Review by JonWood007
"A worthy sequel to a worthy game"
Halo 2 is the sequel to the very popular game, Halo: Combat Evolved. It not only advances the story line from the first Halo game, but it also advances the series in terms of game play as well (it offers excellent game mechanics for its time). I cannot comment on the multiplayer since I do not have Xbox Live, but I will give my opinion of the single player campaign. Overall, it is quite good.
Graphics - 10/10
This is the second most beautiful game I have seen on Xbox, right behind Doom 3. However, Halo 2 is more impressive than Doom 3 in a sense. While Doom 3 had excellent graphics itself, it cannot compete with Halo 2's huge environments. The environments in this game are just as large as those Combat Evolved, but also look a great deal better. While the actual geometric shapes are not very complex, this game has excellent textures that just make it looks great. This is one of the only games before 2005 that really immersed me in its world.
Audio - 10/10
The music is great, and so are the sound effects. The voice acting in the cut scenes is awesome and the sound in general seems like a huge improvement from Halo: Combat Evolved. The music particularly makes the game memorable.
Controls - 9/10
The controls are exactly the same as the first Halo (which were pretty much perfect), except that this game introduced the concept of dual wielding weapons. While you obviously can only wield one rifle at a time, this game allows players to carry two smaller weapons at the same time while having a third in the back pack. (as opposed to just carrying two weapons) This is a very good idea, but it is not without difficulties. Dual wielding also makes the controls more complex. It also makes players unable to perform certain functions like throwing grenades (although this is not too bad). Single weapons feel weaker than their Combat Evolved counterparts and therefore players sometimes need to use two at once to get the same kind of firepower available in the first Halo. If you melee someone, you also drop your second weapon if you have one, which can lead to issues when you need that gun after using an unarmed attack. Despite these concerns, the problems posed by dual wielding are very minor and in my opinion worth it; dual wielding is an awesome function.
Game Play - 9/10
The game play is very good and very similar to the first Halo. As a matter of fact, the number of minor bugs present in the first Halo such as failed animations and random sound effects from inside walls are gone. The game plays a lot more smoothly than Combat Evolved. It starts off soon after the first Halo ended. Master Chief finds his way back to Earth and the Covenant find the humans' home world as well and attack it. After the initial invasion, humans stumble upon a second Halo ring and most of the game afterwards takes place there. In Halo 2, people can also play as a Covenant elite known as the "Arbiter." Throughout the game, players alternate between playing as Master Chief and as the Arbiter. A lot of people hated the Arbiter, and while I would not want to play as him again (I do not think the series should stray too far away from Master Chief, which could ruin it), it did advance the story and explained a myriad of events that players otherwise would not know about. Playing as the Arbiter allows players to glimpse into the Covenant mindset and shows how the alien civilization works. Much of this is very important in regard to the plot and helps set up the story in Halo 3.
The game mechanics themselves are very good. As I mentioned above, they are a lot less buggy than the first Halo's were and the game introduced a lot of new concepts such as dual wielding weapons and even Covenant cloaking technology when playing as the Arbiter. There are also a large amount of new weapons not available in Combat Evolved. For example, players can now wield plasma swords, fuel rod cannons (the Covenant equivalent of a rocket launcher), and a ton of new small arms such as the Battle Rifle. Many of the weapons that existed in the first game have been modified in ways to make them more balanced, at least offline. For example, the needler is not utterly worthless anymore. I cannot comment on the online balance though.
Fun Factor - 9/10
The game is very fun. While I personally like Combat Evolved better, this game is not lacking in any way either. Out of the trilogy, I have to say this is my least favorite in terms of fun factor, but it is not bad at all. Halo games so far always seem to offer awesome single player experiences.
Game Length / Replay Value - 8/10
The game is of moderate length. I think it could have been a little longer, but as it is, it takes 8 hours or so to complete. There are around 13 levels, each about 35-40 minutes long. It is around the same length as Combat Evolved overall.
Difficulty - 8/10
I find this game to be significantly harder than the first Halo game. While the difficulty is still appropriate, I find it hard to find a level that really suits me. The normal difficulty mode is rather easy, although I find heroic to be much harder.
Overall - 9/10
Halo 2 is the sequel to the classic Xbox launch game. In my opinion, it really lives up to the Halo name. While I personally do not like it as much as the first Halo, it is nevertheless an awesome game and a nearly perfect gaming experience. This is probably the best game I have played from the year 2004, except for maybe Resident Evil 4.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/29/09
Game Release: Halo 2 (US, 11/09/04)
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