New to the franchise? Want to know which games to get first? This series is for you.
With Halo 5: Guardians' release imminent, I thought I'd take the time to make a weekly series, in the vein of Wilc0's Halo 101, reviewing each of the Halo games up to this point, and then top it off at the end with a review of Halo 5 itself. Starting with Halo: CE, it will run right through to the 8th of November, by which time I will have played enough Halo 5 to give it a fair review. Finally, on the 15th of November (which, coincidentally, is my birthday) I'll top the series off with a top 10 list of the best Halo games of all time.
Some games will be grouped together, such as Halo PC and Halo: CE. Additionally, graphics will not be discussed in these reviews (art styles and framerates may, though) because we're reviewing retro games here - the original Xbox couldn't handle 1080p. While this series is mainly for those who either cannot play these games due to lack of time or money (or those who (rightly) don't trust review sites), feel free to read and share your thoughts if you have played. Oh, and don't worry: I haven't been paid by Microsoft to give good reviews, these are all my honest opinions.
A solid campaign but its main draw is its revolutionary multiplayer.
Halo 2 was the best selling title on the original Xbox, selling 3 million more copies than the one below it, Halo: Combat Evolved. Given that 24 million original Xboxes were sold, Halo 2's 8 million sales means that about 25% of Xbox owners owned the game - and with good reason. Similar to how Halo: CE was considered the game that launched the Xbox, Halo 2 was the game that launched Xbox Live. While it had a solid campaign experience, its main draw is its revolutionary multiplayer.
So let's dive right in, starting with the campaign. Halo 2's campaign is sometimes considered the most lack-luster in the original trilogy, and for good reason. It is only half as long as it was intended to be (although that's still pretty long!) and while this didn't affect gameplay much, the story was noticeably cut short with (SPOILERS!) a cliffhanger ending, which left many questions unanswered.
The cutting short of the campaign did have some negative affect on the level design, though. Unlike Halo: CE and Halo 3, Halo 2 lacked any dedicated sniping sections, and was without a memorable vehicle race. Aside from that, the level design was stellar, if a little sadistic (seriously, this game is hard). Boarding makes vehicle combat much more fluid, and pesky Ghosts can be eliminated with a single well-place Battle Rifle burst. Dual wielding adds another interesting twist - some of my favorite combinations are the Magnum with a Plasma Pistol or another Magnum - but did make some weapons feel useless without dual-wielding.
Now, onto the Multiplayer. As previously mentioned, dual-wieldable weapons are somewhat useless in Multiplayer (excluding the noob combo and dual Magnums). Furthermore, the Battle Rifle isn't as competent at longer ranges as the original Halo's Magnum was. However, that's as far as the weapon balancing problems go in this title. The multiplayer map design in this game, though, is the best the franchise has ever seen. At least half of the maps featured have gone on to be classics - Lockout, Ascension, Sanctuary, Turf, Burial Mounds, Headlong, Ivory Tower, Midship, Terminal, Relic, Zanzibar, Warlock, and the list goes on. Each and every map flows well, and is built to encourage movement, never leaving an area of the map un-traversed. It's like a modern shooter map, but with the fat trimmed. No empty back alleys - once you spawn, you're back in the fight but not directly in the line of fire.
However, the number one selling point of Halo 2 on its midnight release was its multiplayer matchmaking. It promised to bring the atmosphere of a LAN party to online, without the problems of set-up, and it succeeded. At the click of a button on a menu, you could easily join a game, and - if you wanted - speak with the other players as you slaughtered them in a match of fair-but-action-packed fighting.
So, onto the verdict...
|If you're a fan of multiplayer, pick the PC port of this up (the Xbox's version's servers have been shut down). However, I can't recommend Halo 2's campaign over that of Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: CE, so only buy it for the campaign if you're also planning to buy those first.|
|In-depth, compelling story, marred only by being cut short due to time restrictions.|
|The 'Golden Triangle' of gun, grenades and melee continues to shine, with interesting twists like dual wielding.|
|Excellent multiplayer - reasonably good weapon balancing and brilliant map design.|
|Innovative matchmaking and party system.|
|Limited but nonetheless revolutionary (within the Halo franchise) customisation options.|
|Extremely hard, especially on Legendary. This is good for those seeking a challenger, and bad for those wanting an easy-going fun experience.|
|Physics glitches like superbounces may be fun, but they're easily exploited.|
|Annoying cliffhanger ending.|
Halo 2 (Xbox)
Halo 2: Vista (PC)
Feel free to discuss this review or the game itself in the comments.
Check back next week for my review of the epic conclusion to the Halo trilogy, Halo 3, and its expansion-turned-prequel, Halo 3: ODST.
19:02, September 6, 2015 (UTC)