Friday, March 11, 2011

Halo 2 Completed for the 9th Time

Or is that 10th time? I honestly don't recall but suffice it to say, I've played the game a lot and it's easily my favourite in the trilogy and the entire franchise. With a far more elaborate storyline, stronger character development, and innovative gameplay, Halo 2 is still an exceptional game by modern standards.

For a 2004 console release, Halo 2 was, in my opinion, better than any other shooter on any platform released that year. Vehicle boarding and dual wielding were great additions that really opened up far more options to the player, and the friend and foe AI is still solid over six years later. All of the elements combined to give player-choice that simply isn't possible in most other shooters, even modern shooters released in 2011.

The weapons you choose to take, the vehicles you choose to use or not, and the way the AI handles any given situation allowed for the linear levels to have continual non-linear encounters and it took me several playthroughs to start finding that the same battle in the same level was starting to play out the same way.

Don't believe me, go play "Outskirts" or "Metropolis" and try using the Battle Rifle and an Energy Sword, then go through again using dual SMGs and a Rocket Launcher. Take the Ghost instead of the Warthog or on "Metropolis" forget the Scorpion and use the battered Warthog off to the side or better yet, cross that bridge on foot. Heck, steal a Wraith or a Banshee or none of the above, and you'll see how these linear levels and battles aren't. Overall the outcome is the same but how you get there will be different depending on what you choose to do, and few games offer such variety, even in the Halo franchise itself.

Truly, Bungie should be praised for their level design, AI, and weapons/vehicle balance. My only true major gripes with Halo 2 are the lack of a Sprint option and the Checkpoint save system. As a 2004 release, I was disappointed that Sprint simply wasn't in the game as you're still rather slow for a cybernetically enhanced super solider. In fact, most times you'll be loading up your last Checkpoint because you couldn't hightail it out of a bad situation back into cover fast enough. And the problem with the Checkpoint-only save system is that you're often forced to re-eliminate those dozen enemies you just took the time to take out, and depending on the situation you'll need to do this multiple times. A quick save option could easily have been put on the "Back" button, but like most console shooters we're denied this basic function.

I personally really enjoyed the storyline and the expansion of the Covenant and their motives, and the Arbiter is one of my favourite game characters. I don't understand all the players who found the story confusing, and it's really pretty easy to follow provided you're actually paying attention, and the game is far more cinematic than most offerings of its time.

I did encounter the ghosting emulation bug on my Xbox 360, which was a shame, but the higher resolution and reduced texture pop-in made this inconvenience minor.

Now it's on to Halo 3, and to finish the fight.

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