Review by Mech Master

"Game of the Year? Nah, Game of the Generation"

Everyone knows about Halo 2. You guys all know the hype. Halo 2 was easily the most anticipated game of the past year. No, scratch that, of the past few years. No, scratch that again, of this generation. No, that's still not right, EVER! And for good reason too. Halo 1 was amazing of course. Halo 2 adds so many new things into gameplay and expands on the story telling a lot. That's not to say there aren't some flaws. After all, no game is absolutely perfect. But in Halo 2's case, you can easily overlook any that may be there because the game is so amazing and the good definitely makes up for any bad that may be there. Halo 2 does for first person shooters what Legend of Zelda did for adventure games.

STORY: 9.0
This time around the story is much more in depth. There are double or maybe even triple the amount of cut scenes that were in Halo 1. You get so much more information and knowledge about the halo universe. And the good thing about this is that you never want to skip the cut scenes. They are all very interesting and even now, since I've completed the game numerous times, I still watch them. The one thing people are talking about most is the covenant side of the story. You actually get more info on the covenant than the MC and the humans. This surprised me. I like the fact that there's more to the covenant in Halo 2, but never take the emphasis of the main character. The covenant are the star of Halo 2 not the MC which really let me down. And the ending is pretty anti-climatic. Now a lot of people have been talking about this. I didn't really have a problem with it. It leaves plenty of room for a sequel and that's what I want. I want more Halo and apparently some people don't. Overall, the story is presented very well with some really cool twists and turns with some really high production values.

Why are some people complaining about the graphics? The character models have normal mapping everywhere. They look so much better. Clothes have realistic folds and look amazing. The facial animations have been improved, heck, the animations just in general have been improved. Characters move much more fluently. I really loved all of the death animations and rag doll physics. Some of the ways that enemies die look really cool and sometimes funny. The textures have got better. Not much better since Halo 1 still has, arguably, the best textures in any video game. The lush outdoor environments are mainly what have been improved. And everything just in general looks amazing. One thing that I like the best is the lighting. There are some instances that will make you believe you're playing an xbox 2 game or something like that instead. The framerate is definitely the best thing though. Offline, I never encountered any slowdown even in the most heated of fire fights. Online is even better. There's no game out there to my knowledge that lets you host a 16 player game without a dedicated server WITHOUT slowdown. Well actually, one person can ruin an entire game. If even one person has a bad connection you'll get lag in those 16 player games. This is very understandable given the quality of the graphics and the fact most of the time you won't exeprience any lag. It's not just the graphics, but the art style as well. Instead of the usual cliched little green men for aliens, there are some really creative creatures in the game. The buildings and architecture also have a great art style. The whole game just looks incredible. But sadly, there is some pop-up and you'll see textures switch from low-res to hi-res in cut scenes and although it only happens occasionally, it's still noticable and brings the graphics score down a bit.

One thing about Halo 1 that everyone could agree was great was the sound. The Halo series has some of the most memorable and just plain awesome music in a game. Marty O'Donnel did a great job with the music in this game. You'll here plenty of recognizable tunes and some new ones of course. But here's a problem. Well, actually it's just something that I personally thought could have been improved on. I think there could have been more music. In Halo 1 there was always music playing during big fire fights. It helped make the game more intense and exciting. In Halo 2 you actually don't here too much music in the game. But when you do here it it's great of course. But then there's the voice acting. Again, they did an amazing job. There are plenty of celebrities that did V.O. for the game and another thing great about the sound is that there are over 14,000 lines of combat dialogue. The marines have a lot more personality thanks to this. They seem like real people. It's rare that you hear the exact same combat dialogue in a level. The sound effects are also great. Weapons sound very nice and sound really satisfying when you hit your target. Everything about the sound is great. You owe it to yourself to pick up a home theater system for this game.

Gameplay. Yeah Halo had a lot of that. Halo 2 ups the ante in so many new ways. They've added dual wielding weapons, you can hijack vehicles, destroy environments, just so many things have been added to the already perfect action that was in Halo 1. For those who don't know, in Halo 2 you go from level to level shooting everything and accomplishing mission objectives whatever they may be. You may say "That sounds pretty average to me." Well, it's anything but merely average or just okay. It's an astounding achievement in almost every possible way. ALMOST every way. This isn't really any fault of the game. I just personally didn't care for this. None of the levels are as free roaming as the ones in Halo 1 like assault on the control room, but in this you are always on a small set path. A few levels offer a bit of freedom, but most of the time you feel like you are trapped within the level. Another minor fault, but again this is more of a personal thing than something that's actually a problem. You actually don't play as the Master Chief as much as you would expect. You play as him for the first few levels and once or twice at the end. For about 65% of the game you play as this elite named "arbiter" who is redeeming himself to the covenant prophets. Aside from these minor things, Halo 2 goes above and beyond the call of duty. This is easily the best game of the year that I have played. I don't even think half-life 2 can take that award from Halo 2. One word for you-wow.

I was a little worried here. Bungie announced all of these new things for Halo 2 like the dual wielding, hijacking, etc. I had no clue how they would handle things. It just didn't seem like there were enough buttons on the controller, but it seems bungie proved me wrong. Halo 2 handles all of these new things with ease. It's still the FPS that all others try to mimick. Not only is the button layout perfect, but the actual moving and aiming is second to none. The controls just feel right. Something that has been improved are the vehicle controls. They may feel more realistic thanks to the new physics engine. I can't fault the controls for anything. Buton layout, button response, etc. Everything is perfect.

+best graphics on the system
+one of the best sounding games period
+so many new additions to the FPS formula
+uses xbox live to its fullest extent
+deep and interesting storyline

-it eventually ends

Halo 2 is awesome. There really aren't many games that look as good, sound as good, control as good, or play as good. It surpasses Halo 1 and ever other FPS for that matter in so many ways. It introduces so many new things to this genre. I have some personal issues problems with the game, but they really aren't any fault of the game itself. Some may like the covenant, but I like the MC better so obviously I want more info on the humans, but it's still nice to get some more info on the halo universe. Halo 2 is definitely a candidate for game of the year if not the game of the year. I pity any xbox gamer without halo 2. I can't even imagine how good halo 3 will be after playing halo 2.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/06/04

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