Reviews// Halo 2

Rubber aliens from Berkshire

Posted 17 Nov 2004 13:48 by
Along with the rest of the gaming community, SPOnG has spent a significant amount of time shooting at aliens. Call it classic, call it clichéd, but either way the premise has gone unchanged. And it?s this that could have so easily been improved over the original. Halo 2?s alien nemeses are much the same as they were before, that?s to say, for the most part, entirely uninspired. The rank and file of the Covenant foes have graduated directly from the Jar-Jar Binks school of alien design, replete with absurdly estimated alien accents. The opening cut-scene introduces some alien overlord chap who purports to be some kind of ?big boss?. But instead of making him a bit scary, he looks like ET dressed as Widow Twanky for a community-centre pantomime. And what?s worse is that the designers have given him a ludicrous, posh British accent.

Prophet - early concept
Prophet - early concept
The movie industry has dictated for some time that evil overseers are invariably English, usually sporting a strong old school BBC-style home counties accents. And again most of the heroes have American accents ? mostly in a gravely Vin Diesel, balls-dropped-right-through-the-floor style. Halo 2 is by no means the first piece of entertainment to build on these rather peculiar notions, but SPOnG is taking this opportunity to make a stance nonetheless. How about the evil, world-destroying alien super-power has an American (Texan) accent for once? It?s 2004 now and the landed British gentry are no longer a frightening force of evil. Americans (and specifcally certain Texans), on the other hand scare the bejesus out of all sane people?

Obviously, you can?t judge a game?s quality on the choice of character accents, but it is just a single detail indicative of larger creative shortcomings. Bungie has seemingly gone to great lengths to create cinematic cut-scenes that build up to tell a story, but these are inexcusably weak. Although many of the scenes are absolutely awesome visually, the slices of cut-scene that use the in-game engine are surprisingly shoddy. In fact, one of the very first scenes you encounter sees a captain bogged down in some kind of graphical glitch-disco: as he turns around to address you he remembers he?s not actually physically capable of doing so. So instead, this uniformed chap turns on a sixpence by doing a funky little dance. With a jig of the knee, and stuttering shoulders he eventually ends up facing the right way. We understand that FPS engines aren?t designed with dramatic or theatrical effect in mind, but when this is one of the first cut-scenes of the game, it does detract quite impressively from the game?s otherwise heady initial impact.

To be perfectly honest, we weren?t ever expecting any kind of goodness from Halo 2?s storyline. Inevitably it would be aliens, blah, united earth defense force, blah, guns, blah, aliens, blah, exciting twist, blah, save earth. And indeed it is. But we were at least hoping for a logical progression in the story, and something, however minor, to really make you feel involved. Instead, the incidental narrative is all just a load of tedious old nonsense. Even people who actually liked the first game?s storyline are criticising this weakness. As much as Halo 2 stuns and shines with its graphical supremacy it has fallen far short of presenting itself as a piece of interactive art. Very few games can, but thanks to its technical framework, this could potentially have been one. As great as it may be, Halo 2, with the assistance of some more cosmopolitan and capable creatives could have conjured up a much more appreciable fanfare to greet its release.

It?s just an idea, but we think it?s a good one: you?re making a game on behalf of one of the richest corporations in the world, and you?ve already got one and a half million pre-orders, and you want it to be a thing of revolutionary goodness, right? Then hire some professional script-writers and a creative director whose bespectacled visionary outlook isn?t entirely obscured by a wayward beard and unhealthy obsession with Babylon 5. It would be worthwhile in the long run
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Comments

ben mills 17 Nov 2004 17:01
1/6
I very good and fair review but i feel the reviewer has maybe been a bit 'anti-microsoft' on us.

The gameplay in single player is pretty much the same as many other FPS. But maybe its not what it looks like at face value that makes this a great classic. From a AI programmers point of view it shows some amazing techniques. For instance when a comrad or a foe falls other NPC's will come over and talk about him/her/it. The AI in Halo 2 is matched only by Half-life 2.When you say there is stealth on Thief and not on Halo 2 maybe try playing it on a diffculty harder than normal.
I feel that the reviewer has not looked at it in a very semiotic way.

For instance there was no mention of the sound and music in the game. The music in Halo2 is some of the best seen in any game. Metal gear solid maybe had something that came close, but the music here inspires and impresses.

The reviwers says that online co-op is not a option but does he actually know what it would take to make it work? The bandwidth needed to send every deformed object, every sprite, projectile and AI instruction between Boxes would be about 100mb/sec.

Graphicly is is maybe a bit of a let down - The cutsceans are good but the poping is bad. However the fact there are no loading screens does make up for it and it helps move the story through alot better.

When the critic talks about the lack of 'evil' in the covenant has he plaid the game through?!
The covenant are not evil, they simply are following thier beliefs. The thing with Halo is that sides are not clear cut. The flood is the only true evil. The covenant, Mankind and the Forerunners are all coming from diffrent points-of-view.

The story is maybe lacking and Halo does indeed have better plot. I feel that bungie have tried to fit to much in a short period of time and they are unable to develop the plot as much as could be possible. Also being able to play as a elite is maybe a cheap gimic. Playing as a elite should be like a wild sexual fantasy - never actually acted out but always lusted after.

As for online - Nothing comes close on ANY FPS ever. The detail on the bungie website is fantastic and the screenshots of your movements and kill placements can help develop stratagies well.
Rod Todd 17 Nov 2004 18:03
2/6
ben mills wrote:
I very good and fair review but i feel the reviewer has maybe been a bit 'anti-microsoft' on us.


Anti Microsoft sentiment is one of the things to love about SPOnG ;-)

But it's true, Bungie used to be wildly creative in comparison to other games at the time of Marathon, it was a narrative masterpiece. But Halo 2 seems kinda run of the mill.

If that isn't corporate development methodologies eroding creativity, then it must be something else, far less sinister instead.
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fluffstardx 17 Nov 2004 19:31
3/6
Halo 2 plot, boring?

Read First Strike.
Follow all of ILB.
Read "conversations from around the universe".

The plot isn't boring, it just simply cannot all fit in.
QuaiD 18 Nov 2004 00:43
4/6
Whose gone onlibe with it and found it slow?
fluffstardx 18 Nov 2004 10:52
5/6
You got the patch? It fixes a LOT.

Plus, on a 1mb/sec line... no, i notice no slowdown. Ever.

As for the game being "run of the mill"... watch the DVD. They had to cut a ton of stuff, because frankly they were just too damn creative. So, the plot we got was a little... jagged. Time constraints.

It is, however, still a LOT better than Killzone, the supposed "PS2 Halo". If you want to really fry a game for being overhyped, look no further. The AI is ropey, the controls missing a little something (jump, for example...), and the multi-character implementation made totoally pointless.

Oh yes, and the plot is non-existant.
Master Chef 19 Nov 2004 11:24
6/6
fluffstardx wrote:
You got the patch? It fixes a LOT.

Plus, on a 1mb/sec line... no, i notice no slowdown. Ever.

Totally awesome --if you have a 1mb line


As for the game being "run of the mill"... watch the DVD. They had to cut a ton of stuff, because frankly they were just too damn creative. So, the plot we got was a little... jagged. Time constraints.

Yeah, I'm hardly pumped by the stuff they left out.

It is, however, still a LOT better than Killzone

I thought this was a discussion about Halo2, not something that has been hyped as baing a Halo-beater by the game's own publisher.

I'm totally whelmed by Halo2. More of the same. IMO it doesn't offer a great, mindblowing leap in the Halo story arc like we got with the progression of Marathon. Following the plot in the ILB/Haunted Apiary game was better than progressiong in the game. I can handle another run of the mill FPS if the plot rocks, otherwise it's a dud.

Still, I'll plow thru and finish the game.
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