Review by Darkv1

"Halo 2- good game, but far from perfect"

Halo 2, one of the biggest video game releases in history, was one of my most waited and longed for games. Hell, I stood in the cold for over 2 hours waiting for my copy. I expected to put it in the Xbox and be swept into a euphoric Halo experience. This did happen, but the Halo 2 high did not last long. In fact, by mid December 2004, I already found myself putting the game down and not wanting to pick it back up. Not only did I find myself putting the game down, I found myself putting it down before completing it. To me it seemed as though Halo 2 did not possess the Halo spark of the first game. Enough of my stories though, let's get on with the review.

Let us first start by talking about the graphics in Halo 2. To put it simply, the game looks good. The bump mapping is excellent, producing higher quality and to a point more hi-res graphics than the original Halo. Some of the modifications that were done to the Elites' and Master Chief's armor look superb. The graphical upgrade definitely adds some realism to the game, not that the original had bad or even lackluster graphics by any stretch of the imagination. The graphics overall were done quite well. But for any of you who may have read some of my other reviews, graphics are not how I rate a game. A pretty game is not always a good game.

Gameplay is to a point unchanged. You still run, shoot, reload, and jump. You do this in new areas of course, however there is little more brought to the table in the way of single player gameplay that wasn't already seen in Halo 1. There are new additions though. One of these is the ability to dual wield. While dual wielding is nothing new to the FPS genre, it adds some new gameplay to the Halo world. In fact it nearly becomes a focal point. I say this because if you dual wield the right weapons, getting through the game on normal is easy, no strategy required.

There are some new weapons added, like the plasma sword and the covenant sniper rifle. These weapons add new but not necessarily groundbreaking elements to gameplay. Also the range and effectiveness of some preexisting weapons have been decreased, this yields a frustration factor. Why did they have to wuss-up my shotgun, why?!!!! There are other innovations though, one of these being the ability to play as an Elite. While playing as the Arbiter presents no change in control as opposed to Master Chief, it adds some different features. One of these features is the ability to use active camouflage whenever you wish in single player. You do only have it for limited periods though, as well as it takes up the flashlight button so you have no flashlight as an Elite in single player.

While on the topic of gameplay I wish to discuss some major complaints I had about the vehicle redesigns in the game. When I say this, I mainly mean the Ghost. I am sad and pissed that you can't jump the Ghost anymore. They ruined it! While they added a boost function, I am not willing to sacrifice doing tricks and ramping. On the note of the ghost I cry foul. They did however improve tank control. But on another bad note, they totally killed the warthog driving controls.

The story in Halo 2, where to begin…well the story delves deeper into the Halo mythos. There are some cool story elements, like the covenant side of the story that add to the deepness of the game. However, it is like Bungie tried to fit too elaborate of a story into the game. To put it in short, not that much really happens in the game. The story is less original than the first Halo, but it is not bad. There are some intriguing elements; in fact it seems to take on a very StarCraft feel later in the story. I won't spoil the end but the story left many unanswered questions and even created new questions at the end.

There is really not too much to say about the sound in Halo 2. Voice acting is done well. The sounds are realistic, gunshots sound like gunshots and alien beam weapons sound like beam weapons.

A new element added to the Halo multiplayer is Xbox Live support. At first you may hear this and be overjoyed. I was…until I got online and played for awhile. First off I will say this. The interface is clunky. If Bungie was going for a style system, they failed.

The system puts you in games via matchmaking, where you select what kind of game you want to play. You are then thrown into a game with a number of random people to play. This element of playing random people may seem fun at first, until you realize that it is about your only option. While you can set up your own game, there is no option to browse games. This means that if you want to play a custom game, you will have to invite everyone to come and play. This disappointed me. Part of what make other online systems like so awesome is the ability to browse games and download new options. In My opinion, Halo 2 should have had a game browser. It also would have been cool to download other people's custom game types. Also, these custom games do not count toward your level. So when all I can do to raise my level is play the damn random games, I grow tired of the online play quickly. For some reason playing land grab over and over again is not exactly something to keep you playing.

Part of the fun of Halo multiplayer has always been creating custom game types and playing them with friends. While this doesn't work well online, you can still do it in the LAN party environment via the use of the system link option. Yes that is right, nearly nothing about offline multiplayer has changed, with the exception of maps and gameplay modes that is.

I suppose a review of the multiplayer would not be complete without a thorough look at the multiplayer maps. Most of the new maps for Halo 2 are…well how should I put this…large. In fact there is very little in the way of small maps for like fewer than 8 people. This was not to my and many other peoples' liking. With the exception of Beaver Creek, which is Battle Creek ported over to the new engine, there are no maps aimed at small groups. Awesome maps like Chill Out and Chiron have no Halo 2 counterparts. This was a severe disappointment.

Enough about the bad aspects of the multiplayer levels, let's move on to the good points. Level design on some of the maps gives tactical advantage to one base for some game variants. For example, in the level Zanzibar one base is in a building and one is on a beach. There is a little bit of a tactical difference between the two, don't you think? Many of the levels, as I mentioned before, are larger and more geared toward a bigger group of people, which is good. In Halo 1, even some of the big levels got crowded once you got more than 8 people playing. This tends not to happen in Halo 2. I have played games with 8+ people on some levels and walked around for 5 minutes without finding anyone, not that this is good either.

Like the first Halo, Halo 2 supports cooperative play. This can be done via split screen or over Xbox Live. Co-op, however, cannot be played over system link. Someone seriously needs to explain that to me. I can play co-op over Xbox Live but not system link. That makes no damn sense whatsoever. Bungie what the hell were you thinking?! The co-op modes are also only two-player. Yes, I know, when has any FPS co-op supported more than 2 players? To be sure, I can't tell you if any FPS has ever supported more than 2 players in co-op. I will say the following though: it would have been cool and they shouldn't have faked us out with the screen where 4 players can select profiles.

I will say the following about the replay value of Halo 2, it is next to nonexistent. I played through the game and had no urge to ever play it through again. To date I have replayed Halo 1 at least 10 or 15 times. This sequel does not partake in the massive replay value of the first.

In conclusion I will say the following: Halo and Halo 2 are different games. To compare the two is not really fair. If you make my mistake and go into Halo 2 expecting Halo 1, you may very well be disappointed. However if go into Halo 2 with an open mind and play it for what it is, you will enjoy it. There may have been a lot of complaints in my review but that is only because I compared the two games. In my book the sequel doesn't live up to the original. Halo 2 was not a bad game, but I have played far better. Halo 2 gets a 7 out of 10.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/05/05

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