When it went on sale in November 2004, Halo 2 was a runaway hit. The subject of nearly unprecedented interest, the sequel to the Xbox shooter would eventually sell upward of 6.5 million copies worldwide. To this day, it remains one of the most played games on Xbox Live, and a PC version is due later this year.
However, unlike the first Halo, Halo 2 was the subject of a significant backlash. Though its introduction of online multiplayer was hailed by critics, many critiqued its short single-player campaign. One subject of particular ire was the game's lackluster ending, which featured a not-so-climactic duel with a Brute chief before an abrupt final cinematic that all but screamed "sequel."
As it turns out, many staffers at Halo 2 developer Bungie agree with the criticisms leveled at the game. Writer and Bungie.net weekly update author Frank O'Connor admitted that Halo 2's finale was lackluster. "We drove off [a cliff] Thelma & Louise style," he told the British game magazine Edge. "The trick is to avoid...writing by committee."
Bungie engineer Chris Butcher was blunter in his assessment. "We had about four to five weeks to polish Halo at the end...[but] we had none of that for Halo 2," he told the magazine. "We miscalculated, we screwed up, we came down to the wire and we just lost all of that. So Halo 2 is far less than it could and should be in many ways because of that. It kills me to think of it."
Butcher was even critical of Halo 2's multiplayer element. "Even the multiplayer experience for Halo 2 is a pale shadow of what it could and should have been if we had gotten the timing of our schedule right," he said "I ****ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it."
Luckily, according to all those that Edge interviewed, Bungie is taking much more care with the final installment in the Halo trilogy. "I know Halo 3 is going to be so much better," said Butcher, referring to the less-pressured production schedule for the game, which is due out sometime later this year.
Design lead Jaime Griesemer concurred, citing a new development structure that allows for more flexibility and faster implementation of ideas. "We now have a system for when I want to come in and do something crazy, for making it all work," he told the magazine. "Now I feel like we've got this incredible framework and we can just go nuts and do anything we want to with this really solid foundation."