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I played Halo 2 on Mike’s Xbox at his place last night almost until midnight, when he threw me out.

I am SO not used to those controllers and the dual weapon weilding and all. And having Mike over my shoulder frustrated at my inability to figure out whatever right away didn’t help. Sorry, Mike, it’s a lot easier bitching to myself and figuring it out and build skills on my own most cases. I ENJOY that in the long run.

I was eager to go through the story line, but overall I didn’t care for the gameplay. Call me a heretic. Dual wielding is pointless. So you deliver more damage and can reload one while firing the other. Big deal. So can they. And if you can stand there and fire continuously long enough to reload one and fire the other, you are obviously playing on “easy” or the enemy is not shooting at you. The only plus IMO is that you can carry an extra gun and more ammo. Think about it. During combat, you have to decide to switch, dual wield, or drop so you can throw a grenade or melee – constantly at a moments notice. They could hold lessons at B.O.C.E.S. to teach people how to do this without stopping the game every time.

The vehicles becoming damaged if you even look at the screen too hard is also annoying. I’m playing on freaking “normal” and have to swap a damaged vehicle for a new one constantly. Maybe I should just play “Monster Truck” with a scorpion tank, but then the tank would probably fall apart after crushing a warthog.

On a positive note, I did enjoy some play like jumping off a bridge onto the back of a huge enemy vehicle (“scarab”). I also did like the environments. One environment I could have SWORN I saw in another game, but I can’t remember which game. I also like the auto-binocular vision you get any time you want it, but often times there’s no reticle when you do it, so it’s not quite like a scope.

The aliens suck. Their artificial intelligence seems the same as Halo (1) and they have TOO MUCH detail. In fact, the game has so much detail without depth that you can look at the screen and can’t easily tell what’s going on, even when there’s no motion. The aliens all have way too many glowing blobs and things on them. The tiny details that should fade into a coherent whole (when not close up staring at them) all jump out at you so that a simple alien looks like a Christmas tree full of different colored lights. A bunch of them at once make a neat screensaver, but annoying game play.

And the ally intelligence is supposedly better, definitely more complex, but seems actually much less predictable. One time, a warthog ran off without me and I had to walk to the next “scene”. Maybe Duke Nuken could spare the Master Chief a jet [pack for just such occassions.

So Halo 2 is basically Halo (1) with a few different aliens, vehicles, and, control options, SLIGHTLY more eye candy for the better, some for the worse, and more storyline, including playing as an alien Elite. That in itself makes it a very good game, but not a serious step up by any means. I feel almost let down after all the buzz and previews. I want to finish it, but probably wont play it over and over like the first one.

BUT, I may change my mind when I can do what I did with Halo (1) – play it by myslef x number of hours and really get into it. Then I will post an official review. on the KenVille.Net forums.