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XBox Reviews: Halo 2


Halo 2 screenshots


The Final Say!


Halo 2
 Review Date: November 2004
Review Score:
Distributed By: Microsoft

The most anticipated game of the year returns... Halo 2... and it surpasses its predecessor in  just about every sense.

Earth Defence Platform: Cairo Station 2:16pm

Your adrenaline is pumping...

The Covenant have just boarded your ship...

You clutch your weapon...

"SIR! Boarders have breached the fire control centre. They have a bomb!"

It feels like yesterday


"Can you defuse it?"

"...yes... but I'll need the Chief's help to make contact with the detonator."

You reload your weapon

"Chief! Get to the bomb... double time!"

"Yes sir!"
Those bastards are back!


Halo 2 has finally arrived and Earth will never be the same again. With the unified world wide release of Halo 2, Australia was one of the first countries to finally experience one of the most amazing gaming experiences of the year. And if you've never heard of Halo then obviously you've been living under a rock or have been held captive by the Covenant. In order to grasp the Halo phenomenal, the original game by Bungie spawned three novels (which also tie into Halo 2) and also spawned a variety of fan web sites from Australia to the UK. With that said, this is not a game... it's an experience!

Halo 2 takes places a short time after the events of the original game and unfortunately for mankind, they could only muster a short respite from this mysterious alien alliance... for the Covenant  have returned... and Earth is their prime target! Fortunately for the citizens of Earth, gamers once again take on the role of Master Chief to help liberate their planet. The game starts aboard the Cairo Station with a ceremony for Master Chief and Sergeant Johnson for their valour against the Covenant when the presentation ceremony is interrupted by this insidious alien coalition.

"Cortana, prioritize targets and fire at will!"

As with the previous instalment of Halo, the game wisely uses a variety of cinematics (both in-game and pre-rendered) to progress the story along and with over fifteen chapters included in the game, the storyline of Halo 2 is quite simply amazing. Unfortunately I cannot give away any more of the storyline of Halo 2 because it must be experienced to believed and I don't want to spoil any of the surprises that Bungie have included in this title. After you have witnessed the first cinematic treat of Halo 2, you immediately get the sense that this game will be rather special.

The gameplay of Halo 2 is extremely reminiscent of the first game with the player using the XBox controller to navigate their character in the gaming environment. Probably the most noticeable difference of the sequel is the ability to wield two weapons which really makes for some fun and exciting gun battles. Although this increases your firepower in the game, it does make for some fun gaming strategies because in order to throw grenades in the game, you can only wield one weapon at a time so the developers have nicely neutralised this effect.

Another addition to the gameplay engine is the introduction of "gun fire" recoil that causes your accuracy to be hindered, depending on what weapon or weapons you are wielding. This also makes for some interesting gameplay, especially when the odds are against you and you are mindlessly firing at the enemy... knowing that although you are wasting ammo, you are also praying that some of your bullets will hit their intended target.

Your character (err... sorry sir!), Master Chief, can also perform a variety of other manoeuvres (movement & combat) such as jump and crouch to traverse difficult obstacles and also has access to a trusty flashlight (which now has an infinite charge) , a variety of grenades and of course your personal shield system. Halo 2 also boasts a variety of weapons such as your trusty pistol, the powerful SMG and the new battle rifle that is quite lethal in the right hands with its deadly zoom capabilities. Although my personal favourite is still the rocket launcher which easily allowed me to lay waste to the forces of the Covenant. Unfortunately, the forces of Earth are not the only race that are sporting new weaponry and the Covenant also has access to a variety of new killing devices such as the energy sword that really slices up the enemy.

What really set the original Halo apart from the competition was the inclusion of vehicles (Warthog, Ghost and Banshee) in the game that have once again returned in the sequel which really makes for some fun gaming. Another new instalment in Halo 2 is the ability to commandeer your oppositions vehicle which really makes for some interesting gaming strategies, especially when playing online. There is also a variety of fixed weaponry such as Shade Plasma Cannons and UNSC Chain Gun turrets that literally blows holes in your opponents forces. It should also be noted that just because you can commandeer an enemy vehicle, so can your enemy... so be wary!

The online part of Halo 2 is simply phenomenal and players have the ability to play the Spartans or the Covenant. Another impressive feature of Halo 2 is that gamers can also create their own customised emblem to help distinguish themselves from the various millions of people from around the globe who will be playing Halo 2 online. The online mode of Halo 2 also supports up to four players on one XBox, which means you only need one XBox Live connection to let your friends join in the action. It's also a good advertisement for your friends to finally lash out and buy XBox Live because it's as good as online gaming can get. Halo also supports gloriously widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16:9 which also assists in co-op and allows you to see more of the gaming world when playing solo.

For those that don't have access to XBox Live, Halo 2 supports the system link that allows up to 16 gamers to play simultaneously at once for some of the most exciting LAN play of the year. I must admit that we've only had five XBox's connected at the impulsegamer officers but all I can say is wow! Prepare to say goodbye to your time and your loved ones for a few hours... well, days actually.

The campaign mode of the title also allows the Master Chief to fight side-by-side marines with aide from the sexy Cortana who really has had a huge makeover from the first game. The artificial intelligence of both allies and foes have also been vastly improved and in some circumstances, you may be mistaken to think that you are playing against real human opponents. With that said, the veteran first person shooter gamer fan will easily complete this title in around 15 hours and all I can say is thank God... err... Bungie for online multiplayer. Fortunately, the last chapter of Halo 2 will leave all gamers wanting more and one cannot but help smile at the cliff-hanger ending of this amazing series. Halo 3? Of course!

Graphically Halo 2 on the XBox puts just about any game on the system to shame with its amazing gaming world that features a variety of special effects and also a beautiful colour palette that looks wonderful on high definition televisions. What was that you just said? Yes.. you heard correctly, Halo 2 also supports a resolution of 480p that almost looks like monitor quality. All the characters in the game have been professionally created with nothing going to chance and match that with an insane amount of polygons and some beautiful texture details and you have one impressive looking game. The facial features of all the characters in Halo 2, especially the humans contain a variety of facial features that also move with a human-like grace to truly help immerse the gamer into the world of Halo 2.

Apart the amazing looking characters in Halo 2, the game also boasts a variety of different gaming locales that range from Earth to some extremely familiar places that I unfortunately cannot mention. Let's just say that a familiar place (yet different) makes an exciting return. The special effects of Halo 2 feature everything you would expect to see in a first person shooter from beautiful lighting effects to some amazing Hollywood style explosions that really helps getting your adrenaline pumping and pumping.

Halo 2 also supports in-game Dolby Digital 5.1 which really makes use of your speakers and if you don't own 5.1 surround sound speakers than you are truly missing out. The soundtrack of the game features a beautiful orchestral symphony and match that with the Buddhist Monk sounding sounds of the Covenant and this game easily has the most impressive soundtrack of the year, thanks to the talents of Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. The soundtrack has not just been written as an after through either because it suits the action and waiting of the game perfectly with the music really starting to pump when the heat starts to build. Halo 2 also features a few bands from today that include Breaking Benjamin and Incubus which really lift the mood of the game.

The voice acting of Halo 2 once again features the return of Steve Downes as the Master Chief and also Jen Taylor as sexy Cortana who now sound more comfortable with their characters that not only makes for better gameplay but also for a better storyline. There is also a variety of other actors who grace this title and fortunately nothing sounds hammed up or tacky in their character acting which really lets the gamer become immersed into this futuristic world. Halo also contains a variety of sound effects from the various weapons that grace this game and also the sounds of Covenant aliens with a plethora of background sounds that are sometimes left out of even the best games on the market at the moment. It's the small things like the background ambiences of games which really enforces the aspect of retreatism and only a few games are capable of that.

In conclusion, Halo 2 has been a long wait but I can now safely say that it has been worth it and I must also congratulate Microsoft and Bungie for getting a rare 10/10 for a game. With amazing graphics, one of the best storylines of the year and of course a sturdy gaming engine, Halo 2 is a must have game that I would recommend to all gamers.

- Andrew B

"Registering all hostile vessels in the kill zone. Thirteen Cruisers, two Assault Carriers. I'm going live!"

Copyright 2004 www.impulsegamer.com