Review by RockDemon3
"Gripping, enthralling, yet slightly flawed..."
In the original Halo, you took the role of a SPARTAN soldier who was destined to eradicate thousands of Earth's enemies, known as the Covenant, an alien life force or bond of many different alien species with a common goal: conquer Earth. The game was widely praised for its innovation of the FPS genre, and ultimately it sold the X-Box. Halo 2 is the extreme blockbuster that had been anticipated by die hard fans for months on end. In a quiet month of 2004, the game was released, and was either subjected to intense praise or harsh bashing. It is my theory that the latter of the two previous "mentionings" was brought up mainly because of the ending, yes the ending. Many fans were disappointed that such a crazy game could end so abruptly. With such a kill-tacular game, you'd expect a sinister, gut - wrenching ending wouldn't you? I know I did, but as a friend once informed me, and I quote this, "The game literally hits a brick wall at the end..." Boy, I had no idea until I actually played the game first-hand. Let us delve into the many reasons why Halo 2 is such a difficult game for me to review.
Ahh yes, the story, an extreme focus point for me. I don't exactly know why, but I know that a story has to appeal to me. It's a disease. Halo 2's story definitely appeals to me, because it's just so extreme and epic. Even though its predecessor has a slightly better foundation to work with, Halo 2 still gets the job down, err, right until the end that is. But more on that later. Halo 2 stars you as the SPARTAN/human Master Chief, who was introduced to gamers in the glorious year of 2001. I say glorious because of Halo 1. Anyway, as the returning cyborg/person of mass destruction, it is your goal to take out the encroaching Covenant forces (alien lifeforms) who have a stranglehold on Earth. You must prevent certain global disaster. The story really conveys that epic, "Summer blockbuster" feel. However, while the story gets significantly better towards the end, it gets pummeled right in the face by a cliff hanger that will go down in history. The game ends, and fast, and most gamers won't like it.
However, in Halo 2, you also have the ability to experience the story from another view. The Covenant have a special weapon to deploy against the humans, the Arbitor, an Elite that was sentenced to death but given a second chance to prove his worth to the Covenant Hierarchs. The Arbitor provides a great view point of the Halo 2 universe, and you will be frequently blowing stuff up with him. His side of the story, which features a few more in-depth explanations of the Covenant, ultimately becomes a bit more rewarding than Master Chief's, probably because he kind of steals the show. You'll end up playing more as the Arbitor, and this ultimately hinders Halo 2's presentation of the returning Master Chief. Either way, you will enjoy it, possibly more so than the humans' side.
The days of Halo 1 are long gone, graphically. The game shines with vivid, richly detailed areas that sport nice colors and impressive texturing. I rarely found a moment where I was going, "Yeah, and what the heck is that?" Everything is greatly assembled, and the humans and aliens look great. The vehicles have been given a massive make over, but that's not a bad thing. The frame rate never slows down, and for a game of this caliper, that's a saving grace. Let's face it, First Person Shooters need worthy frame rates, don't they? Master Chief looks truly impressive in his MJOLNIR armor, which has been re-detailed . Everything looks nice and precise. I don't know if its the best looking game to date, but it sure is outstanding. Bottom line, the bump mapping and Havoc Physics make this game a true beauty.
Fluid, precise, inventive. Yeah, they're that good. Nothing much has changed since Halo 1 except for a more streamlined feel to the movement of your character. All in all, the controls are great, and you can customize them to your liking. Believe me, in multiplayer, that's something you'll find yourself doing - - a lot.
The nuts and bolts of Halo 2. Well, everything is pretty similar to the original Halo, except for the fact that you can steal vehicles, operate more machines (AKA more vehicles), and dual wield (hold two weapons at once). While the dual wielding has been around for ages, it adds a spice to Halo 2 that really can save you at times. I can't count the numerous occasions in which I owned an Elite simply because I had dual Plasma Rifles. Alright! Anyway, you can now use many other weapons that were hinted at in Halo 1, I.E. the Fuel Rod Gun. Many of the human and covenant weapons have also been upgraded, some down graded. The pistol has been significantly reduced in power, to name one off the top of my head. But it actually balances the gameplay a bit more, especially in multiplayer. You still go through many intense fire fights, and you'll often be outnumbered. The marines will help you, but more often than not they become cannon fodder. Hey, at least they were a distraction. The new shield system may aggrivate some players. You now have no health bar but a single shield that regenerates very quickly. Sometimes it can help you, but other times it can be your worst enemy. You'll have to adapt to the new system, and fast. The levels are shorter this time around, but fear not, there are many more this time. Some may like it, some may not. I find that it doesn't affect the gameplay that much. For you serious veterans, Heroic and Legendary difficulties have returned, and they will test you. Bottom line, Halo 2's gameplay is very fun, and blowing the crap out of stuff never gets old.
The sound has been improved greatly since Halo 1. Everything is loud and intense, and the soundtrack really rocks. (No, I'm not kidding, there's more guitar in Halo 2 than the original, and that my friends, is good.) Guns sound loud and engaging, and the Covenant ramblings will never wear thin. I was also impressed with the voice work done with the marines. Your allies now have more lines of dialogue, some great, some just plain weird. Either way, the audio has been revamped to a level that many games will strive to exceed. Great work on the sound Bungie.
Let me say this. Halo 2 multiplayer owns Halo 1, hands down. Its faster, meaner, and more intense, and with the support of multiple vehicles, you and three friends can kill hours with this game. You can now fully customize your matches, including levels, types of starting weapons, vehicles, game types, and much, much more. I can't truly express the feeling you get from blasting away three people rushing you with rockets and vehicles, and all the while you have a lonely set of pistols. The game types are all fully customizable, so even if you and a few friends have blazed through all the modes, you can always go back and create your own. Even some of the old Halo maps have gotten a bit of a facelift, mainly two in particular. Coagulation, a variant of the original Blood Gulch, happens to a frantic level that definitely tops the rest. The classic Battle Creek has been renamed Beaver Creek, but the level remains virtually the same. It's truly great, and missing Halo 2 multiplayer is something no gamer should endure. Oh yeah, Halo 2 has full online support. so you can go face to face with the rest of the planet.
Halo 2 will leave you coming back for more, but the ending may leave a sour taste in your mouth. However, the additional difficulties, and plain numerous strategies you can use will make the game worthwhile. If not for the insane multiplayer, my score would've been significantly lower. You can easily kill days with the Slayer Death matches in multiplayer, and that too my friends, is good.
Halo 2 is a great game standalone. Compared to the original, its campaign doesn't exactly live up to the hype. We were promised a fight on Earth, but we got, like, two levels. I feel that that's not necessarily the main downfall of the game, but it does contribute to it. Like I said, the ending isn't going to exactly reward you for your efforts throughout the game, but it is still a conclusion, and an opening to Halo 3. I believe that Bungie may have tried to work too many story elements into the game, and may have gotten more than they could handle. Oh well. As for buying or renting, I'd say buy it. It's a great game, and the multiplayer alone is worth it. Whew, thanks for reading that Bible of text, and happy Covenant crushing.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/13/06
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