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July 3rd, 2013, 06:53
Halo 2

Didn't touch it until today but finished it in one sitting. I think it's fair to say it was about 20-25% shorter although the noticeably higher pacing might have affected my perception. My notes are also quite short.

For good or for worse Halo 2 is not a significant departure from the original. The mechanics are largely the same so any improvement comes from various additions and tweaks in the quantitative balance of the content. The much more elaborate treatment of the Covenant (the antagonists) was by far the biggest change due to it affecting both the story and (to my surprise) the gameplay to an important degree. To cut a long story short you get to play as the Arbiter, an alien of the Covenant , which allows for some stealth and melee in the regular parts and a few very entertaining vehicle wieding sequences with an airfight being their high point.

While the shooting mechanics are virtually unchanged and thus as average as beforehand, the FPS part of the game has been enriched by doubling the number of available weapons and the number of opponents which provide and force different tactical approaches. It was also possible to dual wield a few weapons which made for some interesting mixing. As in Halo:CE I started on Heroic but had to drop the difficulty down to normal after a level or two. The game was a tad easier this time on normal and only became challenging after about 3/4ths and mostly due to the absolutely retarded checkpoint system.

The driving parts felt more linear this time around but Bungie certainly tried to make them more spectacular with a tank blasting its way through a city and the aforementioned airfight standing out. It was still more free than what you'd get in a CoD although I think it's mostly due to the engine and the importance of fun multiplayer.

I would say the first and the last 20% of the game are its weakest parts and its peak is about halfway in. The early maps of the game are urban and alongside the more detailed visuals made the game look very KOTOResque rather than close to the visual style of the first game. Luckily the game leaves earth for good after a while and starts providing the good stuff (some Alien ruins actually looked like the ruins towards the end of KOTOR1) . One major difference is that there is, in striking contrast to the original, very few occasions of reusing parts of a map and setpieces. This fact along with the jumps between controlling Master Chief and the Artiber made for a much less monotonous experience with what however felt like higher pacing.

The higher pacing was amongst other things caused by the ability to be stealthy and the easier difficulty, which allowed me to just run past opponents in some cases and was actually encouraged late in the game. While there is no blatant repeating and the game did provide me a considerable number of sightseeing moments I found myself admiring the scenery and the visual style less often than in the original, both the music and the art direction felt less prominent in the experience. The pacing and my being more used to the building style of the Covenant are probably the main reasons.

The story of Halo 2 was undoubtedly under a more prominent focus than in Combat Evolved. The game had at least double the number of cutscenes of the first and while they weren't all of a great quality and bits of the story felt forced or even confused I can't fault Bungie since it was clearly more of an attempt. I certainly appreciated how the covenant got speech, a civilization, backstabbing politics and a protagonist all of a sudden. On that note I have to admit I liked the Arbiter a fair bit more than Master Chief who didn't say too much and only bothered uttering cool one liners, I can see how that work but didn't do much for identification. The ending is a cliffhanger which apparently got a lot of critisism but I can't say I disliked it, even knowing that I'm not likely to play Halo 3. While the writing wasn't anything remarkable I'm glad to report that there are less cringe worthy-roll eyes moments and that Sergeant Johnson only extreme case of bad writing left.
I'd just like to interject here and point out that I'm not going to say anything to spoil the mood, Chief. I'll just float here and watch. Don't mind me, just sitting here, floating and watching, that's me.
Last edited by Kostas; July 3rd, 2013 at 18:45.
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