Sunday, November 13, 2005
One Year of Halo 2 Editorial
Exactly one year ago yesterday was the first time I played Halo 2. Prior to that my only experience with the Halo franchise was the PC Trial of Halo: Combat Evolved in Fall (or was it winter?) '03, and with only a GeForce 4 MX 440, the Trial version ran well enough but not with enough flash to catch my attention.
I had recently purchased my Xbox about a month before Halo 2's release and I had never played an FPS on a console before (was a pure PC gamer for the last decade), so I decided to head over to BlockBuster and give a rent to Halo: Combat Evolved, wanting to begin at the beginning of the story. When I arrived they had one copy of Halo 2 left on the shelf, so seeing as how popular it was and rare to find for a rental I decided to pick it up instead.
I got home, fired it up, and played it for a good chunk of the weekend. My opinion: It stunk. I didn't like aiming with an analogue stick, I didn't like how large the weapons were, cluttering the screen, and I found the level design and lighting quality to be very inconsistent. I also had no clue as to what was really going on with the story.
After returning the game, for reasons beyond me, I decided to rent Halo: Combat Evolved then and there expecting the same reaction and that I had wasted my money. After firing up the classic, my opinion: It rocked. I loved the level design, story presentation, enemy AI, etc. I also didn't have a problem with the analogue stick and found aiming, moving, swapping weapons, etc. was a breeze. I don't know if I had just needed time with a console FPS to get used to the controls or if Halo: Combat Evolved's Campaign was simply more intuative, but I was having such a blast that after only a few days I returned my rental and purchased the game.
I found the environments so alive with dropships flying in and dropping off re-enforcements on both sides, the battles between Marines and Convenant (and ultimately Flood and Sentinels) were great to watch/participate in, and the quality of all the levels was consistent (the ending race was spectacular and heart pounding); I didn't even mind how much the last levels of the game mimicked the earlier ones in design.
For Christmas '04 I received Halo 2: Limited Collector's Edition as a gift, so I gave the game another shot and tried to approach it with a fresh, clear mind. The first thing I noticed after going through a few levels was how differently I was able to play through them this second time. With such great enemy AI and well balanced weapons, I was truly able to experience battles and complete objectives in such a different way, simply by picking up a Plasma Rifle instead of a Battle Rifle, or using grenades instead of dual-wielding.
Having now played through Halo: Combat Evolved and having read the 3 novels, I was also able to clearly understand the story, why the Covenant were doing what they were doing, who "the Oracle" was and why it was so important, etc. Such a different experience, such variety and replay value, such a great single player Campaign.
I've played through Halo 2 four times now, and every time has allowed me to approach battles differently and keep the gameplay fresh. I've been playing FPSes since Doom, and never before have I experienced such versatility and well balanced weapon use (the two weapon limit is a great innovation of Halo: Combat Evolved's), not to mention the great vehicle combat and the way that they change the flow of the game, whether you use them or what type of vehicle or not.
Sadly, I do not have Xbox Live, so my multiplayer experiences have been through split screen with friends. Though our matches are rare these days, and there's usually just two of us, we always have a great time blowing the snot out of one another and boarding Ghosts, Banshees, etc.
So, on my one year anniversary of Halo 2 (and really the Halo franchise), I just want to tip my hat to Bungie for creating one of the best FPS franchises I've ever played, and a non-PC FPS at that.