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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-16
November 09, 2004

Halo Wars 2

Halo 5 Guardians

Halo: New 343 Industries Game

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Reach

More in this Series
 Written by Nick Doukas  on November 16, 2004

Review: Part 2: For a brick, he flew pretty good!

Welcome to the final installment of GT's Halo2 review. Today we'll hear from the humble EIC (that's me) and our esteemed Senior Editor Leigh Culpin. Read on for our impressions, and the final score.

Nick Doukas
Well, after an intense week playing the campaign twice (solo and co-op) and hours upon hours of sweet, sweet multiplayer, I can say with absolute certainty ? Halo 2 is a defining moment in videogame history. It's also the singular achievement of the first generation of Xbox, and stands tall as the most fully featured console shooter in history.

Once again you're placed into the role of the enigmatic Master Chief, a genetically enhanced super-soldier known as a Spartan, and the last of his kind. After the Covenant's brutal defeat at Halo, the Chief finds himself once again with his fellow UNSC marines, taking the fight where he'd hoped he'd never have to ? Earth. Despite the Cole Protocol, the alien menace has found humanity's greatest prize, and as the game begins, you'll find yourself fighting for your life on Cairo Station, and then onto the ruined city of New Mombassa. After that, things take some interesting turns, old foes are resurrected, and you just might find yourself on familiar ground before it's all through.

Overall, I found the campaign to be simply brilliant. I loved the story, despite the cliffhanger ending (Halo 3 on Xbox 2 anyone?) and everything you loved about the first game is represented beautifully here. The ability to dual wield certain weapons is a welcome addition to the play mechanics, and the AI of both friend and foe display great interaction. Your marine comrades will back you up in a fire fight, and you can even man the chaingun on the back of a Warthog while the AI drives. Lots of cool new weapons (dual SMGs and the BattleRifle totally rock), sweet vehicle combat, and plenty of massive set piece battles really put you into the fight like never before. Your marines have great personality, and I found myself actually feeling bad when they were killed in battle (a true testament to the great AI). Since Bungie really pushed the limits of the aging Xbox, textures pop-in very briefly during cutscene transitions, though it's not a bad price to pay for the incredible detail afforded by normal mapping. All in all, I'd say the story mode easily lived up to my expectations, and I can't wait to see what Bungie has in store for the final chapter of the Halo trilogy.

As for the multiplayer ? all I can say is ? astounding!! I've been playing constantly, and it's possibly the most fun I've had on XBL to date. Great maps, lots of gametypes, beautiful graphics, and fast and furious play with nary a hint of lag define the Halo 2 online experience. Bungie's Live interface is phenomenal, and other developers would be wise to take a page from this particular book for a blueprint for how to do this right. If you want to play ranked, you simply jump into optimatch, and a game with the best connection, and players of equal skill is found for you. Sure, you have no control over the game parameters, but this virtually eliminates stat-whores from the mix. If you do want control over every nuance, then you'll want to start a party game. This allows anyone on your friends list, and by extension, anyone on their friends lists, to join your game. Though not ranked, you can play for hours with the same party, so hanging with your buddies all night is no problem. The party leader sets any and all game options (time limit, starting weapons, kill limit, etc) and then everyone has at it in frantic battles that defy imagination. Whether it was me and Glenn assaulting the tower in a Warthog on Zanzibar, or Leigh and I taking on a horde of enemies to defend our flag on Colossus, it's so fun and addicting, no mere words will truly do it justice. You must experience it for yourself. Add to that the unbelievable depth of the stats ? register your gamertag on and you can see every game of Halo 2 you've ever played, with not only your kills and deaths, but also assists, medals, who was the player you killed the most, and vice versa, and a sweet game viewer that gives you a satellite view of the map, and the position of each killer and their victim, as well as what weapon was used to kill them. It's the deepest and most accurate stat system seen to date. Simply amazing?..

In the end, Halo 2 defines the best of what we hope for as gamers, and with a great campaign mode and impossibly deep online component, it will represent the best the Xbox has to offer for a long time to come.

Final Score: 9.8
Visuals: 9.5
Audio: 9.0
Gameplay: 10
Features: 10
Replay: 10

Leigh Culpin
Our EIC Nick said it best: It's Halo, but it's not. This proves to be both an asset and a shortcoming, but when it boils down to it, the big question is perhaps is the sequel better than the original? The answer, however, is slightly complicated.

Technically (with a couple of exceptions), Halo 2 far surpasses its predecessor ? the effects, models, textures and animations are all at least as good if not significantly better than the first games, and the sound and dialogue have been advanced in a similar manner. On the other hand, there are new graphical glitches which weren't found in the first installation (mostly due to some somewhat mediocre normal mapping I believe) and I personally liked the first game's menu system a lot more.

The gameplay, of course, is the truest teller of quality, and interestingly enough it manages to be very, very well done and very disappointing at the same time. It's exceptionally fun still, and even more so the second time around when you've come to accept what Halo 2 is. What it isn't, however, is Halo. Why? I'm still not entirely sure? it may be the sense of massiveness lost in the levels (which are as a rule larger in size but more enclosed and less grand), it may be that the vehicles which were like ?oh, cool!? in the first game are now EVERYWHERE (and so lose some of their novelty), it may be the different weapons, it may be the unbalanced difficulty levels (normal is way too easy, and legendary seems a lot harder than the first game's), or it may be something else entirely. Either way, if you expect a great gameplay experience throughout Halo 2, you'll find it. If you expect to play a better version of the first Halo, you may be disappointed. The second time through (on a higher difficulty) I found Halo 2 more Halo-esque, but still not quite as amazing as the original. To this day, I firmly believe that Halo presents the best co-operative experience to be had. Having said that, Halo 2 probably has the best multiplayer, especially that of the XBL variety.

XBL (and LAN play) are both amazingly fun and addictive and well thought out (despite a slow optimatch function). Having a friends list certainly helps, but there's no shortage of players online in each of the online matchmaking arenas. The lag is almost non-existent, the game modes are well planned out and executed, and you can have an insanely good time playing this game online - arguably the best of any game yet. If you happen to have an XBL subscription, the online aspect alone is almost worth the price. If not, you'll certainly have a good time with it ? just don't expect Halo 1.5. Halo 2 is a very different (if significantly more story-driven) beast than its still stunning predecessor, and if you can get by it not being the first Halo, it can show you a helluva good time.

Final Score: 9.5
Visuals: 9.0
Audio: 9.0
Gameplay: 9.5
Features: 9.5
Replay: 9.5

Bottom Line
Halo 2 is a fantastic example of pure artistic vision coupled with serious technological know-how. Bungie has delivered a fascinating sequel that will have gamers everywhere frothing at the mouth for the next installment. Fortunately, they've included a multiplayer mode so deep and complex, it should easily hold most of us over until Halo 3. Stand up and take a bow guys, you've delivered the goods in spades. Now get crackin' on Halo 3.

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