November 11, 2004

Halo 2: The Good

by peterb

My praise of Halo 2 on this site has been pretty lukewarm so far. This is unfair, because it really is a great game. I think the issue is that some of the improvements from the first game are so subtle that they're hard to notice, and then once you notice them they're hard to describe to someone that hasn't played both games. Because of this, Halo 2 is perhaps missing some of the "wow factor" that some of us expected. The greatness of the game only becomes apparent after you play for a little while, especially in multiplayer. I'll try to enumerate some of those aspects here.

  • Weapons -- particularly the assault rifle -- have a definite kickback. If you unload on an enemy with a submachine gun in each hand, you'll have to expend considerable effort to keep your aim from kicking up over their head.
  • I like the lumbering pace of the characters, and the slightly reduced gravity. You can see your death approaching, slowly, deliberately, and methodically. I do wish gravity was configurable, though, at least for deathmatch.
  • The maps are better than in Halo 1. They're beautifully balanced. So is the weaponry; there's no one perfect tool in Halo 2. Regarding the maps, it probably helps that it's possible to get a game with 12 people started without lugging everything to a LAN party. Halo 1 had a bunch of huge multiplayer maps balanced for 8 to 16 players that were completely useless to the 90% -- actually, I'd guess 97% -- of Xbox owners who never once connected their Xboxes to another via System Link. With Live, those types of maps are useful.
  • Halo 2 lets my character's logo be a ninja. A ninja on fire.
  • The plot of the single player game is great.
  • The on-line statistics are a brilliant idea (and did not originate with Halo 2), and are well-implemented. As TheEnglishman observes, the graphical gameviewer means you can spend as much time analyzing your games as playing them.
  • Also noted by TheEnglishman: total cost of a PC capable of playing Half-Life 2 at reasonable resolutions: about $1,000 . Total cost of a Halo 2 dream machine is Xbox + Live + Halo 2 : about $250.
  • No stupid health packs.
  • Two words: sword deathmatch.

psu contributes a few items to this list, which I also agree with:

  • The interface for creating/joining games is a nice refinement of the standard xbox live stuff, which was already great. The business where the "host" of a game can quit, and control of the game session passes to someone else, is great.
  • Jacking vehicles is one of the best gameplay mechanics since jumping Mario

So I hope that when, in the future, I inevitably complain about this detail or that nit, you keep this list in mind. It's a great game

Posted by peterb at November 11, 2004 08:24 PM | Bookmark This

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