Admiral Hood: For what purpose, Master Chief?
Master Chief: To give the Covenant back their bomb.
Following the events of the first game, the Master Chief arrives back at Earth, praised as a hero. In the midst of celebration, a Covenant attack begins on Earth, and Master Chief races to stop them. He learns that the Covenant are looking for something on Earth, and his quest takes him to a new Halo ring, where he uncovers more of the mystery behind the Flood.
Plotwise, the major change from the original Halo: Combat Evolved is that the campaign is told from two different angles: not only that of the Master Chief, but that of a Covenant Elite. The latter, named Thel 'Vadamee but better known as the Arbiter, was originally the leader of the Covenant forces that fought the Master Chief on the first Halo ring. Branded as a heretic by the Covenant leaders due to his failure to stop the ring's destruction, the Arbiter is given a suicide mission that may potentially help him reclaim some of his lost honor. As the Arbiter learns more about the origin of the Halo rings and the fate of the Forerunners, he eventually comes to doubt the Covenant cause...
On the gameplay side, Halo 2 introduced Guns Akimbo to the series; any gun that can be fired with one hand can be paired off with another one-handed gun of any type (besides the Master Chief, Covenant Elites can pull this off too). It also introduced vehicle hijacking - assuming you could get close enough to the vehicle without being gunned down or run over. Halo 2 solidified the presence of online console gaming thanks to the original Xbox Live service; thanks to Halo 2's success, practically any game of nearly any genre will have at least some debate from the developers on whether or not it should feature an online component.
After several rumors concerning an Updated Re-release to mark its ten year anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary was released by 343 Industries on November 11, 2014, as part of the compilation Halo: The Master Chief Collection. It comes with updated graphics, six remastered multiplayer maps with their own unique engine, and other bonus content, but unlike the original release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, it also comes with the original multiplayer.note The game has also been ported to PC, in both its original and Anniversary forms. The original port came in 2007, as part of Microsoft's attempt to increase support for PC gaming and the then-new Windows Vista operating system through the oft-maligned Games for Windows Live service; it would end up the last Halo game in general to come to PC until 2013's Halo: Spartan Assault, and the last main Halo title to get a PC port until The Master Chief Collection came to PC in late 2019 with a port of Halo: Reach. Halo 2 Anniversary would later launch for the PC version of the collection in May 2020.
Halo 2 contains examples of:
- 24-Hour Armor: Master Chief wears his MJOLNIR armor at all times, even during the award ceremony at the beginning of the game, where some sort of dress uniform (like the other characters wear) would be more appropriate. Lampshaded by Johnson:Master Chief: You told me there wouldn't be any cameras.
Johnson: And you told me you were gonna wear something nice!
- Activation Sequence: The final battle takes place as Tartarus activates Installation 05. While the Arbiter and Sgt. Johnson try to take him down, 343 Guilty Spark keeps announcing various power-up phases completing in preparation to fire.
- Airborne Mook: This game introduces the Drones (appear in large swarms and can cling to walls, but are individually quite weak), Elite Rangers (Elites with jetpacks), and Enforcer Sentinels (large, missile-firing Sentinels with shields that protect them from the front), alongside the returning regular Sentinels (that also now have a more powerful golden variant).
- Alien Sky:
- Once Master Chief gets to Delta Halo, if you have a good view of the sky, things often look... alien.
- Your first mission as the Arbiter puts you on a station at the edge of a gas giant's atmosphere. It's all angry swirling clouds.
- Ammo Using Melee Weapon: The Energy Sword has a limited battery, and the blade will vanish once it is depleted. You can continue to wield the hilt and use it to hit enemies, but it wont do much damage.
- Another Side, Another Story: The levels "Uprising" and "Gravemind" occur at the same time.
- Anti-Frustration Features: Flipping a vehicle onto allies will (most of the time) safely push them out the way, fixing an issue from Combat Evolved where you'd have to make extra sure that you weren't crushing your Warthog passengers while trying to correct the vehicle.
- Attack of the Town Festival: The Covenant's attack on Earth begins while the UNSC is holding a big award ceremony to honor Master Chief, Sergeant Johnson, and the deceased Captain Keyes for their actions in the first game.
- Art Evolution: The graphics are significantly improved from the original, despite being released for the same system. The remake takes this even further, and, unlike the remake of the previous game, was praised for staying true to the art direction of the original while massively increasing the fidelity.
- The Atoner: The Arbiter's job description.The tasks you must undertake as Arbiter are perilous, suicidal! You will die, as each Arbiter has before you. The council will have their corpse.
- Awesome, but Impractical: If you want to complete the level "Metropolis" as fast as possible, you'll have a much easier time if you take the Warthog instead of the tank the devs thought you would.
- Awful Truth: In the final mission, the Arbiter learns the truth about the Halo rings and the Forerunners. For a few seconds, he looks completely lost and heartbroken (This is even more apparent in the Anniversary addition) upon realizing everything he's done has been All for Nothing.
- Badass Boast:Lord Hood: Master Chief, you mind explaining what you're doing on that ship?
Master Chief: Sir, finishing this fight.Tartarus: You've drawn quite a crowd.
Thel Vadamee: If they came to hear me beg, they will be disappointed.
- Big, Bulky Bomb: The Covenant boarding parties use these to take down Earth's MAC guns, blowing up at least the Malta and the Athens, and nearly doing the same to the Cairo, which was only saved by the Chief managing to defeat the suicide-squad of Elites guarding it. Said bombs are easily bigger than any of their guards, and are covered in spikes.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Prophet of Truth and Gravemind.
- Bilingual Bonus: In the level "Outskirts" (set in Mombasa, Kenya), there are several announcements made in untranslated Swahili over the intercom; these range from public service announcements to random proverbs. There's also one that translates to "Warning! Old Man Martynote , who we used to respect, is actually a con man. He will be beaten with a stick tomorrow morning."
- Boring, but Practical: The Battle Rifle, a normal, burst-fire human rifle with a 2x scope. It kills Grunts and Jackals with one headshot, even on Legendary, and when used in combination with the plasma pistol is also capable of absolutely destroying Elites. It can also allow you to out-snipe Jackals and the ammo for it is usually plentiful. In levels where the BR isn't available, you can make do with its counterpart the Covenant Carbine, which lacks the BR's generous spread but fires in semi-auto rather than a burst and can carry a lot more ammo.
- Boss Battle: Notable for being the only FPS Halo game until Halo 5: Guardians to have traditional boss battles; namely, the Heretic Leader, the Prophet of Regret, and Tartarus. On "Normal" all of them except Tartarus aren't much tougher than a King Mook, but on "Heroic" and "Legendary" they have multiple phases and are more like a traditional video game boss fight.
- Boss in Mook's Clothing:
- The white-armored Elite Ultras have 3 times as much shielding and health as regular Elite Minors (essentially having overshields), throw grenades, are faster and more accurate, and will pull out an energy sword if you get too close to them. On Legendary difficulty they can even survive a direct plasma grenade stick. They're pretty rare on "Normal" difficulty, but become more common on the higher difficulties. The Thunderstorm skull turns all non-specialist Elites into Ultras. Fortunately, the noob combo still drops them dead in a couple seconds.
- Gold-armored Elite Zealots only appear on "Legendary" difficulty now, appearing as squad leaders at key locations throughout the campaign. They've lost the overshields they had in Halo Combat Evolved and are no tougher than a regular Elite Major, but the energy swords they always wield are a One-Hit Kill.
- Sentinel Enforcers essentially serve as mini-boss fights, though most can be avoided or skipped.
- Hunters have been somewhat upgraded to this status. In fact you only fight about 13 of them throughout the entire campaign, half of whom are encountered in the level "Gravemind".
- An exchange between Pvt. Mendoza and Sgt. Johnson from the previous game, just before their team was attacked by the Flood — "I've got a bad feeling about this..." "Boy, you always got a bad feelin' about something..." — is echoed almost verbatim by a pair of Grunts right before, you guessed it, the Flood attacks.
- At the end of the Banshee section in "The Oracle", The Arbiter ends up crashing his damaged Banshee below a ledge, and leaves the audience hanging for a second before climbing up unscathed. The exact same thing happened with the Chief at the beginning of "The Maw" in Combat Evolved.
- The Cameo: A few recognisable screen actors are brought in to voice Marines. The one with the biggest role is Orlando Jones as Staff Sergeant Banks, but you can also hear the talents of David Cross, Laura Prepon and Michelle Rodriguez as unnamed Marines.
- Chekhov's Gun: The structure seen in the center of High Charity seems to be little more than a setpiece at first, but it later turns out to be a Forerunner Keyship that is used by Truth to lead the Covenant fleets to Earth.
- Classified Information: Johnson's response on how he survived the previous game (See Retcon below). This is a bit of Lampshade Hanging for players who are probably wondering the same thing (the reason is given in Halo: First Strike.)
Commander Keyes: I want all the information you've got on the first Halo. Schematics, topography, whatever. I don't care if I have the clearance or not.Cortana: Yes, ma'am.
- Defied later in the game, upon seeing a Halo ring Commander Keyes wants information and (rightly) makes it clear she will not tolerate this as an answer.
- Cliffhanger: The story ends with one of the most infamous cliffhangers in all of videogaming, being a very obvious Sequel Hook rather than the actual completion of the main threats a'la the first game.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Enemy Elites get infinite cloaking while the Arbiter only has a couple of seconds. It's hand-waved by an ally stating that his armor is outdated.
- Contrast Montage: The opening cinematic of Cairo Station is this, contrasting Master Chief, Sgt. Johnson and Captain Keyes (via his daughter Miranda as a proxy) receiving honors at an award ceremony for their heroism in the first game, while the Elite Thel Vadam (soon to become the Arbiter) is put on trial and then publicly humiliated for his failure to prevent the destruction of Halo.
- Cosmic Horror Reveal: The game reveals that the Flood aren't just semi-sapient space zombies, but are being controlled by a Gravemind, aka when a Body Horror Zombie Apocalypse acquires sentience and becomes an hyper-intelligent Eldritch Abomination Hive Mind.
- Creator Cameo:
- Bob O'Donnell, the father of series composer Marty O'Donnell, voices the Prophet of Objection's sole line in the opening cutscene ("Nay! It was heresy!").
- In the opening of "Gravemind" on Legendary difficulty, during the shot of the Grunts and Jackals protesting outside the Prophet's chamber, you can spot a sprite of Bungie co-founder Jason Jones in his underwear among the crowd. In the Anniversary version of the scene, he is replaced with an image of franchise director Frank O'Connor in his role as the janitor in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.
- Darker and Edgier: Combat Evolved wasn't a light game, but it did indulge in a fair amount of comedic moments, especially in its first half. Even after the Tone Shift caused by the introduction of the Flood, we still got gags about the Chief coming out of a teleport upside-down, and an extra non-canon joke ending if you beat the game on Legendary. Halo 2 by contrast is much more consistently downbeat and serious throughout its running time, largely thanks to the fact that the stakes are much higher from the beginning.
- Deadpan Snarker: Cortana, so, so much.Cortana: Ask yourself this question: "Is what I'm doing right now helping Cortana keep this station from exploding into tiny, tiny bits?"
- Death Seeker: The Arbiter. Pretty much comes with the job description.
- Decoy Protagonist: The Chief is primarily an observer to the game's primary conflict of the schism within the Covenant, which the Arbiter is far more personally involved in.
- The Master Chief and the Arbiter, neither of whom will let anything get in the way of doing their duty.
- There's also a Meta example. The only thing that ended Halo 2's online gaming scene was the original Xbox Live servers getting shut down. The game was launched on Nov 9th, 2004, and the servers officially shut down on Apr 15, 2010. Officially, that is; several players hung on until getting booted on May 11th.
- Developers' Foresight: The Final Boss, Tartarus, is supposed to be weakened by baiting him into the view of Sergeant Johnson and his Beam Rifle. If you brought a Beam Rifle of your own into this battle, you can also use that to down his shields as well.
- This game introduces the ability to switch weapons with your allies. They'll react appropriately when given a stronger or weaker weapon. Johnson in particular is outspoken about it.
- Drives Like Crazy: Marines now have the ability to drive most vehicles. However, you should not let them drive you around; if your first thought while seeing a Warthog is "Oooh, that turret looks sweet, I call it!" instead of "You take the turret, I'll drive", you'll come to regret your decision pretty quickly.
- Drop Pod: The first game in the series to feature these; "Delta Halo"'s opening cutscene even involves the Chief and company being dropped down from orbit.
- Early-Bird Cameo: An example map in the PC port includes a version of the SMG with a slightly-smaller magazine and a suppressor. This silenced SMG returned in Halo 3: ODST as the primary weapon of the titular ODST squad.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The Brutes made their debut in this game, but they looked and behaved completely different in gameplay than they would from Halo 3 onwards. They have an unkempt look with primitive armor, have just one unique weapon (the Brute Shot) alongside the Brute Plasma Rifle, and act as bullet sponges vulnerable to explosives and headshots. Halo 3 gives them a more groomed look, more advanced armor, a range of unique weapons and vehicles with an aesthetic distinct from the rest of the Covenant, and in gameplay they mostly served as a replacement for Elites with a few Brutish-traits thrown in, such as the ability to go berserk. Halo: Reach would make the Brutes act as a middle-point between those two depictions, which has mostly stuck since.
- Halo 2 introduced Skulls, collectables that introduced gameplay modifiers with all kinds of weird and challenging effects, which would become a staple of the series. However, the way they worked was completely different. There was no option to toggle skulls in the menu. Instead, once you found a skull its effects would activate and remain for as long as you had the console switched on. Once you turned off your console, you had to find the skull all over again; and skulls in this game are much more difficult and esoteric to find than they would later become, so good luck.
- Sesa 'Refumee is named as such despite being the Heretic leader, and thus opposed to the Covenant. Halo: The Cole Protocol establishes that the "-ee" suffix is taken on by Sangheili to indicate their loyalty to the Covenant, and is removed by those who leave it.
- Easter Egg: The game has many, but the most notable ones it introduced were the Skulls, which modify gameplay in all sorts of crazy ways.
- Elite Mooks: The black-armored Spec Ops Elites return from Halo Combat Evolved and once again serve as the Elite of the Elites. Most of the time they're on your side as the Arbiter, but you fight them throughout one of the final levels, "Gravemind", as Master Chief. They're about as tough as an Elite Major, throw grenades with frightening accuracy, and are overall more skilled and responsive than regular Elites. They also have cloaking devices now.
- Enemy Civil War: Following the assassination of the Prophet of Regret, the Elites are stripped of their traditional role as honor guards to the Prophets, which is given to the Brutes. The Prophet of Truth then orders the Brutes to kill all the Elites. Understandably, the Elites do not take kindly to this, and end up seceding from the Covenant, along with several individuals of other species.
- Enemy Mine:
- The Gravemind recruits Master Chief and the Arbiter to stop Truth, making it a three-way enemy mine.
- Also, Sergeant Johnson and Miranda Keyes ally with the Arbiter's Elites to stop the Halos from firing.
- Fire Keeps It Dead: When the Flood turn up on the gas mine, one of the Arbiter's fellow Sangheili/Elites lament that they didn't bring anything to burn the bodies with.
- Foreshadowing: Cortana suggests that killing the Prophet of Regret should shake up the Covenant leadership, and then remarks that the Chief might be doing Truth a favor. Turns out she was right, as Regret's death gives Truth an excuse to replace the Elites with the Brutes, which leads to the Great Schism.
- Gory Discretion Shot: In some releases of Halo 2: Anniversary in China, the Gravemind's head made of corpses is cut off from view.
- Guns Akimbo: Taking another cue from Bungie's earlier Marathon, this is the first game in the Halo series to have a set of weapons that you can randomly pair with other designated one-handed weapons. It precludes throwing grenades, since the hand you'd normally use for that is being used to hold and fire the second gun, and you can't switch back to your other weapon or bash people with melee without dropping the left-hand gun.Dunkey: It's called "Halo 2" because you can hold two guns instead of one.
- Hero Antagonist: The Covenant Heretics are trying to save all life in galaxy by revealing the truth about the Halos. Unfortunately, your first two missions as the Arbiter involve wiping them all out.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: After the Chief deactivates the antimatter bomb on board Cairo Station, he proceeds to take it down to a hangar, open the doors, and use the decompression to hurl the bomb toward a Covenant carrier. But wait, that's not all! He grabs hold of the bomb so that he can activate it right inside the carrier's reactor, before jumping off again and landing on a passing frigate.
- I Reject Your Reality: In contrast to the Arbiter (see Awful Truth), despite being told in no uncertain terms that the Halo rings are weapons of mass destruction and that the Forerunners are dead, Tartarus refuses to accept it. This blind loyalty is actually exactly why Truth wanted the Brutes and not the Elites in power.
- Incredibly Durable Enemies: Brutes have about 50% more overall durability compared to Halo 2 Elites, however they also have massive resistance against automatic weaponry, so it takes an absurd amount of SMG or plasma rifle fire to put one down. Halo 3 would tone down their tankiness by removing their damage resistance, while Reach also slightly reduced their overall durability alsonote .
- Invisibility Cloak: The Arbiter is permanently equipped with one. It only lasts for a short period of time before needing to recharge, and using any attack will cause it to deactivate.
- Is This Thing Still On?: An Australian-accented Marine comments on his first views of Delta Halo, while Sgt. Johnson is still waiting to land."It's like a postcard! 'Dear Sarge: Kicking ass in outer space, wish you were here'.""I heard that, jackass!"
- Justified Tutorial: Master Chief gets an upgraded armor system (MJOLNIR Mark VI) that gives an In-Universe explanation for some of the gameplay changes (for one, no more need for health packs, as there is now an internal "biofoam" system to automatically heal wounds). The technician has Chief look around to get adjusted to the new armor.
- Loophole Abuse: Forerunner technology only responds to humans. After trying and failing to threaten Miranda Keyes into activating the ring, Tartarus simply shoves the Activation Index into her hands and then forcibly pulls her arms into slamming the Index in. That counts as a human doing it after all.
- Made of Explodium: Covenant vehicles in this game, more so than the other games. Do enough damage and they violently explode. Twice. Human vehicles are also now destroyable for the first time in the series.
- Make Way for the New Villains: See Enemy Civil War.
- Match Cut: The Covenant-focused portion of the original opening cutscene ends with a lingering shot on the Prophet of Truth's face, before fading into space surrounding Earth, with the circular emblem on Truth's headwear fading in to the moon.
- Mêlée à Trois: Gravemind sees the Master Chief and the marines he rescues get caught in the crossfire of the Great Schism. Sadly, the Elites, Grunts, and Hunters don't seem too keen on an Enemy Mine. Yet.
- Neo-Africa: New Mombasa, Kenya is a high-tech city and spaceport. At least, when the game begins.
- Elites now take double damage from projectile weapons when their shields are down compared to the first game, making them much squishier than they were before (or in Reach). An unshielded Elite can take about as many hits from bullet weaponry as a equally ranked Grunt. They're still somewhat resistant to plasma damage, though. They're also a lot less agile and evasive than they were in the first game, but do behave more tactically such as sticking into a cover position or mantling up on high positions for a better firing angle.
- The pistol is no longer the Punch-Packing Pistol it was in the first game, dealing about half as much relative damage, no longer having a scope, and no longer counting as a sniper weapon when it comes to the Hunter weak points. Justified in that the pistol in Halo 2 is a completely different weapon firing more standard armor-piercing rounds rather than the explosive-bullet Hand Cannon from the first game.
- The plasma pistol has also been toned down, with its damage against enemies reduced so it now deals less damage than the plasma rifle against NPCs, rather than more. It now does about half as much relative damage as it did in the first game, likely to balance out the fact it can now be dual wielded.
- The SMG is functionally equivalent to the assault rifle from the first game, with the same accuracy, rate of fire, and magazine capacity, but it deals about 7 relative damage instead of the 10 damage the assault rifle did, and the total ammo is drastically cut down. On the other hand, you can use two of them at once for an even more impressive wall of lead, or it and a plasma weapon in each hand to cut down on the number of bullets needed to cut through an enemy's shields.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers, promotional materials, and even the blurb on the game's box all gave the impression that the Chief would spend all or most of the game helping humanity repel the Covenant invasion on Earth. He ends up spending three missions there, one on a station in orbit and two in a single city, before the head honcho they're tailing makes a slipspace jump and leads them to a new Halo.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: After Regret is killed, the Prophet of Truth orders the Brutes to replace the Elites as the Honor Guards, setting the stage for his long-planned slaughter of the Sangheili leadership who were more prone to questioning the Prophets than the more fanatical Jiralhanae. In barely a day's time, Truth's betrayal not only splits the Covenant in half and provokes a massive civil war, but it also gains the humans a critical ally in the Elites after they realize the truth about the rings.
- Furthermore, Truth decides to leave Mercy behind after an infection form latches onto him. When the Master Chief runs into him, he tells him that Truth is heading to Earth, basically ratting him out, so Truth pretty much shot himself in the foot on that one.
- Nintendo Hard: Halo 2 is universally regarded as the toughest campaign to beat on Legendary (and it's no slouch on Heroic, either, compared to the other games in the series), with Halo 5: Guardians coming a very close second, and Halo 1 coming in at third. Reasons why:
- Player shields for some baffling reason are insanely weak, and tend to go down in one hit. Another hit kills you. Coupled with the fact that enemies tend to fire from multiple directions and much faster, this means it is very difficult to attack multiple enemies head-on without having to retreat constantly.
- In Co-Op, the Iron skull is turned on automatically and cannot be turned off. If one player dies, both get booted back to the last checkpoint.
- Drones. Absolutely annoying on lower difficulties due to their swarm tactics and ability to fly about the level, here they are just insane. 15-20 Drones flying about, each firing a Plasma Pistol that will take shields down almost instantly. Have fun.
- Jackals wielding Beam Rifles (of which there are loads and loads in several levels, with "Metropolis" and "Regret" being notable examples) can kill the player in one hit, regardless of hit location. They also have insane accuracy, never missing their shots. Unless you know exactly where they are, you will die. A lot.
- Brutes, once they become the mainstay enemies after the level "Gravemind", are insanely resilient, which coupled with their tendency to go berserk makes them difficult to deal with, especially if all the player has is Covenant plasma weaponry. Their tendency to carry Brute Shots which can absolutely shred the player's shields with splash damage doesn't help.
- Several levels force the player to use only Covenant weaponry, which makes them less than ideal for fighting the Flood or Brutes, the former being weak to human weaponry and the latter being incredibly resistant to plasma.
- Friendly AI is absolutely brain-dead when driving vehicles, more often than not driving the player directly into combat and then stopping, leaving the player to get annihilated.
- No Ending: As noted under Cliffhanger, the game itself doesn't really come to a story conclusion so much as just stop after the Master Chief's line "Sir, finishing this fight."
- Nostalgia Level:
- "Beaver Creek" and "Coagulation" are faithful remakes of "Battle Creek" and "Blood Gulch" from Combat Evolved. Later map packs would also add "Warlock" as a remake of "Wizard", "Elongation" for "Longest", "Desolation" for "Derelict", and "Tombstone" for "Hang 'Em High".
- "Gemini" was designed as a Spiritual Successor to the Marathon Infinity map "Duality", while "Foundation" is a remake of the Marathon 2: Durandal map "Thunderdome".
- Optional Stealth: The Arbiter's Invisibility Cloak lasts for only about five seconds anyway, so ignoring it is a perfectly viable option if you don't want to spend most of your time just going in and out of hiding. A hidden skull lets Master Chief have invisibility too, but it lasts for the same amount of time and has a second disadvantage of no visible timer.
Master Gunnery Sergeant: So, Johnson, when you gonna tell me how you made it back home in one piece?
- Master Chief (with Cortana) was originally the only human to survive the destruction of the first Halo. The Legendary ending of the first game even gave a (humorous non-canon) scene depicting Johnson's last moments before the Autumn exploded. This game just has Johnson show up in the medal ceremony with no explanation given. Halo: First Strike had to explain how he survived.
- Lampshaded shortly after Johnson first reappears:
Sergeant Major Johnson: Sorry Gunns, it's classified.
Master Gunnery Sergeant: My ass! Well you can forget about those adjustments to your A2 scope, and...(continues shouting as Johnson and Chief move out of earshot)
- Also, this game introducing the Brutes and Drones as enemies was supposed to be because they were literally newly-introduced to the war, only brought in to fight humanity in its last days (the events of First Strike were originally humanity's first contact with either species). This quickly fell through when every other game set before Combat Evolved included Brutes and Drones anyway - now, the Brutes were the second Covenant race humanity ever encountered - which meant their lack of appearance in Combat Evolved is now bog-standard Early Installment Weirdness.
- Riding the Bomb: After Chief manages to turn off a Covenant bomb before it blows up Cairo Station, the very next thing he does is "give the Covenant back their bomb". By literally diving with it into a Covenant assault carrier.
- Right Hand vs. Left Hand: The infighting between the Brutes and the Elites leads to a schism within the Covenant which becomes basically the only hope for humanity's survival.
- Sequel Escalation: It tries to amp the ante on the original, to the point Bungie struggled to finish development.
- Sequel Hook: One of the most infamous ones in video game history.
- Situational Sword: The Sentinel Beam became an equippable weapon in this game, and it's almost exclusively designed to kill Flood. It's very accurate and can drop Flood forms near instantly from any range, but it drains ammo and overheats so rapidly that using it against any other enemy can easily be wasteful. Justified, of course, by the fact that Sentinels were designed to combat the Flood.
- Shameful Strip: The Arbiter's introduction scene, as punishment for his "failure".
- Shooting Superman: When Johnson steals a Scarab in the final mission, the Covenant enemies will shoot at it, despite the fact that it can't be destroyed in-game.
- Short-Range Shotgun: The shotgun deals even more damage than it did in the first game, with a point-blank blast sufficient to kill anything less than an Elite Ultra on Normal difficulty. However, the damage drop-off is incredible, with the damage being nearly halved at a distance of only a couple meters.
- Shows Damage: One of the changes from the first game is that vehicles now show damage; however, this is purely cosmetic. Vehicles are still tied to the player's Critical Existence Failure, so you can drive around with your vehicle on fire for as long as you want if your health stays above zero. Also, you can still fly in a Banshee even after it's had both of its engines and wings shot off.
- Strong Flesh, Weak Steel:
- For gameplay reasons, Master Chief is incredibly squishy without his shields, being able to take much less damage than regular UNSC marines despite their much less advanced armor.
- Strangely, the dress uniform wearing marines in Cairo Station are actually tougher than the ones wearing full combat armor, having about 195 relative health compared to the 150 relative health of the regular marines. Not even the ODST troopers in the later levels have that kind of health boost.
- Tempting Fate: During the battle aboard Cairo Station, the Marines and Master Chief spot the Covenant fleeing from Malta Station. The station's comms officer jubilantly cries out that they've won. Cue the station's destruction mere seconds later from an internal bomb blast.Marine: This is bad. Real bad!
- This Cannot Be!: In the final mission, when the presumed dead Arbiter returns to confront Tartarus, given that the latter had blasted the former into a seemingly bottomless pit:Tartarus: (gasps and jerks his neck up in surprise) Impossible!
- Took a Level in Badass:
- The generic UNSC Marines got way more competent in this game. They're more accurate, they've learned to drive multi-passenger vehicles (though not particularly well), and they're about 50% more durable compared to the first game, being roughly on par with a Blue Elite in terms of how many hits they can take now. They're actually pretty helpful when they appear, as long as you throw any submachine guns and shotguns they're holding into the trash and replace them with Battle Rifles and Sniper Rifles. Give one a rocket launcher and the marine's good aim and unlimited ammo will usually let him rack up almost as many kills as you.
- Hunters have received various minor tweaks to make them less of a Fake Ultimate Mook; they're much larger, are harder to bait into performing a melee attack (which exposes their weak points), and can now perform a 180 degree attack behind them to hit anything trying to shoot them in the back. Their armor also now completely negates damage, instead of merely reducing it. Their weak points also have proper coding to act as actual weak points and not "instantly kill them with a single pistol bullet" points, on top of the pistol being nerfed so it doesn't kill them in one shot. They still die to one weak point hit from a sniper rifle or beam rifle, though, and a direct grenade hit will confuse them and cause them to spin 180 degrees around, exposing their weak back. They do have somewhat less raw health than they did in the first game, but this is offset by their more intelligent use of their shield and their armor now offering 100% damage resistance.
- The plasma rifle now has a much faster rate of fire while still dealing roughly as much damage as it did in the first game, and can now be dual-wielded for even More Dakka. It also holds twice as many shots on a full battery as before.
- Trailers Always Lie:
- The E3 demo (and the advertising, and the boxart) gave the impression that the game would be set on Earth's surface. The final game had a grand total of two levels set there.
- In a more straight version of the trope, the "Give them back their bomb" sequence in the trailer has Earth in much more trouble than in the actual game, in which the first Covenant fleet barely sticks around before retreating. Earth's on fire? Not really. Save that for the next game and ODST.
- Translator Microbes: Cortana, being an advanced A.I., can understand the Prophets' language. And she can translate it for others to hear.Prophet of Regret: *speaking alien language*
Cortana: That's what I thought he said. The Prophet of Regret is planning to activate Halo!
Master Chief: Are you sure?
Cortana: *snaps fingers*
Prophet of Regret: *English* I shall light this holy ring, release its cleansing flame, and burn a path into the divine beyond!
Cortana: *snaps fingers* Pretty much.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: The game is divided between Master Chief and the Arbiter, switching perspectives every couple of missions. Gameplay-wise they play almost the same, except the latter has Active Camouflage and the former has a flashlight.
- Two-Part Trilogy: With Halo 3.
- Tyrannicide: The final battle in the level "Regret" is Master Chief assassinating the Prophet of Regret.
- Unique Enemy: Likely owing to this game's chaotic development, there are quite a few one-off enemy concepts scattered throughout the game:
- The first group of enemies in "Cairo Station" includes a pair of Elites dual-wielding Plasma Pistols. Later on, you can encounter an uncloaked Stealth Elite, and at the very end, there is an Elite dual-wielding a Plasma Rifle and Needler (also the only enemy that is dual-wielding two different weapons).
- During the drive through the tunnels in "Outskirts", you drive past a convoy of Shadows. These vehicles receive an entry in the manual despite being undriveable and never appear beyond this minuscule appearance.
- "Delta Halo" features a group of Jackals that use Plasma Rifles.
- "Regret" features a group of cloaked Grunts in their only antagonistic appearance.
- A squad of enemy Marines can be indirectly encountered in "Sacred Icon"; they are scripted to die when the player reaches their location.
- "Quarantine Zone" has the Needler Sentinel, a single Sentinel that fires Needler rounds and will drop one upon being destroyed. According to a developer, this was an experimental concept they forgot to remove from the final game. Also, "Quarantine Zone" holds the distinction of being the only level in the entire series where the Flood use vehicles. As a result, this is also the only level where you face off against Warthogs and Scorpions, and among them there is just one Gauss Warthog.
- "Gravemind" has another Glitch Entity in the form of the Honor Guard Councilor. The Honor Guard Councilor is coded as a Zealot rather than a full Ultra or Councilor, and was supposed to be the only Zealot you fight on difficulties lower than Legendary. On the intentional side, this is the only mission with Spec-Ops Elites and Grunts as enemies, as well as one Elite with a Fuel Rod Gun at the end.
- "High Charity" is the only mission with cloaked Flood, as well as Flood Combat Forms equipped with Brute Plasma Rifles. There is also a lonely Combat Form with a Brute Shot.
- Universal Driver's License: You would expect an experienced, highly-trained warrior like the Master Chief to be able to operate multiple human vehicles and captured Covenant ones. But the Arbiter also has no trouble using human vehicles and weapons, despite the fact the Covenant think humans and their technology are an abomination.
- Villain Ball: Truth wants to eliminate the Elites and fill their shoes in the Covenant with the Brutes, whom he thinks will be more blindly obedient underlings, especially if the truth about Halo gets out. While this might be a sound plan for the long term, the problem is that Truth's goal, which he comes very close to achieving in Halo 3, is to activate Halo and wipe out all life in the galaxy (or as he believes, Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence) meaning that there is no long term for him. Many of the Elites are still loyal to the Covenant and devout followers of its religion; even if the truth about Halo got out, it likely wouldn't sway enough Elites to turn against the Covenant in time to stop Truth. Instead, Truth gives all of the Elites a very good reason to turn against him for no particularly good reason, something that directly results in Truth's failing to achieve his goal in this game as well as his ultimate defeat.
- Villain Shoes: When you use the Arbiter for the first time, you're still on the bad side.
- Wham Episode:
- The level "The Arbiter" was one originally, before everyone knew that half the game was spent playing as the Arbiter.
- What happens in the cutscenes between "Quarantine Zone" and "Gravemind": The Flood are revealed to have a leader and the Enemy Civil War among the Covenant begins.
- Wham Line:
- From the end of "Quarantine Zone":Tartarus: A bloody fate awaits you and the rest of your incompetent race. And I, Tartarus, Chieftain of the Brutes, will send you to it.
Arbiter: When the Prophets learn of this, they will take your head.
Tartarus: When they learn? (low laughter) Fool, they ordered me to do it.
- The Stinger as well:Gravemind: Silence fills the empty grave...now that I have gone. But my mind is not at rest...for questions linger on. I will ask... and you will answer.
Cortana: ...Alright. Shoot.
- From the end of "Quarantine Zone":
- Wham Shot: Tartarus successfully activating Halo.
- What the Hell, Player?: The reaction of your allies when you kill one of them.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer...: Sort of; Tartarus only ever uses his ceremonial gravity hammer throughout the game. However, said hammer is outfitted with a powerful gravity generator that allows it to one-shot even light vehicles (and, as shown in cutscenes, allows it to be used as a ranged weapon), which, when combined with his near-impenetrable energy shield and insane natural durability, makes him incredibly dangerous.
- The Worf Effect: In the same mission no less. At the start of "Metropolis," you are treated to a cathartic segment of a Scorpion and a long bridge filled with enemies ripe for you to blow up. The climax of the level has you taking down a Scarab but not before it makes its entrance by blowing up another Scorpion like the one you used earlier.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Tartarus is ordered by the Prophets to kill the Arbiter after Delta Halo's Index is secured.
- You Have Failed Me: The Elites as a whole suffer this after Chief kills the Prophet of Regret, as the surviving Hierarchs attempt to replace them with the Brutes. The Elites don't take it very well. Unlike most examples, the Elites actually weren't to blame for the just-mentioned debacle; the Prophet of Truth deliberately engineered Regret's death just so he could have an excuse to get rid of the Elites, having knowingly weakened Regret's security despite the protests of, ironically enough, his Elite subordinates.
Tropes specific to the Anniversary version:
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: A minor case. In the original, when Arbiter responds to Rtas stating he doesn't care if the former lives or dies with "That make two of us." he is staring Rtas down, emphasizing his defiance. In the re-animated Blur cutscene, Arbiter drops his eyes while delivering the line, emphasizing his sense of shame over his failure.
- Adaptational Badass: In the original Halo 2, Sgt. Johnson went down in one hit when attacked by the Arbiter, while in the new Anniversary cutscene he's actually able to trade blows with the Arbiter for a few seconds. This may be a result of him having been revealed as a Spartan-I sometime after the original release of Halo 2.
- Art Evolution: Graphical power has grown significantly since the original. For example, Forerunner architecture originally tended to look more like geometric stone, while the updated version has it more of a sleek chrome. In some ways it is welding the cosmetic changes made in Halo 4 to the designs of the original trilogy. Then there's Gravemind...
- Call-Forward: The Superintendent shows up on some monitors in "Metropolis".
- Canon Welding: Like the Terminals in Halo: Combat Evolved: Anniversary, the ones here explain some previously unanswered lore questions and provide hints about future installments (in this case, Halo 5: Guardians).
- Continuity Nod: The terminals have quite a few to the expanded universe:
- The fight between Thel and Jai-006 is taken straight from The Cole Protocol, complete with a cameo from Zhar.
- Fal 'Chavamee makes a couple of appearances and is even referenced by name.
- The final terminal marks the first in-game appearance of Fred-104 (and the first voiced appearance of Linda-058), and directly references the mission to destroy the Unyielding Hierophant from First Strike.
- The details of both the Taming of the Lekgolo and the Unggoy Rebellion come from Contact Harvest.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Most of the Fleet of Particular Justice's battles against the humans were utter defeats for the latter, thanks to Thel's leadership and tactics.
- The Dreaded: Thel 'Vadamee, the future Arbiter, was apparently this before the Fall of Reach, as he was much more strategically flexible than other Elite Fleet Masters. Agent Locke believed that if the Fleet of Particular Justice attacked Earth, the UNSC would lose outright.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The new multiplayer mode includes the scoped SMG (marking its first appearance since Halo 3: ODST), which would go on to be present in Halo 5, the very game which Halo 2: Anniversary specifically and the Master Chief Collection in general were released in part to hype.
- Framing Device: In the Anniversary remaster, the story is framed as Thel 'Vadamee recounting events of the game to Jameson Locke, which also serves as a set up to Halo 5: Guardians.
- Flash Forward: The events of Halo 2 are interspersed with post-war scenes of Agent Locke and the Arbiter talking about Master Chief.
- George Lucas Altered Version: The campaign itself is preserved to a religious degree (besides the updated graphics), but the cutscenes are fully overhauled. While the Anniversary cutscenes mostly play out the same as the original ones, just with cinema-quality CG rather than in-game renderings, there are some minor changes scattered throughout. Additionally, there is a new multiplayer mode created with a unique engine; included in it are remastered versions of several classic maps, the Hornet from Halo 3, and a new Mongoose variant called the "Gungoose". The classic game with the original graphics and gameplay are still available if you so choose.
- Glitch Entity: The "Gravemind" mission has the "Honor Guard Councilor", a Zealot (gold) elite that was accidentally programmed to have a "dogmatic" voice/personality; since the level has no permutation data for dogmatic Elites, it defaults to Honor Guard armor and Ultra palette, with randomly chosen head types (most frequently the Councilor, hence the nickname).
- Guns Akimbo: The one major gameplay change between Halo 2 Anniversary and the original Xbox/Vista version of Halo 2 is that most of the dual-wielding NPCs have had their dual-wielding removed from the single-player campaign, with a couple rare exceptions such as the dual plasma pistol wielding Elites at the beginning of "Cairo Station". The Heretic Leader is the most obvious example of this, as he and his clones still dual-wield in the cutscenes but immediately lose their second plasma rifles once gameplay starts. Miranda Keyes also no longer dual wields SMGs during her confrontation with the Arbiter.
- Honor Before Reason: In one of the Terminals describing the Battle of Camber, the Arbiter managed to catch a UNSC garrison completely by surprise. He ordered his men to wait for the humans to arm themselves before attacking, then proceeded to slaughter them all.
- Oh, Crap!: In an updated cutscene during the Arbiter's chase of the Heretic Leader, this is very visibly his reaction to the Heretic turning his fleeing Banshee around and taking aim with the plasma cannons.
- Retcon: The change to the status of the position of Arbiter in Covenant society since the release of the original Halo 2 straddles the line between these two. Halo 2 all but stated that the Arbiter was a position of great esteem in the Covenent and that Thel 'Vadamee's appointment to Arbiter to be an unconventional move on the part of Truth and Mercy, bordering on Loophole Abuse. All subsequent media (including Anniversary's terminals) treat it as more or less the normal procedure. Since Anniversary's campaign is identical to the original, there are several inconsistencies like Sesa 'Refumee saying the position is a badge of shame in the terminals, while Thel 'Vadamee in the campaign states that even on his knees he is unworthy to be in the Mausoleum of the Arbiters. Or Guilty Spark stating (again, in the terminals) that the position was manipulated by the Prophets to disgrace Elites that were becoming too powerful, while in Thel's trial Truth is if anything trying to defend him and only denounces him as a heretic to satisfy the High Council.
- Updated Re-release: Like the Combat Evolved remaster, this one has a complete graphics and sound overhaul while 100% faithfully retaining the original gameplay engine. Unlike the remaster of the first game, it also replaces the old in-engine cutscenes with high-budget, completely pre-rendered ones, while also allowing for the player to switch between the original cutscenes and the new ones as they're playing. The updated graphics are also in the art style of the original Halo trilogy, unlike the first Halo Anniversary which (barring a few weapon models borrowed from Halo 3) used the distinct art style of Halo Reach.
- Uriah Gambit: 343 Guilty Spark points out that the Prophets seem to have largely used the appointment of Arbiter as cover for eliminating politically powerful and outspoken Elites.