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Defending Halo 2 - 2.8.14

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Jenkins | 4450 Heroic Member

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Rumors abound this week suggest that Halo 2 is due to get the HD remaster treatment for Xbox One this winter. Such rumors have prompted the response from certain gaming circles ranging from ‘meh’ to ‘Why that one?’.

Why that one indeed you may ask. Halo 2 was a game whose online multiplayer was leagues beyond anything ever seen on a console, its matchmaking system set the template for the multiplayer on the next generation of systems. So celebrated was Halo 2’s online component that praise superseded that of the campaign itself.

Now 10 years old, Halo 2’s online multiplayer isn't revolutionary; it has been mimicked and improved upon time and time again, often by further games in the Halo series. What that leaves is the often forgotten single-player campaign, one whose cliffhanger ending and change of lead characters put many off.

Though it may seem a touch unnecessary to leap to the defense of a game which launched to universal critical acclaim, won over 38 awards, and sold over 6 million copies, not only do I want to talk about why I feel the campaign is better than many give it credit for, but why it’s also arguably my favorite Halo campaign of all.

It’s best to start with some background; it was 2004 and the Halo hype machine was in full swing. By the time my special edition steel case Halo 2 landed with a thump onto my doormat, I had read all of Eric Nylund’s novels. And while millions of Xbox owners logged into Xbox live to frag each other, I quickly jumped into the campaign.

The opening levels didn't disappoint; an assault on a space station, similar stations being obliterated in the background, battles in the vacuum of space complete with an absence of gravity, giving ‘the Covenant back their bomb’, the assault on Earth, highway chases, tanks rumbling through dilapidated streets and the final battle with the Scarab, the covenant assault carrier. Suffice to say it blew my mind.

But as the Chief is sucked through slip-space and the scene fades, something changes. Suddenly we’re treated to more scenes featuring the Covenant and then, before we know it, we’re playing… as an Elite?

My first reaction was the same as most; where is the Chief? I didn't want to play as the Arbiter, I just wanted to get through his levels to get back to playing as the Chief. Frustratingly, as I hurried through the Arbiter’s narrower, less bombastic maps I tended to die a lot more and, as so often happens, the hype gave way to crushing disappointment.

But by the end, I started to empathize with the Arbiter. The Elite’s ultimate betrayal by The Covenant and their slaughter at the hands of the Brutes gives you that drive, that connection and that feeling of sympathy for the Arbiter that takes you through to the last boss fight with Tartarus.

So you defeat Tartarus, the game switches back to the Chief and the credits roll, and you feel cheated.

I remember those feelings vividly; there wasn't enough Master Chief, there wasn't even a proper ending! Right now I’m probably not doing a good job at selling this game am I?

Halo 2’s beauty only became apparent on subsequent playthrough. In fact, I’d say as I grow older I realize more and more that it offers a depth and richness lacking from most other shooters.

For example, The Covenant aren't just the standard gibberish-spouting, gun-toting bad guys to be shot. You get an insight into their world and, just like ours, it’s full of treacherous squabbling politicians, misunderstood splinter factions, racial tension and religious conflict.

You realize that arguably, Prophet of Truth aside, these aren't just a bunch of evil aliens who hate humanity, but a tragically misguided and deluded coterie of alien races. Knowing the Arbiter’s fate, you see how he’s being used, you see how he grows from an obedient vengeful Covenant warrior to a key figure in his own race’s resistance.

Much of the game feels completely different when playing as the Arbiter. Gone is the Master Chiefs penchant for blowing up everything in his path. Instead we have active camouflage, the maps are slower paced, your approach must be more considered and more and more you begin to question what’s around you.

Some of the Master Chief set pieces are among the best in the series, perhaps in the whole first person shooter genre, but the more measured Arbiter levels give the player a welcome change of pace and an insight as to how the Covenant works. With both sides of the story fleshed out, you get more context to compliment the endless shooting and explosions.

So, Halo 2 then is a game to be celebrated, not only for its tighter gameplay and fantastically designed maps, but for fleshing out your enemies, for giving you cause to question why you’re gunning them all down. It’s an element that, disappointingly, wasn't explored in subsequent Halo sequels and not even considered in games such as Call Of Duty, which in all fairness deserve their polygonized human targets to be fleshed out more than any other.

It’s a game that, to me, lived up to the hype. It delivered everything I was looking for and more. And as I look at the specs of rust manifesting themselves on my steel book copy, as if it’s being attached by some video game case version of the Flood, it’s certainly worthy of a HD remake.

It was a game which the original Xbox struggled with, much in the same way the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 did with GTA V, and a port to updated hardware could unleash its full potential. Add to that the consideration that around 4 million of those who purchased Halo 3 never played the slightly less bombastic and narratively superior predecessor and I think there is reason enough for the remake.

That said, it’s not the game to make me rush out to buy an Xbox One. To take an often paraphrased quote; It’s the remake it deserves, just not the one we need right now.



on Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:36 pm

IDredMan | 4558 I am the one who rings the doorbell!

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Damn dood.



on Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:45 pm

Mad Mike | 4067 Gwendolyn's Minion

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Excellent review! I completely agree with pretty much everything you said, halo 2 is without doubt the best halo game and one of the best FPS games ever made.

I honestly can not understand people who have a problem with this game.
I LOVED the arbiter missions, it made the game fresh, had great gameplay, good change of atmosphere and good story.
And I have always loved stealth in video games so the active camo was just amazing in my opinion.

This game also had the best characters and character development of all the games. In my opinion, this is the only game were we got to see the true badassery of Master Chief in it's fullest. He really did feel like a "space Clint Eastwood" as Steve Downes puts it -- while he had a more silent personality in the other games.

And also, why do so many people keep bitching about the cliffhanger??? WTF is wrong with cliffhangers?
How would you have it end, the covenant armada being thrown into the sun and then magically re-appearing in the next game as mutated freaks?

It was a really good cliffhanger, and we all knew there was going to be a sequel... don't see were the problem is



on Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:48 pm

SilentGamer64 | 3815 Wort! Wort! Wort!

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Mad Mike wrote:
And also, why do so many people keep bitching about the cliffhanger??? WTF is wrong with cliffhangers?
How would you have it end, the covenant armada being thrown into the sun and then magically re-appearing in the next game as mutated freaks?

*cough...Halo 4...cough*

It was a really good cliffhanger, and we all knew there was going to be a sequel... don't see were the problem is

There will always be critics. I know a lot of hardcore story fans (more like "story whores") disliked the campaign because the Arbiter missions made the story too "inconsistent" since you were jumping around between two characters. I personally loved it, and it was arguably the first game that got playable elites started.


The cliffhanger was said to be cut too abruptly, but I didn't really see a better place to end it, seeing that its the longest freaking campaign in the series (its like, what? 12 levels long?). And cutting it at the 10th level would have put us in the middle of the great schism, which would have been an even worse cliffhanger: "Brutes and Elites are at war within High Charity! The end." -.-

Bungie did good. Haters gonna hate.



on Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:26 pm

Mad Mike | 4067 Gwendolyn's Minion

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SilentGamer64 wrote:
Mad Mike wrote:
And also, why do so many people keep bitching about the cliffhanger??? WTF is wrong with cliffhangers?
How would you have it end, the covenant armada being thrown into the sun and then magically re-appearing in the next game as mutated freaks?

*cough...Halo 4...cough*

LOL I didn't even think of it in that way, but it's so true! XD You just made my day Very Happy



on Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:53 pm

camycamera | 4194 Legendary Member

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i 100% agree.

i have replayed through Halo 2's campaign more than any other game ever. Halo 2 holds a special place in my heart, i can't wait until i find this gem for PC.



on Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:36 pm

Mad Mike | 4067 Gwendolyn's Minion

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camycamera wrote:i 100% agree.

i have replayed through Halo 2's campaign more than any other game ever. Halo 2 holds a special place in my heart, i can't wait until i find this gem for PC.

I makes me so sad that the multiplayer is gone... ;(

When I found out they were going to shut it down, I didn't play anything other than halo 2 for days. This game was a better than halo reach and halo 4 combined (even better than halo 3 in some ways).
I think there was one specific thing that was the reason behind it's succes; it had the best freaking maps in halo history!

Containment: This was my favorite map is great example to good level design. The only way for vehicles to smoothly enter the enemy's huge-ass fortress was to press a switch. This gave the game a sense of objective even if you were just playing slayer!
And the map had so many diffrent places, there were caves and ramps everywhere and so much varried gameplay. Not to mention how much fun it was to drive around the gauss hog Razz

Terminal:
TRAINS!! Who doesn't love trains?
Seriously though, this map was so amazing, because it is the only map in halo that actually makes you feel like you are in a real place. This map had EVERYTHING! It had a outdoors section that was great for vehicle gameplay, and it also had indoor corridors with ALOT of hight variation.

Headlong: The remake of this was the best part of halo reach multiplayer imo, but it just wasn't the same as it was in halo 2. Why? Because for some retarded reason, people NEVER wanted to play assualt in Reach! That map was made for 1-flag and assualt, yet you pretty much only got to play slayer. You know just how much the halo community has gone to hell when nobody wants to play objective gametypes anymore... they just want to kill sh*t like in COD.

Anyway, I'm not gonna go on for too long, the point is that halo 2 maps made the other game's maps look like crap.



Last edited by Mad Mike on Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:00 pm; edited 1 time in total


on Tue Feb 11, 2014 3:54 pm

Kevow of Rice | 3750 Enshrined Member

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It is known that many parts of the game never made it to light due to shortages on time of development, it would be amazing if 343 could incorporate new things that were meant to be there from the beginning, then this would be an amazing anniversary game and beyond what Halo C.E.A brought to the table.



on Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:44 pm

Mad Mike | 4067 Gwendolyn's Minion

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Kevow of Rice wrote:It is known that many parts of the game never made it to light due to shortages on time of development, it would be amazing if 343 could incorporate new things that were meant to be there from the beginning, then this would be an amazing anniversary game and beyond what Halo C.E.A brought to the table.

yes, I agree 100% on that. They need to have lots of bonus content to make it worth the money.

They could atleast incloude the halo 2 demo, because let's face it, that demo was a million times more epic than the final map "Outskirts"



on Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:03 pm

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