Halo 2 (2004)
I chose to finish this, my Halo 2 review, even though I havn’t actually finished the game yet. Unorthodox, I know, but also I might add, very telling of the game.
You see, when I played Halo, the first Halo that is, I really really liked it. Bungie had crafted exactly the kind of sci-fi story that boys like me used to dream of when the lights went out and we were tugged in our beds (this was before puberty). Lumbering spaceships, alien civilizations, fullscale warfare on a distant planet (or better yet, a ring), mysterious structures and gameplay that would knock your teeth clean out of your mouth. On top of that, they even threw in some nice AI and vehicles that kicked every other first person shooters ass up and down.
So to call me psyched about Halo 2 would be an understatement. And yet I haven’t played it for a few weeks now, but I would wager that I was about 85-90% done, when I last threw down my controller in frustration.
This is what Halo 2 promised, from its very first showing at E3: You’re the Master Chief and you’re going to defend Earth from an alien invasion by kicking some serious bee-hind. And this is exactly what Halo 2 doesn’t deliver!
From here on in, this review is full of spoilers.
Not only do you not play as the Master Chief half the game, instead treading the shoes of an elite, the alien bastards you were killing in the first game, but there’s hardly any Earth to be spotted in the game! I was so disappointed! It’s as if Bungie ignored any lessons they might’ve learned from the first game, and instead went on to make the very same mistakes yet again.
In Gamespy’s Halo 2 review, they note that:
“Fantastic, immersive storyline; gorgeous graphics” #
Now first of all, what I’ve seen of the storyline, and remember, I haven’t seen it all, it is anything but fantastic or immersive. And I’ve heard pretty much everyone and their mother complain about it ending in mid-sentence, with no real climax. And as for the graphics, well I personally thought they were less impressive than the first Halo! Often the texture work look somewhat rushed and muddy (especially just as you set down in that stone temple on the Halo), many environments are plainly uninspired (the back alley’s of the African city for instance) and where the first Halo was an injection of science fiction inspiration, this second chapter really doesn’t ever add much to the concept…
Don’t misunderstand me, there’s a lot of very very cool stuff going on in this game. The vehicles are now destructible for instance, which is very nice, when during a prolonged battle, your warthog gets taken apart piece by piece. And hey, the AI can drive now, which opens up for some nice opportunities, though I personally prefer to drive when I play. The characters are much better this time around, and you can wield two weapons at once, with either trigger on the controller controlling a weapon.
And speaking of weapons is it just me, or is Halo one of the games that really gets grenades right? You can bullseye a grenade like nobody’s business in this game!
And finally, I think an honorable mention should go out to your fellow marines. They spew out one liners and general nasties left and right, bordering on cliché, but ending up somewhere north of too cool. That however, is pretty much where the good stuff ends.
But even with this praise, it’s worth noting that Bungie decided to change the feel and sounds of their weapons and vehicles, and it was in this bloggers opinion not a good idea. It might’ve, if they’d done a good job of it, but to me the weapons came off pretty flat and so did the vehicles (could you slow the Ghost down any more?). The saddest thing however, is that as far as I can tell, these sacrifices were made in the name of Xbox Live…
To me, it feels as if the entire single player campaign was modelled in such a way as to make new players feel at ease with stepping into the much lauded multiplayer component. Why? Well let’s see: You play as both sides. Every weapon in either arsenal has an almost exact replica in the other side’s arsenal. And a lot of the levels seriously feel way unpolished. Compared to the look and feel of the first Halo, it is clearly a step down.
Also I don’t think it’s any secret that where the first Halo was the killer app for the launch of the Xbox (and still is), Halo 2 is the killer app for Xbox Live.
Which is a problem, when you – like me – have absolutely no interest of playing it online…
So all in all, I’m pretty underwhelmed with its single player, and utterly not interested in its multiplayer, which leaves me hovering south of ‘not pleased’. And that’s when I remember that Gamespot generously gave this game a 9.4!
Which is just… Pardon me while I put on my hat of subjectiveness +20, and bear with me. But fuck off. The storyline is fragmented, lacks any kind of followthrough to the premise, and combined with the gameplay problems, you’d almost think they wanted to make a game that was destined to redo all the bad things about the first Halo.
Then again, Gamespy also decided in their review that…
“[...] what might be the most highly anticipated game of all time.
Which sounds a bit like them having not been paying attention to this other thing that came out last week, I believe it’s called Half-Life 2… Of course, they decided that Half-Life 2 was worth ‘only’ 9.2, but I won’t get into that just now, except say: “Somebody’s been buying themselves a new car…”
Only thing is, great games do not come from twisted and turned storylines, they come from fantastic gameplay and great immersion. And Halo 2 just doesn’t deliver. It has its moments, but overall it is at best, mediocre.