- “Earth will never be the same.”— Halo 2 tagline.
Halo 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie Studios for the Xbox video game console and is forward-compatible with the Xbox 360. It is the second installment of the Halo trilogy and the sequel to Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 2 features a newly-built graphics engine with the addition of new elements to the game. Halo 2 was one of the most successful and actively played video games for the original Xbox console, with 8.46 million copies sold as of November 2008. The game's online servers were discontinued on April 15, 2010, when the original Xbox Live services were shut down.
The game begins on High Charity, the mobile capital city of the Covenant. The former Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice, Commander Thel 'Vadamee, is being tried before the High Council for his failure to protect Halo. Despite his insistence that the Flood hampered his abilities, the Hierarchs who lead the council, the High Prophets of Truth, Mercy, and Regret, deem him guilty of failing to protect the Sacred Ring. 'Vadamee is then stripped of his rank and branded with the Mark of Shame by Tartarus, the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae.
The story then turns to Earth's Orbital Defense Platform Cairo Station, where Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 receives the new MJOLNIR Mark VI armor from the Master Gunnery Sergeant. Avery Johnson, recently promoted to Sergeant Major, arrives to take John-117 to an awards ceremony overseen by Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood 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 John-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 station back into space (destroying several ships) he landed on the UNSC In Amber Clad 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 Miranda Keyes, Captain Keyes' daughter, and her detachment in pursuit on the UNSC In Amber Clad. The hasty in-atmosphere jump devastates the city of New Mombasa; destroying the Space elevator and scattering its wreckage for miles around.
The story then turns back to the disgraced Sangheili Commander, Thel 'Vadamee, who is given the chance of redemption by the High Prophets of Truth and Mercy in 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 343 Guilty Spark, whom both Sangheili consider to be an Oracle of the Forerunners, the ancient race the Covenant hold as gods. 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 John-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; John-117 is dropped onto the surface of Installation 05 with ODSTs to remove Regret. In the course of pursuing Regret, John-117 discovers with the aid of Cortana that the Prophet intends to personally activate Halo, in the belief that it will propel true believers on the Great Journey. Keyes decides that the new revelation about Regret's intentions warrants his death, which John-117 successfully achieves. But before being able to make his escape, the Covenant and High Charity, which has just arrived, attempt to kill John-117 by glassing the area, and he jumps into the lake surrounding Regret's location. Incapacitated from the shock of the Covenant bombardment, John-117 is last seen being dragged into the depths of the lake by the tentacles of the Gravemind, an ancient and highly intelligent Flood form.
The story now shifts back to Thel 'Vadamee on High Charity, in orbit around the ring. The Hierarchs had declared Regret's death to be the Sangheili's failure, and they were removed as the protectors of the Prophets, who bestow the role to the Jiralhanae, causing more tension between the Jiralhanae and Sangheili who are already at odds with each other. With the new ring discovered, Truth and Mercy inquire Guilty Spark on how to activate it, and dispatch Thel 'Vadamee to recover the Sacred Icon which will light the ring. 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 Sangheili. His treachery revealed, Tartarus knocks Thel 'Vadamee unconscious down a shaft in the Index chamber to the abyss below.
Beneath the Library, John-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 John-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 John-117 and the Gravemind itself, as they both try to convince the Sangheili 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 Sangheili lead Thel 'Vadamee reluctantly joining John-117 in the mission to stop the ring from being activated. The Gravemind sends both the John-117 and Thel 'Vadamee to different locations to help stop the Index from reaching its destination. John-117 was sent to High Charity to retrieve the Index while Thel 'Vadamee was sent to the Control Room of Installation 05 to halt the Covenant from activating the rings.
John-117 then enters in the middle of Truth's broadcast. The Prophet, after escaping assassination, flees to the Dreadnought, chased all the way. John witnesses the conflict between the Sangheili and Jiralhanae, and saves a few Marines along the way. Meanwhile, the Flood, under the control of the Gravemind, crash into High Charity using the UNSC In Amber Clad. John witnesses Truth's escape on a Phantom, and Mercy infected by the Flood; the Prophet tells the Spartan that Truth is going to Earth to "finish what we started." After boarding the Dreadnought through an energy conduit, he leaves Cortana behind, but promises that he will come back for her.
Meanwhile, Thel 'Vadamee is teleported close to Halo's control room. There, he finds many dead Sangheili, which were killed by the Jiralhanae. With the help of a few deployed Sangheili, and sympathetic Unggoy and Mgalekgolo, he fights his way to meet Rtas 'Vadumee, who is surprised to hear that the Jiralhanae murdered the Sangheili High Councilors. They fight their way to a Scarab, controlled by Sergeant Johnson, who forcefully initiates an uneasy alliance between the humans and the Sangheili. Through the combined efforts of Johnson and 'Vadamee, they successfully breach the Control Room doors, 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. Still blinded by faith, Tartarus forced Miranda Keyes to activate Halo. Many Zealots and High Councilors fought with 'Vadamee in his final fight against Tartarus, and eventually managed to kill him. Once Tartarus is defeated, Miranda grabs the Index just in time to stop Halo from firing. However, 343 Guilty Spark says that this has activated a failsafe protocol, causing the Installation to send a signal to the rest of the Halo Array, putting all the Halos on standby for remote activation from the Ark.
The Forerunner dreadnought arrives at Earth with John-117 on board. He alerts Admiral Hood of his presence, and tells him that he is "finishing this fight."
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.
The defeat of the Covenant in the first Halo game was only a temporary victory, as the alien attackers have renewed their mission to wipe out all of humanity. Despite the human military force's and John-117's efforts, the Covenant have breached the Earth's defenses and have left its inhabitants in a dismal situation. In the midst of desperation, players assume the role of Master Chief and lead the resistance against the Covenant to save the people of Earth from a gruesome demise.
Halo 2 features an immense and epic single player mode, as the story picks up shortly after the ending of the first game. The story delves 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. Halo 2 also introduces the Jiralhanae, they are shown in-campaign as large, hairy, ape-like beasts; although they do not sport Energy Shields like the Sangheili, their immense bulk and strength still yield them as formidable foes.
In addition to the single player mode, Halo 2 also features a redesigned multiplayer mode. While the first game limited players to LAN connectivity, Halo 2 takes multiplayer online by way of Xbox Live. 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. The player will play as both John-117 and a new character, a troubled Covenant Sangheili named Thel Vadamee, but known only as The Arbiter in game. 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 or, in the case of tanks, punching the driver to death to claim the vehicle, or shoving a grenade into the cockpit to destroy it outright. The same can be done by an enemy to the player when driving.
When playing as the Arbiter, the player's flashlight is replaced with a rechargeable Active camouflage that lasts for ten seconds, giving the player a preemptive advantage on unsuspecting enemies.
The player can have a variety of allies; if they are playing as John-117, they will be assisted by UNSC Marines, and occasionally ODSTs. However, the Arbiter is joined by Unggoy, Kig-Yar, Mgalekgolo, and other Sangheili, allowing for deeper insight into Covenant culture.
The campaign consists of 15 levels, 14 of which are playable.
|The Heretic||"For failure such as this, no punishment is too great." (cutscene)|
|The Armory||"Suit up, prepare for battle." (tutorial)|
|Cairo Station||"Defend the station's MAC gun from Covenant boarders."|
|Outskirts||"Rally scattered marines, clear hostile contacts from the old-city."|
|Metropolis||"Take the bridge, break the Covenant's grip on the city-center."|
|The Arbiter||"Infiltrate a Forerunner facility, quell the heresy within."|
|The Oracle||"Kill the Heretic Leader. The Prophets' will be done."|
|Delta Halo||"A Covenant army stands between you and Regret. Get to work."|
|Regret||"You heard the lady. Locate the Prophet, take him down."|
|Sacred Icon||"Succeed where others have failed. Lower the shield protecting the Sacred Icon."|
|Quarantine Zone||"Parasites, humans - no matter. The Icon must be found."|
|Gravemind||"The Prophets have the Index and plan to use it? Over your dead body."|
|Uprising||"This is certain: The Brutes shall pay for the blood they have spilled."|
|High Charity||"Cortana can handle the Index - stopping Truth is up to you."|
|The Great Journey||"Form an unexpected alliance, keep Tartarus from activating the ring."|
Unlike its predecessor, Halo 2 allowed players to compete with each other over the Xbox Live online service, in addition to the original's support for split-screen and System Link multiplayer. Halo 2's Xbox Live mode offered 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 used 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.
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 by skill level, which produces notably balanced matches that players often consider fair and 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.
On April 15, 2010, the Halo 2 multiplayer services, along with all other original Xbox Live services, were discontinued. However, 12 players were able to keep Halo 2's multiplayer services online until May 10, 2010, by leaving their consoles on, and connected to the service, and were offered access to the Halo: Reach beta by Microsoft.
Big Team Battle
Player Damage System
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.
- Energy Shields: The shield in Halo 2 is stronger than it was in Halo: Combat Evolved, also recharges at a higher rate. It slowly decreases in power as it sustains damage. After it takes damage, it starts to recharge 2–5 seconds after the last time damage was sustained. It will stop during recharge if the player is hurt during that period. The power is displayed above the motion tracker in the bottom-left of the screen.
- Health: In Halo 2, once the shields run out, the player also has a buffer of health. Unlike Halo: Combat Evolved, the health in Halo 2 regenerates after the shield. The amount of health left is not visible to the player. Bungie's explanation for this new system is the addition of a biofoam dispenser in the armor (so health regenerates after time).
There are two types of normal powerups available in Halo 2:
- Overshield: An enhanced, non-regenerating shield which adds an additional two layers to your shield (red, then green). The Overshield functions on top of the regular shield - when it is active, the normal shield does not take damage. However, the Overshield will gradually reduce in power until it is gone, at which point the player's normal shields will be vulnerable to damage. Unlike Halo: Combat Evolved, the Overshield powerup is not available in the single player campaign.
- Active camouflage: A powerup that makes the player almost completely invisible for a period of time, making all but a faint outline of him transparent. This effect is reduced if the player is hit by weapons fire, if he or she fires a weapon or throws a grenade, or in some cases if he or she switches weapons. In campaign mode, Active camouflage is only available in levels in which you play as the Arbiter. However, note that the Energy Sword will give away the user's position, as while the player is invisible, the sword is not.
Note: If the Overshield technology and the Active camouflage are used in conjunction the Active camouflage is not sophisticated enough to hide the enhanced over shields.
- Main article: Weapon
United Nations Space Command Standard
- Main article: Vehicles
Halo 2: Original Soundtrack
- Main article: Halo 2: Original Soundtrack
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.
|Features||Standard||Classics||Best of Classics||Platinum Hits||Limited Collector's|
|Image of contents|
|Limited Edition manual||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Commemorative box art||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Conversations from the Universe||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Behind the Scenes disk||No||No||No||No||Yes|
The standard edition of the game includes the disk and manual, and has remained unchanged since the game's release. This edition has ceased production, along with the original Xbox itself.
As it was one of the most renowned games for the original Xbox, Halo 2 received an Xbox Classics edition. This edition featured all the content of the standard edition, but at a lower price, and with different, commemorative box art. This edition is no longer produced.
Best of Classics Edition
Even among other Xbox Classics games, Halo 2 had a massive amount more sales than most games - 3 million more than the next highest, Halo: Combat Evolved. Therefore, it also received a Best of Xbox Classics edition. This edition is identical to the Xbox Classics edition, but with different box art. Along with all other editions of the game, the Best of Classics edition was discontinued with the Xbox's replacement with the Xbox 360.
Platinum Hits Edition
Its record-breaking sales also earned Halo 2 a Platinum Hits edition, which contained the same content as the standard edition but with a grey plastic case (rather than green) and commemorative box art. This edition is no longer being produced.
Limited Collector's Edition
- Main article: Halo 2 Limited Collector's Edition
The limited edition of Halo 2 was available for pre-order before the game's release. This Limited Collector's edition was produced in limited numbers, and contained additional content, such as a steelbook case, limited edition manual, Conversations from the Universe booklet and Behind the Scenes DVD. This edition stopped production upon the game's release.
An early script is known to exist and was briefly seen in the Behind the Scenes DVD. Marty O'Donnell was also quoted in a Bungie Podcast (Episode 13, at 21:00) saying that all the actors had recorded the lines to the original Halo 2 ending and that it still exists today, but he will never show it.
With the development of Halo 2, many things had to be cut out. Halo 2 has the most content either cut from the game entirely or redesigned completely as evidenced in many forms of media. At least a third of the game was cut out.
The following is known cut content from the game:
- Multiple levels were cut, including:
- Covenant Ship (which would've taken place between Cairo Station and Outskirts)
- Forerunner Tank (which would've taken place between Quarantine Zone and Gravemind)
- Sentinel Headquarters
- Forerunner Keyship (which would've taken place after The Great Journey)
- In the "Making of Halo 2" documentary there was concept art seen regarding a level location the Ark, although the design was later placed into Halo 3's The Storm as the Portal. The former could have been a part of pre-production for Halo 3.
- Multiple vehicles were cut, including:
- Several kinds of Warthogs including an Arctic model (which was included in the Halo 3 DLC multiplayer map Avalanche), a transport vehicle and a small ATV (known as the Mongoose in Halo 3) would make an appearance. These were all cut from the final version of the game. However, in Halo: Custom Edition, fans created the arctic and transport warthogs, as well as the civilian Warthog featured in the multi-player map Headlong. A rocket Warthog was included in Halo PC and the ATV and variations of the Warthog appear in Halo 3.
- The Kestrel
- The Strike Fighter
- The Doozy
- Multiple species were ultimately cut, including:
- Some Flood forms were cut, including:
- Sprint was originally to be usable. There were some animations left over in the game files.
Marketing Promotions and Release
I Love Bees
- Main article: I Love Bees
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 John-117 in his new MJOLNIR Mark VI Armor preparing for battle in a space station. Cortana is also heard and has dialogue with John. 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.
At E3 2003, 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. John-117, Cortana, Sergeant Johnson, Corporal Perez, Major Easley, Gunnery Sergeant Stacker and Sergeant Banks were all seen/heard in the demo. The demo showed off new features like Dual-Wielding (John-117 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 Jiralhanae were shown in this demo, but as a secondary warrior race by the side of the Sangheili. 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 AA Gun becoming a Scarab. Most of this now appears in the Halo 2 level; Metropolis.
At E3 2004, 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 Sangheili 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.
Sales and Reception
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 2004 up until November 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 higher than Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 2 received multiple awards, including Best Console game of the month and in a GT Countdown Halo 2 was ranked number one in a countdown of the top ten multiplayer games.
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 had 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, 2004, 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. 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 Sangheili. 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 John-117.
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.
- The "rope" that Miranda Keyes uses to make it to the Index is a Flood tentacle tangled up in an Enforcer wreck, presumably the result of some previous battle between the two.
- Jason Jones is known for establishing the quote: "Halo 2 is a lot like Halo 1, only it's Halo 1 on fire, going 130 miles per hour through a hospital zone, being chased by helicopters and ninjas. And, the ninjas are all on fire, too." This led to the famous line of inside jokes, patches and T-shirts, user names, and memes of flaming ninjas.
- A song, known as "Remembrance" at the start up screen, (the unedited version found on the “Halo 2 Original Sound Track Volume 1") just happens to play for exactly 1:17 (John's service number) or 77 seconds.
- There are 21,090 lines of dialogue, most of them randomly triggered during combat.
- Halo 2 has been stated to be the reason that there is a limit to the number of friends on the friends list, and to get around that limit, Microsoft would have to end original Xbox Live compatibility.
- In the final days prior to the deactivation of Halo 2's multiplayer, Bungie added new sayings to the Did You Know? section of the lobby including messages of thanks to Halo 2 fans for staying supportive for the half decade that it was active and hints about Halo: Reach's gameplay. Many of these were worded in a humorous manner, though several were outright jokes.
- Halo 2 has been played for about 100 million hours on Xbox since its release.
- If you've played on this game with your current LIVE account before April 14, 2010, you will unlock the Halo 2 nameplate in Halo: Reach. This will automatically be unlocked on Day 1.
- Halo 2 was the first game in the franchise to use ragdoll physics.
- Halo 2 remains the only game in the Halo franchise to feature songs created by musical artists as part of its original soundtrack. (Artists featured include Breaking Benjamin, Hoobastank, and Incubus.)
- The credits of Halo 2 gave a special thanks to Nightmare Armor.
- The Limited Edition Collector's Disc of Halo 2 showed the Hummer, which was an early version of the Warthog.
- Halo 2 is the only Halo game in the series that does not feature an MA5 series weapon.
- Currently, Halo 2 is the only game featuring a song not made by 343i or Bungie. An instrumental version of "Blow Me Away" by Breaking Benjamin plays during the battle that takes place in the Mausoleum of the Arbiter during the 12th level, Gravemind.
- This is the first Halo game to feature boss battles.
- Remaking the Legend
- Youtube: Halo 2 - Cut Content - Sprint
- The History of Bungie, Page 8 Accessed 6-20-2007
- Gamespy's Halo 2: Everything We Know article
- Halo Dialogue Statistics, from the source - HBO, November 12, 2007
- Bungie.net: Express Yourself