Halo 2 heads out

Following a flurry of midnight sales, one of 2004's most anticipated Xbox titles is in gamers' hands.


Check out the Midnight Madness sale for Halo 2. Click "Stream for Free" for higher resolution Almost three years to the day after Halo: Combat Evolved first crash-landed onto the Xbox, its sequel has finally arrived. Following a flurry of "midnight madness" sales across the country, the next chapter of the Master Chief's saga is finally on store shelves. Developed by Microsoft-owned studio Bungie (which, ironically, became famous for its Marathon games for the Macintosh), the game is rated "M" for Mature.

That "M" rating is no surprise, because Halo 2 is about a war--a war for the very existence of humanity itself. Picking up after the events of the two Halo novels The Fall of Reach and First Strike, the game begins with the discovery of Earth by the Covenant, a multiracial alien empire united by a mysterious religion.

Unfortunately, one of the main precepts of this religion involves the annihilation of the human race, which the Covenant attempts to carry out by invading Earth. (So much for the Cole Protocol…) Standing in the way are the forces of the United Nation Space Command (UNSC) and the Master Chief, a genetically enhanced supersoldier equipped with force-field-enhanced armor, an arsenal of weapons, and an industrial-sized can o' whoop-ass.

In addition to finally releasing the game, Bungie has begun its support for Halo 2's online multiplayer features on Xbox Live. As shown on Bungie's Halo 2 Web page, the support is incredibly detailed, with statistics pages that show numerous statistics, leaderboards, and even lists for medals players can win. These medals range from the "Bonecracker," earned for prowess in melee combat, to the "Killtrocity," given to those maniacs who are fast enough to kill six opponents in four seconds. Got more questions? Bungie's Halo 2 FAQ has answers.

Halo 2 is available in two versions: the standard retail edition for $49.99 and the special Limited Collector's Edition for $54.99. The extra $5 gets purchasers a limited edition two-DVD disc set that features several documentaries, including one called "The Making of Halo 2: Behind the Scenes of Bungie Studios," as well as featurettes on game design, animation, and music. Deleted cinematics and characters, a concept art gallery, and commentaries from Bungie designers are also included.

However, the game is the same on both versions. GameSpot's Greg Kasavin delivers a full review of the game and thoroughly covers its single- and multiplayer modes in detail.

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