Halo 2 isn't a revolutionary sequel, but it's a finely tuned shooter with a few great gameplay changes.
hogthershod wrote this review on .
Having a game that popular, of course, means that a sequel of a larger budget is inevitable. Halo 2, fortunately, still delivers quite a spectacular show, but it still feels as if the company is embracing their own flaws in the original Halo's campaign.
Halo succeeded due to it's unique science fiction element, with a rather thinly explained story it maintained a level of interest in the story that kept the player going through different locals full of intelligent enemies around every corner, resulting in massive gunfights. Halo 2 reproduces just that, but this time around it's noticeable that the strategy of the Single Player campaign is the solid reproduction of similar corridors. With the budget of Halo 2, a different, non-repetitive approach is expected. It is fortunate, however, that the areas looks absolutely great. Each large outdoor area always feel like they've been pulled straight from a science fiction book, and the different locales presented really have a great aura to them, especially when you first enter an area or come out of a cavern fighting to finally see the light for the first time.
However, there are great changes, such as the duel wielding that may take some time getting used to, but in the end it really becomes essential to learn, for the added power of having two guns over one (while one gun allows you to melee attack and throw grenades) help make those amazing gunfights of the first game even better.
In this installment, we begin to see what have become "boss" fights, but they don't have the level of spectacular appeal that rival games have embraced and succeeded with. These fights, depending on their difficulty, can really make the pacing of a game outstanding, but again Halo 2 falls short by not only carelessly implementing bosses (which only feel like just tougher enemies), but creating a dual story in which the pacing breaks off in the middle or just after an event. It isn't a broken mechanic, of course, and actually provides an alternative gameplay experience (the cloaking ability of other characters you control are very interesting and fun), but it just doesn't seem to fit in the Halo universe, especially when the real star is the Master Chief. It's unfortunate that the pacing and story of the game spin wildly out of control towards the end of the game, leaving both a needless cliffhanger and a sour taste.
The story feels more epic this time around. The cinematics presented in Halo 2 are outstanding, if not a little buggy at moments, but they really give the game a cinematic appeal, and even though the story is absolutely nonsensical to the casual fan, it's completely entertaining to watch how things develop. The soundtrack included is what makes Halo 2 sound so great, from a techno-beat to a soft orchestral score, Halo 2 really gets that epic feel right- it even cues in at the best possible times. Most of the sounds and voices remain from the original, so much familiarity is retained. The guns, however, could have sounded a bit meaner this time around.
The gameplay in the single player portion is built somewhat differently, and the additions and changes only feel meant for their multiplayer counterpart. It's difficult to tell how much life you have left, and death can come quickly from a well placed enemy grenade. This seemingly erratic change actually hurts the experience, for instant-death happens often and becomes much more aggravating than the previous entry.
However, despite these changes, the excellent length and replay value is astronomical. The difficulty levels given are able to suit any audience and those set on mastering the game are more then welcome to with the insanely challenging “Legendary” modes that are almost infamous from the first game. The mechanics are not cheap because it’s a combination of an actual improvement in the AI combined with a natural affinity to take more damage in hits. The enemies are incredibly agile and intelligent around every corner, which will help keep your eyes of the repetitive areas in the game.
The Multiplayer is actually the star of the show in this installment, which may explain some of the careless design choices in the single player game. If you have X Box live, this may be one of the best experiences online yet. The additions of duel wielding and energy swords really fit the multiplayer game, whether split screen or on live, but it's just unfortunate that the online community acts terrible (updates have and will continue to alleviate this problem, hopefully)
In conclusion, it's best to buy Halo 2 if you have an interest in the great multiplayer experience. If you are a fan of Halo, you will probably enjoy the second installment, including the Story campaign. It's by no means bad, and the flaws are minor, but the expectations are high due to the overwhelming popularity and greatness of the original. It's likely we'll see the a third installment get things right pretty soon.