HALO 2 (Xbox; 2004)
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
Halo 2’s graphics, while fairly good, don’t stand up all that well to a lot of other games of it’s year of release, unlike the original Halo which blew all other console games out of the water in 2001. The visuals fair even worse when you consider all of the times you are subject to watching the details draw in, especially during cutscenes. This all amounts to a very uneven visual package that is downright ugly sometimes. One really great plus is that there aren’t any ridiculous copy-and-paste areas this time around. The audio, on the other hand, is just as top notch this time as it was previously. Granted, most of the audio on offer is the same as the original Halo, but it still works well here and is accompanied by new weapons and their sound effects which blend in well with everything else that returned.
Now we come to the thing about Halo 2 that nobody likes and rightly so. Everyone talks about how it ends in a crappy cliffhanger that isn’t even a proper ending and while true I would go so far as to say there isn’t really a third act in this game at all. It all just falls off a cliff at the end of the second act and the game simply ends. None of this bothers me much because I have never felt Halo’s story and characters were ever good to begin with.
Halo 2’s weaponry is a larger, more eclectic mix than that of the original game. My main complaint is that you end up mostly using Covenant weapons during the campaign with very little use of any of the Spartan weapons. I didn’t really settle on any particular favorites this time around because you change up what you are using pretty frequently, but I used the plasma rifle the most. The energy sword was very handy in taking out any big enemies like the Brutes. The most disappointing returning weapon was the shotgun. In the first Halo it was my favorite weapon by far, but here it felt really underpowered so I’m glad I didn’t need to use it much. The most improved returning weapon was the needler, well only when you were dual-wielding it. Speaking of dual-wielding, it was a fantastic addition to this game and big part of why I enjoyed Halo 2 more than the original Halo.
This time around all of the vehicles control well, even the Warthog! I never once tipped over from a jump with it which is a far cry from what happened when I drove Halo 1’s Warthog. My only complaint is that they stuck with the same control scheme which makes it so you cannot move in a different direction than you are firing. I find it to be a terrible way to control vehicles, but at least nothing about using vehicles made me rage like I did previously.
Here’s yet another area where Halo 2 trumps the original Halo. The missions in Halo 2 don’t feel as if they drag on too long and there aren’t any areas with endlessly spawning enemies. The only minor complaint was that some areas had fairly ridiculous odds against you which annoyed me some, but nothing that made me want to break my controller in half.
This is the part that was easily the biggest addition from Halo 1. In 2004 and earlier, consoles just didn’t have much in the way of robust multiplayer packages and Halo 2 came along and offered the kind of fantastic multiplayer and options that you could only get on PCs before this. Halo 2 set the standard for how online multiplayer for shooters should be done on consoles similar to how the original Halo set the standard for how shooters on consoles should control.
Halo 2 is a great game that improved upon it’s predecessor in a lot of small ways that added up to a much better experience overall and set a new standard in online console gaming.
RATING: 5 out of 5 / 9.0 out of 10