Thankfully, Halo 2 is none of this. Beginning with presentation right down to the excellent single player campaign and better-than-advertised multiplayer, Halo 2 delivers one of the year’s best gaming experiences.
Halo was the measuring stick by which all Xbox games were compared. Now that Halo 2 is here, Halo can finally retire to a peaceful commune in Florida where it will enjoy a life of early bird specials and bingo. Halo 2 takes everything you’ve seen on the Xbox and amplifies it, making it not only one of the best looking games on the Xbox, but on any console. Character models are fantastic and show off loads more detail than in the original. Vehicles are equally impressive, and now show real-time damage as you use and abuse them during battle.
The drab, look-alike corridors of the original have been replaced with ruined temples, a massive cityscape, and the bowels of Covenant spaceships. Special effects are what really make the entire game shine -- in particular, the lighting effects from both ambient sources and gunfire (especially the Covenant firearms).
Visually, the game does suffer from a few minor annoyances, like obvious texture pop-up during certain cut-scenes and some gameplay moments. These problems are minor and really not worth worrying over.
Sound is another strong point of Halo 2. Voice work is some of the best around, and the music is top notch. After watching the “Making of...” feature on the special DVD that comes with the Collector’s Edition, its rather impressive to see that Bungie got some celebrities (albeit rather minor ones) to voice background characters in the game. I enjoyed the soundtrack so much that I even went on to try and get a copy of the soundtrack (hint, hint -- you know where to send it). It’s just that much fun to listen to. Gunfire and various other sound effects are right on the mark, rounding out an amazing experience.