Halo 2


by Angela Simpson
author awarded score: 95/100

Halo 2 Review
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Bungie
Format Reviewed: Xbox
Review by: Angela Simpson

Warning, this is probably going to be long, it’s probably going to rant.. rave and in general waffle. Why? BECAUSE WE WAITED THREE YEARS for this game and we’re SO GLAD it’s now here! In addition I have to add that this is the hardest review I have ever had to write, I’ve written and deleted more for this review than any other title I’ve looked at in all my years as a games reviewer. I hope I can get across to you the reader just what this title has to offer in a precise manner, without spoiling one tiny bit of the storyline… so here we go…

Grown men screamed like girls at conventions showing tiny snippets of Halo 2 footage, people near wept at that first glimpse of TV spots or in game footage. Countless websites appeared, more screen shots than you could poke a covenant energy sword at, rumours, conversation, argument and general banter about this game prior to its release was astounding. On its release people lined the many streets of those cities whose game stores saw fit to hold a midnight opening to sell the game. In essence we gamers knew this was going to be incredible, the hype alone could have sold ‘Clueless’ to the masses as Shakespearean perfection. But enough… Let us get to it shall we…

Halo 2 Review Female Gamers


Story
Halo 2 kicks off pretty much where Halo left off, and it kicks off in similar style to the first game, very similar in fact. Master Chief (and Cortana) return to the space station after the destruction of Halo. There’s the same armor check (look up, down etc) which will be very familiar to players of the original title. I don’t want to give too much of the story away because I personally feel that would be doing you a disservice. Suffice to say it is similar but new and it expands greatly on what occurred in Halo.

Gameplay
In gameplay terms Halo fans wont be disappointed because not so much has changed. Probably the biggest addition in gameplay terms is the much hyped ‘dual wielding’ in which you can hold two weapons at once (in each hand) which doesn’t only mean you can dish out more damage, but also means you can actually strategise and use the various weapon combinations to your advantage and the detriment of your enemy. Another new addition is the ability to take over vehicles by knocking off the driver, also you can now be driven around the maps by the AI marines should you prefer to take to the warthogs passenger seat or gunnery section. There’s more vehicles too, you can now commandeer the likes of not only the warthog but also various covenant vehicles such as the rather formidable Scorpion and the returning Banshee. The overall game mechanics nonetheless remain true to the original Halo however and anyone familiar with Halo won’t have a problem getting to grips with Halo 2. There is a new HUD (Heads-up-Display) and the energy bar now appears above the radar on the lower left corner of the screen but it’s all familiar territory for the Halo afficianado. There’s no health packs to be searched for either, which actually speeds up gameplay particularly given your energy now recharges faster than on the previous game.

Halo 2 Review Female Gamers


Sound
Where to begin. The sound in Halo 2 cannot be faulted, it is some of the best in game dolby digital you’re ever likely to come across with the technology we have today. The soundtrack to Halo 2 is beautifully crafted (as it was in the original), it is art in its own right for this is not merely another video game soundtrack, this is in my humble opinion orchestrated beauty. The music fits seamlessly into the onscreen action, sometimes so subtle you can get lost in it, then, in times of panic and action it kicks in perfectly drawing you even further into the game. At times it has a kind of Alan Silvestri feel when he composed the music for the James Cameron film ‘The Abyss’, it is truly awe inspiring stuff. Sound effects too are remarkable with every little thing covered from the magazine clicking into place to the beautiful sounds of the wilderness on the outdoor levels as bird tweet and wind howls to the sizzle of electrics and echoed voices of the Prophet in the distance. I truly cannot set it to words as well as I should, it must be heard to be believed. Voice acting (again as with the original) is superlative, the mix of accents (I am particularly fond of the aussie nutter) and the dialogue of the marines and the covenant seemingly more abundant this time around, although the Master Chief himself is a man of few words the banter between friend and foe is at times hilarious as they bitch and goad. They haven’t skimped on the voice actors either with the likes of John Hurt, Ron Perlman, Julie Benz, Robert Davi, Keith David, Miguel Ferrer and Michelle Rodriguez to name but a few taking on the task of bringing this game to life, which I should add they do admirably.

Halo 2 Review Female Gamers


Graphics

Graphically speaking Halo 2 has moved on from Halo. Bump mapping and lighting just seems, well, for want of a better word.. better. It’s still a beautifully finished title and just looking around can be quite breath taking, but given that Halo itself was graphically superior to any other game on the Xbox platform at the time it’s hardly surprising that it’s sequel would also be visually stunning. The cut scenes too run smoothly and flow perfectly, merging with the in game action flawlessly. It is another cinematic experience where the graphics (along with all the other aspects of the title) draw the player in for an immersive gaming experience.

Multi Player & Xbox Live
Halo 2 supports split screen multiplayer, system link and now has the long awaited addition of Xbox Live support for 2 to 16 players. Game modes include the usual Slayer, Team Slayer and Elimination as found on many an online FPS title. Halo 2 however adds to this genre with even more modes and numerous options that can be changed and set up by the players, this includes things such as time limits, the number of rounds, respawning, level type, game type and much more. The maps too will suit any style of play since there are maps that will suit a small team of players thus keeping them within a fairly confined area, or sprawling environments in which a large group of players can embroil themselves in extensive intense battles.

Xbox Live has added a whole new level of gameplay to Halo 2. Customisation means that, for the most part, players will find something that interests them. My only true complaint about the title is the lack of Xbox Live Co-Op. Despite this one niggle the sheer amount of additional features will keep most multiplayer junkies ecstatically happy, there’s even the ability to set up Clans which includes stats and rankings. Sadly however you can only be a member of one clan, so choose wisely.

Halo 2 Review Female Gamers


Female Gamer Angle
You play as Master Chief, he’s a manly man don’t you know. Gruff voice, sure of himself and I’m fairly sure he fancies not only himself but Cortana also. That said wouldn’t it be a hoot if in Halo 3 Master Chief removed his helmet and was a stunning chick? Oh come on, that would be more shocking than Darth being Lukes Daddy, it would completely blitz the Samus Aran shock and if they did it in Return of the Jedi with Leia dressed as a bounty hunter, gruff voice an all, I say Bungie.. do it.. I dare you. Ok.. I doubt my tiny one girl gamer plea is going to get a hearing so I’ll content myself and you other female gamers out there with this, Halo 2 features a few female characters, two of which are pivotal to the overall story (Keyes and Cortana). Cortana has some of the best one liners in the game and Keyes, well, she’s an integral aspect of what’s happening.

Conclusion
There’s a rule when it comes to sequels, be it the movies or indeed video games and it is this… sequels suck and fans of an original premise are a sequels worst critic because their expectations are paramount. It’s no different with Halo 2 and this was in fact compounded by the sheer amount of pre release hype built up around this title by the PR Machine and the fans alike. If you’re going to get Halo 2 tattooed on your ass you’d better hope and pray it’s gonna be good when it’s released. Well the man (or indeed woman) with Halo 2 tattooed anywhere can rest easy, Halo 2 lives up to the Halo hype and indeed in many respects surpasses the original with flying colors. It’s graphically superior and is overall a bigger gaming experience given the depth of story and of course the addition of Multi player over Xbox Live.

Yes I know there are those of you who have complaints… ‘it’s repetitive’, ‘too dark’, ‘too short’, I’ve read them all and I can only offer you my perspective and it is this. Yes it is short, I completed the game faster than I had even realised (around 12 hours) and, without giving anything away, it certainly leaves one wanting of the next title in the Halo franchise. BUT it was some of the best 12 hours I have ever spent gaming, so I must forgive it this particular grievance. Repetitiveness also I MUST forgive, there is only so much you can do given the confines of a gaming environment and I believe Bungie have done a remarkable job of bringing varied and diverse locations and gameplay to the player with Halo 2 in the single player format and this is without even examining the numerous variations available to the player via multiplayer. Too dark… yes some of the levels are indeed dark, but I actually found myself completely absorbed in these sections and found that it added to the overall atmosphere of the title giving it an almost too real claustrophobic feel. So do I have any gripes? Well there’s the lack of Xbox Live Co-op, I spotted a couple of glitches here and there, it was short and left me wanting more but is it better to play a completely transfixing title for a few truly mind-blowing hours, or a mediocre title for far longer, I’ll take the shorter title.