"Halo 2 : THE Prime Example of Overhype"

Halo 2 is one of the most anticipated games ever. It was to be the definitive sequel to Halo, a game that many considered to be XBOX's finest. Three long years seperated the two games, and for those three years fans eagerly awaited the release of their beloved ring. Magazines, websites, TV; everything promoted the probable unbelievable greatness of the one and only Halo 2. Finally, after the delays the pre-release hype ceased to be, and on November 9th, a day some called Halo 2uesday finally arrived.

Halo 2 can be called a game of "two parts". While the game plays simliar in both "parts", there still many different circumstances that set the two apart. The two parts are Single Player, and XBOX Live Multiplayer.

Single Player:
Halo 1 had a very strong single player, so having an equally or surpassing montra of a single player was expected of Halo 2. Sadly, after truly dwelling into Halo 2's single player, this was not to be. The first thing you'll probably notice in the campaign is the cinema's. There's more cinema's, and more of a "movie" like set up similiar to the Metal Gear Solid series. But during the cinema's, dissapointment rears its ugly head. During cinema's, the graphics glitch up, sometimes not loading textures, characters, and even enviroments till two or three seconds after they're needed. This is not just in the beginning, but in the WHOLE game, sometimes worst in some scenes than others. This makes the game look wholly unpolished, and stupid. How could Bungie overlook something this big?

Well, most of the cinema's in the game last longer than the original Halo, a sign of Bungie trying to make Halo 2 EPIC. But, the cinema's are boring, and are loaded with boring dialogue, making the storyline unispiring.

Enough with the cinema's, the core gameplay of Halo 2 hasn't changed much, in fact I'd say Halo 2's single player hasn't changed at all from Halo 1. You go through new enviroments yes, but you still do the same thing: Shoot, reload, jump on a warthog, banshee, ghost, repeat. The awesome scripted events of the E3 2003 trailer for Halo 2 are nowhere to be found. In fact, that entire level that was in the trailer isn't even in the game. There are some scripted events yes, but as many as the trailer showed NEVER happens, leaving the game to be monotonous in its gameplay.

New gameplay elements help the game a little. You can now dual wield in the game, and in fact, that's the only way you should go. You can get through normal mode just by dual wielding, and jumping a lot. This leaves the question of where's the strategy factor. The truth is, Halo 2 really doesn't have a lot of strategy like other first person shooters for XBOX such as Rainbow Six 3.
Overall the single player is decent in Halo 2, but hasn't evolved at all from the first outing. Repetitive gameplay, simliar graphics, and bored out glitched cinema's makes the single player dissapointing at best, and something below that we would've expected from Halo 1's awesome single player.

Now the XBOX Live multiplayer is what saves this game from being a total disaster, but still sufferes from some problems. The only way you can raise your rank in the mutliplayer is through a service called matchmaking. You pick a type of game you want to play, then are thrown into a game with a selected amount of people. You play the game wtih them, then after the match is over, your taken back to the menu screen to do the matchmaking thing over again. While its good to play with people your skill level because the game picks the people you play with, matchmaking just doesn't leave a lot of room for freedom. Everything is picked beforehand: gametype, map, amount of people, weapons...etc. At first it makes going from match to match easier, but then not being able to pick your settings does become irratable after a while. Sometimes you'll play the same level five times in a row, making you become tiresome with the game.

You can play custom games, but those don't count towards ranking, and since ranking is what people only care about, custom games have no point unless you have ALOT of friends. One MAJOR problem that hits Halo 2 hard is the glitch users. And trust me, there are a TON of them. If more extensive testing had been done, most of the glitches in the multiplayer would've been corrected, but alas there here. Some glitches take you right out of the game, "pausing" your character while the other player can move around, killing you, grabbing the flag in CTF...etc. This is called the standby glitch, and is used extensivley by players all over. Nothing though has been done by Bungie, no patches or anything. No new downloadble content has been added yet either. After playing the game non stop for about a month, I grew tired of playing the same map over and over and over again. Having nothing new to mix it up certainly hurts the game. Repetiveness is the best term to describe it.

Graphics:
Halo 2's graphics are what many will oogle over immediatley. Character models, enviroments, everything looks reflective, and detailed. This is from a technique called bump mapping. Bump mapping is used all over in Halo 2. Its basically a shell that covers the low resolution polygons. Though in Single player, the graphics in the levels become bland, and more unappealing as you progress. Every level always has the same look, always the same textures. While this keeps the game looking uniformly, it makes the game look boring. Also, with bump mapping, the highly detailed textures usually don't load in on a object till your up close. To where you can be running in an enviorment with the enviorment loading with you in some cases.

Gameplay:
There are some new gameplay elements to Halo 2, but once again the game sticks to its original forumla. You can now dual wield, and what seems as a small gimmick becomes the focal point of the game. You can if you wish in normal and hard mode beat the game using dual wielding. Also, no new viechles are added, even though Bungie promised us many different variations of the banshee and warthog. Once again, nothing ground breaking is added to Halo 2. Dual wielding is the only that seperates are far as simliarites between Halo 2 and Halo 1, and dual wielding isn't anything new in the first person genre. (Goldeneye anyone?)

Sound:
The sound in Halo 2 is also like Halo 1. No background music while you blast your way through a level, only the sound of futuristic weapons, covenant screams and explosions. Only when a key point in a mission plays out is when the familiar background music kicks in. This is what gets your blood pumping, but unfortunatly, it isn't used enough, making it a rare treat. Sometimes though, quirkly music will play in the background, and make you wonder what the hell the music director was thinking. The voice acting is fitting in Halo 2, and does what it needs to do. It isn't memorable, but some lines like Master Chiefs, "I need a weapon" just comes off cheesy.

Story:
This is where I felt Bungie was really trying to make Halo 2 better at, but the final product just doesn't exectue very well. Halo 2 tells the story of the human's, but also adds a perspective of the covenant. You get to see the inner workings of the covenant, and see their conflicts. But, once again, the story premise is the same, stop Halo from being activated. The only memorable character is Master Chief, and Cortona, and only because she always says where to go next and a lame joke every now and then. Non-memorable characters and a lackluster plot makes the storyline very dry. It is slightly better than Halo's basic storyline, but then again Halo exectued its basic storyline perfectly; as to where Halo 2 tries to be too EPIC.

Final Thoughts:
Halo 2 is a great game, that will offer a lot of fun for you and your friends. But sadly, Halo 2 doesn't measure up to the hype that was generated, fueling its 5 million sold record. Overall Halo 2 is Halo 1 again, which isn't entirely bad, but because it has a 2 next to it, the game should be different in more aspects. Glitchy, bland graphics, poorley executed storyline, and repetitive gameplay hurts Halo 2. Given another year of devolopment Halo 2 probably could've been what we've dreamed of, but since we wanted it in 2004 we get a shell of a game. Its okay to say it, Halo 2 is one of the biggest dissapointments ever, if you look at it from the unhyped perspective. Its fun, but doesn't have a lot depth. Halo 2 is The Prime Example of Overhype.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/05


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