Releasing in 2004, Halo 2 was widely regarded, and still is by many, as one of the best multiplayer games to date. Allowing players to connect to each other through Xbox live and implementing the use of the iconic playlist system, many people flocked to it, and praised it for its fast action and strong combat. Unfortunately, many people didn’t really think the same when it came to the single player component. At the time, Bungie had their hands full creating a fully developed online interface for players while at the same time trying to create a single player experience that would rival and excel well past the first in the series. The scope was finally realized as too ambitious and the developer had to cut down on what they had originally planned to do. This, in return, created a cliffhanger at the end of Halo 2 that resulted in the frustration of so many players. This did not slow Bungie, however, as they received nearly perfect marks from every major website, magazine and company reviewing video games at the time. Now, due to the Master Chief Collection, the series is in the hands of 343 studios. While they have been focusing on the main title, they made sure to look back on the original trilogy and give it the facelift it deserves.
While the campaign isn’t impressively long, it is large and you’ll see a plethora of locations both on and off the planet earth. Many of them are massive and can create interestingly intricate areas for battle. In one moment, you’re fighting on the open streets and tight alleyways of a town. In the next, you’re racing down the freeway in the warthog fighting off the covenant forces in pursuit. One of my favorite moments was actually fighting my way to the climactic face off against the first Scarab shown in the series, and it shows a fondness that Bungie has for creating amazing centerpieces, or high action moments. Unfortunately, once all of the fighting was said and done, much of the journey is bland. Many of the vegetation is scarce and extremely boring. If you find yourself in a tight space, many of the walls carry the same murky color and it wasn’t rare that I would find myself lost. Surprisingly, the updated graphics did not help very much in most situations, simply adding more lighting to much of the areas rather than visual cues or context.
A lot of the cutscenes seemed to suffer from much of the same issues as well. There was a particular section in the opening scenes where a Sangheili member had removed there armor, but due to the lighting and inconsistency in color, it became difficult to point out any defining features on the character. The new updated cutscenes though are unbelievably detailed, making me wish the entirety of the game could hold that same amount of complexity throughout the journey. Much of the combat makes up or even hides the muddled sections through, ensuring that the player has very little time to observe their surroundings as there was usually an enemy around every other corner.
Many of the staple weapons returned as well as a few new ones. Most notably, the DMR, a heavy hitting semi auto rifle, and the fast firing submachine guns, which gave the player the ability to dual wield. You can dual wield many of the smaller weapons as well, and at times I found myself running into rooms unloading my weapons into covenant forces. This usually ended in my death, though. The Master Chief is much easier to kill due to the removal of the health bar. This caused me to step back at times and think about the best approach to clear out a room, since I was only capable of receiving a few rounds before find a swift death. I did notice that you can also jump much higher, but also don’t receive fall height damage anymore either.
In response to such a wide variety of guns, the covenant forces have expanded exponentially, employing both new weaponry as well as gaining new allies along the way. You’re introduced to a new bug-like enemy in the beginning, which becomes more of a nuisance than an issue as they can be difficult to hit a majority of the time, yet there rounds somehow find a way to always hit home. The biggest addition are the brutes. Large and barbaric, they generally rely on their brutal strength as a means to an end if you find yourself in close combat with them. I think a majority of my deaths probably came from finding myself in a corner frantically trying to backpedal from these monstrosities.
Boss fights also make a first appearance and tend to feel out of place. On one side, you’re usually introduced to the character before hand between conversation and hidden context. On the other, the fights can quickly devolve into a one sided scramble as you more than likely have to hide from a more than likely deadly immediate barrage. I feel like these battles would have been better represented in a cutscene or scripted format, since Bungie seems to excel quite a bit at visually stunning moments.
Overall, Halo 2 had a very strong campaign with plenty of additions to keep it moving forward. At the same time though, I still felt like something was missing throughout it. Learning about the weird shift in the development process, it’s easy to see where some things were kind of left open while other moments had a deep focus on them. Regardless, I would highly recommend the Master Chief Collection of Halo 2 to anyone who may still be interested in such a prominent series.
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