Review by ocissordei

"The Only True "Halo Killer""

Halo 2, one of the most anticipated games of all time, with over a million pre-orders finally has finally come and gone. With so much hype and such high expectation the game should be destined for greatness. Admittedly so, Halo 2 is a great game, yet its downfalls are numerous and do not meet the lofty expectations that were set for it. Nevertheless, Halo 2 is the creme of the first person shooter crop, and is undoubtedly the best Xbox game on the market. Its multiplayer modes, options, and a great overall feel, give gamers reason to sign on to Microsoft's Xbox Live to play competitively with their friends or unknown opponents from around the world. Yet its single player campaign, what appealed to many with the first game is still present, but unfortunately the same quibbles with simply bad level design and a severe lack of variety prevents it from being truly spectacular.

Game play: 9/10
Halo: Combat Evolved was firmly structured around a fairly standard first person shooter game play engine. It's only groundbreaking aspects were an energy shield that recharged and protected your health, the ability to use melee attacks, and of course use vehicles. Halo 2 builds on the same foundation adding very little to the overall formula. Fans of the original will quickly notice that the health bar is no longer existent, and the majority of your life depends on the rechargeable shield (you can only withstand a few shots after your shield drops. This helps to make some weapons like the plasma pistol (which can drop your shield in one shot) extremely more powerful. In addition to this is the introduction of dual wielding. Hardly a new concept in the FPS world, it adds significantly more depth as most weapons can be duel wielded in any combination, and therefore add a significant variety that makes every fight a little different. Obviously some combinations are superior, but pretty much every combination has a use. Dual Submachine guns will give you a lot of close range fire power, ending opponent's life pretty quickly, yet switch one of those submachine guns for a plasma pistol in order to quickly drop your opponents shield with a charged shot and then finish him off with normal bullets. Perhaps the most d change is the weapons set that bungie allows for players to use. The Pistol in the old game has now been significantly reduced in power (in the original halo you could basically walk around with a pistol and nothing else and be an unstoppable force, unless picked off by a sniper rifle, or killed by a rocket launcher or shotgun from close range. The shotgun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle return pretty much the same, and the assault rifle comes now in the form of a sub machine gun. These weapons are joined by a new battle rifle (a short to mid range weapon that shoots 3 round bursts at a time and has a slight zoom), the old covenant weapons, and new alien weapons, including an energy sword. Overall these are all very well balanced (which will satisfy any original halo player that was frustrated by the pistol's dominance), although the energy sword is pretty dominant in multiplayer as it delivers an unlimited amount of close range 1 hit kills if you are good at timing.

Gameplay in this game comes in two main forms, campaign and multiplayer. The campaign comes in two forms, co-op and single player. If you've played the first game or any other FPS with a cooperative mode (i.e. perfect dark) you basically know what you are getting. Overall, the single player campaign is undoubtedly plagued by the same issues that the first one was. This includes, poor level design, and significantly more so than in the last game, LENGTH. The level design in this game is no where as confusing as in the first game. I rarely got lost and if I did, I could easily point myself in a direction and end up at a familiar location. Yet the same problem with the first game still arises, in some spots, every room and door looks the same so it is extremely difficult to find out where to go. However, this is only slightly confusing and it would probably not bother me if not for the other factor that brings the campaign down. This game is put simply, far too short. I completed this game on a normal difficulty in less than eight hours, probably more towards 7. I did not rush, and I did not skip any sequences. The game stops at the climax of the story, and begs to be continued, unfortunately this cliffhanger ending does not even remotely feel like a cliff hanger, instead more of an abrupt stop. Perhaps this is just a way to get the player to play at different difficulty levels, but unfortunately the poor level design gives me no desire to play through this game over and over again. Nevertheless the game does feel very well while it lasts and is a decent amount of fun.

Multiplayer is this game's saving grace. Playing system link or Xbox live is where this game truly shines. With a bunch of innovative game types and the classic deathmatch (slayer) and capture the flags and some cool variations of those, its replay value will undoubtedly have thousands of players competing for a great deal of time online. Bungie certainly put a lot of time and effort into developing an amazing online system via Xbox live that allows you to view every statistic and even see maps of where you went and who you killed in every online game you play through its game viewer system. Yet there are a few drawbacks to playing online. First off, finding a rank game can sometimes take a long time. Unlike other automated match making systems, like the one seen in war craft III for the PC, you may be waiting at one screen for very long periods of times. In time this problem may work itself out as more people join up in the system. Fortunately, finding friends and making games with them is extremely easy and satisfying as you can all join the same party no matter where you are and be in the same game. Communicating is easy with the transfer of voice recorded and text messages over the system. Quite frankly it is going to take a while for the multiplayer to get old, just like the first, and the multiplayer support is exemplary (less than a week out it already has a patch). After just a few games in the automated match making service that bungie provides over xbox live, I was playing people around my skill level and having a lot of very close head on head matches. However, online ranked play is plagued by two other major concerns, weapon balance, and lack of customization for ranked play. Every head on head match is essentially determined by who gets the energy sword first, as most one versus one maps are on small areas and you only need to be within 10 feet to lock in and deliver a one hit kill. This also causes a problem sometimes in matches with more players, as you can rack up kills in crowded areas with this weapon, although the problem is more minute in larger maps. My main gripe with the optimatch and quick match game types that this game offers is how you have no choice in what game you are playing when you look to find a game. When selecting a certain option with my party of a few of my close friends, I may get anything from team deathmatch, to capture the flag, or even obscure bomb planting or territory controlling maps that my party may not want to play. Yet there is some retribution for this in that basically every game type is extremely fun and rewarding, so even if I am not playing the game that I want to play, it is still entertaining.

Graphics: 10/10
Put simply this game looks great, in cinematics and in-game. The guns look amazing, the character models look amazing etc. There are a few times where there are some rendering lag issues, but other than that there is nothing I can complain about. It looks simply amazing, everything is very detailed, no complaints other than that the game takes a little while to render multiplayer maps. Right when a game loads a lot of the backgrounds and models take a couple seconds to load in, but after this period of a couple seconds it becomes normal.

Control: 10/10

If there is anything that can possibly challenge the reigning champion of first person shooter controls, a mouse and keyboard, it is the control set up with Halo and halo 2. Using the triggers to fire, and the sticks to move /aim is pretty intuitive and the placement of the melee and grenade buttons is good. Nothing really has changed here from Halo except for the holding down of the y button to dual wield. Everything flows really well and there is never any control confusion. Switching between dual wielding and single gun fire is smooth and manageable.

Sound: 9/10
This is probably the biggest improvement from the original halo. Halo 2's music kicks in at just the right moments, and is much more noticeable than its predecessor. Bullets sound authentic, and the alien plasma weapon fire sounds crisp. The music itself, when it does kick in, is exceptional, and really sets itself apart from other games in that aspect. Music also seems much more frequent in campaign mode than in Halo:Combat Evolved, yet still there is a lack of music in multiplayer. This is most likely because the intensity of this combat is made even more because there is nothing distracting the players from anything but fighting. The voice acting is also well done, and all of the familiar voices from the first Halo are pretty much back again.

Overall: 9/10
If you own an Xbox, this game is a must buy, especially if you have Xbox live. If you happen to not have any friends nor an internet connection this game is pretty good while it lasts, but probably not worth more than a rental, as the campaign can be played through in less than 10 hours by even the worst of players. Yet i can not say enough, the strength of this game lies in its multiplayer. System link and Xbox live seem to have no end to their possibilities and fun factor. Like most successful online games, this game will be around probably until the next Halo or until something even better comes out, so the purchase of this game is very well warranted. Whether you are a fan of first person shooters. are simply waiting for something to replace the original halo, or simply looking for a reason to buy an xbox, this is the perfect game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/22/04

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