Playing through the game again reminded about how refined the Halo 2 gameplay is. The weapon and level design is about as good as it gets. The pacing of the single player campaign is excellent and while I'm still not of the Flood levels (or the Flood in level) the game is still a lot of fun to play through. I did get a chance to try the Charlie Sinhaseni run by the Flood trick and it does seem to work for some areas of the game although not all of them. I'm guessing a more skilled player could circumnavigate certain parts of the game but I'm not quite that good.
Of course the real meat of Halo 2 is the multiplayer action and the port contains all the goodness of it's predecessor. I didn't really get a chance to play much multiplayer as the game hasn't been released to the public yet but I did play a few games against other press people who had received their copy early. All the great things that made the console version are in the PC version, at least what I remember from the console version. The Live features make it very easy to setup your own server and invite the people on your friends list to play. The game comes with it's own dedicated server so you can setup your own personal server for you and your friends. It's still a bit frustrating that you can't play the co-op mode with someone over the Live. Hopefully that's something they will rectify in Halo 3 when it comes out later this year but I'm not holding my breath.
As good as the multiplayer is I'm not sure how well it's going to go over with the PC gaming crowd. The first Halo didn't exactly light the world on fire and given that Halo 2 has to complete with Counterstrike: Source, the Battlefield games, and a host of other FPS games I'm not sure that Halo 2 will as well. It's a bit of a shame as Halo 2's multiplayer is actually solid once you get used to the controls.
You have a few options in how you manipulate Master Chief. You can also use an Xbox 360 gamepad or the keyboard/mouse to control Master Chief but I'll take a keyboard/mouse combo over a controller any day of the week. The game uses the standard WASD control to move and firing firing your main weapons is done with the left mouse button with the right mouse button throwing grenades or firing a dual wielded weapon. Melee attacks are done by pressing the F button with R reloading, and Q switching between weapons and picking up dropping weapons on the ground. The controls are fairly tight but it still feels a bit loose to me, especially when jumping.
The only real glitch I experienced playing the game was an issue with one of my save games which lost my progress during the game and forced me to re-play a few levels of the game. Hopefully that is something that will be corrected in the final version of the game or there are going to be a lot of upset gamers. There were a few other minor clipping issues here and there but the game is still rock solid.
Halo 2 is still a great game but the age of the game is showing a bit. The single player campaign is a lot of fun and it was fun to relive some of the key moments of the game (like taking down the scarab). I also filled in a few holes that I missed the first time I played through the game on the Xbox. Multiplayer is solid but it's really not in the same league as other PC FPS games and as someone who has a ton of hours logged into Battlefield 2142 16 players doesn't really sounds that enticing. The game is an easy way to bag a few hundred easy gamerscore points and the new technologies the game uses are pretty cool but it does feel a bit hollow. It's almost like watching an old music star trying to make a comeback with a few new songs and a bag full of hits. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it's not overly fulfilling.
More On:HALO 2
A solid game that shows off some of Microsoft's cool new PC gaming technologies while showing a lot of signs of age. If you've played the Xbox version you really aren't missing that much with the PC version. Probably worth checking out if you've never played the Xbox version.
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