by Bungie Software
Review by Dan Spisak
Microsoft Video Game ISBN/ITEM#: B00008J7NZ
Date: 09 November, 2004 List Price 49.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Halo 2 is not just a game that hardcore gamers and fans of Halo have been waiting the past three years for, it's the game they have been waiting for. Ever since people first saw sneak peeks of the game at last year?s 2003 E3 trade show expectation has been building. Gamers everywhere have only one question on their mind: Does it live up to the hype? After spending the last four days foregoing sleep and kicking alien butt in both single player and online with Xbox Live I can unequivocally say, yes it does.
In the first Halo there were many qualities that helped to make it into a memorable experience for players everywhere. The story draws you into its SF universe hero protagonist, Master Chief. By the way, the MC actually has a name...but you?ll have to read the novels to find out what it is (See Sidebar). Your mission is to survive and save all sentient life from total extinction, and the whole thing is made real through a totally revamped graphics engine that brings nearly cinematic reality to the game.
Like a terrific book, playing Halo 2 can make you lose track of time while staying up all night trying to finish a mission to find out what happens next. You know you?re hooked when you find yourself debating playing all weekend against going to Vegas with friends (virtual gaming won). Halo 2, much like its predecessor, has wonderful transitions from gameplay to cinematics that seamlessly draw you into its story. In this iteration the programmers at Bungie pulled out every graphics trick in the book showing us just how good games could look on Xbox. Cinematic scenes transition from game engine to movies effortlessly and its hard to tell which you?re looking at; a testament to the detail that went into the games graphics and level design.
One of the most improved aspects of Halo 2 is the multiplayer capabilities. The addition of Xbox Live support to the game combined with the newly added dual weapon wielding capabilities and a tweaked weapon balance along with greater diversity of maps to play on makes for intense online sessions. Halo 2's Xbox Live support is the new benchmark that future games are going to have to be compared against thanks to its Quickmatch and Optimatch game matching options. Either online matching style helps you automatically and quickly play with anywhere from one to 15 other players of similar skill levels and playing preferences depending on the type of game you wish to play. Combine this with the new Party capability and you can now create virtual online LAN parties for up to 16 of your closest friends without having to have everyone in one physical location and then frag your friends to your heart?s content. The only issue I saw with the online experience was that the default time limit for some of the larger maps in Capture the Flag matches seemed too short for really meaningful play, but this is configurable - you can create a custom game with whatever parameters suit you.
Halo 2 is an exciting and fun game to play in single player campaign or with friends online. Its gameplay is superb especially with the expanded range of quality maps to play in the game combined with the added dual weapon wielding capabilities creating even more intense action and mayhem.