Review by ShadowGuardian9

"A stellar sequel, Halo 2 is gaming greatness."

When the Microsoft Xbox was released, a little company called Bungie brought their newest creation to the polygon-pushing powerhouse. The creation was Halo. Halo was an instant success, bringing first-person shooters into the next generation in serious style. Master Chief and his exploration of the space-ring Halo became a famous legacy. After three years, Bungie has brought the long-awaited sequel to the Xbox. Halo 2 is the highly-anticipated, extremely-hyped, and ridiculously-popular game from the people at Bungie.

Graphics 10/10

Halo's graphics were good, but there was a significant amount of glitches, frame rate issues, and lack of variety in the environments. Bungie has taken notice and fixed all of this. Halo 2 improves on Halo's graphics in every case. From the start, the game's epic scope is realized as Master Chief begins his next adventure. In the first Halo, you were mostly exploring the same dark hallways over and over. Thankfully, Halo 2 offers much more diverse environments. Plus, every single one of them is beautiful. Master Chief touches down on sandy beaches, ancient ruins, and beautiful forests. The outdoor environments are some of the most stellar you'll find on the Xbox. The indoor environments are also well done. Every single area feels new, even if you've been there before. The frame rate rarely stutters and the glitch count has been fixed immensely. Cutscenes are very well done, with excellent lighting effects and character design. Epic space explosions and gunfights demonstrate Halo 2's immense sense of scale. The weapons and vehicles have never looked better and even the enemies have a better look to them. Halo 2 is a game that truly demonstrates the Xbox's abilities and is by far one of the best-looking games for the console. Excellent.

Audio 10/10

Halo's audio was epic. Halo 2's audio does not disappoint. The choral theme of Halo returns at the menu screen and from the start you'll discover the beauty and epic scope of Halo 2. In battle, everything works. The themes are extremely diverse. First, you'll hear beautiful choral arias. Next, you'll hear some solid guitar themes and loud rock choruses. The music will keep you guessing, and every time it chimes in, you'll be surprised and happy at its excellent quality. The sound effects are well done. As in the first Halo, each weapon has its own effects. The zapping Needler, the explosive Brute Shot, every weapon is incredibly well designed in distinguishing itself from the others. The voices are great. Master Chief has never sounded so good. His one-liners are hilarious. Cortana is equally entertaining. The enemies have hilarious chatter, even after Master Chief dies. Every character is well done. Halo 2 picks up where Halo left off, creating epic audio and some of the best sound design on the Xbox.

Gameplay 10/10

Halo revolutionized console shooters. Not since Goldeneye for the N64 had gamers found such finesse in a console FPS. Halo 2 does not disappoint. By far this is one game to remember for years to come.

Halo 2 picks up exactly where Halo left off. With the first Halo destroyed, the Covenant forces retaliate by finding Earth. It's up to Master Chief and his crew to stop the Covenant once again. However, along the way, Master Chief finds some twists to the new adventure. Also, the player will be surprised that you can now play as a Covenant Arbiter. Now you can explore the other side of the conflict as a Covenant soldier. Exploring both sides adds some depth to the storyline, a much-needed departure from the same old “save the world” storyline.

Controls are pretty simple: Left analog stick to move, right analog stick to aim. R-Trigger to shoot, A to jump, B to melee, Y to switch weapons, X to reload, pick up weapons, man a turret, or board a vehicle. L-Trigger to use grenades, Black to switch grenades, White for flashlight. Anyone who's played the first Halo will have no problems with Halo 2's controls. Even newcomers will quickly get used to Halo 2's fluid control setup. The dual-analog system is still not as precise as the point-and-click PC setup, but is still very well done.

Halo 2 does add some new tweaks to the gameplay. First off is no longer having a health bar. You can now only take a few shots without your shield. However, the shield is much stronger now and recharges much faster than in the previous Halo. Another change is the ability to dual-wield. Now certain weapons, like the Plasma Pistol or the Magnum among others, can be used in both hands. This doesn't allow you to use grenades, though; the L-Trigger is then used for the left-hand weapon. Also, you have to discard a weapon to melee attack. The dual-wielding aspect adds some variety and strategy to the Halo gameplay. Like the two-weapon rule did, you now have to think ahead or find a good combination to fight your foes. Another new addition is the ability to steal vehicles. Hold X near a boarded vehicle to steal an opponent's vehicle. This is an excellent addition, adding a much needed balance to vehicles. Before, when someone boarded a vehicle, you had to either destroy the vehicle or deal with the rampage. Now the balance is perfect as you can kick a guy off his Ghost or frag the inside of a tank to take it for yourself. This also allows you to board vehicles you could not use in the first Halo, like the Covenant Wraith. These small additions add many new dimensions to the gameplay, making it much more diverse and expansive.

Halo 2 also brings brand new weapons, a welcome addition due to Halo's slightly sparse weapons library. New weapons from the Covenant and Earth forces are here, and thankfully, there are much more of them. The inclusion of dual-wielding increases the weapon diversity even more. Probably the biggest weapon upgrade is the Plasma Sword. Covenant forces had it in Halo, prepare to use it yourself in Halo 2. The sword is great. There's a whole multiplayer mode for it. It's that fun to use. The ability to hijack vehicles adds to the vehicle count as well.

The entire single-player is a massive improvement over the first Halo. The level design is much more diverse, so you won't be wandering through the same hallways over and over again. The levels feature a greater use of the beautiful outdoor environments along with the well-done indoor environments. The inclusion of dual-wielding and vehicle-hijacking adds diversity to the single-player. The game doesn't hold your hand too much, so you can complete your objective in multiple ways. Although the game does encourage the use of a weapon or vehicle, it gives you quite a bit of freedom in defeating your enemies. Halo 2 does give you some advantages with the dual-wielding and hijacking vehicles, but the AI is tougher this time around. These guys are smart. They will team up in vehicles, they will swarm, they will snipe, they will use turrets. Although they will do the occasional blunder, like having themselves knocked out from behind in the midst of battle, but overall, the AI is challenging. But Bungie fluidly balanced the entire game by making everything more expansive and including the weapon and vehicles modifications.

The multiplayer is why you will play Halo 2 over and over again. The multiplayer is very robust and you will play it for a long, long time. Co-op returns; fighting against the Campaign enemies with a friend has never been so much fun. Thanks to the new additions, teamwork is encouraged even more. But if you like friendly competition, Halo 2 delivers. The split-screen multiplayer is still extremely robust, with many different modes and opportunities for customization. The classic Slayer is divided up into many different modes as well, along with the other modes. Swords, specifically, is a Slayer round with only the Energy Swords and is an excellent way to take advantage of the new weapon. The modes can only be compared to by the maps. Like the Campaign levels, the multiplayer maps are not only great to look at, but brilliantly designed. Some maps have specific multiplayer modes that work best on them, while others can be used with anything. Bungie put a ton of effort in the map design, bringing the gameplay balance of the Campaign to multiplayer. System Link returns with the split-screen, but the big draw would have to be online play. Halo 2 has compatibility with Xbox Live. The multiplayer of Halo 2 is the reason you will be playing this game for years. It's so deep, so robust, and so customizable that it's extremely difficult to play the game the same way twice. Halo 2 rises above its predecessor in every way. The inclusion of new weapons and vehicles, new gameplay mechanics, and a multiplayer upgrade make the entire game a sight to behold. This is FPS gameplay at its absolute finest.

Replay Value 10/10

Yes, the Campaign is short, but it's extremely well-designed. The multiple difficulties will keep you occupied for a long time, Legendary especially. The co-op makes the campaign worth exploring again. The multiplayer is extremely well done. The many different modes and customizable options give the game a massive amount of depth. Xbox Live compatibility makes the game even bigger. Halo 2 has so many different things to do, both single and multiplayer, both offline and online, that the entire game will keep you occupied for a long, long time.

Final Verdict 10/10

The first Halo was excellent. It was something so groundbreaking that few thought that anything could surpass its FPS finesse. Well, we've found it. Halo 2 improves on its predecessor in every way. The graphics have been upgraded; the levels' graphic polish and amount of diversity are astounding. The sound design is as epic as ever and always surprises and leaves you in awe. The gameplay is still classic Halo, but by adding new gameplay balancing elements, the entire system clicks and feels as it should. The single-player, though short, is epic and intriguing, showing the immense scope of the game's beautiful storyline. The multiplayer has an amazing amount of options and there are so many things to do. The entire game is an excellent improvement on an already incredible game. If you have an Xbox, this is a game you should have. Never before has a game balanced an epic storyline with amazingly-solid gameplay and a beautiful presentation. Halo 2 is as groundbreaking as the first Halo and is an excellent gaming experience on every possible level.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/20/06

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