Sunday, August 30

Halo 2 Review

I played on: Xbox
I paid: £0.50
Available on: Xbox 
Notes: The online multiplayer for Halo 2 is sadly disconnected now so this review will focus on the single-player only. 

Halo 2 follows on from Bungie’s amazing first installment of the Halo series and while it doesn’t reinvent the FPS genre like the last game it does improve on every single part of it. If the first game was Combat Evolved, then Halo 2 is certainly Combat Refined.

Since the events of the first game, both the human race and the alien Covenant are dealing with the destruction of Halo. Humanity is celebrating their first major victory against their aggressors with the Master Chief and Sargent Johnson receiving medals at a ceremony. Meanwhile, aboard their capital warship, High Charity, the Covenant is removing the rank from the Elite in charge of the Halo mission. He is stripped, tortured, and then given a chance to take up the status of Arbiter. This rank is one of shame and is ultimately responsible for suicidal missions to progress the ultra-religious Covenant to their end goal of activating Halo and going on the “Great Journey”.

Halo 2 follows both the Arbiter and the Master Chief over the campaign. This story is arguably more about the Arbiter’s journey than the Chief’s as it’s the Arbiter that has more personal growth and character arch here. I don’t think this is a bad thing as it allows us to learn more about the Covenant as a whole because we get to see it from the inside. Halo 2 expands on almost every point from the first game. We learn more about humanity even getting to see parts of Earth. We get to learn more about the parasitic Flood even meeting the central hive mind behind it all. We get to learn more about the Covenant even learning about new races included in it and visiting their portable shared home of High Charity. Story-wise Halo 2 might be the strongest part of the original trilogy and I love it.

This strength carries over to the gameplay with everything just feeling smoother than it did in Combat Evolved. You no longer have a health bar instead of just worrying about your shields which now recharge faster than they used to. As you can imagine this makes the action faster and more intense. Adding to this pace is the ability to duel-wield certain weapons at the cost of being able to melee or use grenades. You can also use the Elite’s energy swords now and they are amazing! As well as dealing massive damage, one hit killing most enemies, they allow you to lunge at your foes making up for their short range. My one minor complaint is that the Arbiter and the Chief both control the same.

The last thing Halo 2 improves on is presentation. I love the soundtrack to this game, from the main theme to the beautifully haunting ‘Ghosts of Reach’ and so many more. Weapons and voice acting all continue this excellent sound quality. Visually this game looked great in 2004 but today, over 15 years later, it’s looking dated. That’s not to say it’s ugly because it’s not. The Halo series as a whole is a fantastic example of how a great art design can keep a game looking good even when the graphics have become outdated. It may be showing its age but there are still so many moments that I still get awestruck by. A great example of this is just seeing the massive city inside High Charity all powered by a central Forerunner ship. As well as being visually appealing this also shows how dependent the Covenant is to the Forerunner tech. No wonder these aliens worship this long-dead species. Their entire technology is based on and around the technology the Forerunners left behind.

Halo 2 is a masterpiece, plain and simple. With the Halo 2 Anniversary remake, this original version has lost some of its appeals. Why would most players pick this version when the remake includes both classic and remade graphics, the same amazing gameplay, and story as well as updated controls? That’s what really harms my recommendation for this game in the end. If you own an original Xbox, you need to own and play this game. I love this original version for pure nostalgia but for the average player I’d say just play the remake included in the Master Chief Collection.

Recommendation Rating: 8 out of 10

1 comment:

  1. Halo 2 is a game that brought the Xbox console to the next level. Must you follow this and get more new ways about landscapes. It was a true gaming experience where you could feel the bullets fly, where death wasn't guaranteed, and where great gameplay and story came together to form one single masterpiece. I've been playing games for a long time, but Halo 2 created something special.