Review by DandyQuackShot
Why I Got Xbox Live
Since the release of the greatness that was Goldeneye 007 I dreamed of being able to one day take on the world with my First Person Shooter skills. In 2004 I was introduced to Halo and quickly lost my dedicated devotion to Nintendo and bought and Xbox. With the release of Halo 2 (just so happened to be on my birthday) all my dreams came true and 9,090 games, 85,201 kills, and plenty of blue screen frustration later it was still everything I ever wanted in a multiplayer experience. Halo 2 follows the Master Chief as one of the prophets attempts to seek out something on Earth and leads to the discovery of more Halo rings in the universe.
While we have a short follow up from the first Halo game in an introductory level we are also introduced to new characters and depth to the Halo story. The United Nations Space Command has taken considerable measures to protect Earth from a Covenant invasion although we don't know if the rail guns actually did do any damage. The space stations are easily penetrated by small groups of Covenant that plant a bomb on each station and detonates all but the one Master Chief is on. Of course we know what happens to that bomb. The story then goes to a fight in New Mombasa on Earth where a lot of action takes place and then on to Delta Halo to take on the Prophet of Regret. The Flood's Gravemind is introduced and that's where the story seems to take a dive. Gravemind seems to be this omnicient presence trying to control everthyting and is even able to teleport Master Chief somehow. It doesn't make sense and his role in Halo 3 is not all that great either. The story is kind of hard to follow and leads to a cliffhanger to gear up for another sequel. The Elites are now playable and your progress as Master Chief will be diverted to catch the next segment of the Arbiter's path to an alliance with the humans and while this was supposed to be the big surprise of the game's campaign I still found myself enjoying Master Chief's levels a whole lot more.
The control scheme is probably the best for a First Person Shooter on the Xbox and it is easy to maneuver and options allow you to manipulate your turning ability. The weapons are somewhat enhanced from the first game with the biggest enhancement in the introduction of the Battle Rifle and being able to dual wield smaller assault weapons. There were a number of updates to Halo 2 online that dealt with the damage inflicted by these weapons along with the introduction of new maps to play multiplayer on. Halo 2 also has new vehicles and the ability to hijack these vehicles from opponents so if you are willing to take the splatter risk you can try jumping for that Banshee coming after you.
I can't totally award the ten of ten, but I can't also say the multiplayer experience was totally horrible either because in the end it wasn't. Halo 2 is an excellent tournament and party game and I was doing system link tournaments up until 2007. My first tournament was at Blockbuster to win the Master Chief statue in one on one splitscreen competition. The rules kept the players to general default styles which hindered my feel for the game and splitscreen is very one sided if your opponent has the advantage of a rocket launcher AND knowing where you are. The whole point is the offline multiplayer experience is one major step up from the first Halo. The system link parties and tournaments really brought out the best and worst in people you know. There are just too many good memories that I want to share in this offline multiplayer experience so let's move on.
Online is the different story. It was everything I ever wanted in taking on the world, but to do so required not only skilled players as myself, but having to avoid cheaters and lag. The problems were just too frequent to give the gameplay a well deserved ten and even the developers admit to being rushed for time instead of perfecting what could have been the greatest online experience ever. Something that doesn't carry over to Halo 3 were the clans feature. You could join or create your own clan and at one time there was even a playlist for clans only. It was an excellent networking feature that was replaced by the party up system in Halo 3, but it was neat to make your own groups. The skill system I could never figure out. Rank did not determine skill in this game. Because it is based on how many games you won and not what you did in those games somebody could leave their guy standing and dying in the same place game after game and still rank up. It was frustrating to try to play to gain rank and then when all was said and done an update took away everybody's ranks to supposedly get people to go back and play again. But no game could be played twice the same way strategically. If you were good enough you could, but each match offers a new and unique experience which could be sometimes fun or sometimes horrible, but the bad matches did not take away from the experience. Cheaters were a major problem and eventually became a laughable offense to me as I died over and over in mid air or saw a warthog go flying off at the start of the game. The play is very open ended especially in objective based games. You can camp with the sniper rifle and pick off guys far away or go rushing in guns blazing in all your glory. In the end there is no wrong way to enjoy Halo 2 online.
The graphics and sound are quite amazing. Much more detail is added to the characters and in-game dialogue. When I went to go back and play the original Halo it became an awkward experience compared to the redesign with Halo 2. The sounds are excellent with a lot of in-game dialogue from the characters and even the inclusion of some professional actors lending their talents to the game's characters. The whizzing streak of a sniper's bullet past your head gives you one sickening experience and tells you to get the heck behind cover along with that incoming whoosh of a rocket.
The graphics are much more detailed than the first and the locations are very different from the first Halo. There are a lot more expansive views to gape at in the game as well as detail in the most unimportant of objects.
The campaign mode is not going to be the reason why you played Halo 2 for 48 hours straight. Although there are some levels that I found myself going back to enjoy I never really played through the whole campaign again after beating it. There are a few skulls to go find and unlock, but the replayability of Halo 2 is in online matchmaking. Even after all of the new game releases and a next generation console later-almost four years Halo 2 is still played by a large and dedicated community. So going in now will still guarantee a quick match to play. The updates took care of a lot of bugs and cheaters so playing Halo 2 today is nothing like it was when it was first released.
Final Recommendation 8.75/10
Halo 2 is most enjoyed as a game where you go online to have fun. Sleepless nights spent trying to go up one more rank did not mean anything and the competition is still best left to the offline experience of this game. The campaign is not as admirable as the first game and not easily understood as it still leaves a lot left unanswered to up for the third installment. My final hands down say is that this game is a must buy if you have not played it. If not to catch up on the Halo series then definitely to experience what it is like online. And Halo 2 is still a great party game. Today you can play your friends to see who can win in multiplayer two out of three games in the series on a system link.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Halo 2 (US, 11/09/04)
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