It’s a Mystery to Me
There are a lot of things in life that I just don’t get. The appeal of gangsta rap. Security moms who voted for Bush. SUVs. And, of course, the spork.
Now you can add Halo 2 to the above list. The Xbox shooter is currently being praised to the videogaming gods as the new next-best thing. And I just don’t see it. To me, the Bungie game is just a faded copy of a story-based PC shooter, which does almost everything in a forgettable manner. Intermixed human and alien storylines make the plot nearly incomprehensible. Missions blandly lead you through one ambush point after another. Use of vehicles and gun turrets add a little zest, although these sequences are canned and gimmicky. Level architecture is simplistic, with nearly every level consisting of narrow corridors and featureless rooms.
In short, I don’t get what all the fuss is about. At least the first Halo could be acclaimed as being an honest-to-goodness innovative console shooter, thanks to recharging energy shields, weapon and ammo limitations, and a melee option that wasn’t suicidal. The sequel is just more of the same, but with extra blah.
Plot in Halo 2 is a major letdown in comparison with the story traced by its predecessor. Master Chief and his AI pal Cortana are back for more battles with the insidious alien Covenant and the mutated Flood, but the tale is complicated through the look at both sides of the story. Cutscenes flash back and forth between the glassy-helmeted, enigmatic (aren’t all cyborgs?) Master Chief and his struggles against a Covenant invasion of Earth, and the trials and tribulations of the Covenant Elite being blamed for the Halo disaster seen in the first game. The culmination of this divided focus are missions, beginning around a third of the way through the game, where you play on the Covenant side and discover some interesting facts about the war with humanity.
Telling the story in this way sounds a lot more interesting than it actually plays out. Shifting the focus away from Master Chief makes it hard to get into the conflict and empathize with humanity, to feel like you’re getting involved in some grand space-opera crusade, as in the first game. More than half of the cutscenes deal with the aliens, even during the Master Chief missions, skewing everything so much that the story breaks down. I found it very hard to follow what was going on, and while it all pretty much came together in the end, I shouldn’t have had to scratch my head so much in a game where I did nothing but shoot stuff. Also, the campaign ends abruptly around the 10-hour mark with an unsatisfactory ending that feels more like content was chopped off than it does a real cliffhanger. Only the impressive voice-acting from recognizable actors like Laura Prepon (That 70s Show) and David Cross (Arrested Development) and music—an outstanding collection of everything from Trance-like techno with spooky choral odes to crunchy hard-rock guitar—work perfectly at moving the story along.
Don't forget to check out these links for further Halo 2 info on FiringSquad!