So you'll pop out shoot a few guys and then duck behind cover while your shields recharge. Unlike the original you have no health bar to keep you alive once your shield goes down, once your shield is gone you can take a couple more hits and then you're dead. This forces you to be more aware of how your shields are doing.
There is nice supply of guns to use in the game, human and covenant, and a lot of them are new and the ones that are returning from Halo have been tweaked a bit. Different weapons have different uses and you will soon find what combinations work best to take down different enemies. You can only hold two weapons at a time, just like in Halo; this is a good thing as it adds a lot of strategy to the game as you'll have to decide which ones you will need the most. Every weapon also has a melee attack which you can use to bash enemies in the head when they are not looking, these melee attacks are quiet and don't alert other foes to your presence, this adds a lot to the game because you can use a little stealth and kill everybody in a room without them even knowing you're there. New to Halo 2 is the ability to carry two weapons at once. With this you can come up with different combinations adding to the strategy of the game. Also there are two different kinds of grenades that you can use to add to the destruction, they give you even more options and ways to kill your enemies.
The final additions to your destructive arsenal are the vehicles that you will find scattered around the levels. These vehicles are really fun to use and they are all unique. You can be constantly moving and dodging as you hover around in a Ghost. Or you can run over and blow up everyone in your path with the massive Scorpion Tank. A new addition from the first Halo is the ability to hijack vehicles that your enemies are using. This is fun. There is nothing quite like jumping onto an enemy Ghost kicking out its occupant and then turning around and promptly running him over. The hijacking system, like dual-wielding, is a small addition but it adds a lot of fun the game.
Throughout the game you will do a mix of running, shooting, driving, and flying as you try to kill everything in your path. The campaign lasts anywhere from 15-25 hours depending on what difficulty you're playing on. The four different difficulties do a really good job of offering a different experience. On easy you will blow through the game in no time, but if you decide to play on Legendary (the hardest difficulty level) get ready to be frustrated from the get-go. The game is fun but, like its predecessor, gets repetitive. The first half of the game is great, and the level's are actually interesting and unique, a nice change from the drab levels of the first game. But the second half of the game seems to lag a bit, and the levels return to being a crawl through room after room that looks almost the exact same. In the end the singleplayer game is a bit of a disappointment, it feels like Bungi started out with the idea to make a game that was above and beyond Halo, and then gave up half way through.
Multiplayer is the reason to play Halo 2. Period. First of all it has the standard four person split-screen in all of the various games (Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, ect ). With a couple of good friends this provides fun for hours. However it gets even better, you can hook up to four Xbox's together so up to sixteen people can play in the same household. It doesn't get much better then a giant 8 vs. 8 game of capture the flag. To top it off Halo 2 seems made for co-op, with a friend to fight along side you the levels that seemed drab and boring before are now intense and exciting. With that alone Halo 2 has immense replay value. But it doesn't end there; Halo 2 has perhaps the best online mode to ever grace a console. All of Halo 2's multiplayer modes are online and great fun to play. To make sure every game is fair you are given a ranking; you start out at 1 and move your way up as you get better. The matchmaking system matches you with people within a few levels of you. This ensures that you won't be beaten by veterans who spend every waking moment playing Halo 2.
For the most part the games are lag free, the exception being the 16 player games and even then it isn't common. Every once in a while a game will loose its connection and have to reconnect but this is also uncommon and it only takes about a minute to reconnect. The biggest problem is the online community. Yes most online communities are horrible but in Halo 2 the majority of people have headsets so they can talk. In close to 1/3 of the games there will be some jackass making weird sounds, screeching, trash talking, or just plain being annoying. Thankfully there is an option to disable voice, but that can lead to problems during team games when good communication can win you the match. A better option is to join a clan. The clan system in Halo 2 works like every other online gaming clan, it consists of a group of people(max 100) who play games together against other clans. If you can find a good clan you won't run into as many annoying people.
Gameplay online is great, Halo may have great AI but it can't beat a real person. Stealing a vehicle is now even more fun because you know there is somebody halfway across the world getting pissed off about it. There are five main play modes, Rumble Pit, Head to Head, Team Skirmish, Big Team Battle, and Team Slayer. Rumble Pit consists of individual games like the standard Deathmatch and other games where it's you verse everyone else. Head to Head pits you against one other player. Team Skirmish is a 4 vs. 4 team game. Big Team Battle is an 8 vs. 8 team game and Team Slayer is just two teams trying to kill each other. All the modes are fun, the only problem with them is you don't get to choose exactly what game your going to play. For example if you choose Team Skirmish you could be put in a game of Assault, Capture the Flag, or another team game. You don't choose so if there is a certain type of game you don't like it might take some time before you're matched with one that you do like. But for the most part all of the game types are fun so it isn't a big deal that you don't get to choose. The main problem is that some of the weapons seem unbalanced, most noticeably the Sword, which has a one it kill from about 15 ft away. Really bad players can rack up really high scores with the sword. But it doesn't pose a major problem because if you are good enough you will learn ways to take down the sword, and a few of the other unbalanced weapons a good amount of the time. Overall Halo 2 online is great, and I see myself playing it for months to come.
Halo 2 looks good. The Master Chief himself is an amazing character model and all of the weapons and environments look good. Artistically the game begins to get repetitive in the second half, but at the start on the war-torn cities of Earth the level design is fantastic. The other character models besides the Master Chief don't look quite as good but they aren't bad either. There is little to no lag ever in singleplayer, the game runs at a solid 30 FPS. Technically Halo 2 is a marvel but artistically it leaves a little to be desired.
The sound in Halo 2 is amazing. All of the weapons have a unique and fitting sound to them. The grenades make loud explosions, the vehicles make the appropriate hovering/rolling sounds. However the sound that comes from your enemies is especially great. When you toss a grenade into a pile of them it's hilarious to hear them scream in shock as they run away, and when you die you can hear them say in shock I killed him? The voice acting is well done overall. All the members of the cast were well chosen and it adds to the realism. Halo 2 also sports a great soundtrack. Some of the tunes are very catchy and do a great job of sucking you into the game. The only problem is that they don't play the musical track enough, more would have been great.
So does Halo 2 live up to the hype? No, not even close. However when you consider that Halo 2 was being hyped as the second coming of Jesus, that isn't a bad thing. Halo 2 is a worthy successor to the first Halo. It has a solid singleplayer campaign, great splitscreen multiplayer, and a fantastic online mode that will keep me entertained for a long time.
Single Player 8/10
OVERALL SCORE - 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/19/05
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