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After the destruction of the covenants religious artefact, known as Halo, the cybernetic hero Spartan 117, aka The Master Chief must once again put his life on the line to save the earth. The destruction of Halo only enraged the covenant and finally they have reached their ultimate goal. The Master Chief must once again put on his armour and use all new weapons and techniques if he is to have any chance of stopping them...

After halo spawned millions of fans around the world 3 years ago, the

Halo 2

 

Halo 2

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox
Category: n/a
 
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After the destruction of the covenants religious artefact, known as Halo, the cybernetic hero Spartan 117, aka The Master Chief must once again put his life on the line to save the earth. The destruction of Halo only enraged the covenant and finally they have reached their ultimate goal. The Master Chief must once again put on his armour and use all new weapons and techniques if he is to have any chance of stopping them... After halo spawned millions of fans around the world 3 years ago, the ‘ultimate’ X-Box game returns, bigger and bolder than ever much to the delight of legions of the console’s owners around the world. Halo 2 has improved on the first in so many ways the entire gaming population of the earth “will never be the same again”, as the game’s own steroid fuelled marketing tells us. The first thing I noticed while playing was the exhilarating graphical enhancements. If you thought they couldn’t get better you were so very, very wrong; Halo 2 uses extremely detailed shadows and thousands of colours in its palette (all the colours of the rainbow and many, many more... just roughly 900 more). The main graphical enhancements are most definitely in the player models, bringing marines and covenant to life so the players feels like he’s playing a soap opera on the television (a soap opera with a lot more action, cars, aliens, explosions, people, actual drama and quite probably, believability.) The graphics are some of the best I personally have ever seen on an X-Box to date. Each level contains so much lush detail and the new destructive environments add a much more epic feeling to the battles which you come across 99% of your playing time. Each level is of a perfect length as the player finishes just as he or she feels they are getting bored yet has an addictive quality to them which makes you want to play it again and again. Levels are littered with covenant forces to fight and items and obstacles to fight them from behind. Fellow marines also aid your struggle, and with excellent AI they fight together with the player and with each other to rid the covenant from their home-world and wherever else the struggle might take them. Enemies are also clever little buggers (and a lot of very big buggers, as well…) who hide behind obstacles to reload or just out of a sheer desperation to live, and they even stage ambushes together using distractions. They even man guns, ships (just as the marines do) and even smash they’re way through debris to reach you (or was the debris meant to hit you???) or the smaller ones who aren’t strong enough to smash, will climb over the debris. Each ally and enemy react realistically and naturally to any event which may occur, and even their comments give them a life-like personality with a hint of dry humour and fear. These groups help you to feel that you are not alone even if they are cannon fodder. The death animations are very realistic, and nothing says realistic death quite like “rag-doll”. This game has ‘rag-doll plus’ as I’d like to call it; Halo 2 has a death animation followed by rag-doll, so you kill something, it does a quick pre-defined death animation such as its hands clenching its stomach, which is quickly followed by what usually happens when one is ripped apart in a viscous storm of bullets, blood and glory… gravity kicks in. The fallen enemy’s death wouldn’t be the same though without the crack of the bullets and shrill screams to accompany it. The sound of your gunfire, quickly chased by the bullets inflicting damage on your opponent and finally their gruesome death combine to make the cinematic experience complete. Each sound is done to perfection; for example your troop’s voices, the noise of the warthog, the sounds of warfare all around your poor insignificant self are all done to perfection. But lets face it, the most common sound (next to the music and your past friend, who is also a computer, Cortana) is the sound of you filling alien carapaces with hot led, which is the main aspect of the game and also the most enjoyable one. The music has that distinct and lovely sound taken from Halo and has added instruments and sounds which help keep the Halo sound. The sounds of war are accompanied by many excellent set-pieces to enjoy. On one level a giant Scarab Beetle look-alike war vehicle plows through earth’s streets. A tank believes it can take it down, unfortunately for the occupants inside the giant war machines makes light work of their frail metal coffin and continues on its rampage. Can you imagine yourself playing this game, killing the basic grunts by the motherload and then, suddenly, turning around to see a giant beetle stare down at you with a mean ass mother trucking weapon on its nose that could annihilate you in seconds? If that sounds like fun to you then Halo 2 will be your game of choice for the next while, as the game kicks up scenes inspired by such great action films as Aliens, Starship Troopers and the Mummy 3… where did that giant scarab beetle come from, do you think? If the beetle is not for you then jump into one of Halo 2’s beautifully crafted vehicles to go on a visceral rampage, tearing through ranks of the enemy and watching as their weapons literally tear your vehicle to pieces. If you’re looking above and thinking, “Wow that sounds great (which it does…), but how do you do all this, it must take a genius like this reviewer to use a controller that efficiently.” Well you would be right of course, I am great, but apart from that it certainly doesn’t take a genius to handle the controller that well. (I’m still a genius, though.) As a matter of fact, the controller handles just like in the first Halo and all other FPS’s, so it’s easy for the newcomers to handle, as our own Editor in Chimp Aaron McKenna figured out, and after about an hour of running around multiplayer arenas and getting shot in the back he was actually quite handy with a plasma grenade… But it’s not the controllers layout that makes Halo 2 a better game to handle than most; it’s how the controls actually play and respond; Halo 2 plays like real life, everything about the movement of the Master Chief just feels right. He responds quickly and moves fluidly to wherever the player may direct him. Campaign mode in Halo 2 follows in the foot steps of the first and goes that needed bit further to make this a truly worthy sequel. Each level now has its own unique look and feel and, as mentioned before, is almost fully interactive. Also, you can now play through the eyes of the Covenant elite trooper known as the Arbiter. He plays much the same as the Spartan 117, yet has different abilities such as ‘active cameo’ in the place of a flashlight (damn covenant and they’re CrAZy skills), which is a whole lot handier in a tight spot than a flashlight. One big mistake the developers did make though was giving the covenant much darker levels in the depths of space, just about the only place in Halo 2 where a friggen flashlight could have come in handy. It also doesn’t help that the covenant levels are designed in such a way as to point to Bungie’s Amsterdam studios, making it very difficult to find you way around and to know which way you are journeying. On the other hand the Active Cameo is one of the most useful multiplayer weapons and makes deathmatches much more interesting. Along with the ability to board enemy vehicles and steal them from them in a hilarious set piece in which the character kicks the opposition out of the vehicle, literally. Or there is option two, throw a grenade inside a tank while hanging on for dear life. Halo 2 has plenty of new vehicles and upgraded past vehicle designs such as the gauss warthog which you may apply your kicking skills too, and if you’re tired of all the old weapons, don’t worry as a good few more have been added and the originals made substantially better. The machine gun now contains a scope yet sadly the pistol or ‘magnum’ as it is now called loses its scope… a fair tradeoff, I suppose. Other weapons include plasma swords, brute launchers, and a covenant carbine which handles much like the loved M1 Garand of World War II, Medal of Honor/Call of Duty fame. Another big plus is that the new enemies to coincide with these weapons such as the gorilla like Brute who will send you running for cover, covenant jet troopers alongside all the old favourites (hunters, elites, grunts, and even the much feared flood make an appearance). There is also the small but novel feature of being able to see your characters legs when you peer down. Many games have tried this and would up looking completely stupid in the process, but thank God that doesn’t happen here; in fact, it works quite well unless the player has a foot fetish and keeps staring at them during frantic split-screen fights, which will lead to inevitable death. Many fans of the series enjoy the single player more than the multiplayer, but after playing Halo 2’s multiplayer, be it, online or otherwise, single player fans will soon be converted. Halo 2 brings even more modes of play to the living room and has plenty more content lined up for future download. Many modes from the first game remain, and many more have been added besides. They have also kept the ability to create your own custom match-modes, and it now comes with a quick setting to alter almost all preferences to create the ready-made types of matches. Some levels like the classic ‘blood gulch’ and ‘battle creek’ return once again for the second outing and plenty of other action packed levels appear. Each map now contains the extra vehicles the game has and others that previously haven’t appeared in split-screen such as the ‘banshee’ or the Covenant ‘wraith’, and along with the ability to steal the vehicles, this is were the fun is at (even though the whole game is a small disc of unbelievable trigger-happy fun for all FPS fans, you just can’t beat the frantic multiplayer action of Halo 2 on the Xbox.) Player profiles contain a complete set of options to make the players’ Spartan or Elite completely unique and distinct from all the other grunts. Even the choosing of one’s own emblem which will appear above the players head in co-op split-screen or online matches Is included and highly customisable. If you don’t have online play then system link with 15 of you’re best friends is advisable in order to get to see Halo 2 at its best. The co-op campaign also adds a whole dimension of fun as you fight through the single player game with a friend. This has all the advantages of single player except it’s with a friend and valuable team mate (or enemy to shoot in the back while he’s not looking… AARON.) But one thing does let Halo 2 down, one thing I’m sure everyone who thoroughly enjoyed the first will remember with some degree of bitterness, is that there is still no Bots! Is it really that difficult to through in some lamb for the slaughter in multiplayer death matches? (Well, at least a substitute for letting your little sister play…) Surely Bungie realised after Halo that bots would give gamers so much more joy in their multiplayer antics? This seems especially unfortunate when one considers the truly excellent AI of the single player enemies and team mates. Overall Halo 2 is the best in the Xbox FPS business, and the best game on the Box at this moment in time. A few problems still left unsolved (crazy maps, no bots, and the worst ending ever) and Halo 2 still rules all. The series doesn’t seem to be running out on fuel anytime soon, so expect a trilogy if not even a fourth game. Yet as we can expect this will not likely happen on the Xbox, but rather on the Xbox 2. But for now at least, Halo 2 is a unique and sheer brilliant fighting adventure which vastly improves on the past title and which is a very, very, very big credit and asset to the Halo series. An essential game for any discerning Xbox owner.






 
 

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