Halo 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie Studios for the Xbox video game console and is forwards-compatible with the Xbox 360. It is the sequel to Halo: Combat Evolved (and the second installment of the Halo game series) and features a newly built graphics engine with the addition of new elements to the game. Halo 2 develops the struggle between the United Nations Space Command, Covenant, and the Flood during the Human-Covenant War in the fall of 2552.
It was also released for PC and is one of the most successful and actively played video games for the Xbox console, with 8.46 million copies sold as of November, 2008. Despite this, the game's online servers will be discontinued as of April 15, 2010.
The campaign in Halo 2 does not pick up directly after the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, but rather after the events depicted in the novel Halo: First Strike, taking place in Halo: Combat Evolved with the events explaining Master Chief's return to Earth not featured in any game so far. The story dives deeper into the society of the Covenant, their goals, beliefs, and alliances as well as continuing Master Chief's story to put an end to the Covenant threat on Earth as well as another Halo ring.
The player can play the campaign alone on a single-player mode or on a split-screen co-operative mode. The game follows a linear series of episodes that differ from Halo: Combat Evolved because you will play as both the Master Chief and a new character, a troubled Covenant Elite known as The Arbiter. The player has an adjusted arsenal of weapons, some of which have been altered or removed from Halo: Combat Evolved, and new weapons being introduced. One of the biggest alteration to game-play is perhaps the ability to dual wield small weapons; this allows for twice the firepower at the expense of being unable to throw grenades or melee without dropping the left weapon. In terms of vehicles, all vehicles from the first game remain except the M12A1 Warthog LAAV (rocket warthog) from the PC version, and the Spirit Dropship. Also, a few new vehicles are introduced. In Halo 2, however, the previously indestructible vehicles can now be destroyed and the player is able to "board" an enemy vehicle by climbing on and knocking the driver out, as well as planting grenades to further damage the vehicle. The same can be done by an enemy to the player when driving.
As the Arbiter, the player is not equipped with a flashlight and instead a rechargeable Active Camouflage that lasts for ten seconds, giving the player a preemptive advantage on unsuspecting enemies.
You can have a variety of allies; if you are the Master Chief, you are accompanied by UNSC Marines, occasionally ODSTs, and Sergeant Johnson and you battle all Covenant species and in one instance, the Flood. But if you are the Arbiter, you are joined by Grunts, Jackals, Hunters, and other Elites, but you never fight humans; instead, you combat the Heretics, Brutes, Drones, Jackals, the Flood and occasionally Sentinels.
The Campaign consists of 15 levels, of which 14 are playable, one of which (Demo) was cut from the final game. They tell the story of Halo 2.
It begins with the trial and punishment of the former Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice, Commander Thel 'Vadamee, who later becomes the future Arbiter and is branded with the Mark of Shame by Tartarus due to his failure to protect the Sacred Ring during the events of Halo: Combat Evolved.
The story then turns to Earth's Orbital Defense Platform Cairo Station, where SPARTAN-117 receives the new MJOLNIR Mark VI armor from the Master Gunnery Sergeant. He then meets Admiral Terrence Hood for an award ceremony held for the dual purposes of awarding meritorious acts and boosting the morale of the surviving human population and noted as a war hero (John-117 has already received all medals except for the "Prisoner of War" medal). The festivities are soon interrupted by Cortana reporting "15 Covenant Capital Ships holding position just outside the kill zone", signaling the start to the Covenant Siege of Earth. UNSC Marine forces along with SPARTAN-117 protect the station from the invading Covenant Naval infantry but other stations were destroyed by the Covenant. After sending the bomb that the Covenant had placed on the ship back into space (destroying several ships) he landed on a UNSC ship and then they head to the surface of Earth to New Mombasa to fight off the Covenant Army, led by the High Prophet of Regret. After the Covenant invasion force is halted by the UNSC defenses, the Prophet of Regret flees Earth with Keyes and her detachment in pursuit on the In Amber Clad. The hasty in-atmosphere jump devastates the city of New Mombasa, epecially by destroying the Space Elevator and scattering its wrekage for miles around.
The story then turns back to the disgraced Sangheili Commander, Thel 'Vadamee, who is given the chance of redemption by taking up the mantle of Arbiter, along with the imminent mortality of the task. The new Arbiter accepts and becomes the will of the Prophets, seeking to complete the impossible task assigned for redemption from his crimes. Thel 'Vadamee is tasked with the assassination of a Heretic Leader, who is disillusioned with the Covenant following the events of Installation 04 up to its destruction. Thel 'Vadamee tracks the Heretic Leader throughout the gas mine (battling the Heretics and the Flood) where the Heretics sought refuge. When Thel 'Vadamee is finally able to face the Heretic Leader, 'Refumee asserts his belief that the Prophets have lied about the Great Journey, punctuating this with the entry of a Monitor. Before Thel 'Vadamee could learn more of the claims, the battle resumes, and the Heretic Leader is killed before any meaningful discourse taking place. Tartarus appears to extract him and Guilty Spark, preventing Thel 'Vadamee from learning any information from Spark. He leaves not knowing what caused the Heretics to betray their sacred oaths to the Covenant.
Turning back to the SPARTAN-117's story, Keyes exits slipspace in her ship undetected with the Prophet of Regret unaware that he had been followed. To the surprise of the pursuers, they discover that Regret led them to another Halo Ring. Keyes soon determines that their objective is to Capture the Prophet of Regret and stop the Covenant from firing the Halo Rings; SPARTAN-117 is dropped onto the surface of Installation 05 with ODSTs to remove Regret. In the course of pursuing Regret, SPARTAN-117 discovers with the aid of Cortana that the Prophet intends to personally activate Halo. Keyes decides that the new revelation about Regret's intentions warrants his death, which SPARTAN-117 successfully achieves. But before being able to make his escape, the Covenant and High Charity, which has just arrived, attempt to kill SPARTAN-117 by glassing the area, and he jumps into the lake surrounding Regret's location. Incapacitated from the shock of the Covenant bombardment, SPARTAN-117 is last seen being dragged into the depths of the lake by the tentacles of the Gravemind.
The story now shifts back to Thel 'Vadamee on the High Charity, in orbit around the ring. The Hierarchs had declared Regret's death to be the Elites' failure, and they were removed as the protectors of the Prophets, who bestow the role to the Brutes, causing more tension between the Brutes and Elites who are already at odds with each other. Despite this Thel 'Vadamee is given a new mission to recover a Sacred Icon from the Library, having not died in his previous mission as all had expected. Making his way through the Quarantine Zone facing scores of flood and sentinels on the surface of Installation 05 seeking the Activation Index, Thel 'Vadamee makes his way into the Library and captures the Index along with Keyes and Johnson after they recovered it from its protective housing. Before he can take possession of the Index, Tartarus again intervenes in Thel 'Vadamee's task. After taking the Index into his own personal possession, Tartarus then reveals that the Hierarchs intended for his death to oust the Elites. His treachery revealed, Tartarus knocks Thel 'Vadamee unconscious down a shaft in the Index chamber to the abyss below.
Beneath the Library, SPARTAN-117 finds himself in the clutches of the Gravemind, the creature that acts as the sentient intelligence of the Flood. Although Thel 'Vadamee had fallen from a great height, he is saved from plunging to his death by the Gravemind's tentacles. It is within the Gravemind's chamber where Thel 'Vadamee and SPARTAN-117 meet. In addition, the Prophet of Regret is infected and assimilated into its mass. Also introduced is 2401 Penitent Tangent, Monitor of Installation 05. Both characters act as exposition to Thel 'Vadamee, as Regret remains steadfast to his faith, and the Monitor is fully aware of its status as a weapon. Thel 'Vadamee is further led to question his faith by both the SPARTAN-117 and the Gravemind itself, as they both try to convince the Elite that the Covenant's belief on the Halos is a lie, revealing that the Halos destroy life, not save it. This information, as well the information of the imminent genocide of the Elites lead Thel 'Vadamee reluctantly joining SPARTAN-117 in the mission to stop the ring from being activated. The Gravemind sends both the SPARTAN-117 and Thel 'Vadamee to different locations to help stop the Index from reaching its destination. SPARTAN-117 was sent to High Charity to retrieve the Index while Thel 'Vadamee was sent to the area where the Control Room of Installation 05 to halt the Covenant from activating the rings.
SPARTAN-117 then enters the middle of a conference of Truth. The Prophet of Truth, after escaping assassination, flees to the Dreadnought. John-117 chases him, killing many Covenant troops on the way. He also witnesses the conflict between the Elites and Brutes. SPARTAN-117 saves a few Marines along the way. Meanwhile, the Flood, under the control of the Gravemind crash into High Charity using In Amber Clad. When John nearly meets Truth, he finds Mercy on the ground being infected by the Flood; the Prophet tells the Spartan that Truth is going to Earth to "finish what the Covenant started". In his efforts to reach the Forerunner Dreadnought, he has to fight his way through the Flood and the Covenant. After boarding the Dreadnought, he leaves Cortana behind while he gets on the ship by boarding it through a large energy beam which serves as an energy supply for the High Charity.
Meanwhile, Thel 'Vadamee is teleported to near Halo's control room. There, he finds many dead Elites, which were, no doubt, killed by the Brutes. With the help of a few deployed Elites, he fights his way to meet Rtas 'Vadumee, who is surprised to hear that the Brutes murdered the Councilors. They fight their way to a Scarab, where Sergeant Johnson is held. Johnson takes control of the Scarab and forcefully initiates an uneasy alliance between the humans and the Elites. With the combined efforts of Johnson and 'Vadamee, the Scarab breaches the Control Room doors by using the main energy cannon of the Scarab, and 'Vadamee enters the Control Room to confront Tartarus. In the Control Room, he hears the truth of the Halos directly from 343 Guilty Spark. Regardless of this disheartening revelation, Tartarus forced Miranda Keyes to activate Halo. Many Zealots and Councilors aid 'Vadamee in his final fight against Tartarus, and eventually after a long and tough fight, manage to kill him, but cost the Elites precious soldiers, mostly ranked Zealot, Councilor, or Spec Ops. Once Tartarus is defeated, Miranda grabs the Index just in time to stop Halo from firing, only putting it on a standby status, as said by 343 Guilty Spark. He informs them that all the remaining Halos can now be activated remotely from the Ark.
The Forerunner Dreadnought arrives at Earth with SPARTAN-117 onboard. He alerts Admiral Hood of his presence, and tells him that he is "Finishing this fight" when asked what he is doing on that ship.
In a scene after the credits, it appears that High Charity has been completely taken over by the Flood, as thousands of Flood spores are visible throughout the air, floating along the view. The Gravemind speaks of satisfaction of being free of his "empty grave", and suddenly Cortana appears as a hologram on a pedestal in the room. The Gravemind then states that there are questions that linger in his mind, which Cortana must answer. Cortana replies, "Alright. . .shoot!" The screen then turns black before any question is heard, signifying a possible, yet unlikely truce between the Flood and the UNSC, which, in any case, would not be expected to last or be held strong.
These are the weapons in the game:
United Nations Space Command Standard
Unlike its predecessor, Halo 2 allows players to compete with each other over the Xbox Live online service, in addition to the originals support for split-screen and System Link multiplayer. Halo 2's Xbox Live mode offers a unique approach to online gaming that is intended to alleviate some of the problems that have plagued online first-person shooters in the past. Traditionally, one player sets his or her computer or console up as a game server (or host), specifying the game type and map and configuring other settings. The game software then uses a service like Xbox Live or GameSpy to advertise the game to the world at large; other players choose which game to join based upon criteria such as the map and game options each host is offering as well as the ping times they are able to receive.
In Halo 2, Xbox Live players do not choose to host games, and they do not get to specify individual maps and options to search for. Instead, players sign up for "playlists" that are geared to different styles of play. For example, the "Rumble Pit" playlist offers a variety of "free-for-all" game types, primarily Slayer or variations there of; "Team Skirmish" offers a number of 4-on-4 team games, which are primarily objective-based games like Capture the Flag; "Big Team Battle Skirmish" is similar to Team Skirmish but allows teams of up to 8 players. Other playlists allow various things such as matches between different clans. The Xbox Live servers create games automatically from the pool of players that have signed up for each playlist, choosing a game type and map automatically and selecting one player to serve as the game's host. Players can create small "parties" with their friends and enter games together as teammates or, in Rumble Pit, adversaries. They can also play custom gametypes like regular multiplayer. Unranked gametypes allow people on the same Xbox console without an Xbox Live account to play with them as "guests". If the Xbox console hosting the game drops out, the Xbox Live service automatically selects a new host from among the remaining players so the game can continue. Note: It appears that the host has some advantages over other players during the game due to lag (giving him the ability to move/react faster than the other players, and for certain glitches to work), resulting in a form of cheating called bridging in which somebody uses their PC to get host.
Since launching in November 2004, the service has been very popular with gamers. While some players resent the loss of individual control inherent in Halo 2's approach to online gaming, others feel it provides a significantly improved gaming experience compared to more traditional online first-person shooters. Bungie's servers match players up by skill level, which tends to eliminate the kind of severely imbalanced games that less-skilled players often consider unfair and not enjoyable. The automatic host selection process also eliminates the ability of the host to exert outsize control over the parameters of the game.
Halo 2 players with Microsoft Passport accounts can log on to bungie.net and obtain extremely detailed statistics on their performance, including level maps for several hundred of the player's most recent games that indicate graphically where and when the player scored a kill or was killed him- or herself.
Bonus Map Pack is a downloadable content package for Halo 2. It was released on April 25, 2005 as a free download sponsored by Mountain Dew. The maps included in this Map Pack are:
Killtacular Pack is a downloadable content package for Halo 2. It was released on April 25, 2005 for $4.99 and was made permanently free on June 28, 2005. The maps included in this Map Pack are:
Maptacular Pack is a downloadable content package for Halo 2. It was released on July 5, 2005 for $11.99 and was made permanently free on August 30, 2005. The maps included in this Map Pack are:
Blastacular Pack is a downloadable content package for Halo 2. It was released on April 17, 2007 for $4.00 and re-released as an updated package on May 7, 2007 (still for $4.00), as several glitches discovered in the included content had been fixed. Blastacular Pack was made permanently free on July 7, 2007 (Bungie Day). The maps included in this Map Pack are:
Exclusive to Halo 2 Vista are 2 new maps which are:
The damage system in Halo 2 is much different from what it was in Halo: Combat Evolved. The player has a regenerating shield and regenerating health.
There are two types of normal powerups available in Halo 2:
There are two volumes of the Halo 2 soundtrack, one released alongside the game, and the other released in Early 2006. You can usually find them at any retail store that sells music or games, or Ebay.
During the summer of 2004, the website ilovebees.com was used as a publicity site for Halo 2, with the site being pointed to by adverts for the game during movie trailers. Ostensibly a beekeeper's personal site, the server appeared to have been taken over by an unstable A.I. whose thoughts are scattered on the site.
In 2002, Bungie released the first glimpse of Halo 2 in a pre-rendered CG trailer. The trailer featured the Master Chief in his new MJOLNIR Mark VI Armor preparing for battle in a space station. Cortana is also heard and has dialogue with the Chief. It also featured Earth and CCS-class Battlecruisers in orbit. The UNSC seem to be losing in the battle. The events of this trailer were featured in the final version of Halo 2. Some of the events and dialogue of this trailer was changed to fit the finished storyline of the game. Most of this now appears in the Halo 2 level Cairo Station.
In 2003 at E3, Bungie released footage of a playable in-game demo of the Halo 2 campaign. The demo featured the battle on Earth in the city of New Mombasa. Master Chief, Cortana, Sergeant Johnson, Corporal Perez, Major Easley, and Sergeant Banks were all seen/heard in the demo. The demo showed off new features like Dual-Wielding (the Master Chief could actually keep both his dual-wielded weapons when he switched to his secondary sidearm; this was changed for the final product), Vehicle Damage, and Boarding. Three new vehicles shown were the Gauss Warthog, Shadow, and the Covenant Phantom, which at the time had only one plasma turret on its underside instead of three. Returning vehicles featured the Ghost, Pelican, Covenant Cruiser, and Longsword Fighters. New weapons the Battle Rifle, SMG, and Brute Shot were also shown, although the final Brute Shot design for Halo 2 was vastly different than what was shown in this trailer. New enemies such as the Brutes were shown in this demo, but as a secondary warrior race by the side of the Elites. The events of this demo were featured in the final version of Halo 2. Some of the events and dialog of this demo was changed to fit the finished storyline of the game, such as the AAA Gun becoming a Scarab. Most of this now appears in the Halo 2 level; Metropolis.
In 2004 at E3, Bungie released footage of a playable in game demo of the Halo 2 multiplayer. The demo featured the multiplayer map Zanzibar and displayed playable character models the Spartan model and the Elite model. It also showed off some of the weaponry of the game and some special features. The Battle Rifle, SMG, Needler, Rocket Launcher, and Energy Sword were displayed. The Gauss Warthog and the Ghost also made an appearance. Some features included the lock-on feature of the Rocket Launcher, the Dual-Wielding ability, Explosive Barrels, Ghost's boosting, vehicle boarding, Warthogs horn and Gauss Cannon and Sword Lunging. Afterward, fans were allowed to try out the demo.
Halo 2 shipped in two versions:
Halo 2 Regular Edition ($49.99 at launch, now $15.00)
Halo 2 Limited Collector's Edition ($54.99 at launch, now discontinued)
Halo 2 was very successful in sales. In company with PlayStation 2's hit of the year, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, it was the most sought-after video game among critics and gamers in 2004. Three weeks prior to launch, stores in the U.S. alone had pre-sold 1.5 million copies of the game to consumers. When it launched for the Xbox on the 9th of November, over 7000 video game, toy and electronics stores in the U.S. opened at midnight to welcome fanatical fans. Halo 2 instantly began to prosper. One national retailer sold 8,500 copies of the game in just 11 minutes, and another had sold 200,000 units by daybreak. One single store sold 500 Halo 2 units in three hours, 350 of them being sold between midnight and 1 a.m. Early on the launch day, Microsoft expected Halo 2 to generate more money in 24 hours on store shelves than any game had done before. Moore said “I'm calling a $100 million day on Halo today.” Halo 2 went on to be the success that Microsoft was anticipating, selling approximately 2.4 million copies in North America in 24 hours, generating $125 million. The video game software retailer GameStop sold more than half a million Halo 2 copies in one day. In Australia, where more than 42,000 gamers had pre-ordered the game prior to its release, Halo 2 shattered retail sales records by selling more than 104,000 units in no more than one week after launch, generating nine million dollars and beating the previous record holder by 38,000 copies. In Canada, Halo 2 succeeded in selling 222,000 units in its debut month, making it the biggest premiere month for any game up to Grand Theft Auto IV. Before its release in New Zealand, more than 8000 units of Halo 2 had been pre-sold. Three weeks after its release, Halo 2 had sold over 5 million copies, making it the second-best selling Xbox game, with approximately 19% of all Xbox owners possessing a copy of Halo 2. The game also had the most successful opening night of any game up until Halo 3, and, later, Grand Theft Auto 4. The game had a generally amazing reception, gaining a 9.7 out of 10 from OXM (10 out of 10 from its Australian counterpart), a 9.8 out of 10 from IGN, a 10 out of 10 from Game Informer, a 9 out of 10 from Play Magazine, and a 5 out of 5 from X-Play. It gained more Game of The Year awards in 2004 than any other game that year. X-Play, in late 2006, included it as #3 in their top 4 greatest shooters of all time (#4 was Resistance, #2 Half-Life 2, and #1 was Gears of War). In early 2007, it made #8 on their top 10 Games of All Time countdown. The game had an average meta-score of 95 out of 100, making it the 3rd most critically acclaimed Xbox game, right behind Halo: Combat Evolved and the Grand Theft Auto Triple Pack. The games multiplayer was held to be one of the best of all time, staying consistently number 1 the most played Xbox Live title from November of 2004 up until November of 2006, when Gears of War released.
Generally, the game was positively received. Multiplayer especially was noted in being the best on Xbox Live at the time. Game Informer, along with numerous other publications, rated it lower than Halo: Combat Evolved, citing enhanced multiplayer and more repetitive gameplay. Halo 2 received multiple awards, including Best Console game of the month.
Most critics noted that Halo 2 stuck with the formula that made its predecessor successful, and was alternatively praised and faulted for this decision. Edge noted in its review, “It's fitting that we're able to steal a line from the script to sum everything up. No spoilers here, just an epitaph, from the moment Cortana turns to Master Chief and says this: 'It’s not an original plan. But we know it’ll work.'" According to Xbox.com, the game has received more than 38 individual awards. The game's campaign mode has received some criticism for being too short, in addition to some dissatisfaction with the abrupt, cliffhanger ending that sets up the sequel, Halo 3. GameSpot noted that the story switching between the Covenant and Human factions made the plot more intricate, but also distracted the player from Earth's survival and the main point of the game. There is also some criticism of the game's on-the-fly streaming and level of detail adjustment, which can sometimes result in textures loading erroneously and "popping in" when the camera changes in cutscenes. Bungie has stated that this issue has been fixed for Halo 3 and the Windows Vista port.
In an interview with Edge magazine in January 2007, Jamie Greisemer, one of Halo's design leads, said that the main reason for Halo 2's shortcomings was a lack of "polish" period near the end of the development cycle. Staff member Frank O’Connor admitted the cliffhanger ending was abrupt, noting “we drove off Thelma & Louise style". Nonetheless, in the interview Greisemer promised that they would make Halo 3 a more than worthy successor.
Halo 2 was released November 9, 2004. The game was one of the most highly anticipated games on the Xbox and went on to sell more than the original. On the morning of October 14, a leak of the French version of the game was posted on the Internet, and circulated widely. Microsoft, the parent company of Bungie, tried to contain the spread, and pledged to bring legal action against anyone who spread the leaked version. Thanks to the hype, Halo 2 sold one of the most copies of any games of all time.
Regardless, Microsoft later touted that there were 1.5 million pre-orders for Halo 2 in the United States alone and that this guaranteed it to have the largest first-day revenue of any game or movie ever. The game sold 2.4 million copies and earned up to $125 million US in its first 24 hours on store shelves. As of March 2006, the game has sold over eight million copies worldwide.
Halo 2 greatly expanded the plot introduced in Halo: Combat Evolved, and many themes and parallels to the real world can be drawn.
Dealing with the consequences of society and government within the Covenant world, Halo 2 shows that technology alone cannot win wars. Covenant society is deeply troubled with a corrupt government of Prophets who know more than they tell and order an act of genocide against their long-loyal Elites. While the Covenant is far more technologically advanced than humans, their society is divided and races do not get along. The humans are shown as more united and exhibit more teamwork while attempting to stop the Covenant, despite being outnumbered and out-gunned. Playing as the Arbiter, the player only fights other Covenant, making it apparent that their forces are not all focused on the humans and their civil war and disorganization makes them a weaker force, despite greater firepower. The Flood is mostly a primitive race but is still able to infiltrate High Charity and Cortana is still able to hack into their system because the Covenant never created a solid foundation and underestimated their enemies. The game shows that the power of determination is more powerful than that of technology. This is evident in both Master Chief's plot line as well as the Arbiter's, who manages to survive because he constantly focuses on his objective. He tells Tartarus that the Index is his only goal when he asks if he would seek revenge against the Master Chief.
The game also has element of a monomyth, a common structure in many stories of adventure. Halo 2 begins with Master Chief being awoken and called for combat while the Arbiter is spared and is given the choice to become a martyr. The Arbiter is put through a series of trials which he is expected to fail; when he doesn't, he realizes that the Prophets have turned against him and learns where his true alliances lie, becoming a central role in the Covenant Civil War. These events fit into the description of the first half of a typical monomyth.
|Halo Trilogy||Halo: Combat Evolved • Halo 2 • Halo 3|
|Other Halo Games||Halo Wars • Halo 3: ODST • Halo: Reach|
|PC/Mac||Halo PC • Halo 2 Vista|
|Cancelled Titles||Halo Chronicles • Halo MMO • Halo DS|