One of the aspects that I loved about the original Halo was the fact that you didn’t possess some kind of magic backpack that allowed you to carry any number of weapons around with you. In Halo you could carry two weapons and that was it. This led to you having to make strategic decisions with regards to your weapons, decisions that could serve you well or cost you dearly later in the level. This weapon model has been carried over, although it has been slightly modified with the “dual wield” function.
Dual wield lets you carry a weapon in each hand – John Woo style. But again Bungie has made you accept a compromise for this extra fire power. If you have a weapon in each hand, you’re not going to have a spare hand free to lob grenades, so grenades are off the menu when you’re dual wielding – the second trigger button fires the second weapon instead of throwing grenades. There are also limitations to the type of weapons that you can dual wield – you can’t wander around with a rocket launcher in each hand for example. Basically, any weapon that requires both your hands to operate can’t be dual wielded.
Talking of weapons, the armoury at your disposal has undergone some changes since Halo. The assault rifle is gone, which is no great loss considering how ineffective it was. In its place are two new weapons, you have a sub machine gun, which provides an impressive rate of fire, but some correspondingly severe recoil – short, controlled bursts are the order of the day with this one. The second new addition is the battle rifle, which is more powerful than the SMG and the outgoing assault rifle, and has the added advantage of a scope for picking off enemies at a distance. You can dual wield with the SMG, but not with the battle rifle. My old favourite from Halo, the pistol, is still there, but Bungie has toned it down for the sequel. The pistol no longer has a scope, and it’s nowhere near as powerful as it was in the first game. In some ways this is disappointing, but I can understand why this has been done – after all, taking out two Hunters with a couple of well placed pistol shots in the first game did seem a little too easy.
Your Covenant enemies have also beefed up their armoury, and there are a couple of very useful new additions. You’re going to have to get used to using the Covenant weapons in Halo 2, but I’m not going to tell you why, like I said, I don’t want to ruin the story. The beam rifle is the alien equivalent to the sniper rifle and it works pretty well – like most Covenant weapons, it doesn’t need reloading, but it will overheat if you fire too many shots in quick succession. The carbine rifle is similar to the battle rifle, complete with scope for picking out your targets, while the grenade launcher used by the Brutes is powerful, but lacks accuracy.
However, without a doubt, the best new weapon to appear is the energy sword. Now, you will have seen those invisible Covenant Elite guards carrying these in the first Halo, and will be very aware of how much damage they can do. In Halo 2 you can pick up an energy sword and wield it – you will do massive amounts of damage when swiping your enemy with one of these, but of course you do need to get up close and personal, which isn’t always the best course of action. Once again, you’ve got to make some tough decisions about which weapons you’re going to carry with you.
Even though Halo is classed as one of the best first person shooter games ever, part of the gameplay is actually third person, when you’re driving vehicles. The vehicle aspect of Halo was an absolute riot, and thankfully this has been carried over and improved upon. In Halo 2 you get to drive/pilot pretty much every vehicle there is on both the human and alien sides of the battle line. I just don’t think I’ll ever get board of driving a Warthog around while one of my Marine buddies nails the bad guys with a heavy machine gun.