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Information about Halo 2Halo 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie Studios. Released for the Xbox video game console on Nov. 9, 2004 (13 years ago), the game is the second video game title in the Halo franchise and the sequel to 2001's critically-acclaimed Halo: Combat Evolved. A Windows Vista version of the game was released on May 17, 2007 (10 years ago), developed by an internal team at Microsoft Game Studios referred to as "Hired Gun". The game features a new game engine, as well as using the Havok physics engine; added weapons and vehicles, and new multiplayer maps. The player alternatively assumes the roles of the human Master Chief and alien the Arbiter in a 26th century conflict between the human UNSC and genocidal Covenant. Players fight enemies on foot, or with a collection of alien and human vehicles.
After its initial release, Halo 2 was the most popular video game on Xbox Live, holding that rank until the release of Gears of War (10 walls) for the Xbox 360 nearly two years later. By Jun. 20, 2006 (11 years ago), more than 500 million games of Halo 2 had been played and more than 710 million hours have been spent playing it on Xbox Live; by May 9, 2007 (10 years ago), this number had risen to more than five million unique players on Xbox Live As of Nov. 2008 (9 years ago), Halo 2 is the best-selling first-generation Xbox game with 8.46 million copies sold worldwide, with at least 6.3 million copies sold in the US alone. Critical reception of the game was generally positive, with most publications lauding the strong multiplayer component; at the same time, the campaign was the focus of criticism for its cliffhanger ending.
GameplayHalo 2 is a story-driven action-shooter game with a first-person perspective. The game features an expanded range of vehicles, as well as other gameplay changes compared to its predecessor. The original Halo featured separate health and shield bars. In Halo 2, the health bar is no longer visible; instead, the player's shield regenerates quickly when the player is not taking damage.
Certain weapons can be dual-wielded, allowing the player to trade accuracy, the use of grenades and melee attacks for raw firepower. The player can carry two weapons at a time (or three if dual-wielding; one weapon remains holstered), with each weapon having advantages and disadvantages in different combat situations. For example, most Covenant weapons eschew disposable ammo clips for a contained battery, which cannot be replaced if depleted. However, these weapons can overheat if fired continuously for prolonged periods. Human weapons are less effective at penetrating shields and require reloading, but cannot overheat due to prolonged fire. The player can carry a total of eight grenades to dislodge and disrupt enemies. A new ability found in Halo 2 is the ability to board enemy vehicles that are near the player and traveling at low speeds. The player or AI latches onto the vehicle and forcibly ejects the other driver from the vehicle.
CampaignThe game's "Campaign" mode offers options for both single-player and cooperative multiplayer participation. In campaign mode, the player must complete a series of levels that encompass Halo 2's storyline. These levels alternate between the Master Chief and a Covenant Elite called the Arbiter, who occupy diametrically opposed roles in the story's conflict. Aside from variations in storyline, the Arbiter differs from Master Chief only in that his armor lacks a flashlight; instead, it is equipped with a short duration rechargeable form of active camouflage that disappears when the player attacks or takes damage.
There are four levels of difficulty in campaign mode: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. An increase in difficulty will result in an increase in the number, rank, health, damage, and accuracy of enemies; a reduction of duration and an increase in recharge time for the Arbiter's active camouflage; a decrease in the player's health and shields; and occasional changes in dialogue.
There is hidden content within the game, including easter eggs, messages, hidden objects, and weapons. The most well-known of the hidden content are the skulls hidden on every level. The skulls, which can be picked up like a weapon, are located in hard-to-reach places. Many are exclusive to the Legendary mode of difficulty. Once activated, each skull has a specific effect on gameplay. For example, the "Sputnik" skull found on the Quarantine Zone level alters the mass of objects in the game; thus resulting in explosions being able to launch these objects across larger distances. Skull effects can be combined to provide various new levels of difficulty and/or novelty.
MultiplayerUnlike its predecessor, Halo 2 allows players to compete with each other via Xbox Live, in addition to support for split-screen and system link multiplayer. Halo 2's multiplayer mode offers changes from earlier online first-person shooters. Traditionally, one player sets his or her computer or console up as a game server or host, specifying the game type, map, and configuring other settings. The game software then uses a service such as 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, however, Xbox Live players do not choose to host public games, and they do not specify individual maps and options to search for. Instead, players select playlists that are geared to different styles of play. For fairness and balance reasons, certain gameplay aspects from the campaign mode are disabled or missing in multiplayer; for example, the Fuel Rod weapon is missing from vehicles and maps.
Technical lead designer, Chris Butcher, commented on the development of Halo 2's multiplayer in Edge, a British gaming magazine, in Jan. 2007 (10 years ago). Responding to a rash of subsequent news articles, Butcher clarified his position on Halo 2 multiplayer. He noted his original intent with the game, but he also reiterated disappointment. "For Halo 2 we had our sights set very high on networking," Butcher said. "We thought about the great LAN parties you can have with Halo 1 and decided to try [to] recreate that awesome experience of having all your buddies over to play, but using Xbox Live instead of having to lug consoles and TVs around. Going from having no Internet multiplayer to developing a completely new online model was a big challenge to tackle all at once, and as a result we had to leave a lot of things undone in order to meet the ship date commitment that we made to our fans."
PlotTaking place shortly after the events of the novel Halo: First Strike, Halo 2 opens with the trial of an Elite commander aboard the Covenant's mobile city of High Charity. The Elite is stripped of his rank and branded a heretic for failing to stop the humans from destroying Halo. It is revealed that the Covenant's interest in Halo lies in the religious belief that the activation of the rings would bring about a "Great Journey", sweeping loyal Covenant to salvation. At the same time as the Elite Commander is tortured by Tartarus, the Chieftain of the Brutes, the Master Chief and Sergeant Avery Johnson are commended for their actions at Halo during a recognition ceremony aboard a coilgun platform orbiting Earth. Lord Hood awards the soldiers alongside Commander Miranda Keyes, who accepts a medal on behalf of her deceased father, Captain Jacob Keyes.
Shortly after the commencement of the ceremony, a Covenant fleet appears outside Earth's defensive perimeter. While the UNSC manages to repel most of the surprisingly small fleet, a single Covenant cruiser carrying an important member of the Covenant hierarchy, the High Prophet of Regret, flies through the orbital platforms to the city of New Mombasa, Kenya. The Master Chief clears the city of Covenant; with his fleet destroyed, Regret makes a hasty slipspace jump, and Keyes, Johnson, Cortana and the Master Chief follow aboard the ship In Amber Clad just as the slipspace rupture destroys much of the city. The crew exits slipspace to discover another Halo installation; realizing the danger the ring presents, the Master Chief is sent to kill Regret while Keyes and Johnson find Halo's key to activation, the Index.
Meanwhile, the disgraced Covenant commander is presented before the Prophet Hierarchs, who acknowledge that though the destruction of Halo was his fault, he is no heretic. The Prophets offer him the honored position of Arbiter so that he can continue to fight. On his first mission to kill a heretic, the Arbiter discovers 343 Guilty Spark, who the Covenant view as "oracles". Responding to Regret's distress call, High Charity and the Covenant fleet arrive at the new Halo, Installation 05, but not before Master Chief kills the Prophet. Bombarded from space, the Chief falls into a lake and is rescued by a mysterious tentacled creature.
The death of Regret sows seeds of discord among the races of the Covenant, as the Brutes are given the Elite's traditional job of protecting the Hierarchs. The Arbiter is sent to find Halo's Index and captures Johnson and Keyes before being confronted by Tartarus. The Brute reveals that the Prophets have ordered the annihilation of the Elites, and sends the Arbiter falling down a deep chasm. The Arbiter is saved by the tentacled creature and meets the Master Chief in the bowels of the installation. The creature, Gravemind, is the leader of the Flood on Installation 05. Gravemind reveals to the Arbiter that the Great Journey would destroy Flood, humans, and Covenant together. Gravemind sends the Arbiter and Master Chief to different places to stop Halo's activation. The Master Chief is teleported to High Charity, where a civil war has broken out among the Covenant; In Amber Clad crashes into the city, and Cortana realizes that Gravemind used them as a distraction to infest In Amber Clad and spread the Flood. As the parasite overruns the city, the Master Chief follows the Prophet of Truth aboard a Forerunner ship leaving the city; Cortana remains behind to destroy High Charity and Halo if Tartarus succeeds in activating the ring.
The Arbiter is sent to the surface of Halo, where he rallies his allies to assault the Brute's position. With the help of Johnson, he confronts Tartarus in Halo's control room. When the Arbiter tries to convince Tartarus that the Prophets have betrayed them both, Tartarus angrily activates the ring, and a battle ensues. The Arbiter and Johnson manage to kill Tartarus while Keyes removes the Index. Instead of shutting down the ring entirely, the unexpected shutdown of the ring triggers a system-wide failsafe, putting Installation 05 and all the other rings on standby for activation from a remote location, which Guilty Spark refers to as "the Ark". As Truth's ship arrives amidst a raging battle on Earth, Hood asks the Master Chief what he is doing aboard the ship. The Chief replies he is "finishing this fight". In a post-credits scene, Gravemind is seen arriving on High Charity, where Cortana agrees to answer the Flood intelligence's questions.
DevelopmentThe story for Halo 2 grew out of all the elements that were not seen in Halo: Combat Evolved. Jason Jones organized his core ideas for the sequel's story and then approached Bungie's director of cinematics, Joseph Staten for input. According to Staten, one scene that did not make it to the finished game was a horrible scene of betrayal where Miranda Keyes straps a bomb to the Master Chief's back and throws him into a hole; "Jason was going through a rather difficult breakup at the time and I think that had something to do with it," he said.
Halo 2 was officially announced in sep. 2002 (15 years ago) with a cinematic trailer. The trailer was subsequently packaged with later Halo: Combat Evolved DVDs. A real-time gameplay video was shown at E3 2003 (14 years ago), which was the first actual gameplay seen by the public; it showcased new features such as dual-wielding and improved graphics. Bungie informed the public on development with weekly Halo 2 development updates which started on Jan. 16, 2004 (13 years ago) and ended Jun. 25, 2004; the weekly updates became standard on the Bungie website even after the release of Halo 2. With only a year to go until release, Bungie went into the "mother of all crunches" in order to finish the game. The cliffhanger ending of the game was not originally intended, and resulted from the frenzy to ship on time.
AudioHalo 2's soundtrack was composed primarily by Martin O'Donnell and his musical partner Michael Salvatori, the team that had previously composed the critically-acclaimed music of Halo. O'Donnell noted in composing the music for Halo 2 that "Making a sequel is never a simple proposition. You want to make everything that was cool even better, and leave out all the stuff that was weak." O'Donnell made sure that no part of the game would be completely silent, noting "Ambient sound is one of the main ways to immerse people psychologically. A dark room is spooky, but add a creaking floorboard and rats skittering in the walls and it becomes really creepy. " Halo 2, unlike its predecessor, was mixed to take full advantage of Dolby 5.1 Digital surround sound.
In the summer of 2004 (13 years ago), Producer Nile Rodgers and O’Donnell decided to release the music from Halo 2 on two separate CDs; the first (Volume One) would contain all the themes present in the game as well as music “inspired" by the game; the second would contain the rest of the music from the game, much of which was incomplete, as the first CD was shipped before the game was released. The first CD was released on Nov. 9, 2004 (13 years ago), and featured guitar backing by Steve Vai. Additional tracks included various outside musicians, including Joe Satriani, Incubus, Breaking Benjamin, and Hoobastank. The Halo 2 Original Soundtrack: Volume Two CD, containing the game music organized in suite form, was released on Apr. 25, 2006 (11 years ago).
ReceptionHalo 2 was well-received by critics. The game has a 95% average critic score on review aggregate sites Metacritic and Game Rankings.
Many reviewers praised the audio for being especially vivid. Multiplayer especially was noted in being the best on Xbox Live at the time. Game Informer, along with numerous other publications, rated it higher than Halo: Combat Evolved, citing enhanced multiplayer and less repetitive gameplay, however on one occasion Halo 2 was beaten by its predecessor in IGN's Top 25 Xbox Games of All Time where Halo: Combat Evolved secured #1 with Halo 2 following in #2. Halo 2 received multiple awards, including Best Console game and Best Sound Design from the Interactive Achievement Awards. 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 a new 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 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 (14 walls) and the Windows Vista port.
In an interview with Edge magazine in Jan. 2007 (10 years ago), Jamie Griesemer, 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 Griesemer promised that they would make Halo 3 (14 walls) a more than worthy successor.
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