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  • Ass Pull: Sergeant Johnson showing up alive and well despite the ending of the first game making it quite clear that no one other than 117 and Cortana survived the Halo's destruction. It only gets explained in Halo: First Strike how Johnson got off the ring in time.
  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • In the Prophet of Regret's boss fight, it's entirely possible to just run up to his chair, avoiding his easily dodged lasers, and punch him to death. At least on Normal or Easy. Trying this on Heroic or Legendary will probably get you shot to death by his dual-plasma rifle wielding Elite Mooks either before or after you "mount" his chair. Still, since the punching animation gives invincibility frames, it's still a viable (and silly, and still nonetheless difficult) tactic to mount his chair and punch him up to 20 times total (therefore at least 5 mounts, running away before and afterward since he'll throw you off after the 4th consecutive punch) on Legendary Co-op, since the alternative is wiping out his waves of respawning enemies almost endlessly to lower his shield.
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    • Tartarus could end up like this as well. It's possible for Johnson to snipe off Tartarus' shield right off the bat, which can result in the player killing the Final Boss only a few seconds into the fight. But again this is only on the lower difficulties; in the higher ones Tartarus has tremendous health.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • The original has a cutscene where Miranda Keyes dual-wields two SMGs against the Arbiter. The effortlessness with which she - a standard non-augmented human - does this left many fans scratching their heads, since even the strength-augmented Spartan Super Soldiers can't fire a single SMG without having to deal with some degree of recoil and kickback. The remastered version changes this scene so that she only uses a single SMG.
    • After the mixed reception he got in the original (especially from people who thought his design looked like Audrey II), the Gravemind's design in the anniversary edition is much more appropriately terrifying, looking less like a giant plant monster and more like a giant fanged sandworm made of diseased flesh and rotting corpses.
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    • When the Arbiter catches up the Heretic Leader, the latter appears to give the Arbiter a chance to hear the truth from Guilty Spark only to immediately begin shooting him. The Terminals in the Anniversary edition explain this course of action better: 'Refumee had come to believe that his former Shipmaster becoming Arbiter would permanently indoctrinate him to the Prophets' lies.
  • Awesome Music: "Halo Theme Mjolnir Mix": take the original theme and make it even more awesome by adding ELECTRIC GUITARS!
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Originally, fans either loved the Arbiter and thought his perspective of the Covenant War brought a refreshing light to the Elites, or hated him due to the fact that you were suddenly playing as the enemy and not the Master Chief, without any hints that this would happen pre-release. It also didn't help that the Arbiter's levels either involved him fighting the Flood or the Brutes, both difficult enemies to battle. Demoting him to the 2P character in Halo 3's co-op initially only widened this status by triggering fights between those who were relieved Master Chief was back in the spotlight and those who wanted more of him. With time, the controversy about hiding the Arbiter as a player character faded and he became popular in his own right - in fact, his appearance in Halo 5: Guardians was met with near-universal approval by the fanbase, to the point where he became a Guest Fighter in Killer Instinct (KI's Arbiter is officially a Composite Character, but he was clearly based mainly on this one).
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    • The Gravemind: menacing and creepily intelligent monster who's a sinister antagonist and even more interesting temporary ally, who adds an interesting wrinkle to the game's plot, or goofy plant monster who spouts philosophical drivel and has no place in the Halo universe? As with the Arbiter, the naysayers have largely grown less negative with time, with fans noting his interesting personality and multiple memorable quotes. His drastically different (and far scarier) redesign in the Anniversary addition helped a lot.
  • Best Level Ever: Metropolis. Drive a tank across a bridge fighting Ghosts, Wraiths, Banshees, and Phantoms, followed by a battle in the city after a quick battle in a tunnel, and the level ends with the Scarab fight.
  • Contested Sequel: While some fans would argue that Halo 2 one-upped its predecessor in every way (see Even Better Sequel below), others would argue that it (or at least the single-player aspect) still came up lacking, citing the less open and more linear level design, a poorly balanced difficulty level, particularly on Legendary, and the infamous cliffhanger ending.
  • Demonic Spiders: NOBODY likes the Jackal snipers. Sharpshooters armed with Beam Rifles, they are somewhat annoying on normal difficulties. But on higher difficulties, their highly accurate shots are strong enough to one-shot you, and they are considered by many to be the most difficult challenge of beating Halo 2 on Legendary difficulty. Bungie ended up nerfing them in Halo 3 by adding a headlight so you can spot them more easily.
  • Even Better Sequel: It is debated on how well the story lives up to expectations, but this game is considered one of the best shooters of all time.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • One of Johnson's battle quotes is "In Halo 4, I get a woman." Johnson dies in Halo 3.
    • One of Cortana's line in the mission Delta Halo, "If I were a megalomaniac - and I'm not...", takes on new significance with the main reveal in Halo 5: Guardians.
  • Game-Breaker:
    • Though not supposed to be something that players have access to, the Scarab Gun makes the level it can be found on completely trivial. This goes even further with the Scarab Skull in Anniversary, which turns every weapon in the player's hand into a Scarab Gun, making Legendary a breeze.
    • The Bandanna Skull from Combat Evolved Anniversary makes a triumphant return in Anniversary.
    • There are several areas in the game where Sequence Breaking can allow the player to bring a vehicle into a section of the level where it isn't meant to go. Most notable, if a banshee's wings are blown off just before entering the final level's control room, players can wedge the thing through the door and turn the Final Boss fight with Tartarus into an utter Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Killing the heretic Leader (Sesa 'Refumee) becomes more tragic in the Anniversary edition with the added terminals revealing how much Sesa respected Thel 'Vadamee and trusted he would do what is right had he not been fooled by the Prophets.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • The player gets to play as an Elite.
    • The Brutes become the central villains of the game after the Covenant splinters apart.
  • It's Hard, So It Sucks!: One of the bigger complaints thrown at the game is that its higher difficulties, Legendary especially, go beyond offering a solid challenge and arrive into frustratingly near-impossible territory. This is largely because the Chief and the Arbiter have very little health this time, while on Legendary enemies are both capable of tanking damage and unleashing a torrent of unrelenting suppressive fire at you, without having to worry about overheating or reloading. There are fans who enjoy this brutal difficulty, especially with the rise of Nintendo Hard games built around trial and error in the decade after the release of Halo 2, but for more casual fans it is a sticking point.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The Gravemind's redesign in the Anniversary edition. Gone is the plant monster of the original, say hello to a gigantic arthropodal atrocity with the texture of rotting corpses, and a giant fanged maw nestled inside a mouth of bloody flesh. Truly a thing worthy of the quote, "I am a monument to all your sins."
  • Porting Disaster: Halo 2 Vista, which likely killed the idea of Halo games receiving PC ports for well over a decade. For starters, the PC version forces people to use Windows Vista or later to play it by checking to see if you have DirectX 10 installed, even though it was designed for the original Xbox which uses DirectX 8.1. A hack soon popped up that disabled this check, and it proved to work just fine on XP. Other problems include that many keys are hardcoded to be bound to Games for Windows Live (screwing anybody who prefers a non-WASD keymap), network connectivity was patchy (GFWL again), and the modding toolset was crap (basically impossible to create new single-player content). The game is also not future-proof, as it does not support resolutions over 1080p nor frame-rates above 60 Hz (while the original Halo: Combat Evolved can be run at 4k at 120hz with no problems).
    • Thankfully, all of these issues (save the lack of mod support) were resolved by the 2020 Master Chief Collection port of Halo 2 Anniversary, which runs at 4k 120hz no problem and has full support for keybinding and FOV customization.
  • The Scrappy: Miranda Keyes to some extent; her tendency to go in headfirst gets quite annoying at times. Especially when it results in getting surrounded by Flood parasites. The EU explains it a bit; she's trying to live up to her father's name.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • The rank system itself was surely (and ironically) the least secure aspect of ranked playlists; de-ranking was a notorious glitch in the system or result of a really skilled hacker. God bless the heart if anything more than twelve rank levels have disappeared off your record.
    • On a 16:9 display, the game forces vertical split-screen when playing two-player locally, severely limiting the field of view and making it hard to play. Setting the console to 4:3 resolves this. Halo 3 fixes this by adding black bars on the left and right sides of the screen in 2-player, and the Master Chief Collection has horizontal split-screen without letterboxing.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Fans of the original weren't happy with the Mausoleum fight in "Gravemind" changing to music from the instrumental of Breaking Benjamin's "Blow Me Away" to more generic riffs in the remastered edition, presumably due to licensing issues. Fortunately, changing the graphics back to classic also changes the music back - which, of course, debunks the "rights issues" thing entirely. They did the same with the rest of the licensed music, including all four Movements of the Odyssey that Incubus wrote for the game. However, both bands also scream "2004", so it may have been an ill-advised attempt to remove a "dated" element.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The fact that there were some Hunters that sided with the Arbiter to rebel against the Prophets and the Brutes. It ends up coming off more like a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, because when one plays through the game series, the player will realize that this ends up only ever occurring near the end of Halo 2, but man did it give off a cool feeling fighting alongside those all-powerful Bosses in Mook Clothing for once.
    • The Covenant taking their war against humanity to Earth. Despite having tons of potential, it all ended up being crammed into just the first 3 levels of the game.
    • The missed opportunity to flip the series' formula on its head and have you fight Marines as the Arbiter; beyond a brief tease of the idea in Sacred Icon (in which you can encounter a group of hostile Marines that very quickly get overwhelmed by the Flood), this never happens.
  • Uncanny Valley: In the remastered cutscenes, the Prophets have teeth that look very human. The effect is remarkably unsettling.
  • Underused Game Mechanic: The game made non-playable allies able to drive vehicles, when previously only human players could take the wheel. The multitude of internet videos of NPCs failing miserably to drive anywhere, not crash, or not kill any of their own allies shows just how useful allowing that was.
  • Vindicated by History: Reception to Halo 2 upon release was polarizing, and Bungie themselves admitted their dissatisfaction with the final product, which had tons of great features cut and many rough edges to the levels and AI. Despite this, Halo 2 managed to gain a loyal following for its efforts at a deeper story and very fun multiplayer, to the point that a faithful few managed to keep its Live servers active for almost a full month after its scheduled shutdown. Since then, Halo 2 getting a 10th anniversary rerelease was met with cheers all across the fandom, and Bungie veterans Joe Staten and David Candland have admitted that, despite its very Troubled Production, it is the game they're the proudest of in the end.
    • As noted in the Base Breaker section, the passage of time has made the Arbiter himself far more popular, with his appearances in post-Halo 4 media almost universally well-received, particularly after Halo 4 had alienated some by making the Elites bad guys again.
    • The Gravemind's design in the original Halo 2note  was widely decried as something from Little Shop of Horrors. His terrifying appearance in Anniversary was far better received.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The Anniversary edition definitely qualifies as such. The original Xbox version is no slouch either, having some of the best (if not the best) graphics on the console - and they're actually toned down from the original graphics engine, which Bungie spent half the development time working on only to scrap it because the original Xbox wouldn't have been able to handle it.
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