Review by wolverinefan
Worth the hype? Not so much...
Halo, the series that helped launch Microsoft's Xbox onto the market. I do believe it's the best selling series on the Xbox and the main reason that most people had bought an Xbox. I know that's the reason. While I don't think the original Halo is the best video game ever made, it was a finely tuned one at that. Great visuals, game play, multiplayer ECT. My Xbox died only after a few years so I'm a bit behind everyone else but now that I have an Xbox I'm able to play the titles I missed out on. Halo 2 is one of those titles. A game that brought lines that hadn't been seen since the Star Wars movies were hitting theaters. Was it worth it?
Halo 2 picks up kind of oddly. Master Chief is getting a medal for his efforts in the original Halo. Let's ignore the plot holes and pretend everything is explained because it never does. As soon as he's getting the medal the ship gets attacked. There's another Halo. Blah blah blah. It goes on from there and while the game does offer up a little more mythos to the series, it just isn't that interesting. Half Life this isn't. I also found the ending to be very disappointing. Not that the original Halo had much of a story ot anything but this oen really leaves a lot to be desired and the ending is just screaming for the soon to be released Halo 3 continuation.
Graphic wise Halo 2 is stunning. From the ancient ruins, to war torn cities, to alien ships. It's all here and it's all pretty eye candy. Character models look good but I must admit they are used over and over and over. They are aliens though so I guess variety can't really be asked for.... The levels are fairly large and they seem almost seamless. Sadly some of the sections in the game are rather blandly designed and not a lot of detail went into that one level where you drive through what feels like a never ending tunnel.
Sound wise the game is nice. Voice acting is decent. Not Hollywood quality but good. Sound effects are nice but I must admit that I don't remember much of a difference sound wise to using the guns. When it comes to the music I must say it is kind of lackluster. Some stages have amazing music. Others are totally forgettable. It's a shame that most of the music isn't worth hearing. Not sure if this game supports the option to use your own custom soundtrack but just check the back of the box for that.
Control is rather tight for this game. Moving Master Chief is easy and even though I stopped playing for almost a month I was able to quickly hop back into the saddle. That doesn't happen to often for me and I will admit I'm not that good with the Xbox's controller. I still have problems with the way that the vehicles control. While it isn't as bad as in the original Halo, it still isn't very good. It is still better than the first and is perhaps the only thing this sequel does better than the original.
If you've played the original game then you know almost how this game plays. There are a few surprises but it wouldn't be fair to mention those minor things since it ruins other surprises. A few of the new things though that won't spoil anything is location variety is much better and while the levels feel slightly more contained than the first ones, they also feel longer. Also, you now control more types of vehicles. Not exactly a plus because of the control but oh well, you get the idea.
The basic idea of Halo 2 is you start at point A and you need to get to point B and it goes on like that. Each level has goals that you can view at any time. This is helpful as it can be kind of confusing at times what to do or where to go. I found myself lost a few times in some of the levels. It's just kind of hard at times to figure out whee to go when the levels break from their linear molds.
Now, Halo 2 is a first person shooter. This means you aren't able to see your character besides the gun. This view works well but I prefer third person shooters but this game doesn't offer that so be warned, it is easy to be attacked from behind. Why is that really bad? It's very easy to die in just 2 hits. While you do have a shield on your character and it does regenerate as you go, once it's gone you are very weak. Kind of a shame because nothing sucks more than getting fairly far only to be slaughtered by a gun butt to the end. Oh and enemies will do that. The AI is actually pretty good which surprised me. They will run and hide, take different paths ECT. They also will attack in large groups.
The game pretty much plays exactly like the original but with a small twist around the fourth or fifth level. Does that change much? No, not really but it adds just a little something to the overall experience. Control is a bit tighter and there are new weapons and vehicles but beside that the game doesn't offer a whole lot of new things.
One new thing is intended on-line play. While the original Halo could be played on-line, it wasn't intended that way. Halo 2 offers a fantastic online experience and there is a nice selection of modes to pick from. The interface is fine and the game supports the headset. There is also an expansion for Halo 2 that you can buy in stores that gives you new levels. I'm not buying it but I figured I'd give that bit of info for those who love online play. I'm just not the type of person who plays on-line a lot. There are also some downloadable maps for those Halo 2 addicts out there. It's always nice to have some free stuff for a game and as of this review those downloadable maps are free. Not sure if they are included in the expansion I mentioned or not.
Is Halo 2 worth the hype and praise? Sure but don't go in expecting the best game ever. You may come away feeling that but I didn't. It truly just felt like more of the same. It actually almost feels like an EA game since they tend to throw sequels out that pretty much feel like the game before it. But hey, this is the sequel to Halo so more of the same isn't exactly a horrible thing. Just disappointing. Is this a game to buy an Xbox for? No, pick up the original Halo for the experience alone but if you want that online play then grab Halo 2. Both are fairly cheap these days and both do offer a worthwhile experience. Just not a perfect experience.
Story - 7/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Control - 7/10
Game Play - 8/10
Replay value - 10/10
Final Score - 8/10
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Halo 2 (US, 11/09/04)
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