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Highly anticipated game blows away predecessor, competition

Sarah Vabulas and Mark Bemenderfer | Monday, November 15, 2004

Sarah: Nov. 2 may have been an important day in United States history, but Nov. 9 was a day many people were much more excited about . True video game fanatics looked forward to the latter date for months.”Halo 2,” the sequel to Microsoft’s most popular game “Halo,” hit the public market last week. While many diehard fans obtained bootleg copies in all different languages or simply ordered off eBay, the diehard fan waited until the release date, even arriving at midnight at stores across the country, only to find themselves up all night playing the best video game for the Xbox console.If you own an Xbox, you must own this game. It’s that simple. While adding Xbox Live to the list of things you must have is not necessary, it is a feature that furthers this game beyond a gamer’s wildest dreams. Having the ability to play fellow fans across the globe in combat or “King of the Hill” or “Capture the Flag” is a rush that cannot be duplicated. After playing matchmade games – the typical killing – gamers can even go online to bungie.com and look at their world rank, something which could drive the fanatic insane in efforts to be ranked.”Halo 2″ is sold in two versions – the standard edition and Limited Collector’s Editor for the dedicated fans for a mere $5 more. This version includes an extra disc, packed with bonus content in a sturdy, silver metal box.Campaign mode has been revamped and starts out significantly more difficult than in the original “Halo.” It is much more exciting and challenging. “Halo 2” even has a strategy book available to give tips and help guide the Master Chief through the ships and terrain to achieve his goal.While campaign mode is amazing to play by oneself, “Halo” was most popular for the multiplayer mode, which in “Halo 2” is worth even more excitement and glory. There are more maps to play and more weapons, making this multiplayer experience incredible. Who doesn’t want to go around killing their friends in a virtual world?It’s hard to even begin to explain the fantastic differences between “Halo” and “Halo 2” because they are so many. “Halo 2″ gives the player the ability to jack someone’s ride. Whether it’s a Banshee that’s flying too low, a Ghost, the powerful Scorpion Tank or Covenant Wraith, if you can get close enough, you can steal the vehicle.”Halo 2” adds new weapons and the Chief’s ability – yes, that’s right – to double-fist. The left and right triggers fire independently, but you lose the ability to throw grenades.While there are some glitches in the video, the audio has none. While the multiplayer mode is the favorite of this game, the sound is actually the best addition to “Halo 2.” Not only is this a brilliant use of 5.1 Dolby Digital – with true directional sound, best illustrated by the pinging of bullets ricocheting off walls behind you – but the score is phenomenal and can be bought on a separate soundtrack.So if you do not have this game yet, get it. It’s the best video game to play alone, with friends or online. “Halo 2” is all-around incredible.

Mark: One hundred twenty-five million dollars. That is how much “Halo 2” earned in the first 24 hours after it was released. That roughly translates into “Halo 2” pulling in around 5 million every hour. After 2 years of waiting and an incredible amount of hype, it is finally here. The question is, is it worth it?The answer is a resounding yes. The game is quite literally jaw-dropping, both in graphics and game play. Encountering the towering Covenant Scarab tank, and subsequently taking it down is an experience never before seen in a video game. It looks and feels like it was pulled straight from a movie.The single-player campaign is filled with moments that could have been lifted straight from a Hollywood blockbuster. The scale of the war is vast. Seeing numerous enemy tanks and vehicles fighting with opposing forces is quite common. The original “Halo” was known for its huge levels, and varied enemies. The sequel takes both of those traits and doubles them in volume and quality.However, “Halo 2” shines the most with its multiplayer mode, where the original left its mark on the gaming world. The multiplayer has all the features of the previous game and then some. The appreciated cooperative mode has made a return, making the higher difficulties accessible to all. The death match mode has returned with a vengeance. New to “Halo 2” is the dual weapon feature, which allows the player to carry two smaller weapons simultaneously. This feature is both welcome and intuitive, allowing new and returning players to adopt the new style of play with little discomfort.The balance in game play is apparent to fans of the series, and should make it easier for newcomers to jump into the fray. The maps now lack noticeable “camp” spots, or places where a solitary individual can ambush anyone easily. Certain weapons have been toned down or improved to provide a more balanced, fair game for everyone.An improved melee system has also been implemented. It is also one of the more significant changes from the original, so returning fans may find it one of the more difficult features to become acclimated to. However, once they do, they will find it easier than the original, not to mention that the new plasma sword makes mastering melee combat attacks vitally important. Another new aspect of the game is the destroyable vehicles. If the vehicle a player is riding in starts taking a beating from enemy fire, it will explode. This leads to some truly exhilarating moments as you try to narrowly escape death while leaping out of an exploding vehicle.One of the few things that detract from the “Halo 2” multiplayer experience is that the entire collections of weapons playable in the single player mode is not available here. Every weapon that was in the single player campaign in the original “Halo” could be used in the multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here in the sequel. Several weapons and vehicles are not included in the multiplayer. This was probably implemented to balance the combat scenarios; however, this is still somewhat disappointing.The phrase “If you buy only one game this year” has become clichéd, and overused. However, when it comes to “Halo 2,” it cannot be more highly appropriate. This is the game that will appeal to just about everyone and will impress both first-timers and long-time “Halo” fans alike.With the exception of people who have a complete and utter dislike for first-person shooters, there is no other game that comes more highly recommended than “Halo 2.”