I didn’t mean to be touching Halo 2 just yet but I’ve been in a bit of a funk and haven’t finished the PS2 games I was meaning to play. I have plenty of things I can review especially when I start on the PS2 games, just making sure I finish them for the sake of a fair review takes time.
Given Halo was the main reason to own an Xbox its sequel was inevitable. As sequels do it increases the scope which is clear from the opening of the campaign which has a duology. We see the conflicting repercussions of the destruction of Halo. At the same time Master Chief and Sgt Johnson, (who they even joke about how him surviving makes no sense given what we saw happen in the original) are getting awards and congratulations. The head of the covenant fleet is being branded a heretic and tortured for its destruction.
One of the big elements the developers went into with this game was going into the inter species politics of the Covenant. So, we see just who the covenant is rather than just bad guys. The unique AI for how each race fights is still there (one of the elements that made them stand out in the original) only now we also get to understand what they are saying with the elites who were already popular taking central stage… in fact, well one of the issues some people had when the game came out is after you get the opening 3 levels done featuring a covenant attack on the Earth, control shifts to the OTHER playable character the figure we saw tortured at the start, now taking up the name and mantle of the arbiter.
Mechanically he plays almost the same as the Chief except rather than an inbuilt flashlight he has a temporary cloaking device. Admittedly when I first played a level as the arbiter, I got a little confused now and then in heated gunfights… having to not shoot the covenant people that I was normally used to killing on sight got a little messy.
One notable difference from the original is the health bar is gone now fully replaced by the energy shield that recovers after a short while. Given there were many moments in the original that had no health packs for ages due to story reasons combined with attacks that would instantly remove your shield, this made Halo 2 feel less prone to cheap deaths unlike Halo 1.
As a sequel there is also the increase in the amount of weapon types (such as being able to wield the energy sword elites would use to instantly kill you before… yes it still does that only you can do that too) as well as new enemies to fight with the bugs and the brutes from the covenants, not much in the way of new vehicles though. Those don’t come till Halo 3.
Multiplayer is also given updates. Much like the main story a big first appearance is the ability to play as elites, there are also several new game modes and I’m quite happy that maps are less prone to leave me respawning into a place I’m instantly killed.
Overall Halo 2 is very much an improvement on Halo’s gameplay and story. Now seeing the plot happening not just from the perspective of the humans… it makes me sigh knowing that a TV series is going to mess the covenant up given how much this game fleshed them out… also the cutscenes in the HD version I’ve been playing in the Master Chief Collection look better than those in the trailer for the TV series. Got distracted. So yeah, it’s an improvement on the original and very fun to play both single player and multiplayer. I understand people annoyed at not playing as Chief the whole time BUT I really like the Arbiter as a character and annoyed the backlash early on means he hasn’t had the full player character role since.
See also archived story: Sgathaich: Halo – Combat Evolved