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SummaryO.k, I lied, I love this game.
The GoodO.K., if you're not keeping up with current events here is what is going on. UnicornLynx hates Halo, I love Halo. I wanted to impress him, so I wrote a scathing review of Halo and Halo 2 after he posted his. It was silly, sycophantic nonsense and a complete denial of my philosophy of playing what you like, not what others like.
Halo 2 is an excellent follow up to the original classic released in 2001. The idea behind the game is that Master Chief made it back to Cairo Station, which is basically a big gun orbiting Earth, after the destruction of the Halo ring and the decimation of the Covenant forces who tried to cleanse the human (and flood) infestation on it. Unfortunately, they find Earth, destroy the gun platforms and begin invading...one place. No one knows why, they just are. As Master Chief, it is up to you to defend Earth, after all, she's all we've got. But it's not just humanity that is fighting tooth and nail in this instalment you have the added benefit of seeing the events of the game also unfolding from the perspective of the Covenant through the eyes of a scapegoat Elite dubbed the "Arbiter." The Arbiter levels are some of the best in the game and include the plasma sword for the first time as a usable weapon.
The first thing you notice upon beginning the Halo 2 campaign is how much Bungie overhauled the engine in anticipation of the game's release. The texture resolution has improved, the general scale of everything is three times what is was in the original Halo and the combat has been super refined. Your jumping is less floaty, your melee attacks are quicker and more precise and you can dual wield certain weapons to form devastating combinations.
The flow of the game is a lot different to the original Halo. You begin on Cairo station, moving to Earth and finally to the Delta Halo ring that you end up travelling to along with a Covenant Battle cruiser. There is great variation in the level design of Halo 2, the meandering through identical corridors has been eliminated and back tracking is non-existent. It's a constant push forward through the Covenant forces.
There is a lot to like about Halo 2, like the increased vehicle presence, the ability to hijack vehicles and the additional weapons like the SMG's (two of these things become handheld lawnmowers) while the pistol has been replaced by a more balanced "Magnum" which is more of a sidearm than anything. Vehicles play a bigger role in the game, so to does finding alternate routes through levels (such as jumping across rooftops in New Mombasa.) Basically the way you travel through levels has had a lot more thought put into it, making the trips far more interesting than the original Halo.
Graphically a lot of new things can be found in Halo. Sun glare was present in Halo but it is far more pronounced in Halo 2, the resolution of textures is vastly increased and bump mapping has been incorporated to great effect in the engine. Building architecture is far more complicated and interested and while it provides some great eye candy it also provides players with lots of tactical options when it comes to approaching combat situations.
The soundtrack is as fantastic as ever. Martin O'Donnell knows how to produce some amazingly cinematic pieces, blending them with electronic beats and the occasional roar of a guitar to mix things up. It's great stuff. Additionally the actual characterisation of the Covenant and the inclusion of spoken lines for them means some excellent voice actors join the mix and lend credibility to their race beyond a bunch of moving targets.
The BadWhile I appreciate the lengths Bungie went to creating more complicated, interesting levels it is easy to lose track of where you are supposed to be going and occasionally get turned around. It doesn't happen very often but it's irritating when it does.
When using AI team mates on your mounted guns they tend to never hit anything, meaning you have to trust them to drive your vehicle, which is an even more hazardous prospect.
The story peters out in the end to a sort of whimpered finale that leads into a sequel. It's not a definite ending, not a huge deal, but if you don't have an Xbox 360 being able to see the conclusion is not an option for you.
The Bottom LineHalo 2 is a fantastic game that will take you around 12-15 hours (depending on your skill level) to finish. Honest refinements to the formula such as dual wielding, the ability to hijack vehicles, the refinement of combat specifics like melee attacks, the addition of weapons like the SMG's and Plasma Sword lend to some variation in your technique and emphasis on multiple routes and exploration is refreshing.
There are few things to fault in this game and the things that I do fault are minor and niggling.
Halo 2 isn't perfect, nor is it the best game ever made. I wouldn't even class it amongst the best games ever made. It is however a good, honest sequel with great refinements to an already engaging formula.