Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article discusses the video game. For information about the unrelated album by Nine Inch Nails subtitled "Halo 2", see Pretty Hate Machine.
Halo 2 is a first-person shooter developed by Bungie Studios for the Xbox video game console. It is the sequel to the game Halo: Combat Evolved, was released for the Xbox game console on November 9, 2004.
Halo 2 is the sequel to the game Halo: Combat Evolved, and features a newly built graphics engine, physics engine, new weapons and vehicles, new multiplayer maps, and a storyline that continues the story begun in Halo: Combat Evolved. While the Halo universe shares characteristics with the Marathon series, the two storylines are distinct.
The release date of Halo 2 was November 9, 2004 (November 10 in France and other European countries, and November 11 in the UK). It was one of the most highly anticipated releases not only on Xbox, but in videogame history. On the morning of October 14, a leak of the French version of the game was posted on the Internet, and circulated widely. Microsoft, the parent company of Bungie Studios, tried to contain the spread, and pledged to bring legal action against anyone who spread the leaked version.  1.5 million copies were reserved beforehand. The game sold 2.4 million copies and earned up to $125 million US in its first 24 hours on store shelves, thus outgrossing the film Spider-Man 2 as highest grossing release in entertainment history.  As of 1 January 2005, the game had sold 6.3 million copies.
The game is playable in campaign mode either single-player or cooperative. When playing in this mode the player(s) must complete a series of episodes. Some of these episodes require the player to compete as a Covenant hero called The Arbiter, while the majority are still played as the Master Chief. Aside from variations caused simply by switching sides in the conflict, most notably The Arbiter is different from Master Chief in that his armor lacks a flashlight and is equipped with a short duration rechargeable form of active camouflage that will drop if an action other than movement is performed.
There are four levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal, Heroic and Legendary, the latter of which has been described as "suicide" by the game's developers.
There are varying modes, several of which have returned from the original Halo game. A typical melee game called Slayer, a team based Capture The Flag game, an offense/defense version of capture the flag called Assault, a more esoteric free-for-all form of capture the flag called Oddball, and a game extrapolated from a child's game of "tag" called Juggernaut, as well as others and the ability to create one's own variations. Of the preset variations present in the original game, only Race is missing.
Unlike its predecessor, Halo 2 allows players to compete with each other over the Xbox Live online service, in addition to the original's support for split-screen and System Link multiplayer. Halo 2's Xbox Live mode offers a unique and, some would say, innovative approach to online gaming that is intended to alleviate some of the problems that have plagued online first-person shooters in the past. Traditionally, one player sets his or her computer or console up as a game server (or host), specifying the game type and map and configuring other settings. The game software then uses a service like Xbox Live or GameSpy to advertise the game to the world at large; other players choose which game to join based upon criteria such as the map and game options each host is offering as well as the ping times they are able to receive.
In Halo 2, Xbox Live players do not choose to host public games, and they do not get to specify individual maps and options to search for. Instead, players select "playlists" that are geared to different styles of play. For example, the "Rumble Pit" playlist offers a variety of "every man for himself" game types, primarily Slayer or variations thereof; "Team Skirmish" offers a number of 4-on-4 team games, which are primarily objective-based games like Capture the Flag; "Big Team Battle" is similar to Team Skirmish but allows teams of up to 8 players. Other playlists allow head-to-head play and matches between different clans. The Xbox Live servers create games automatically from the pool of players that have chosen each playlist, choosing a game type and map automatically and selecting one player to serve as the game's host.
Players can create small "parties" with their friends and enter games together as teammates or, in Rumble Pit, adversaries. If the Xbox console hosting the game drops out, the Xbox Live service automatically selects a new host from among the remaining players so the game can continue. Players may still choose to set up games for their own party to their own specification, and invite others into that game from their Friends and Clan lists, however these games are not made publicly available.
Since launching in November 2004, the service has been very popular with video gamers. While some players resent the loss of individual control inherent in Halo 2's approach to online gaming, others feel it provides a significantly improved gaming experience compared to more traditional online first-person shooters. Bungie's servers match players up by skill level, which tends to eliminate the kind of severely imbalanced games that less-skilled players often consider unfair and unenjoyable. The automatic host selection process also eliminates the ability of the host to exert outsized control over the parameters of the game.
Bungie.net records every single statistic that is displayed on-screen in the end-of-game "Post Game Carnage Report." Anyone can visit Bungie.net and look at any Xbox Live player's stats. If a player logs in with a Microsoft Passport, they can also access the "Gameviewer". This presents an image of the level that was played from the player's choice various angles, superimposed with a summary of the crucial game events. For example: for each kill, the attacker and target's locations and the attacker's weapon are displayed, and the paths taken by flags in Capture the Flag games are shown. Bungie keeps these stats for several hundred games per player at a time, then games begin to be purged to save space, and they are used as evidence when banning cheats (see "Xbox Live Updates", below).
Regular players have expressed various concerns regarding the game balance of Halo 2. Many players feel that game strategies are too dependent upon controlling the "power weapons" in each map such as the Rocket Launcher, Sniper Rifle, and Energy Sword, at the cost of overshadowing the other weapons in the game. Should an team acquire these weapons, it becomes more difficult for their opponents to score kills or attain objectives. Much game time may be consumed attempting to sieze the weapons in question from the opposition and shift the balance of power; in some cases it may not even be possible to do so. This primarily affects team games and one-on-one games; in free for alls, a player with a "power weapon" will become a priority target for the other players, meaning that the weapon will change hands frequently. Another common criticism is the dominance of dual-wielding weapons over single-wielding combined with grenades.
Xbox Live Updates
A less subjective complaint is the widespread cheating which has arisen, with users exploiting bugs in the game and vulnerabilities of the network to win ranked games and thus increase their matchmaking rank. In response to these complaints, Bungie released an automatic update for Halo 2 (a mandatory patch) on the Monday the 18th of April, 2005, which fixed the various bugs and cheats in the game, slimmed down split-screen HUD information, and rebalanced various weapons to promote use of single-wield weapons, grenades, and melee attacks. A full list of changes can be seen here. This brings Halo 2 up to Version 1.1.
Four multiplayer maps will be made available to download on Monday the 25th April, 2005. Two of these will be free to download (the "Bonus Pack"), while the other two (the "Killtacular Pack") will together cost $5.99 until June the 28th, when they too will become free to download.
On the 28th of June 2005, 5 new maps will be made available in a pack for $11.99 (and will be made free to download at a later date). On the same day, a disk containing the update, all 9 maps, and various other extras will be released, for £15 in the UK and $19.99 in the US.
The damage system in Halo 2 is slightly different than it was in Halo: Combat Evolved. The player has a regenerating shield, but now has regenerating health as well.
- Shields: The shield in Halo 2 is much stronger than it was in Halo: Combat Evolved, and recharges at a higher rate. It covers the player's entire body, and slowly decreases in power as it sustains damage. After it takes damage, it starts to recharge 4 seconds after the last time damage was sustained. The power is displayed above the motion tracker in the bottom-left of the screen.
- Health: In Halo 2, once the shields run out, the player also has a buffer of health. Unlike Halo: Combat Evolved, the health in Halo 2 regenerates after the shield. The amount of health left is not visible to the player, and is also much smaller than in the original game.
There are two types of powerups available in Halo 2.
- Overshield: An enhanced, non-regenerating shield which is three times the strength of the normal one. The overshield functions on top of the regular shield - when it is active, the normal shield does not take damage. In addition, when a overshield is picked up, the player is invulnerable untill it finishes charging, which takes a second or two. In multiplayer Halo 2, the overshield gradually depletes over time. The overshield is no longer present in the campaign mode of Halo 2. However, the Black Eye Skull will enable the player to charge his/her shield into the overshield range. In certain Multiplayer gametypes, one or more players start with a regenerating overshield.
- Active Camouflage: Drastically reduces the player's visibility for a period of time, making all but a faint outline of him invisible. This effect (which is almost identical to that of the alien armor in the Predator movies) is reduced if the player is hit by weapons fire, or if he fires a weapon. However, the Energy Sword remains clearly visible even if the player is using camouflage. This feature is included in the Arbiter's armor, though its effect only lasts a few seconds. The powerup is not available in Campaign (the Arbiter can activate it for a short time), and the built-in generator is not available in Multiplayer. The Envy skull gives Master Chief access to the built-in generator.
The existence of many hidden skulls has been discovered.  These small objects are hidden in almost every campaign level in Halo 2, some levels containing more than one. Their effects, while somewhat disputed, can do anything from making the player invisible to removing his HUD. These skulls include Blind, Grunt Birthday Party, Black Eye, Anger, as well as many others. One, called "I Would Have Been Your Daddy," is a maddening skull that, unlike the others, seems to have no reliable mechanism for triggering its appearance. It could be random. A player's reward for finding and picking it up is the Master Chief's teleportation to a nearby courtyard for battle with more than twenty Elites. The MC's weapons also disappear, and he retains only a plasma pistol. If the player somehow manages to defeat this group, they will find that NPCs make interesting new comments.
The list includes:
I Would Have Been Your Daddy
Grunt Birthday Party
The Scarab's obscenely destructive main cannon is available as a handheld weapon. It uses the Plasma Rifle model, and is located in a hard-to-reach area in a level where the Scarab is present. It has been claimed that it is also possible to obtain it by grenade jumping to a Scarab's main cannon and snatching it in mid-air on the Outskirts and Metropolis levels; such a high grenade jump is extremely difficult and has yet to be confirmed by video evidence.
The Game starts with Master Chief on board the Cairo, an Earth Defense Stationary Platform in orbit with the Athens and Malta around Earth. After the Covenant fleet arrives just outside the killzone of the battle cluster, they launch boarding craft to take out the cannons. The Chief engages the boarders and then leaves the station via airlock with a Covenant bomb and plants it on one of the carriers heading to Earth. He then lands on the UNSC ship In Amber Clad, which heads towards the other Covenant carrier, the High Prophet of Regret's flagship on Earth's surface.
The player engages in urban combat in the city of New Mombasa, East African Protectorate. Shortly afterwards, a Covenant ship makes a Slipspace jump which causes an explosion on par with a nuclear weapon. In Amber Clad, carrying the Master Chief, follows into the ship's slipspace rupture in a desperate effort to follow it.
The player is transported to the vicinity of another Halo ringworld—christened Delta Halo— somewhere in the galaxy. At the same time, a power struggle within the Covenant is revealed. The Brutes, a large and furred Covenant race who roughly resemble eight-foot-tall gorillas, are attempting to usurp the role of the prophets' guardians, traditionally carried about by the Elites. This movement was aided by the decision of the High Council, following the murder of the Prophet of Regret (the Covenant invasion force commander), that the Elites could no longer fulfill their duties as guardians. Eventually this sparks a civil war within the Covenant, wherein the Elites, Grunts, and Hunters join forces against the Brutes, Drones, and Jackals. At the same time, a movement within the Covenant, regarded by their leaders as heretical, argues that Covenant teachings aren't true.
A little over halfway into the story, the player is introduced to an apparently massive creature called the Gravemind, which appears to be the controlling mind of the Flood. The creature is highly intelligent and appears to have a vast knowledge of the universe (we eventually find out the true intention of the gravemind is to take control of the In Amber Clad in order to spread the flood.) The Gravemind lives deep within Halo, out of sight. Its actual size, although not revealed, may occupy many of the hidden underground caverns that encircle the ring.
At some point, because she wants to ensure that In Amber Clad's reactors can be detonated in a worst-case scenario, Cortana becomes separated from the Master Chief and is left within a computer on the Covenant Holy City of High Charity, in orbit near Halo. She had made attempts to forestall the launch sequence of a docked ancient Forerunner ship in order to destroy the City and the Ring, but was thwarted by a mysterious Covenant AI construct of Forerunner origin. Cortana was later confronted by Gravemind after the Flood conquered High Charity.
Halo, according to 343 Guilty Spark, was built to prevent the Flood from spreading throughout the Galaxy. The Forerunners who built it were wiped out when they fired it as a "weapon of last resort" at some point in the remote past. In spite of this, the Brute Chieftain, Tartarus activates the ring to bring about - according to the teachings of the Prophets - the Great Journey. As the Halo prepares to fire whatever energies it contains, the player must fight to retrieve the Index and deactivate the ring.
The Index is retrieved and the Delta Halo cannot fire. 343 Guilty Spark reveals that although the Index was removed before Delta Halo had time to complete its firing sequence, it fired a beacon recognized by all other Halos in the Galaxy and causing them to go into standby. In standby, a failsafe method of ensuring that the rings could not be stopped by the Flood, they can be activated remotely from the Ark, the location of which is assumed to be on Earth. The Master Chief heads back to Earth to end the war.
- Master Chief
- Sergeant Johnson
- Miranda Keyes
- High Prophets of Truth, Mercy and Regret
- 2401 Penitent Tangent
- Special Operations Commander "Half-Jaw"
- 343 Guilty Spark
See the main article on Halo characters
The "Haunted Apiary" Alternate Reality Game (ARG)
Main article: Haunted Apiary
The website ilovebees.com (interestingly, the domain ihatebees.com also points to this website) is currently being used as a publicity site for Halo 2, with the site being pointed to by adverts for the game during movie trailers. Ostensibly a site about bees, the server appears to have been taken over by some mysterious force, which is "counting down to something".
The frontpage had a counter counting down to July 27, 2004 (when it says "network throttling will erode"), August 10, 2004 (when "this medium will metastasize"), and August 24, 2004 (at 8:06 am, when it will be "wide awake and physical") - many thought something big would happen related to Halo 2 on these dates. Instead, it became the kickoff for a "War of the Worlds"-esque online radio show. Other messages relating to the Halo story are hidden throughout the site.
- 2005 GameFly Q Awards
- Favorite Game of the Year
- Favorite Xbox Game
- Favorite Shooter Game
- 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards
- Excellence in Audio
- Game Innovation Spotlights (I Love Bees)
- Game Revolution 2004
- Best Console Game of E3 2004
- E3 2004 Game Critics Awards
- Best Console Game
- Best Action Game
- Best Online Multiplayer Game
- 1UP, 2004
- Best Visuals of E3 2004
- Best Xbox Game of E3 2004
- Best Shooter of E3 2004
- Best Game of E3 2004 Nominee
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