Eliminate the Positive (or “The Only Negative Review of Halo 2 You’re Ever Likely To Read”)

“Halo 2 isn’t a perfect game.” (9) It “is still a linear series of shootouts,” (5) that is “cowboys and Indians from the get-go,” (2) and features “annoying graphical hiccups” and “team AI [that] isn’t always perfect.” (6)

“Some will undoubtedly say that the graphics have come up a bit short.” (6) “There are occasionally some graphic hiccups, such as when a far off texture doesn’t fill in as you approach it.” (1) or when “the ground sometimes has an unrealistic ripple effect and some characters you come across look blurry.” (4) One other “noticeable ‘problem’ is when the graphics mip-map at the beginning of nearly every scene, meaning that you first see a placeholder graphic before the more detailed version pops into place.” (2) “Brutes have a very plastic appearance, and one character in particular is sloppily designed.” (9)

In addition, “some of the in-engine cutscenes are kind of ugly,” and “you’ll actually see a little slowdown, pop-in, and LOD issues during cutscenes.” (5) In fact, “you’ll wonder what’s going on in the cutscenes.” (7) “It does detract.” (8)

Besides the graphics, Halo 2 has “a surprisingly disappointing story.” (5) “The first game had a cold sense of mystery and a striking sense of loneliness that shadowed Master Chief wherever he went. This time around… Halo 2 feels a little bit more Hollywood, a little less underdog.” (2) “You spent the first game indiscriminately killing these fiends — yet now you’re expected to be sympathetic to them and their hatred for humankind.” (5)

“The second half tends to drag on a bit,” (3) but “easily the worst part about the story is the way it ends, insofar as it doesn’t.” (5) “The final battle is neither interesting while you’re in the thick of it nor fulfilling once it concludes.” (9) “You’ll run into this game’s cliff-hanger ending like a compact car into a brick wall… There’s little satisfaction to be found in the ending here,” and “there’s a good chance you’ll feel emotionally betrayed by the story.” (5) “More than a few people will find Bungie’s segue to Xbox 2 more than a little irritating.” (2)

“I still see a bit of repetitive level design in Halo 2.” (7) “Halo 2’s campaign… frequently boils down to straight-up run-and-gun corridor crawls, one after another.” (5) “Bungie’s ship and interior designs are almost as repetitive in both architecture and texturing as before… Given no map, you will find yourself wondering where the hell to go more often than not… More distinct texture work and asymmetrical ornamentation would’ve helped.”(8)

“The AI has a few weaknesses, especially when it’s in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, where it has trouble steering around obstacles.” (5) In addition “many battles turn into strike-and-hide exercises where you take a few shots and then sneak away to let your shield recharge.” (6) “It certainly doesn’t help that the campaign is “rather short” (5) and that “able-bodied players will probably finish the game on Normal mode in around 15 hours.” (2) “I somehow expected it to take much longer.” (8)

“There’s no… system-link cooperative mode.” (3) and “you can’t play co-op online.” (4) That’s right, there’s “no co-op play for Xbox Live or through system link.” (9) “I’d have loved to see a working online co-op mode.” (7) “It would have been great to play co-op online.” (8) “My dream of online co-op with the Master Chief has been dashed.” (7)

“Halo 2 is not perfect.” (4) “You could argue that given all the hype, Halo 2 is disappointingly more of the same.” (3) “I can’t really say that the engine has been vastly improved for the sequel,” (7) “every now and then, the game goes a bit overboard with the technology,” (4) “and well, could there have been more maps?” (8) “A surprisingly disappointing story and a fairly short single-player portion are noticeable shortcomings.” (5) “After all of the time we spent waiting for this product, the developers owed us something better.” (9)

EDITOR’S NOTE: If it’s not apparent yet, this “review” is simply an amalgamation of bad points from nine other mass-market reviews of Halo 2. All the words inside quotes were copied directly from the numbered source in parentheses immediately following (links to source material available below.) These quotes were deliberately purged of any positive context or mitigating conditionals through judicious snipping, but it should be made clear that I believe every one of these points was intended as a negative in the original review. I did not just take random words to make it look like the reviewers found flaws that they didn’t, but rather I separated out the middling negatives from the overwhelming positives and grouped them into a semi-coherent whole.

Anyone who’s still ready to flame me after that should consider that it took the relatively minor nitpicking from nine separate reviews to construct one average-length, overly-repetitive negative review of this game, and the negative review still isn’t very convincing. If this doesn’t speak to the obvious quality of a game, I don’t know what does.

So why do this at all? First, to show that quotes taken out of context can be highly, highly misleading (important to remember the next time you see a quote on the back of a game box). Second, to show that although it might seem like Halo 2 is God’s gift to video gaming, it is not perfect. None of the nine reviews I read (some of which were quite lengthy and gave the game their highest score) claimed that it was. Some explicitly said it wasn’t. Media frenzies like this tend to encourage hyperbole, so this is my attempt to keep the effusive praise down to a realistic level.

Thus begins what is turning into Halo 2 week at the VGO (what can I say, I was feeling left out). Look for reviews of some Halo 2 reviews tomorrow and an overview of Halo 2 news coverage on Thursday.

Review sources:
(1) http://xbox.gamespy.com/xbox/halo-2/564301p1.html
(2) http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3136245&did=6
(3) http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=2005815&did=2
(4) http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3136252&did=1
(5) http://www.gamespot.com/xbox/action/halo2/review.html
(6) http://www.g4techtv.com/halo2day/features/50249/Halo_2_Review.html
(7) http://www.ugo.com/channels/games/features/halo2/review_1.asp
(8) http://xbox.ign.com/articles/557/557509p1.html
(9) http://microsoft.gamerfeed.com/gf/reviews/520/

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