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Halo 2 Review

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Sequel to the now legendary sci-fi first person shooter

★★★★★

Every new console launches with at least one killer title, but in Halo Microsoft had found one that would not only ensure the future of its fledgling machine, but raise the bar for games on every platform. This now-legendary first-person shooter even converted people who wouldn’t normally look at a gamepad, winning them over with accessible gameplay, an involving story and the xenocidal charms of its protagonist, the enigmatic Master Chief.

Halo 2, then, is a sequel with no small amount of hype to live up to. Picking up very soon after the events in its predecessor, the game begins with humanity’s worst case scenario: religious fanatic alien alliance The Covenant invades Earth. Reprising your role as the bio-engineered supersoldier, you begin by repelling boarders on a planetary defence frigate but soon find yourself on terra firma, skirmishing with invaders amid the ruined cities then pursuing a key Covenant figure back to their neck of the galaxy. Far more polished than the original story, Halo 2’s plotline drives the action well and, thanks to the judicious use of cut-scenes, gives a deeper insight into the Covenant, evolving them beyond faceless cannon fodder and probing the reasons for their galactically jingoistic instincts.

Which brings us to the most significant change in Halo 2. After wading through the first few levels as the Master Chief, the viewpoint switches to that of The Arbiter, a disgraced Covenant Elite. Apart from coming as something of a surprise, playing as The Arbiter is a subtly different experience. Equipping you with the Elite’s deadly force blade and Predator-like cloaking field, the Covenant perspective provides an interesting counterpoint to the human levels — though remembering that the aliens are now your friends and shouldn’t be gutted on sight takes some getting used to. The continuing narrative doesn’t abandon the Master Chief, though, and you’ll alternate from one side to the other as the story progresses, until the two come together in a final, satisfying synthesis.

The graphics, while not leagues ahead, have certainly been given a boost this time around, and the fiendishly addictive multiplayer mode now comes with added bells and whistles in addition to being Xbox Live enabled. Gameplay changes include the ability to wield two weapons simultaneously — a welcome addition that rules out the need to retreat and reload, markedly changing the strategies you’ll employ in the many ranging firefights. New foes, vehicles and weapons have likewise been added to the roster.
Halo 2 isn’t revolutionary by any means, but as the follow-up to such a sublime experience as Halo, it really didn’t need to be. The sequel’s achievement is to give a second helping of the most accomplished title on the Xbox, with just enough tweaks and polishes to make this experience as fresh and enjoyable as the original.