The original Halo was the game that sold Xbox, Halo 2 was the game that truly sold Xbox Live and Microsoft is hoping it can do the same trick again. So, it's time to recruit Master Chief to sell Vista and Games for Windows Live service to everyone. Sadly the attempt is all marketing - with all the buz 2166 z about the shiny new Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 filling the news, the PC users are being served some leftovers from the last generation as the port to Vista is horribly late, and done with minimum effort. It's still Halo, but that alone doesn't save the day.
The storyline continues pretty much from where it was left at the end of the first Halo adventure. If you have already played Halo 2 on the Xbox, you can safely hop ahead to here. If you have missed the Halo series completely so far, I'm glad to report that prior experience is not essential - the story begins with a quick jump straight to action as the Covenant stages an invasion of Earth and all you need to know is that some ugly aliens need to be kicked back to where they came. Or so it would seem - in reality the whole Earth invasion is little more than a quick warm up, and very soon the game returns back to... another Halo. There are more than one of these huge ringworld superweapons, and once again it's a race for the control of the place.
The story is rapidly derailed from the clear-cut UNSC Marines vs. Covenant alien scum fight, as you also end up batting against automated Forerunner defenses and the Flood - a horde of reanimated zombies controlled by facehugger-style buggers that have infested the place. While the story has some remarkable twists and turns, the action is a bit repetitive at times. Locations can get truly grand in scale, and the level design is pretty good, if you can overlook the amount of level geometry being re-used. Many architects love symmetry, but it feels like the Forerunners have gone nuts with "copy" and "paste" when designing the architecture of Halo, and it's not uncommon to fight through identical rooms or floors, sometimes up to three or four times.
Master Chief and... the Arbiter?
As expected, our old pal Master Chief is still the star in the sequel, but you won't be controlling him all the way. Several levels are dedicated to viewing the storyline from another perspective, as you play the role of a Covenant elite soldier known as the Arbiter. Sadly Bungie has pulled a bit of a cop-out, and you won't get to blast human Marines in these levels - instead you have to sort out the Flood zombie problem and some internal squabbling of the Covenant forces.
It's easy to accidentally fire on "friendlies" in these levels as you have spent the whole game until that point blowing up Covenant aliens, and now suddenly you are not supposed to shoot them - except that's true for only some of them, the rest you still have to blow to bits. Confused? Well, the crosshairs turn green on friendlies, so if you take the time to check before blasting away or wait until the enemies take a shot at you, it's not a huge problem. I myself liked these Arbiter levels for a fresh perspective on the action, but I can understand people disliking the concept of playing on the other side in a game that is supposed to be the "Master Chief blows up some alien scum" show.
Games: Halo 2 for Windows Vista
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