Game Day 1 – Halo 2: A Mastery of Chiefness

Welcome to Game Day! A weekly post about a game of my choosing. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a game to get you through the week. Now playing: Halo 2 Anniversary Edition. Hope you enjoy!

*There be gameplay spoilers ahead. But if you haven’t played this ten-year-old game yet, the blame is yours.*

If you are an Xbox owner, you have most likely played Halo. If not, bad Xbox-owner! You don’t deserve that console! It’s an insult to Microsoft itself if you haven’t played their money-making flagship of a game. And if you don’t mind insulting Microsoft, that’s fine too. Yolo.

If you’re not an Xbox owner, then I’m betting you have at least seen the Master Chief’s shiny image plastered on some promo at Walmart at one point in your life. If not, you might be a sheltered hermit. Please leave the house more. And wear sunscreen. (I suppose you could also be a non-gamer, in which case I am impressed that you are even reading this. May the random number generators be ever in your favor.)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection was released by publisher Microsoft Studios in November of 2014 as a collection of the original Halo trilogy for the Xbox One. It was developed by Bungie’s successor to the series, 343 Industries, and included both the remastered versions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, as well as the original Halo 3 and Halo 4 and a mix-’em-up grab bag of various online multiplayer maps from all the games. It was a great collection (bugs and glitches aside), but I will admit that I was hesitant in purchasing it. Call me a cheapskate, but I didn’t immediately see the reason for re-purchasing games that I already owned and had played in years past. Still, the allure of having these games on my shiny new Xbox One finally won me over, and so I shooed my husband out the door on Black Friday to go pick up the game.

While there are many things to do on the disc, I will be focusing on Halo 2 Anniversary Edition, which was new and unique to the collection, as well as being my least favorite Halo game. For reference, I played the campaign on co-op mode, which supports two players. Here’s my thoughts:

The Good:

The visuals, dear god, the visuals! When they say remastered, they meant it. The original Halo 2 looked like someone took the color wheel and deleted every color exept gray and brown. And in a time before detailed textures, this made the game look like it was vastly made of cardboard. Despite having played the old game several times, I rarely have any recollection of it’s battles or storyline. It wasn’t until playing the remastered version that I finally understood why: the original graphics were so poor that I never fully understood the dynamic of what was going on around me. The fine details of the story were lost in a sea of gray skies and brown walls. It was only when I could see the city skyscrapers and busy streets in the city-ship High Charity or notice the ships streaming from Earth that I really understood the story’s enormity.  My co-op partner and I spent a fair share of time just standing around, switching the graphics from old to new with our jaws on the floor. The remastered version also includes an audio overhaul too, upping the volume of the quite frankly fantastic soundtrack to where it needed to be.

Another great addition was new Skulls. Skulls act as game modifiers, doing anything from changing enemy behavior to making confetti pop out of an enemy’s head when you get a headshot. New skulls were added for the remaster, and I only wish they were included on the other games as well instead of just Halo 2. Some of my favorites are Boom (increased explosions), Pinata (enemies drop grenades when you punch them), and Grunt Funeral (Grunts explode after you kill them).

The Meh:

The gameplay itself is simply Halo. If you’ve played one Halo game, you’ve played them all. The Covenant take their normal roles: the Grunts’ heads pop, the Jackals hide, and the Elites are slippery bastards. Brutes and Flood also take the stage, although I miss their Halo 3 behaviors. Not that I was expecting much, so neither should you.

The Bad:

I must say that most of the qualms I have about this game come from the original design, not the remake. The remaster simply improved the way the game looked. Can’t fix what’s originally broken, I suppose. Or out-of date.

My first problem with the game occurred when I attempted to play campaign with more than 2 people. Unbeknownst to me and my friends, the co-op for Halo 2 only supports 2 players, as opposed to the more recent games’ four. This was a huge disappointment for us as the Halo campaigns are just more fun with more people. I remember being in a slight outrage about it, but looking at the game design, 343 was right to leave it as is. The levels are not big enough to support that many players, and having four Spartans running through the map would be no challenge at all.

My second gripe is with the guns. Yes, I know the guns are different in different games, but no assault rifle? You’re killing me, Bungie! I understand that we had the dual-wielding option and shiny new SMGs to make up for it, but it was sorely missed. I’m very glad that it made a comeback in later games. I missed it more than I should.

My third and most frustrating complaint occurs only in legendary mode, which is the highest difficulty of the game. In other games, playing co-op in legendary mode is the only way to do it. One person runs ahead and makes progress, while the other stays behind, serving as a mobile spawn point when the frontman inevitably dies in a bullet(plasma)storm. Unfortunately, that ability is gone in Halo 2 Anniversary. When one person dies, the mission starts over at the last checkpoint. And nothing annoys me more than having to start over with zero progress time and time again. My best friend and I attempted it and didn’t make it past the first mission. My husband and I finished mission one, but it took us a little over two hours of simply dying and restarting checkpoints, over and over and over…

My Take-away:

This game is good. If you’re a Halo fan, this game is great. The cutscenes will amaze you and seeing your favorite characters with glorious HD upgrades will blow your mind. The levels will astound you with a mix of new and nostalgia. You will never miss Johnson so much in your life, and Halo 4 will feel pretty sad in comparison. For a non-Halo player, you may not get the same rosy-cheeks, but it is the best looking original Halo out right now, and has a pretty decent stand-alone story. My recommendation? Play it through once.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sit over here in the corner and impatiently wait for Halo 3’s ten year anniversary and it’s inevitable remaster. Only two more years to go…

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