DRIVER 3. FABLE. HALO 2 these games are the entries in a list that dates back in previous years to include titles like STAR FOX ADVENTURES and DAIKATANA, these are the games that hype builds up only to have the game itself collapse under the weight of those expectations.
Wait a sec, HALO 2 is currently one of the most highly reviewed games in history. Yeah yeah, I wonder if I'm playing the same game everyone else is. Let's get a lot of things straight though first of all, I thought HALO was worthy only over 16-player deathmatch, other than that, the first game was mediocre at best. The one-player campaign was a travesty to games that have a story mode, saved only slightly by the co-operative area that managed to make it tolerable.
Secondly, the multiplayer was a slow, boring affair unless you had enough people to spice things up, get the vehicles used, and get into massive gun battles. The problem was that the slow footed Master Chief and limited weapon selection quickly made this repetitive unless you could manage to get a ton of friends together even then, Blood Gulch and Battle Creek were what it was about CTF all the way.
So over the past three years I've been greatly anticipating HALO 2. It's a chance to make good on the promises the game showed at E3 2000, a squad-based game, set in an interesting world (not just the same room copy and pasted 100 times), with true teamwork needed to get past obstacles like Covenant tanks. I've been getting hype materials for quite a while I have a shirt that says "Go Earth." We were shown a level at E3 showing some wickedly cool Earth areas and battles.
Apparently Bungie just doesn't have it in them to make a compelling story mode. I don't doubt that I could've made a more compelling story and devised more interesting gameplay than what was thought up over the past three years. The game starts around and on Earth, and these early levels had me super amped. Jumping around in low gravity on the outside of a spaceship, fighting through Earth streets, chasing a giant walker while picking up weapons laid out along the way, and ultimately kicking ass as the Master Chief in unique environments and cool situations.
I was pumped, I was thinking, "Yes! Bungie got it right!"
Then we go back to a new Halo and have to spend half of the game playing as a different character (Note to Bungie last time a highly anticipated game pulled the stunt of subbing a popular hero character for a different character was METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY and the internet fanboys bitched a lot, count me in with them). Sure, Bungie doesn't fall into the same issue of using the same room over and over game, there is nothing inspired in the levels later on in the game.
So here we go again. When I got about halfway through the game, I sighed. This is HALO under a shiny new coat of bump-mapped paint. The gameplay hasn't really changed at all, you simply clear room after room of enemy, get on a moving platform, clear off the enemies that jump on it, and occasionally drive a vehicle through an enemy infested area.
This happens over and over again. In the last few levels I was using the cloaking ability of your second character to just get past enemies if possible because I was so tired of fighting. Fighting the flood with energy weapons might be the most irritating and ridiculous part of the game, but even just the lack of human weapons in the game irritates me. Your weapon choices in each situation are relatively small, mostly Covenant energy weapons. A shotgun, a shotgun, my kingdom for a shotgun. All that said, I did like the energy sword but what self-respecting energy sword has ammo, and it lost a lot of its luster when certain forces could counter it and immediately kill you instead.
How is this thing getting tens again?
It must be because of the ending. I thought I had at least a few more hours of gameplay left and the game suddenly ended. I felt so screwed out of some sort of satisfaction, screwed out of more levels off of the Halo, screwed out of many hours of my life that I just poured into one of the most amazingly bad excuses for a single-player first-person shooter campaign. I was bored, I was tired and by the end of it, I was just really pissed off. All it made me think was Bungie had to convince us all that "HALO 3 is coming, be ready," and it seems a lot of people bought it.
So, there MUST be a good part of this review, it's getting a B-, right? Well, there is that little issue of multiplayer. We'll start with co-operative. That immediately takes a huge hit because the story mode is inconceivably bad. The gameplay gets so old and repetitive that even having a buddy around to commiserate about how bad it is doesn't aid it much. It's the ideal way to play through the campaign, if you truly must.
Otherwise we have some split-screen, LAN and Live options. Split-screen is one way to play that isn't really ideal. A lot of the maps are huge and HALO isn't really about combat as much as it is teamwork. There are a lot of games that are better shooters, but few designed as well for team play.
So that leaves our options as LAN and Live. Live works pretty well, the lobby kind of defies convention but ends up working well enough. Being able to find a large group of people on the fly is cool, and I think it'll be even better when you have clans and an endless array of potential opponents. One important part to me is that I know my teammates and I feel like on Live that's a little lost without having a regular group you play with. Even then, the clans eliminate that.
LAN play is probably the best way to play with a team of friends, but finding new opponents could be a problem. Jumping on Xbox Live with multiple players on one box is a very nice addition though, and I'll give it a thumb's up.
The maps do a great job of forcing team play, there are some neat vehicles to use, and really, the multiplayer game has been improved over the last game. With all of the great maps (that are huge), the new weapons (dual wield and infinite ammo sword), the Covenant vs. marine, amazing stat tracking and Live allowing you to find opponents at all time, HALO 2's only real mode is the multiplayer mode.
The graphics are pretty and offer some great views and nice character models in addition to the beautiful effects throughout the game. There are some bizarre pop-in effects in the cut scenes and random glitches that hold the game back a bit though. The music is mostly derivative from the first game, but there are a few cool electric guitar renditions of the Halo theme, better than average voice acting, and decent weapon effects.
It comes down to this: the one-player game is not that good, the co-op is slightly better, multiplayer is good with plenty of players so LAN and Live are the only real ways to play. Unless you have a bunch of buddies with Xboxes and HALO 2 with a network, or have broadband internet and Xbox Live, HALO 2 is nothing more than a rental.