Halo 2: Limited Collector's Edition

-Bungie (2004)

 

Read Paul's Halo 2 Review

Summary

Master Chief needs a weapon.

Halo 2 - Shawn's Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts

It had been a long arduous wait for the sequel to top one of the most awesome first person shooters ever. Finally the day came when we lost sleep because of the series glorious return and we all knew then that the long wait was worth it. But now, after the fire-fight, we can all sleep soundly at night because we have the Master Chief, now with dual-wielding action, to protect us from the evil of the Covenant.

Since the destruction of the first Halo ring, the Master Chief became known to the Covenant as the Demon. The commander of the Covenant forces, however, is accused of heresy for allowing the Halo ring to be destroyed and is punished accordingly. The Covenant converge en masse at Earth. It’s time for Spartan 117 (that’s the Master Chief) to don some sweet new armor and bring death and destruction to the Covenant once again.

The story continues almost right after the end of Halo and the plot is very central to the game this time. Each stage features multiple cut scenes that further explore the war, the Covenant, a little about the Flood, and some other things that you should find out on your own. There are so many moments where you’ll be playing and just say “Oh, my God.” You’ll be amazed at what you’ll be seeing, what is happening with the story, and the things you’ll get to do.

Vehicles are prominent this time around and I’d say about a third of the game is spent causing havoc in them. Along with the on-foot stages, the vehicle sections are more fleshed out and longer. There are a bunch of new vehicles you can pilot, too. The Covenant now has its own Warthog-like vehicle called the Spectre along with the new fearsome Shadow troop transport. Earth’s side only gets a Warthogs variation that features a gauss cannon. I wondered why the Warthog with the missile launcher, from the PC Halo, wasn’t implemented into the game, but I’m guessing it’s because the gauss cannon and missile launcher work pretty similarly. The machine gun Warthog is still the best Warthog overall, though.

Something I personally like to do is try to take the vehicles into places not usually meant for them. This usually results in covenants running around scared to death and me running over them and blasting away. The vehicles are all destructible this time too, so no indestructible Warthog fun this time around. A new ability is hijacking vehicles and turning the tables on a large force of enemies.

Along with the new vehicles are new Earth and Covenant weapons. After driving the vehicles, dual-wielding is the most fun thing to do. You can easily take out a league of covenant forces with two submachine guns or two plasma rifles blazing away. Experimenting with different weapon combinations adds a great deal of strategizing. Perhaps the best new weapon is the Covenant energy sword, lending itself well to some stealth action and anytime an opponent gets too close. It only takes one or two swipes for the enemy to go down.

New faces include the big and very tough Brutes, the flying insectoid Drones, and the prophets. Each of these new species is important to the plot and forces the player to come up with a few new tactics to bring them down. Actually, the Drones aren’t important to the plot and unfortunately are only encountered a handful of times compared to the common Grunts and Elites.

Halo was praised for the intelligent A.I. opponents and in Halo 2 they’re even smarter. All the enemies act more like real players this time. The Flood is also little tougher this time especially with their aggressive new ability of operating vehicles. For Earth side, when you get into the passenger seat or in the back of a Warthog a NPC will take over the driving. It’s nice to be able to use the machine gun more often in single player but, the Marines are terrible drivers. You’re almost better off driving yourself and having the Marines control the guns.

The normal difficulty feels a little on the easy side and didn’t take long to complete. The stages are longer, but the game itself doesn’t feel much longer as a whole. Playing through on Heroic offers a better challenge and improves the length with the tougher fire fights.

The graphics are astounding, though if you have the option, play this on a HD-TV as they would be even more impressive. The stages range from broken cities and inside great buildings to lush landscapes and impressive background scenery, which you’ll get to admire during the course of the game. Repeating environments are fairly limited, which is good news for all. I’d say my favorite stage is the one on Earth. The whole battle feels more real in that stage than any other.

The sound is equally as impressive as the visuals. Play this on a 5.1 setup and you’ll be bombarded with all the excellent sounds of an alien war. Shooting, explosions, and shouting come from everywhere when you’re fighting with you Marine buddies. The Marines and Covenant are more vocal this time and help add to the realism. Covenant cruisers hovering above you work the bass as they drop in new targets and the epic score adds to and supports all the action.

I’m sure everyone has seen the Halo 2 trailer where Master Chief cruises to the Earth through space and assists the Marines in a huge battle in a city. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but the scenario doesn’t happen. Some of it does, but it’s actually a bit different than the trailer. It’s disappointing because I was expecting to play through much of the campaign on Earth. After playing the finished game it’s not as big of a deal, but I did get excited to play that stage.

Like many big name games these days, Halo 2 features some grade A voice talent in important and not so important roles. Most notable of which is Keith David, who does his usual excellent work in a role central to the game. There’s also Ron Perlman, Kevin Michael Richardson, David Cross, Orlando Jones, and Michelle Rodriguez to name but a few.   

There’s more that I want to say but it can only be done in a…

******SPOILER ALERT******

I love that you also play as the commander of the Covenant forces from the first Halo. It’s a great way to show the Covenant side of the war and adds much to the story. I would have liked more information about Earth’s side and the Master Chief himself, though. I was thinking too, if Metal Gear Solid 2 would have switched characters as Halo 2 does, like play as Snake for a mission or two, then play as Raiden, it would have been a much better game.

The one thing I was really let down with though was the ending. Right when you think you’re about to start the final stage the game ends. It feels very abrupt and feels out-of-place. I couldn’t believe it when I first beat it. I thought there must have been some mistake, but no. Apparently everything will be wrapped up in Halo 3.

******END SPOILER******

The wait was worth it. Halo 2 is a great game and the best fps I’ve played. It does have a few disappointments, but everything else is so good that I can deal with them. I’m sure Halo 3 will be even better.  

Score: 9.5       

Bonus Content:

Hopefully you all bought the Halo 2: Limited Collector’s Edition, featuring the metal case and extra DVD. The additional five dollars was totally worth it. With the great artwork on the back the case it truly is the best casing ever for a game, easily edging out the cool Robocop Versus The Terminator case for the Super Nintendo. Besides the DVD, it also includes a booklet entitled “Conversations from the Universe,” which contains various conversations that act as a prelude to the original Halo. The instruction book for this edition is also written from the Covenant’s point of view, making it more interesting than a usual manual.

Upon inserting the bonus disc you’ll see a nice warning to beat the game before watching it, which you should, because this DVD will ruin all of Halo 2’s surprises for you.

Behind the Scenes: Making of Halo 2: This is about an hour long documentary exploring life at Bungie and stuff they did to make the game. It also explores some guy’s huge Halo parties and Red Vs. Blue.

Developing the Game: Three choices await you here. The first is “Visualizing the Story” that gets into explaining some of the story and characters for Halo 2. The other two titled choices, “Designing the Levels” and “Beyond Single Player: Multiplayer & Live” are pretty self-explanatory.

Bonus Materials: This is where the best stuff on the DVD resides. “Cutting Room Floor” contains deleted and alternate cinematics and weapons, vehicles and characters that didn’t make it into the final game. There is some cool deleted shit in there. “Commentaries” is two commentary tracks about the gritty origins of Halo and explanations of the stages of Halo 2

If you really want to know more about the people that worked on Halo 2, then hit up “Gameographies” to become the ultimate Halo 2 trivia buff. The “Art Gallery” contains various beautiful artworks from Halo 2. The final selection, “Set up & Credits” offers you a Covenant audio test, subtitle options and the DVD credits if you really need to watch ‘em.

Bungie really put forth the extra effort to make a quality extras DVD. Along with the casing, instruction manual and “Conversations” book, the Limited Collector’s Edition was more than worth the mere five extra dollars.

Extras: 9.0

-Shawn

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