When a middleweight boxer tries to make a comeback in the heavyweight division after a three-year ring break, he shouldn't be surprised if there's something on the face. Bungie's first-person shooter Halo 2 was a big seller for the Xbox in 2004, and is now available for the PC - exclusively for Windows Vista. But like an untrained boxer, Halo 2 also has a huge weak point: the technology.
The one ring
Halo 2 starts where the previous one ended. So if you are new to Halo, you'll have a hard time following the game's story. An intro that clarifies the story is missing. So let's briefly tell what has happened so far: Humanity is at war with the Covenant, an alliance of extraterrestrial peoples. In the process, both parties accidentally stumble upon a ring-shaped, artificial planet they named Halo.
The Covenant are on a kind of pilgrimage into nirvana, the "great journey", and see Halo as the gateway to their destination. In fact, however, the ring serves as a weapon of mass destruction that can wipe out all life in the galaxy. To prevent the Covenant Halo from activating, the Master Chief, the hero of the game, unceremoniously blows up the planet. Nice side effect: The zombie-like "flood" parasites that populate Halo are also on it. In Halo 2, the Covenant are still mad at humanity and are therefore attacking Earth. But first they have to pass the Master Chief.
If you've played Halo 2 on the Xbox, you already know the story, and the graphics should look familiar - the game is almost identical to the old Xbox version. Despite Vista exclusivity there is no trace of DirectX 10, Halo 2 apparently still depends on DirectX 8 level. Muddy, monotonous textures, hardly any lighting effects or facial animations, the whole thing has an almost retro flair.
The Covenant attack and tear us out of our nostalgic trance. We storm off and grab two shotguns from the armory - the Master Chief can only carry two sticks at a time. But he can use short ratchets like submachine guns in both hands. The left mouse button then fires the left weapon, the right the other.
Sticky Bomb likes you!
Equipped in this way, we face the first wave of attack that spills out of an alien landing craft. Practical: if we have to reload one weapon, we can continue shooting with the other. However, we can no longer throw grenades this way. The alien plasma bombs are particularly effective because they stick to the enemy. Diving for cover is no longer of any use. This is especially useful with strong covenants like the fat brutes.
When we scour the battlefield for extraterrestrial equipment after the first battle, we find a radiation pistol and an operating smack that will annoy us until the end: Energy weapons cannot be reloaded. When the gun is empty, we need to pick up a new one. In the heat of the moment, find the one among ten guns that you have not yet fired! And there's plenty of opportunity to shoot empty in Halo 2 - you'll knock down hundreds of aliens in the course of the game. All opponents you already know from the predecessor: the little grunts, who speak so cute that you don't want to shoot them (at first), the deadly elegant elites with their camouflage shields and energy swords and even the flood zombies in all its hideous variations.
The Master Chief is protected by an energy shield that is constantly regenerating. So you only bite the grass if you take many hits in quick succession. This ensures quick shooting without constant quickloads. There's no such thing anyway, because instead of free storage, Halo 2 automatically backs up at fairly distributed control points, as in the predecessor. With so much familiar, there's also something unexpected in Halo 2: a new hero!
The Covenant commander, who was responsible for protecting Halo in part one, has been convicted of his failure and is given the dubious honor of fighting for his people as a kind of martyr with the title of "master". His first job: to destroy alleged heretics in his own ranks. They have only recognized the suicidal path of the Covenant and want to turn away from it. From now on you play alternately as Master Chief and Lord, whereby the alien fighter only differs from humans in that he can make himself invisible for a short time. In terms of play, however, this is largely useless.
Tax advisor wanted
In the fight against the Covenant and a new horde of flood zombies, Master Chief and Lord are always on the move in vehicles: in buggies, gliders or tanks. But here, too, Halo 2 lags behind the genre standard. Instead of controlling the direction of movement of a ground vehicle with the keyboard and the viewing direction with the mouse, as is now common, the mouse controls both. So you cannot simply steer your tank straight ahead and look to the right at the same time, but instead drive a right turn - annoying! To make matters worse, the mouse in Halo 2 is very sluggish anyway. But at least you can hijack enemy vehicles. At the push of a button, Master Chief or Master kick the opponent out of the driver's seat and swing themselves onto it. You can already guess where the journey is headed: sooner or later the two will do something together. So if you know the history (and you do now), Halo 2 tells a halfway exciting, varied story. When fighting the Flood in dark corridors, things get really exciting in places, but large parts of the level design are repeated. That spoils the atmosphere. The end is a cheek: the game ends abruptly just before the final.
You can read the complete test in GameStar edition 7/2007.