Review by Patriotwolf

"One of the Best first-person-shooters ever? Definitely. Best shooter ever? Eh...sorry, a resounding no."

When the original Halo first came out, it was Microsoft's baby. Master Chief was the Xbox's Mario. Though it did not particularly blow ME away, it was labeled as one of the best shooters ever. And now, after years of development, delays, and statements retracted, Halo 2 finally here. Over the past year, the hype grew and grew. But now, as it seems, though the game live it up the original game, it did not live up to the hype. And even after years of development. It still has noticeable flaws.

Graphics-9.0: This is one area where Halo 2 takes no prisoners. The graphics have been much enhanced from it's predecessor, and the time that was put into it's graphic engine really shows. The player models are much enhanced, as are the vehicles are well done as well, though it appears that the elaborate damage model system was taking out for the vehicles, they are still destructible, and parts of the environment can be altered. The levels are rather big in multiplayer, though there are some smaller ones for close combat. However, many of the levels, in multiplayer, and especially in single player, are strangely dark. To dark. So much so that you have to turn up you're brightness. There also are not as much visually captivating vistas in this game, as the original Halo had more of a fleshy look, Halo 2 seems dirty and grit ridden. I suspect that Bungie did this to enhance the "wartime feel" of the game. But this is not Ghost Recon. There is also not allot of variety in the early part of the game. Making it visually repetitive in areas until you get closer to the end. And there is notable frame rate skips during some cutscenes (of which there are over two hours of.) Sadly, there is also visible pop-in when multiplayer levels load, and during some cuts=scenes. Overall, good but lacking polish.

Sound-9.0: Pretty self explanatory. The voice acting is decently done, despite lacking a sense of urgency. The weapons sound good, and the covenant, as well as you're marine buddies, will often saying funny things during battles. This music is also great, probably one of the best game soundtracks you'll hear. coming in at key moments. And Steve Vai does great work with the main theme. However, it does not seem to have the atmospheric ambience to it that would enhance it further.

Gameplay-9.5: Where to begin? The classic elements are back, and there is more vehicle combat than in the original Halo. Duel wielding has also been added, and the levels, as I mentioned, are huge. And you can now hijack enemy vehicles, even in multplayer, which is very satisfying. The multiplayer itself can get pretty hectic. And there is an undeniable sense of urgency during parts of the single and multiplayer. The A.I. has also been fixed, as they are better at doing allot of things. Except driving. As they will often flip you're warthog while you're in the gunner seat, or drive around in a circle for an hour trying to kill a single enemy. There also does not seem to be as many of the "Remember when this and this happened, and you had to do that", moments in the game as there were in the original Halo. The dual wielding seems unexploited as well. Sure, you'll see the effects online. But in single player, you won't find a moment where you have to dual wield, shoot with a plasma weapon to degrade a bosses shield and then hit him with an SMG to hurt his health. The dual wielding is just there to kill you're enemy, online or offline, faster, and really as no depth besides that.

Features and replay value-10: Though the story is not the greatest, (in particular, since allot of this go unexplained, and it has a disappointing ending) and some levels get repetitious, the amount of multiplayer options are insane. Besides (offline only) co-op, there is virtually an infinite amount of replay value online. Besides the large variety of default gametypes, you can create you're own custom game by tweaking an uncanny amount of features, so many in fact, that they will make most PC game mod developers drool. Also added are more vehicles, weapons, and levels for multiplayer. This all further enhances the game. And everything is well put together. However, there seems to be no way to browse open custom game. You can only go through Bungie's matchmaking, which sets up games itself. The only other way would be to create you're own game and invite friends. This is no really disappointing, but a very, very, weird feature (or lack thereof) that is puzzling players. Otherwise, the multiplayer is nearly flawless, especially considering the low amount, even nonexistence, of lag.

Overall-9.0: I know I may get heckled for this, but I came very close to giving this game an 8.5. However, it was the multiplayer that saved it. Though it does have one of the best multiplayer systems in a game since Half-Life and Unreal Tournament. However from the skips in cutscnes, to the pop in, and the puzzling lack of a server browse feature, and other issues, the rest of the game seems unpolished, as if Bungie completely forgot about the single player while working on the multiplayer. This is very disappointing considering all the hype and the huge development time. In the end, I feel this game deserved no more hype than some other games coming out this year. Yet it seems Bungie, and Microsoft, did indeed overhype it. Talking about features, like dual wielding, as big features, but have been in previous games (you can look back to Goldeneye for that). One of the Best first-person-shooters ever? Definitely. Best shooter ever? Eh...sorry, a resounding no.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/12/04

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