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I will admit, I was a VERY late joiner into the world of Halo , but when I finally sat down and played it, I kicked myself for not doing so earlier. With the announcement of Halo 2 it seemed like my life would be complete. Sadly it ALMOST made it to greatness, but a few odd decisions by Bungie kept it from quite getting there.
Let me say first that the graphics are all top-notch and impressive as all get out. The AI seems bumped up a bit from Halo 1 and offers more of a challenge. Switching back and forth between master Chief and the Arbiter was a little awkward at first, but I eventually got into the idea. Sadly though, that seems to be the end of the positive improvements.
The dual gun system, while a cool idea, is strangely executed. I can understand not being able to throw grenades while I have two guns, but melee attack makes me drop the left gun? Huh? If you are going to give me two guns, why take one away so easily and in such a silly fashion?
While several new guns and vehicles are added, they seem to be there just to say they are there. Sure, some of them are a bit nifty such as the SMG auto pistol, however the Brute Gun, for the most part, is a waste of space. And a second version of the Plasma Rifle with a different overheat ratio? Yeah, that was worth the programming time.
I would have to say the biggest let down though?.we were promised Earth and yet only got a small taste of it. The Earth city levels are quite fun, but all too quickly we are whisked off to another Halo. From here on out it just feels too much like the first game with familiar landscapes, same old ring going over our head, Cortana still talking to us and so on. This just makes the game feel like ?Well, here we are again.?. Sure, a sequel should follow somewhat in the originals footsteps, copying this much makes you feel more like you are playing an expansion of the first game instead of a true follow up.
Speaking of the eventual sequel, the ending leaves a lot to be desired. You watch the cinema, which are all gorgeous by the way, and expect to launch into another battle, and instead you see credits. Not a good feeling.
Where the game does shine though is in the online portion. This alone is worth the entire price of admission. Multiple game styles, a fantastic matching system to keep you with players in your same skill range, smooth texturing and on and on and on. This is truly one of the most enjoyable online gaming experiences around. True, some of the vehicle fights can be a tad unbalanced (Banshee Vs. Wraith comes to mind?pity the Wraith), but overall it is a well balanced experience.
Overall I would have to say 4 out 5 stars. It would have reached 5 if it had been longer, stronger ending and been a bit more different from the original.