What is it about?
Halo 2 is the second game in the stellar first-person shooter series, following the critically acclaimed Halo: Combat Evolved (CE). Halo 2 was released on the Xbox in 2004, and went onto become the best selling first generation Xbox title. It was then ported to the PC and was released in 2006 as a Windows Vista exclusive game.
Halo 2’s plot picks up shortly after the events of Halo: CE. After the annihilation of Reach, the Covenant continues with its unrelenting and Brutal assault on the Human race. Meanwhile, Master Chief and company aboard the UNSC spaceship ‘In Amber Clad’ pursue the Covenant prophet named ‘Regret’. While they are at it, they open a huge can of worms as they discover another Halo installation after a space jump. Throw in the battle for power between the Elites and Brutes within the Covenant race, their back-stabbing prophet leaders, and the Halo installation’s native flood-love, and Halo 2 is one hell of a ride!
Why should I play it now?
If you weren’t aware, it’s Halo season now. With the release of Halo 4, now would be a good time to play and appreciate the roots of the franchise. Halo is the franchise that defined first-person shooters on consoles. Halo 2 offers you fluid controls, challenging and varied gameplay, intriguing level design, epic set-pieces, a gripping story line, and if you’re lucky enough (that’s you, PC race), the magnificent piece of art that is the Halo 2 multiplayer map set. Playing the game with a bunch of buddies would be the icing on the cake.
How does it hold up today?
Halo 2 has aged brilliantly well. The graphics were never the main draw in Halo games, but Halo 2 still looks good enough for a game that released in 2004. It is a shame, however, that the PC version didn’t benefit from a visual upgrade given that it released two years after the console version. Apart from the visuals, the audio and soundtrack package remains one of the best ever in a Halo game.
Personally, Halo 2 offers the best Grunt voice-overs. They’re like walking clowns; every time you see one, you think, “This is going to be funny.” The epic set pieces that Halo 2 offers haven’t aged one bit. Playing as the Arbiter still feels as refreshing as ever. The multiplayer feels a tad dated since the net code is not as good as the latest in gaming, but the excellently balanced maps give the best multiplayer games of today a run for their money. Unfortunately, the console servers were brought down a while back, but if you’re planning on playing the PC version, you’re in luck. Matchmaking is a snap, and in many ways, is much faster than Reach.
Also, be vary of elite Halo 2 players online, even though the game tries to pit you against evenly matched foes. You also have the option to search and choose from a list of ongoing games on the server. Another option would be to bunch up with your buddies and experience the Halo 2 maps, which are miles ahead of the Reach maps.
Is it similar to anything else out there?
Halo is a trend-setting franchise. Every year, we see attention seeking Halo wannabes come and go. If you want to play something similar to Halo, play Halo!
What do I need to play this?
If you have or plan to get an Xbox copy, it’s is compatible with the Xbox 360 as well. If you’re planning to play it on the PC, anything similar to or better than a Pentium 4 class processor, 1 GB of RAM, Nvidia 6100 and 7 GB of hard disk space would run the game fine. Although Halo 2 was released as a Windows Vista exclusive game, it runs fine on my Windows 7 PC.
‘When I played through…’
I unfortunately didn’t own an Xbox back in the day, and had to wait until the PC version was released to play it. After religiously avoiding any spoilers, Halo 2 had me at every twist and turn. I still remember the goosebumps when I first played as the Arbiter – with the ability to cloak and that sword in my hand. Although Halo 2 offered a brilliant multiplayer experience, I spent most of my time in Halo 2 with the single player, playing the campaign over and over again. Halo 2 gets challenging-ly addictive at higher difficulty levels. Although the cliff-hanger ending was a bit of a downer, Halo 2 is still the best Halo game I’ve played till date.
Yes, I’m aware that I’m in the minority.
Is there anything else I should be aware of (ie mods, crazy glitches, contribution to pop culture, Internet meme, etc)?
If you can, get a hold of the official Halo 2 soundtrack. You won’t regret it. Every bit of the soundtrack is perpetual bliss thanks to Martin O’Donnel. Another cool feature that the PC version offers is that it can be played while it is being installed onto the hard disk. The prominent issue with the PC version, however, is that the game doesn’t sign in to Games For Live Windows, stating that the product key is invalid. Explaining this issue to Microsoft and getting it resolved was quite a pain, and many others have faced this issue as well.
Where do I get it?
Although the Xbox version is compatible with the Xbox 360, the bad news is that it is a real pain to hunt down an Xbox copy. I’ve never seen one in stores. However, the PC version is quite easily available, and every retailer I asked had copies in stock. I picked up my most recent copy of Halo 2 from Games The Shop.
Let us know what you think of our Back Catalogue retrospective features, or tell us which classic games you’d like to see featured in the future in the comments section below or in the corresponding discussion thread at the IVG community forums.