Xbox Review: Halo 2
The epic saga continues with Halo 2, the much anticipated sequel to the highly successful and critically acclaimed game Halo: Combat Evolved. In this sequel, the battle comes to Earth, and Master Chief, a genetically enhanced super soldier, is the only thing standing between the relentless alien Covenant and the destruction of all humankind.
System: Xbox, Windows PC
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release dates: November 9th 2004 (USA/AUS), November 11th 2004 (EURO)
Players: single player, 2-player co-op, 1-4 local split-screen multiplayer, 2-16 system link multiplayer and online multiplayer
Developer: Bungie Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
If you want to start playing Halo 2 without having played 2001’s first Halo game, I suggest reading and watching the Halo: Combat Evolved videos and storyline text leading up to Halo 2, as well as the summary of the books on that page that fill out the blanks before and in between the games.
Halo 2 is a continuation of the storyline from Halo: Combat Evolved. In the game, humans, who have developed faster-than-light travel and colonized hundreds of worlds, have been engaged in a war against a collective of genocidal alien races, the Covenant. The player assumes the roles of Master Chief (Spartan-117), one of the few surviving super-soldiers of the SPARTAN-II project; and the Arbiter, a disgraced Elite Commander turned into a holy warrior and serving under the Covenant’s Prophets. They fight enemies on foot or with a collection of alien and human vehicles.
Twenty-seven years before the beginning of Halo 2, the outer colony world of Harvest was destroyed by a collection of alien races, called the Covenant. Since then, the humans and Covenant have been locked in a bloody war, with the UNSC forces continually losing major engagements. The Cole Protocol was created in the hope of preventing the Covenant from discovering human population centers, particularly Earth itself. However, shortly before the events of Halo 2, the Master Chief heads to Earth after destroying a Covenant fleet to ward off an impending Covenant attack on humanity’s home planet. This is where Halo 2 starts.
Watch the Halo 2 launch trailer.
The first-person shooter gameplay of Halo 2 is similar to the previous game in the series, taking place mainly on foot, but also includes sections focused on vehicle combat, be it on the ground or airbound. The game features an expanded range of vehicles, as well as other gameplay changes compared to its predecessor. In the original Halo, health and shield bars are visible on-screen. In Halo 2, the health bar is no longer visible; instead, shield regenerates quickly when the player is not taking damage.
Halo 2 features more than fourteen human and alien weapons, many new to the series. Certain weapons can be dual-wielded, which allows the player to compensate for reload times, while sacrificing accuracy and the ability to use grenades for raw firepower. The player can carry two weapons at a time (or three if dual-wielding; one weapon remains holstered), with each weapon having advantages and disadvantages in different combat situations. For example, most Covenant weapons eschew disposable ammo clips for a contained battery, which cannot be replaced if depleted. However, these weapons can overheat if fired continuously for prolonged periods. On the other hand, human weapons are less effective at penetrating shields and require reloading, but cannot overheat due to prolonged fire. The player can also carry a total of eight grenades (up to four of each type: plasma and fragmentation); however, grenades can only be thrown when single-wielding. Another new ability found in Halo 2 is the ability to board enemy vehicles that are near the player and traveling at low speeds. The player or A.I. latches onto the vehicle and forcibly ejects the other driver from the vehicle.
When you play as an individual player, it’s important to manage your two different weapons correctly. Try to carry a long-range (such as a Battle Rifle) and a short-range weapon (such as a Shotgun). Make sure you’ve always got a few grenades. Running backwards and throwing grenades is a great defensive move when another player surprises you in a map. Use dual wielding in tight spaces at short range, and vehicles when outdoors. Try boarding another player’s vehicle. A successful boarding ejects another player from their seat. Move slowly by crouch-walking if you want to stay invisible on other players’ motion trackers. Also, don’t charge through the front door. Use a little stealth and planning.
Halo 2 allows players to compete with each other via Xbox Live, in addition to support for split-screen and System Link multiplayer. Please remember that online multiplayer on the Xbox (360) is only available if you’re subscribed to Xbox Live (Gold). There are seven multiplayer game types to play. Each game type has a number of built-in variants that create different rules for a game. The Slayer game type has a regular variation called Slayer, Team Slayer, Rockets, etc. You can also create a custom variant for a game type to create your own rules for a game.
What follows are all the multiplayer modes described:
* Slayer: Kill the most opponents.
* Capture the Flag: Score the most points by capturing the other team’s flag and bringing it back to your team’s base.
* Assault: Score the most points by carrying, arming, and dropping your team’s bomb in the other team’s base.
* King of the Hill: Control the hill for the longest time.
* Oddball: Find the ball and hold on to it for the longest time.
* Juggernaut: Only the Juggernaut can win — and if you are the Juggernaut, everyone is out to get you.
* Territories: Earn the most time by finding and controlling territories on the map.
Multiplayer team tactics:
* Teams that are successful are teams that coordinate (and communicate) well with each other.
* Use voice to direct your team. You can tap the White button to engage your radio and talk to your team no matter where they are on the map. Be careful though, nearby enemies can hear you talking as well.
* Manage your team’s weapon selection. In Team Slayer, put someone on a Rocket and someone on a Sniper Rifle.
* Find out what your teammates are good at and let them do it. Who are the best long-range shooters? Put them on sniping duty.
* Stick to your teammates. Don’t go off by yourself unless there is a tactical reason to do so. Note that there is a marker above your teammates’ heads to tell if they’re on your team.
* Know what game type you’re playing. Not everyone on your team can be doing the same thing. They need to take on different tactical roles. Someone needs to stay on defense in Capture the Flag (CTF), so if everyone is on offense, you won’t win.
* Each Halo 2 Clan can have its own page on Bungie.net with a private forum and news system. You can interact with other Clan members, review Clan stats, and formulate strategies. Bungie.net also includes information on the top Halo 2 Clans.
Watch some online multiplayer action in Halo 2.
Key gameplay features in Halo 2 are:
* Pushing the Xbox hardware to its very limits: Halo 2 will expand on everything that made the original game great, plus add a wealth of technological and gameplay advances. Significantly improved graphics, enhanced AI, destructible and interactive environments, and an advanced real-time lighting engine are just a small part of Halo 2’s evolution of design and technology. Every improvement in Halo 2 is designed to take gameplay to a new level, and in the end, to tell a better story.
* The closely guarded plotline of Halo 2 will feature: new vehicles, new weapons and new environments as well as new enemies, allies and surprises around every corner. Players will wield dual weapons, board opponents’ vehicles, and in multiplayer mode you can even switch sides and take the role of a Covenant Elite. Aside from variations in storyline, the Arbiter differs from Master Chief only in that his armor lacks a flashlight; instead, it is equipped with a short duration rechargeable form of active camouflage that disappears when the player attacks or takes damage.
* Working in concert with Xbox Live to redefine broadband gameplay: Halo 2 delivers superior online multiplayer action. Whether joining your clan on a new multiplayer map, customizing the look of your armor, or checking player stats in-game and on Bungie.net, Halo 2 will bring Halo’s unique social experience to a higher level with Xbox Live.
Xbox Live multiplayer takes gameplay to a whole new level by:
* Improving upon the original Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 is Xbox Live-enabled, allowing up to 16 gamers to play against people around the world.
* Halo 2 redefines the social experience of online gaming. New technology lets groups of friends stick together, find games, and meet new opponents.
* Players can split into multiple teams, form clans, or go head-to-head against new friends or old enemies.
* Players can personalize Covenant Elite or Human Spartan armor with custom colors and emblems to enhance battlefield recognition.
* Players can visit Bungie.net website for additional game enhancements, including in-depth statistics and worldwide rankings.
Watch a Halo 2 action montage.
In conclusion let’s see how much fun Halo 2 is on a scale from 1 to 10?
FUN FACTOR – 9.5
Be the hero. Take on the Covenant on your own or in fantastic co-op team play with a friend and live firsthand the epic saga of the Master Chief. Use previously undiscovered Covenant arms. Drive vehicles and pilot aircraft. Battle intelligent enemy A.I. and all-new alien opponents. Halo 2 takes the best parts from Halo and fine-tunes them further. Add in all the addictive multiplayer modes and you’ve got yourself a classic. I can safely recommend Halo 2 for shooter and sci-fi fans. One of the best games on the console hands down, it’s really a must-have for every Xbox (360) owner! Just be warned, in more ways than one, Halo 2 will leave you wanting for Halo 3.
Graphics – 9.0
Superior graphics to the first Halo game thanks to a new game engine, as well as the use of the Havok physics engine. Cinematic excellence drives home the blockbuster movie experience that Halo 2’s story presents (until it’s untimely ending anyway). The story of Halo 2 is told through in-game dialogue as well as cutscenes. You travel and battle across vast, imaginative environments. Master Chief and the world around him consist out of detailed animations, and special effects and realistic lighting bring the world further to life, especially in the heat of battle with explosions and weapons fire all over the place.
Audio – 10
Fully positional Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound features in Halo 2. Duck as a rocket sizzles over your head. Take action as a Covenant Elite growls behind you. Every ambient sound is fully positional, bringing the world of Halo 2 to an even more vivid level of realism. The bombastic mix of old and new tunes in the Halo 2 soundtrack was once again composed primarily by Martin O’Donnell and his musical partner Michael Salvatori, and performed by large orchestras and with intense electric guitar tracks that sound completely epic in 5.1 surround sound. Reprising their believable roles in Halo 2 are Jen Taylor as Cortana, David Scully as Sergeant Johnson and the Elites, Keith David as the Arbiter, Tim Dadabo as 343 Guilty Spark and Marines, Ron Perlman as Lord Hood, Robert Davi as SpecOps Leader, and of course Steve Downes as the voice of Master Chief. The game also features new voices from the likes of comedians David Cross and Orlando Jones.
Ingenuity – 9.5
All your familiar Halo controls are back and this time you can dual-wield weapons. Need I say more? Also improved is the A.I. making it easier to fight side by side with fellow human survivors who react quickly and naturally to events and circumstances; they help you when needed, man guns, and even drive vehicles for you. No two games seem the same, as enemy attackers coordinate, triangulate, and annihilate. They duck to take cover, clamber over obstacles, or smash their way through debris to reach you. Weapons fire doesn’t only look fierce; through suitable rumble effects from the controller it puts you in the action. Add in well-balanced multiplayer maps and it becomes a fantastic gameplay experience for first-person shooter fans.
Replay Value – 10
In the nearly three years between Halo 2’s Xbox release and September 2007, over four billion multiplayer games of Halo 2 were played online by five million unique gamers logging on to play, out of the 8 million copies sold worldwide. That alone goes to show the replay value of Halo 2 is incredible. The single player or co-op campaign mode may be around five to ten hours short depending on your difficulty level (Easy, Normal, Heroic or Legendary) and your play style — but thanks to its great match-making system and active online community — the multiplayer makes up for it with years of replayability.
Throw in two new maps packs Bungie has released over the years and it’ll stay golden as long as you’re having fun.
1. The first Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack from July 5th, 2005, contains nine multiplayer maps, new cinematic sequences, and a documentary about the making of Halo 2. 2 new videos: an animated side-story from the single-player story in New Mombasa and a mini-documentary that includes interviews with the map designers, combat strategies and fly-throughs of the new maps.
2.The second Halo 2 Map Pack contains the last two Halo 2 maps: Tombstone and Desolation. They’re remakes of Halo: Combat Evolved’s multiplayer maps Hang ‘Em High and Derelict. Released on April 17th, 2007, the maps are available as premium downloadable content at a price of $4 for Xbox and Xbox 360. Both maps are available through the Halo 2 in-game content downloader.
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