Like most of my Xbox reviews, I want to point out that I played this version of Halo 2 on the Xbox One.
Unlike a lot of my reviews, this game was remastered for the new console, but with a caveat: you could switch between the HD remastered graphics and the original, while playing on the fly!
Now back to our regularly scheduled program.
When Microsoft launched their first-ever console, the original Xbox, a lot of folks had no idea what to think of it. Would it be yet another failed concept in a crowded field? That field included Nintendo, Sony, and at the time, a struggling and then failed Sega console division.
As such, onlookers such as myself heard of Halo and only knew of rumblings that it was a “killer app”.
As the Xbox gained momentum, I also gained an Xbox, just in time for the release of Halo 2.
Let it be known, Halo 2 was the true killer app for the OG Xbox.
By this time the bulky “Duke” controller was replaced with a more streamlined version, broadband internet began to penetrate more homes, and Xbox Live was taking off like a rocket. The sequel to the original Halo dropped in 2004 to take advantage all of all this and more.
While Halo 2 brought online multiplayer, I still feel Halo 3 (on Xbox 360) was the pinnacle of that component being a bigger feature than offline campaigns in games. Halo 2’s campaign was solid, but I can’t be the only one who felt the plot was a bit disjointed.
You alternate playing as the Master Chief and “enemy” Covenant equivalent “The Arbiter” as we learn of opposition’s obsession with the Halo ring world installations. I won’t spoil anything else here, but just know that sometimes the storyline gets confusing if you’re not totally all-in on the Halo universe.
Halo 2 is considered one of the greatest games of all time because it greatly expands on what made the first game so popular. The game’s cover art teases a feature missing in the first game, the ability to wield two guns at the same time.
While some weapons are exempt from dual-wielding, the change was notable as first-person shooters such as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark had done so years earlier. The omission felt odd in Halo, but Halo 2 makes it “make sense”.
New weapons are a given, but none more so than the introduction of the energy sword, which often allowed for one-hit kills that were also popular in other FPS titles.
Of course, the weapons all have their give-and-take moments, and dual-wielding means you can’t melee attack, toss grenades, or switch to your holstered item without dropping the second gun. (In other words, there’s strategy involved!) The inclusion of vehicles is here as well, including more opportunities to see how the Covenant tech works too.
There are some sheer brilliant moments in Halo 2, aided by full-motion video cutscenes, gorgeous settings, and an epic cinema quality soundtrack.
To this day, playing Halo 2 on its original settings is still jaw-dropping. The HD remake sends it into another stratosphere where the no longer dated effects disguise it as a current-gen blockbuster.
FPS fans who have never had the privilege of playing the original Halo games are definitely missing out – and the series’ first sequel is as over the top as any other franchise’s, including Super Mario Bros.
I highly recommend this game – and as a bonus, those with Xbox Game Pass can play it at no extra charge.