Fuck! Yes! I’m so excited! It’s finally time to talk about the greatest game in the original Halo trilogy!
Because Halo: Reach is its own thing. And Halo 4/5 suck.
Halo 2 is an improvement over Halo 1 in every way. The writing is vastly better, it looks better (it’s still an OG Xbox game, but I kind of love that), and the combat is vastly better! This is a perfect example of what a sequel should be! It’s absolutely amazing!
Even if a lot of it makes me angry. But most things do, these days, so… I guess I can let it go.
Story: A Tale of Two Bad Asses
Remember the Elites? Those awesome motherfuckers that murdered you every level of Halo 1 (so long as you’re not playing in pussy modes like Easy and Normal; you’re a grown-ass man/woman, play on Heroic or Legendary, ya bitch!)? Now you get to play as one! Because this is a perfect game!
Taking place sometime after Halo 1, Master Chief returns to Earth for an award ceremony. When they’re suddenly attacked by the Covenant, Chief leaps straight into action to defend the human homeworld. In the course of the battle, he sneaks onto a Covenant ship, which takes him to yet another Halo. Now, he must once again stop the Covenant from activating Halo and fight off the Flood at the same time.
Meanwhile, an Elite leader that survived Halo 1 is dubbed the Aribiter by the Covenant High Council as punishment for his failure. Acting as their dirty handyman, Arbiter must defend Halo and defeat any threats to the Covenant. But when the Covenant and their Brutes turn on his people, Arbiter must set aside his beliefs to defend his fellow Elites.
While this story is definitely a huge boost in comparison to Halo 1, it’s still not especially incredible. While Arbiter’s arc is incredibly interesting, it is a bit rushed, with most of the actual character growth occurring in the last two missions. His shaky alliance with the humans is certainly fun and fascinating, but it doesn’t have nearly enough time to properly flesh it out (and if memory serves, Halo 3 doesn’t do much to rectify this, but I’ll need to replay it before I can properly make that statement). Plus, his moment of shock when he realizes the Covenant betrayed him and his people is pretty short-lived; he says one line when he discovers some Elite corpses, then moves on. It’s not terrible by any means, especially for an Xbox game. But it won’t win any awards.
On top of that, all of the new characters are really flat and forgettable. Ms. Human Soldier Lady is just a tough soldier with no personality. The villain is just about the most cliche power-hungry bad guy you could possibly get. The Covenant council members are your average cult-leader antagonists. All of them work fine in the story, but they aren’t all that interesting or memorable.
It is noticeably more focused than the first game, though. In Halo 1, the conflict between humanity and the Covenant was basically forgotten after the Flood showed up. Halo 2 manages to keep its focus. Both the Covenant and the Flood are major factors in the story from beginning to end; neither one is swept under the rug for the other. Instead, they work together, pushing and pulling at each other in an intense game of tug-of-war.
Question is: who’s the rope? Humanity? Or the Elites?
It is worth noting, however, that the Flood plotline doesn’t get a proper conclusion. In the final few levels, they sort of just step aside for the Covenant. They never completely disappear, but they are noticeably less present. Much like the game itself, their plot is left on a cliffhanger. To be concluded in Halo 3!
Quick note: I hate the ending of this game. It’s an incredibly unsatisfying cliffhanger. They may as well have had Chief look into the camera and say “Buy Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 if you want to see the real ending, dipshit. See you in five years. Chief out.”
Aside from this grievances, though, this game is a huge improvement over Halo 1. The dialogue is much better, helped in a large part by much more natural voice performances. The pacing is a bit rough, as it speeds way the fuck up in the last few missions, but it’s still decent and engaging. Plus, it’s cool to see the Covenant getting fleshed out more! It’s not a sci-fi masterpiece, but it’s still one of the better Halo stories!
Though Halo 4 and 5 certainly lowered the bar. Like, by a lot.
Presentation: Less Blocks, More Sheen!
I don’t have much to say here. This game is a noticeable improvement over the first. The character models are more detailed, especially Chief himself, and the animations are much smoother. Visually speaking, it’s an upgrade in every department!
The only thing here that doesn’t completely surpass the original is the soundtrack. Not because this one is bad, mind you. In fact, it’s one of the best Halo OSTs! But when the series has such consistently good music? It’s hard to call one an improvement over the other.
Now, remember: it’s still an OG Xbox game. The facial animations aren’t as impressively realistic as we get these days. But I love that! It gives the game a unique visual style! This is what a video game should look like! Am I speaking out of nostalgia? Yes. But fuck you, I still think it looks better than it would as another ultra realistic graphical showcase! I wish Halo would avoid-
Oh… fucking goddammit.
Gameplay: What’s Better Than One Gun? TWO Guns!!
Dual. Motherfucking. Wielding. How can something so simple make a game so much better?!
Once again, this game is divided between singleplayer and multiplayer. Singleplayer is a decently fun challenge, especially on co-op. But the bulk of the game will be spent on the multiplayer. It is an FPS game, after all.
Luckily, there have been some major core gameplay changes to spruce things up! Guns have been rebalanced (rip Halo 1 pistol), vehicles control better (kinda), and most importantly: there are a ton of new weapons to play with! Remember that awesome beam sword you could never pick up?! Guess what, now you can!!
And yes. You can now duel-wield certain guns. And in case you somehow haven’t played Halo 2, yes. It is exactly as awesome as it sounds!! Duel-wielding Needlers never gets old! It feels so cool!
Even if it’s not a very viable strategy.
This game also has, in my opinion, the best multiplayer in any Halo game. The maps are great, being just big enough to feel expansive and tight enough to make combat feel hectic. Plus, with the new weapons and duel-wielding, it opens up a ton of different strategies and play styles! And better yet: I haven’t found any maps where they can set up a cheap camping spot and annihilate my entire team! Plus, I’m actually kind of good at this one!
Unlike literally every other Halo I’ve reviewed so far.
My only real gripe is the UI. One thing, specifically: you can’t see your health bar. Fuck, I don’t even know if you have one! Once your shield is gone, you have no idea if you’re a sitting duck or if you can survive a shot or two! This isn’t so bad in multiplayer, where death is to be expected. But in singleplayer? It cost me so many good runs during difficult sections! Halo 1’s health bar was so clear, why’d you have to take it away?!
I guess I shouldn’t complain. People who play LASO don’t get any of that stuff anyways. But I’m not a fucking masochist, so I demand a good health bar in my video game! I wanna fucking see it get reduced to nothing in one hit on my Legendary run! Let me see exactly when I need to take a shot!
Also: don’t make a drinking game out of a Legendary run. I’m speaking from experience when I say that’s a bad idea.
Oh wow, look at that! An online critic that raved the praises of Halo 2! How original of me! Look at me, I’m so brave in my statements!
Look, we all know Halo 2 is awesome. While the first game certainly was a success on its own right, it was Halo 2 that made this franchise an unstoppable titan! This game is certainly no masterpiece. But it’s easily one of the greatest FPS games of all time! If you haven’t played it yet, then you are doing something horribly wrong!
And now we wait for Halo 3 on PC. And maybe ODST. And then never anything else. Nope. We don’t need any other Halo games.
*Sigh*… I’m gonna have to review Halo 4, aren’t I? Well… better that than Halo 5.
Seriously, don’t even ask. I’ll never buy an Xbox One just to lambast that dumpster fire.