Mon, 6 December 2004
Email the Author
Halo was the first game I played on my (then) shiny new Xbox system. I was seriously impressed. The graphics were amazing for the time. The game was so much fun; the funky physics engine, cruising around in the warthog, lobbing grenades...awesome stuff! I played it through twice in a row, on the harder difficulty the second time through. It was a beauty. Now here we are with the second Halo game. Can it match up to the thrill of the first?
Not really. But it is still an excellent game. After the hype and build-up though, it could be seen as slightly disappointing - especially the length of the game's single player campaign. I was expecting an epic. But I'd swear the second Halo was much shorter than the first game. Thankfully it also had less overly repetitive and slightly dull (compared to the rest of the game, at least) patches than the original. I can see myself coming back to this one; it was a short trip, but one worth repeating.
Mind you, despite the relative shortness of the game, it could still last you a long time if you were to play it on the highest difficulty. The AI is even more outstanding than it was before and it can be adapted to challenge any skill level.
After loading Halo 2 for the first time I found the graphics underwhelming. It basically appeared just like the old one. But, after a while, I began to notice that it had in fact been spruced up significantly. Further into the game there were some really pretty graphics on offer, almost stunning. Almost, but not quite. And the reason for that... well, I think it is just because the Xbox isn't new anymore. When I played the first Halo, the Xbox was the latest, cutting edge system. Three years later, everyone has caught up to, or even overtaken, those standards. Now, after seeing titles like Doom 3 and Far Cry on the PC, the giant black console is starting to show its age slightly. We've gotten used to really great graphics and it takes a lot more to impress us. Still, while my jaw may not have dropped for Halo 2 like it did for the first one, but the bottom line is: This is still one tremendous looking Xbox game.
The sound is similar again to the first. But that just means it remains excellent. The music always fits the action superbly and the various noises of the guns and banter from your enemies all ensure the mood is suitably set.
As with the original there's a pretty strong plot to this game, but I don't want to give too much away. I will say that one major difference here is that for a good portion of the game you don't actually play as Master Chief. Much of the story deals with political struggles going on within the Covenant. It drew me in well enough, right up until I go to the ending, which is....lame, really. In fact, it totally sucks. You don't see it coming and, in this case, I don't mean that as a compliment. The game finishes before you expect it to and the story is left unfinished. With very few exceptions (and this isn't one of them) I hate it when games do that! As far as I'm concerned, that is just piss weak.
For the most part the game plays just like the old one, but there are a few key improvements. Duel wielding weapons is the most prominent addition. You can now hold two weapons at once; left trigger fires your left hands weapon and right trigger fires the right. Mixing and matching between different guns is a blast (excuse the crappy pun). It adds to the tactical aspect of the combat too because grenades can only be used when you have a free hand, so you have to decide whether you'll be better off with two guns or the ability to lob some explosives. Also, some weapons, like the newly useable energy sword (it is heaps of fun killing suckas with that thing!) require both hands. There are a bunch of new weapons on offer too; the brute shot grenade launcher was my favourite. There are a couple more vehicles available now as well and once again controling all of the vehicles is supremely entertaining.
The multi-player aspect of Halo 2 is another big drawing card. This is about as good as it gets for multiple people on a console First Person Shooter. It holds its own with the very best the PC has to offer as well. You can play the missions in two player co-op mode and I recommend that you do, because it is a hugely enjoyable experience. Then you have the split-screen death matches for up to four people, which work very well. You can also play with up to 16 people using system link. The icing on the cake is the ability to play against others online. All told the multi-player modes will add significantly to the lifespan of the game and go a long way to making up for the brevity of the single player campaign.
There's nothing particularly wrong with Halo 2, apart from the length of the (single player) game and that ending. Microsoft/Bungie may have been their own worst enemy by hyping this thing so damn much. I can definitely see some people, who were expecting it to be leaps and bounds above anything else, coming away from the game feeling a little let down. Still it already sold in pre-orders by the truckload; so the hype must've worked very well, in some ways.
Personally speaking, though my expectations were perhaps unreasonable, I have to admit I expected a little more. It didn't have an impact on me that was even close to what the first one managed. Even so, I liked Halo 2 very much and I know I will play it again often; both by myself and with others. That means, from me, the game is definitely highly recommended.
Email the Author
More articles by Hillelman