"Halo 2" now sits on the mantel of the greatest Xbox games, and
the reasons why become apparent the second you turn the game on.
The folks over at Bungie (the in-house Microsoft team that
designed the game) were wise to keep the things that worked best in
"Halo" and added just enough stuff to make
the sequel out-of-this world. So, it kept maps like Blood
Gulch and Battle Creek in the game, it kept the soundtrack mostly
the same, it kept that same ominous voiceover used in multiplayer
(lending dramatic depth to lines like "Red Team has the flag!" and "Triple
Kill!"), it kept the ability to only hold two weapons at a time...the
list goes on and on.
It's what the game did add that makes it the best game currently
available on the system--just enough work on the fringe to elicit
praise from everyone involved.
The energy sword. The sword is, obviously, useless
from a distance, but due to its lock-on capability and the fact that
it's a one-shot kill, it makes for a devastating weapon from a few
paces away. It's also cool as hell to watch someone else eat
it at the hands of a sword, because when the sword locks onto a
target, pulling the right trigger allows the user to charge the
opponent while leading with the sword. Awesome.
Xbox Live. This is the biggest change to the game,
and Bungie has really done an excellent job using the Live
interface. You can very quickly invite friends to your games
and play alongside or against them; you can talk in game lobbies
before games begin. You can also set up Clans, view game
statistics online, you can play on Live with guests on your home
machine, meaning up to three of your friends can play alongside you
on one TV.
Proximity sound effects in-game. While playing in a
game, you can only hear people two different ways: if they are
standing somewhere near you within a map, or if you hit the radio
button on your controller and you are playing on a team. What
does this mean? You can't hear all 16 people at the same time
any more in a game, which is actually quite good because it can get
loud on your headset. It also means that when you are driving
a Warthog with two other guys, you can talk to them like they are
right next to you while you are all in the car together. When
you want to call a buddy across the playing field, you have to hit
the radio button to ask him a question, lending the game a more
authentic feel as you need to use your radio for instant
communication. Maybe this is easy to do technology-wise, but
no other game has tried it before, and the result is spectacular.
Double-fisting. Maybe even cooler than being able to
carry two weapons at the same time is the fact that they fire
separately (you need to pull each trigger to fire each weapon) and
you can mix and match the weapons you are carrying...so, you can
double fist with a pistol in one hand and an Uzi in the other.
Ride jacking. The first time you jump on a moving
ship like a Ghost or a Banshee and kick the driver out of the pilot
seat and take over, you will have an orgasm. I know this
sounds crazy, but just do it in the game and send me a quiet "You
were so right" e-mail at your convenience. Maybe the coolest
innovation out of all of these, being able to take any vehicle on
the field at any time lends a "Grand Theft Auto" feel to the game
without explicitly stealing the idea from the folks over at Rockstar.
All of this being said, I have only played the multiplayer
portion of the game. I don't have any interest in the Campaign
mode (the single-player version of the game), because it simply
isn't as cool as playing against other people. The multiplayer
is as easy as it always is over Xbox Live; you can play with your
friends if you want, or you can play against random people in
QuickMatch or OptiMatch settings. You are assigned a ranking
as you play in multiplayer, which is really just a way of tracking
your experience like in a role-playing game. This is key,
because the matchmaking system allows for you to only play against
players with similar skills...so, you'll never be a rookie matched
up against a long-time veteran. So genius.
What can I say? You must play this game. To read
more, read my essay
"Stinger!" about my love for this ridiculously-cool game.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Feedback? Comments? Salma Hayek's digits?
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": Buy
this game right away, and don't ask me any questions as to why
that's a good move. A game experience that will almost
guarantee repeated controller abuse, lots of ManScreaming and high
resale value, you will assuredly play this bad boy for months on end.
after games have been out for a while, they drop in price slightly,
or can be bought for slightly cheaper in combination with other new
games. Usually, that's about $40. You'll feel good
getting the game for this price, since it isn't quite
run-out-and-get-it-right-now good, but it has enough game in the box
for a few weeks' worth of enjoyment.
game is not too bad, but you'd be better off buying it used from
either half.com or eBay. You also might let a friend buy this
game, let s/he beat it, and then try to buy it from them to make
them feel better. Yes, this does tend to feel like "Sloppy
"Rental": Like my
cousin Ron, you should always rent games that you aren't sure about
first, to make sure that your $50 is going towards something
worthwhile. For games in this category, this is the maximum
amount of money ($5) and/or time (3-5 days) you'll need to either
gain satisfaction from the game, or beat the game in its entirety.
Rental-rated games are also sometimes perfect for a weekend when you
are going to be at home on your ass, with some time to kill.
Games like this should have never been released. If you play
this game for any reason, you will regret every second of the
experience. Further, if you can get this game for free, don't
do it, because even for FREE, it will still be a negative experience