Semi-stream of consciousness, should hopefully stay pretty positive all-in-all... it's not like I'm saying anything you guys don't already know, so it won't hurt my feelings if you don't read it... okay maybe a little :confused:
-Voc was right, I really enjoy the narrative arc that drives Halo 2 in retrospect, with the Arbiter's and Chief's paths crossing so well in the second half (you know, the whole being able to see QZ from Regret, and their spiralling closer and closer together from that point on?).
-First thing that hits me are the graphics... this shit's a lot prettier than Halo 1, although I feel that Halo 1's lighting holds up very well in comparison to 2's. Models, environments, everything else... it's unbelievable how much better 2 looks, and I'd completely forgotten. Grunts and jackals look so much more lifelike. The key, though, is the environments. Cairo Station is basically Pillar of Autumn: Part Deux, and it's unreal how much less bland that level is by comparison. Outskirts? So sexy... and for the first time ever, I experienced the ghosting glitch Ivan had been talking about- it's really disorienting.
-Second thing that hits (or should I say doesn't hit, ba dum tssh) is the melee system. It's not good. Really bad, in fact, and it's so disorienting to be lunging all over the place when I'm this used to H1.
-The SMG is incredibly satisfying to use, for whatever reason, it just "feels" fun to be spraying it all over the place... wierd, I know
-The battle rifle is SO FRUSTRATING- 2 reasons:
1) Not nearly enough ammo in reserve. 3 extra clips? what? The pistol had 10... and I still often run out of ammo with it... what it all amounts to is entirely too much time spent either searching for ammo or without a BR in hand (yes, I realize Bungie's intention was to get rid of a go-to weapon... they did a good job)
2) Firefights with it are not compelling. You're either too far away to hit the thing, or you're close enough that the auto-aim kicks in, and well, then you're gravy, 6 shots for blues, a couple extra for reds. With the pistol, firefights with even blue elites could take multiple clips. Here, if you take more than a clip, you might have Trisomy-21. It's a definite possibility.
-The A.I. is better... and worse. In close, the A.I. is a hell of a lot better. I'll give you an example- on the first level, in the bomb room, I pepper an elite with some BR fire and he ducks behind a box for cover. I move up to the other side and work my way around, because in Halo 1, he'd just be sitting right there waiting for me to come bitch slap him with some L-B-L boxer double melee action. Imagine my surprise when he's nowhere to be found because he's jumped on top of the box and completely evaded me. It made me happy. At distance, the A.I. is pretty much worthless, however. In Halo 1, snipe an elite, and he'll duck and jump out of the way. It's tough to get a second shot in accurately. In Halo 2, they stagger, immobilizing them for an easy second headshot.
-Grenades suck, again for 2 reasons (beyond the fact he throws like a Nancy):
1) Against vehicles, they do next to nothing- it's way too tough to flip a ghost with them. This isn't really the grenade's fault, it's Havok's, as vehicles are just much heavier now.
2) If you don't stick an enemy with your plasma grenade, you've wasted your time. Try it. Throw a plasma at an elite from far away. If it lands at his feet, he'll often stand on top of it, completely clueless (a glitch that was in Halo 1, as well, mind you, I'm not hating). When it explodes, barely half of his shield is gone. I have a hard time rationalizing the difference between 1 foot away from an elite's foot on the ground, and stuck to an elite's foot... By the same token, if you stick a ghost, elites will often hop out. The plasma grenade explodes, often destroying the ghost. How much of the elite's shield is left? Half or more? WTF?
-Bungie really tightened vehicular combat. I really like the new tank control scheme, the E-brake (and, yes, the horn) on the Warthog, and the boost abilities of Covenant vehicles. Infantry vs. Vehicle combat is another story, even though boarding is sweet, and fairly well executed.
-Heroic is the perfect difficulty, and I'd even go so far as to say that it is comparable to Halo 1's Legendary, in that it provides a RATIONAL, MANAGEABLE level of difficulty, where you're likely to die, but not for some inexplicable reason, but because of something you could have done better. Reasons:
1) Boss battles are still retarded, but instead of having to (air quotes) kill the Heretic 6 or however many times, it's just 2, and there are fewer holograms floating around. I can live with that, as it doesn't completely halt my advancement of the narrative.
2) Jackals follow a much more intelligent damage scheme: one shot takes your shields off, the second finishes you off. That way, you always have at least a fighting chance. If you get hit, dive for cover, then pop out and take care of them. No more frustrating trial-and-error sessions because you forgot where one jackal was. He might take a shot at you, but you can get to cover and deal with him.
In conclusion, I'll probably never play Legendary on H2 again, and I'll definitely play through H3 the first time on Heroic (which is actually what I did with 2, though that was probably the last time I touched Heroic, a decision I truly regret (regret regret- the message just repeats- I'm sorry... but not sorry enough to delete this... it's late) now.
-Little things like combat dialogue, which were great in H1, are much better in H2. I really appreciated it at two points: first, on Outskirts, a Marine spots a sniper jackal, and yells "The only thing worse than a jackal is a jackal with a sniper." My thoughts exactly, broseph, although my discovery that Heroic is the new Legendary has made those guys much more manageable. Second, at one point I turned to my Marines to try and swap weapons, the Marine turned to me and said, "Please, Chief, just don't stop firing." I smiled.
Meh. This game's pretty good.
I still can't stand Flood levels, which H2 has in spades, however. Ugh.