Review by Vman2001

"Halo 2 points the console FPS in a promising and exciting direction"

Halo 2 is definitely Xbox's greatest first person shooter, and probably one of its top three games, so I'll go straight into this lengthy review so all of you can see what I'm talking about.

Campaign Gameplay: [6/10]

One of the first things you'll notice when you begin the campaign mode is that Master Chief has been given a new set of armor. This armor allows him to jump a little higher, and prevents him from taking damage when jumping down from an elevated area. The new health system that his armor provides is basically just a shield. The shield recharges quicker in this version, but you'll only be able to sustain a few hits while it is down so you should quickly take cover unless you want to die. The campaign offers a number of levels, and each level provides you with certain objectives that you must complete before another set can be given. In some levels you'll play as Master Chief and in others you'll play as the former Elite general who led the Covenant forces in the original Halo. Each character plays a little differently: the Chief usually begins levels with human weapons like the Battle Rifle or Sub Machine Guns (SMGs) and will be able to toggle a flashlight with the white button, while the Elite starts off with Covenant weapons like the Plasma Rifle and the Energy Sword and will be able to become invisible temporarily with the white button. The campaign missions are essentially the same as the original---run and shoot the enemy; however, it isn't always as easy as said because the enemy AI has been tweaked just a little.

One of the main problems in campaign mode is that the level designing is not the best work that I have seen. The levels are huge with plenty of places to maul your opponents and opportunities to take cover are plentiful, but there are still a few flaws that lower the gameplay of Halo 2. For one, there are many points in the game where you could be blasting Covenant or Flood forces with a shotgun, but then you suddenly fall to your death by walking off the edge of a cliff or platform. The levels tend to provide the same challenges repeatedly, so the gameplay becomes a little repetitive after playing for so long. Also, while playing for a couple hours your eyes get a little tired and headaches may ensue. I know that playing any game for a long time will give you headaches after a certain while, but this occurs more often in Halo 2 than any game I have ever played. I suggest taking 10-15 minute breaks every couple of hours so that you don't strain yourself while playing.

The other major problem with the campaign is that it can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. Most players should be able to clear it within 10 hours on Normal mode, but this occurrence can be offset by playing on either Heroic and Legendary mode. On these levels even the best players may be crawling on their knees from the agony of dieing over and over again. Just when you think you've cleared a room you'll either be sniped off or Brute will take you out from behind. The enemy AI certainly takes a jump when playing on these modes. Enemy forces will be able to take cover more often, coordinate attacks better, sneak up more, and evade your attacks (including grenades) better than in the original Halo. The ally AI has also been improved as they can actually kill off enemy forces better and drive vehicles for you. The only problem with your allies is that they have trouble getting around obstacles when piloting a vehicle. Just be prepared for a challenge when playing on either Heroic or Legendary mode.

The best aspect of the campaign is the ability to partner up and beat all the missions with a friend through the Cooperative mode. This mode is about the same as it was in the original, which means you should be able to breeze through it on the first three modes. However, this mode has a little twist in Legendary mode. If either you or your partner dies on the highest level, you'll both be sent back to the last checkpoint. Playing Legendary on Co-op will almost certainly take longer than it does on single player.

There are plenty of new weapons in Halo 2, as well as returning favorites (with minor tweaks), and the ability to dual wield small guns. SMGs take the place of the original Assault Rifle, and the Battle Rifle has a three round burst with a scope to take out enemies from afar. The Magnum no longer has a zoom feature, but it shoots much faster than it used to. Rocket launchers are now able to lock onto vehicles and the Sniper Rifle returns. The old Covenant weapons like the Plasma Rifle and the Plasma Pistol return, but the best returnee is now the Needler. The Needler shoots much faster than before and will allow you to destroy enemies without even being touched (especially while dual wielding). New alien weapons include the Covenant Carbine, Beam Rifle (another sniper rifle), and the Brute Shot (a grenade launcher). The most exciting new weapon is the Energy Sword---you'll be able to take out most enemies with one hit while using these babies. The weapons are fun to use, but some of them (like the Covenant Carbine) just don't seem to have much use at all.

Vehicles are a plenty during the campaign missions. You'll be able to drive the Banshee, Ghost, Scorpion, Warthog, and Wraith while playing through this mode. The Banshee is a high flying machine that shoots missiles and fires plasma, the Ghost is a hovercraft that fires plasma also, and the Scorpion and Wraith are basically tanks. There are now two different types of Warthogs: one allows you to fire with a gun turret, and the other has a rocket launcher attached. A new feature added to vehicles is the ability to hijack from somebody close to you. Just tap X at the correct time, and you'll be on your way to smashing your enemy with their own vehicle. Vehicles add a lot of fun (especially when hijacking) to the game, and will certainly be crucial for some missions.

Multiplayer Gameplay: [8/10]

Multiplayer is obviously the best part of Halo 2. Most of what was said in the campaign review applies to multiplayer as well. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Oddball, Capture the Flag, and others make a returning appearance. System Link allows for up to 16 players to bash each other down using the whole slew of weapons and vehicles. The game types can be customized to your liking just like the original allowed. Steal your opponents' vehicles and give them a taste of their own medicine, or blast them from the other side of the level with your Sniper Rifle or Beam Rifle. You can now play as either a Spartan or an Elite, so you'll most likely be playing for hours on end while utilizing the mutliplayer.

Xbox live is by far the greatest feature that was added to this game. With Xbox Live you can trash talk as much as you want and take on people from all over the country. A record of your wins/losses will be kept while playing Xbox Live, and you'll have the same game types as you do offline. Downloadable content, such as new maps, will be available and you'll also be able to keep up a friends list while online. When you get done beating everybody in your dorm hall just log onto Xbox Live and have some fun. If you have Halo 2 and Xbox Live you will definitely be playing whenever you have some free time on your hands.

The biggest problem I see with multiplayer is that there are absolutely no bots or sims to take on while playing offline. This means that you'll have to find somebody else to play with if you don't want to do campaign and don't have Xbox Live. Playing one on one isn't always fun, so you'll usually want to play with at least three people, but when there isn't anybody else to play with you you'll probably be bored out of your mind. The option to have bots and sims assures you of having up to three opponents to play against at any time you wish. The other problem I see with multiplayer is the level design. Depending on the level, you could be in the middle of finishing off an opponent, but then suddenly fall off a cliff or platform like the campaign mode. Dieing while in the midst of getting another kill isn't exactly the most fun in the world, so gameplay gets a little cut because of that. Another small problem with the multiplayer is that the Banshee cannot shoot missiles. There's absolutely no fun in that.

Sound: [10/10]

The sound is where Halo 2 excels. Voice acting is pretty good, and the weapon sounds are top-notch. You can hear your enemies grunting, and grenades going off everywhere. The vehicles have their own unique motor and weapon sounds. The music of this game is also very good. Most levels have music that adrenalizes you, so that you're ready to take on all the Covenant and Elite forces that can be thrown at you. Be sure to utilize your speaker system when playing this game, because you'll have a lot more fun with it on.

Graphics: [9/10]

The graphics are done very well, and are very impressive compared to most games today. Shots from Plasma Rifles look pretty nice, and some of the levels look awesome. You'll see all the shots you fire, all the shots fired at you, the grenades exploding beside you, and you can even see where your vehicles took hits. The only problem with the graphics is that there are some glitches during the campaign mode, and some of the edges around objects and buildings look a little rough. It wouldn't be so much of a problem, but these glitches and rough edges are easy to spot when contrasted with the great looks of everything else in the game. However, the graphics are still something that the creators should take great pride in, and something that everybody can enjoy.

Story: [7/10]

The story is a lot better than it was in the original Halo, but it is still lacking the substance that Bungee promised. I'm not going to spoil anything for anybody, so all I'm going to say is that it isn't as deep or involving as it was hyped up to be. If you think that Halo 2 is going the have the best ending in any FPS then I suggest you lower your expectations a bit.

Replay: [9/10]

Not much needs to be said here. You'll be playing this game into the wee bitty hours of the morning, and you'll probably have fun while you blast everything to smithereens.

Campaign Gameplay- 6/10
Multiplayer Gameplay- 8/10
Sound- 10/10
Graphics- 9/10
Story- 7/10
Replay- 9/10

Final Thoughts:

If you are fan of the FPS genre, then I suggest you buy this game. With this game and a few other golden titles I would suggest buying an Xbox. If you already have an Xbox and a broadband connection then you should at least look into investing in Xbox Live because you will certainly have a lot of fun playing Halo 2 with people you do and don't know. Overall, I would say that Halo 2 points the console FPS in a promising and exciting direction, so I'm going to give this game a solid and respectable 8/10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/28/04, Updated 12/08/04

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