Review by phazer

"The game we've all been waiting for..."

Halo was (and still is) one of the best Xbox games of all time. Halo 2 lives up to its name as a worthy sequel of Halo. Many additions have been added to gameplay, like the dual-wielding and vehicle boarding. And of course, there is also the addition of the stellar multi-player mode on Xbox Live. The Limited Collector's Edition has all of that plus a really cool box and a DVD with tons of extra features.

Presentation

Everything about the Limited Collector's Edition is great. It comes in a beautiful tin box, and a bonus DVD which contains numerous Behind The Scenes videos and features. The main section of the DVD is the hour-long documentary which takes you inside Bungie. It also has commentaries, development videos and videos about the cut objects, to name a few.

The in-game presentation is just as good. The various menus are slick and stylish, and the interface looks great in multi-player. There are also no load times at all (except the starting one) in between levels. Instead, you have cutscenes which shed some info on the game's storyline. The only gripe people have is that texture pop-ins occur quite frequently during the cutscenes.

Gameplay

Halo 2 features many new weapons and vehicles, and changes to existing ones. The Pistol from Halo has been replaced by the Magnum, which does not have a scope and packs less punch than the original Pistol. The Assault Rifle has also been replaced by the Sub-Machine Gun. The Rocket Launcher can now lock-on to enemy vehicles and turrets. The Plasma Rifle and Needler also shoot faster now. New additions are the Battle Rifle, a scoped rifle which fires in bursts; the Covenant Carbine, which is basically the Covenant counterpart of the Battle Rifle; the Particle Beam Rifle, which is a sniper rifle; and the Brute shot, which fires grenades. You can also now use the Covenant Energy Sword, which can be used to lock on to enemies to deliver an instant kill. However, it has limited uses in single-player, and using it in multi-player will make you a desirable target for enemies. Besides these, you can also use the Fuel Rod Gun and Sentinel Beams, as well as Gun and Plasma turrets.

All vehicles can now be destroyed and boarded. To board a vehicle, it has to be moving at a slow speed, then just hold X while standing at the front, back or side of the vehicle. Some Covenant vehicles now have to ability to boost, and the Ghost fires much faster. The Warthog now has a Gauss cannon and the ability to power slide, while the Banshee can do barrel rolls. New vehicles include the Shadow, Spectre, Wraith and Phantom.

There are also new enemies in the game. Drones are flying creatures which are deadly in groups, while Brutes are tough enemies with the ability to berserk. There are also a number of tougher enemies, while not exactly bosses per se, provide quite a knotty challenge, especially on Legendary.

In Halo 2, you can now dual-wield any one-handed weapon in any combination. When carrying a one-handed weapon, simply walk over another one and hold Y to dual-wield it. Now you can set up combos like the Plasma Pistol or the Plasma Rifle with a Sub-Machine Gun. The catch is that you cannot throw grenades while you dual-wield.

The AI and difficulty has also been ramped up. Normal difficulty is pretty easy, while Heroic is as hard as Legendary in Halo. Legendary is a lot harder than Legendary in Halo. The AI also employs tactics like flanking, and will hit harder and more accurately. Your allies can now drive vehicles, albeit poorly.

There is no longer a health bar. Instead, you only have the energy shield which recharges much faster. You can also swap weapons with your allies. Namely, you can equip them with sniper rifles so they can support you, or you can use them as a weapon inventory of sorts.

Multiplayer

The biggest new addition in Halo 2 is probably the new multi-player component on Xbox Live. Playing on Xbox Live is a smooth experience, and I have only encountered drops once or twice. Gameplay is also smooth most of the times without any latency. Also, the host is now automatically determined by the game, with the player having the best connection being the host. If he/she drops out, the game will automatically choose the next best player to be the host. Two new modes have been added, Assault and Territories, while original modes like Slayer, CTF and Oddball still remain. Different variants are already included in the game, and players can customize the game modes through numerous modifiers to create their own variant, like in Halo. Co-Op is also back, but unfortunately it cannot be played over Xbox Live.

There are two modes of play over Xbox Live: Matchmaking and Arranged Games. In Matchmaking, games are ranked (you can also play unranked practice games), and you have to choose from a variety of game modes, like Rumble Pit (mostly Slayer games), Team/Big Team Games (Objective-based modes) and Head to Head, which pits you against a single opponent. There are a number of default playlists for each mode, but you will not know what playlist you will get until you get to the lobby. NOTE: Matchmaking used to take quite a while, but a patch has been released to resolve the issue. In Arranged games, the host can set the parameters of the game, from the mode to the map used and the rules for the game. These matches are unranked, but is a lot better if you just want to play with your friends using your own custom variants.

You also have the option of creating a clan (up to 100 players) or a party. Parties are players put into a temporary group, and all of the players will stay together when playing games, be it Matchmade or Arranged. Players can also create their own custom model for the Spartan and Elite skins. The colours of the skin can be changed, and players can create their own emblems with options to change the background, foreground and the colours.

Another new addition is the medal system. Players are awarded medals for performing feats like killing sprees, multi-kills, stealth kills, as well as scenario-based medals like killing the flag carrier or planting the bomb in Assault. These features are complemented with highly detailed stat-tracking on Bungie.Net. Players can view every game they have played online, and can also view detailed statistics of recent games. A 3D map shows the death locations of every player, and includes the weapon used and the player who scored the kill. It also features other statistics, such as player-vs-player kills, deaths, assists, suicides, average lifespan, best sprees, medals earned, head shots and accuracy.

There are auto-updates/patches for Halo 2 on Xbox Live, as well as maps for download. Currently, the maps are those which will be released in the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack disc: Containment and Warlock for free; Turf and Sanctuary as premium downloads. All of the maps in the Map Pack will be made free for download in by the end of summer.

Graphics/Sound

Halo 2 is an absolutely beautiful game. Environments and character models are very detailed, and the explosions and other effects look great. Vehicles are also very detailed, with parts that drop off/become destroyed as they take damage. The game runs at a steady frame-rate, and only slows down in the most hectic sections. However, texture pop-ins do occur during cutscenes, as stated above.

The sound is also superb, with a fantastic soundtrack and true 5.1 support. This is evident from weapon sounds such as bullets and rockets flying past you. The dialogue in the game is also great, with superb voice acting bring the characters to life.

Conclusion

Halo 2 is definitely a great game. Halo 2 is not only one of the best Xbox games to date (in fact, it's also one of the best games of all time), it is also the best console First-Person Shooter and online console game. Get it if you. Be it for fans of the original game or for newcomers, Halo 2 is a must-buy game.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/05, Updated 03/21/11

Game Release: Halo 2 (Limited Edition) (US, 11/09/04)


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