Developer: 343 Industries
Release Date: 11/9/2004 (Xbox), 5/31/2007 (PC), 11/11/2014 (XBONE)
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The Good: Fantastic audio/visual overhaul, long and varied campaign, excellent story and lore, dual-wielding as a new sense of power, vehicles finally feel complete and useful, Brutes add a whole new challenge
The Bad: Shooting the same Covenant over and over can get tedious after so long, most skulls require Legendary difficulty to acquire, some difficulty spikes
Master Chief is one of the most iconic characters around, and despite being on a Western heavy console brand, everyone knows who he is. The green Spartan made waves back in November of 2004 with Halo 2. Halo 2 pretty much defined online console multiplayer and was the driving force for Xbox LIVE throughout the Xbox 1’s life cycle. I still remember Peter Moore lifting up his sleeve and revealing Halo 2‘s release date as a tattoo on his arm; it was unique and cool and probably something he regretted later on. Halo 2 also received more hate than any other game I can think of, and sadly, I’m one of those people. See, I was a hardcore Sony fanboy at the time and loved my PS2. While it was a superior console, it lacked the show stopping online games like Halo 2 and lacked an FPS exclusive (Killzone was not the FPS PS2 owners needed).
Halo has a fantastic sci-fi lore and I didn’t appreciate this until I got much older. If you read into the comics and novels you will realize just how deep and fantastic the Halo universe is. Halo 2 expands on the first game tenfold in nearly every way. The story is more fleshed out, had fantastic pre-rendered cut scenes, and some incredible voice acting. The campaign was longer than the first game and offered more variety. For starters dual-wielding was introduced and was one of the first games to make it work right. Each trigger on the Xbox allowed you to fire each gun independently as well as mixing and matching your favorite guns. More weapons were introduced as well as the new Brute enemy. From start to finish, Halo 2 is one of the most diverse FPS campaigns I have ever played from forests to interplanetary ships, to jungle ruins, and even cities; there’s so much to see in this game and it’s also quite beautiful.
One thing I could never get past was the continued use of the same Covenant over and over in each game. However, this allows you to remember and learn the AI quirks of each enemy so when you play the next game you already know their strategy and how to work the game. The Covenant are some of the best enemies ever made in an FPS because they require you to use strategy and use everything in your arsenal. Enemies will duck and hide and run away from you which was almost unheard of back in 2004. Of course with the Anniversary update the AI is improved and it feels like a fully updated game that could release tomorrow and, despite the graphical age the games have aged very well gameplay wise (Halo 1 is up for debate on that one).
The story behind Halo takes place after the first game with the first Halo ring destroyed, however a new protagonist joins us as the Covenant Elite Arbiter who was tasked with protecting the ring and failed. He’s made a martyr and must help activate the Halo rings to stop the incoming Flood. Sadly, the Flood are back and more aggressive then ever. I somehow didn’t mind them so much in this game as they are not thrown at you for several levels at a time, but given to you for a level here and there, and man are they some of the most annoying enemies in gaming history. The little tiny “poppy” Floods, the big “pregnant” Floods, and those ones that rush you. Now the Brutes have turned so expect these Flood to be even harder to take down. At least they are more balanced out and not thrown at you in seemingly endless waves.
Another huge update was the vehicles as in Halo 1 they handled like crap. Each vehicle now has a boost feature and they handle so much better and are easier to shoot with and maneuver. They are also given to the player more often and become vital tools in certain levels just like your guns. I also found the shield was used better in this game as it recharges much faster, and health packs are no longer a concern anymore. Master Chief can take a little bit more of a beating after his shield has been used up.
The visuals enhancement in Halo 2 is even better than Halo 1. The game looks amazing with completely redone environments, textures, lighting, and sound this time. Switching between classic and new modes were like night and day — I could never go back to the old Halo 2 again. With these new updates comes the Halo toys you can find as well as more skulls and terminals. These unlock achievements and are quite tricky to find. The worst thing I can find about this game is the difficulty spikes. Some segments required constant restarts to find the right combo of how to hit the enemy or retry a new strategy. This led to many frustrations, but they weren’t as frequent as the first game. I also didn’t like how most skulls can’t be acquired on anything but the hardest difficulty.
Overall, Halo 2: Anniversary is a must play for Xbox One owners or lover of the FPS genre. Halo defined the series for a reason and isn’t quite as shallow as haters would like to think. There’s a whole universe here that people are missing out on as well as some of the best FPS action known to man.