Universal acclaim - based on 91 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 89 out of 91
  2. Negative: 0 out of 91
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  1. Microsoft and Bungie have created a gigantic bell that sounds like thunder and reverberates with a fury worthy of a gale-force hurricane. It's not perfect, but get in front of it, and wonderful things - wonderful destructive things - are bound to happen. [Dec 2004, p.72]
  2. The digital surround sound is phenomenal (and the voice-acting peerless), and players with a good A/V system will enjoy hearing enemies approach from all sides due to the sharp positional sound.
  3. 100
    One of Halo 2 Online's best features - if not the best - is the statistics tracking system. [Online review]
  4. 100
    Halo 2 online is not total perfection, but it's miles better than anything out there right now, by a long long way... It's a genuine milestone in online console gaming. [Multiplayer Review]
  5. Halo 2's Campaign mode is a luminous experience and testament of Bungie's rare talent for mixing gorgeous cinematics with captivating and fun gameplay segments, but it also serves as the concrete foundation for the game's multiplayer, making simple deathmatches, team skirmishes and CTF games that much more engaging.
  6. The new "Dual Wielding" option allows you to pick up two guns at once and use them together, which provides a feeling that again, other shooters just don't come anywhere near.
  7. AceGamez
    Quite simply an indescribably phenomenal gaming experience that redefines both the first person shooter genre and next generation gaming.
  8. This game goes where no Xbox Live enabled game has gone before.
  9. The graphics are hotter than ever, and the bump-mapping technology, which gives even simple textures an illusion of depth and reality, looks even better than you could've imagined.
  10. 100
    The combination of a great campaign mode along with a goldmine of multiplayer options makes for an unbeatable gaming experience.
  11. Game Informer
    Simply put, Halo 2 is by far the greatest first-person shooter the console world has seen to date...Nothing I say can prepare you for this game. [Dec 2004, p.180]
  12. From the huge gameplay twist early on, to taking down a giant walking tank, to way late in the game when you team up with certain...teammates, all the way to an end that'll leave you with the same breathless feeling you had when you first watched "The Empire Strikes Back"...moments like these turn a fun game into a monumental experience.
  13. 100
    The campaign mode introduces a ton of new elements, not only to the game itself, but also to the Halo universe as a whole. As for the multiplayer, you won't find a better Xbox Live experience anywhere, and you can be sure that Halo 2 will be topping the Live charts for years to come.
  14. 100
    Unlike October's blockbuster "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," Halo's masses of content have been tossed in a strainer and all serve to make the main game better, rather than simply providing more for the player to do.
  15. The Multiplayer is so incredibly fun that when you have a large group of people over playing you lose track of time and can (from personal experience) spend over 17 hours straight playing Multiplayer without realizing it.
  16. 100
    But where the sequel will really fondle your boys is in the multiplayer modes. New level designs let you funnel the action into wide-open areas or allow you to stalk the terrain's nooks and crannies looking for the perfect sniping spot.
  17. The sound in Halo 2 is the best I have ever heard in any game... Each weapon has such a distinctive sound now that you know what is going on in the next room before you even get there, from the rattle of a SMG to the haunting whistling of a Hunter's beam.
  18. From the deep stat tracking to the games ability to match you up with people your own ability,the clan and party support, and huge number of game modes, Halo 2's multiplayer is definitely a revolution for console multiplayer games.
  19. Oh, but the best weapon of all, my friends, is the new Energy Sword, a shimmering, supersized beauty. The sword crackles and sizzles, almost like the darned thing is angry.
  20. 100
    The multiplayer promises to elevate Halo 2 online gameplay to "Counter-Strike" status with the added attraction of Xbox Live full voice support.
  21. Halo 2 completely lives up to the hype. An improvement in every way over the original, particularly in terms of playability and graphics.
  22. I can say with complete honesty that no other first-person shooter can touch Bungie's epic in terms of level design, gunplay, sheer action or multiplayer entertainment.
  23. 100
    A near-flawless fusion of solid gameplay and excellent presentation, filled with little details that make it a kill-the-light-and-unplug-the-phone experience.
  24. 100
    The best console multiplayer component ever. This game is going to douse Xbox Live in gasoline and toss it a match...With 16 players busting each other's chops at a time and all the clan support you can handle, this game will still be played five years from now.
  25. 100
    Living up to its unbelievable hype, Bungie's masterpiece features an engaging story, a satisfying single-player campaign, some of the most impressive graphics ever seen in a console title, and new gameplay features like dual-wielding, vehicle boarding, new weapons, and advanced AI.
  26. This is a quality sci-fi blockbuster brought alive with sleek visuals, superb voice characterisations, explosive sound effects and a robustly stirring music score.
  27. The epic scale astounds, with dazzling scenery including space stations, war-torn cities, temples, snowy wastelands and ruins. The audio is equally extravagant.
  28. Play Magazine
    Everything's designed with a master's eye for first-person intensity, extensively crafted and technicaly superb. [Dec 2004,p.75]
  29. The visuals are amazing and the audio production is stunning. One word for the multiplayer game modes…perfection.
  30. While feature-packed, Halo 2's Live interface will take a little getting used to. It's not that it's laid out poorly or anything like that. It's just that the sheer number of options you have available to you for Live play are staggering.
  31. 99
    Enemies will change what they say based on what's happening too, so if you go in guns blazing they may scream like a little girl, but if you duck behind an object they will taunt you for being a coward. All of this adds to the total immersion that you get from playing this game and that feeling is overwhelming.
  32. Halo 2 has delivered and conquered every front it set out to take. No other game is as cinematic. No other game sounds like Halo 2 does and no other game plays as fantastic as Halo 2 plays. You will not find a better multiplayer game on any platform.
  33. Each level is of a perfect length as the player finishes just as he or she feels they are getting bored yet has an addictive quality to them which makes you want to play it again and again.
  34. 98
    It's a noble achievement in storytelling, gameplay balance, and multiplayer design. And it's easily the best console-based, online game on Earth. Easily. Like so many people have said thus far: In 2004, Halo 2 will own you.
  35. A graphical and audible masterpiece on so many different levels. I don't even know where to begin. Halo 2 has been completely rebuilt from the ground up. This is NOT Halo 1 with new textures. The graphics are simply stunning and the draw-in distance is as far as the eye could see.
  36. The fluidity with which characters, vehicles, bullets and environmental objects move is astonishing, and when you couple that smoothness with location-specific Havok physics, the game looks much more believable than the first Halo, if not any game to date.
  37. Like the first game, you will be talking about the end of Halo 2 for a long time to come, perhaps for the wrong reasons though this time and many gamers will feel maybe a bit ripped off? But the fantastic moments in Halo 2 far outweigh the few flaws.
  38. Most of the new additions in the game aren't innovative on their own, but like with the original, Bungie combines almost everything that makes the FPS genre fantastic into one, nearly flawless package. Halo 2 is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest game on the Xbox, and arguably one of the greatest games ever made.
  39. I get Goosebumps when I discuss this game, honestly. The genuine care that has been taken in making this game is awe inspiring.
    It could be argued that Halo 2 multiplayer is not only leagues ahead of any other broadband enabled game, but it may even leave the single-player experience in the shadows. The options for online play are far more varied than even Ubisoft's Clancy titles, and the interface and lobby systems represent everything that Xbox Live is truly capable of. [XBM]
  41. Official Xbox Magazine
    You'll be surprised and stunned by some of the turns that not only imbue the story with great depth and meaning, but indelibly impact the actual game you're playing... Halo 2 is the single greatest achievement on the platform. [Dec 2004, p.44]
  42. For the first time ever, I was actually dumbfounded when I found myself standing on a large wasteland area, surrounded by rocks and rolling hills. I was actually intimidated by the dusky skies over head, and the burning cityscapes in the background, and how miniscule you feel really makes you realize just how great of a world Bungie has created.
  43. The graphics in this game are mind numbing! The use of normal mapping along with bump mapping really makes it shine.
  44. Every single aspect of the whole package that is Halo 2 seems to have been considered, reconsidered, improved and then looked at from a new perspective to see if it can be made better...It really is a case of running out of superlatives when it comes to describing Halo 2.
  45. Gaming Target
    A fantastic example of pure artistic vision coupled with serious technological know-how.
  46. One of the strongest FPS offerings of the season in campaign mode, and one of the best internet-enabled FPS games for any platform.
  47. 96
    One of the best console first-person shooters ever made, with multiplayer that is way ahead of anything else on any console.
  48. It's short single player campaign and under developed story will no doubt disappoint fans yet the games excellent multiplayer support and replay value more then make up for it ensuring the game will sit near the top of classic first person shooters.
  49. A gripping and epic single-player game that'll take you by surprise - and perhaps the finest multiplayer game ever devised. Evolutionary rather then revolutionary, perhaps, but any way you cut it this is a first-person tour-de-force.
  50. Worth the hype it received? Well, it definitely is worth it for the multiplayer, for the augmented gameplay features and for the vocal delivery by the Hollywood talent in the title. It isn't, however, thanks to the weakly developed storyline, similarity to the original title and the long duration that we'll have to wait through for the continuation of the saga.
  51. Cheat Code Central
    The functionality of Halo 2 online is unequaled and there is something here for everyone. Before you even step into a Live arena, the amount of configuration options, both cosmetic and mechanic are almost overwhelming.
  52. Halo 2 met my own lofty expectations in virtually every way possible, minus two small exceptions: first, I would love to have been able to play two-player co-op on Xbox Live; it's unfortunate that this didn't happen. Secondly, while I found the story much more engaging this time around, I also found the ending a little bit jarring.
  53. The sensation is difficult to explain, but it's akin to abandoning the sensation of control itself, as if you're truly within the gameworld and every neuron twitch in your brain results in precisely the correct physical translation.
  54. Perhaps not as groundbreaking as we were led to believe or even hoped for prior to release but an immense and masterful game all the same, as they say if it's not broken don't fix it!
  55. It isn't a game that truly pushes the envelope, but it is one of the best shooters we've played in years, and it's one of the most solid multiplayer packages ever released.
  56. 95
    It's a game that deserves every superlative attached to it, a title so well-rounded and technically superior that it demands to be played. [Offline review only - includes multiplayer]
  57. While the story is an improvement on the first, the fact that the sequel is so much better means the story should have been great too.
  58. A surprisingly disappointing story and a fairly short single-player portion are noticeable shortcomings, but there's just so much breadth of content in Halo 2, and the action itself is so outstanding, that there can be no denying its quality.
  59. The gameplay of Halo 2 is fun, furious, and on a much bigger/grander scale than the first that really immerses players in a full scale interplanetary war. [Collector's Edition]
  60. The game is fantastic, minus that damn draw distance problem. How could they let such a small problem like that surface up? Things can look really good, but the texture swapping can be devastating.
  61. The A.I. is amazing this time around. It was good in Halo; it is great in Halo 2.
  62. netjak
    As a multiplayer experience, however, Halo 2 is simply unparalleled. No other game provides the sheer amount of variety, both in terms of game types and opponents, as Halo 2 currently offers.
  63. Controls are extremely tight and responsive. You are in complete control of Master Chief's movements, so any loss or mistake is completely your own.
  64. 93
    Optimatch is annoying many online gamers; the Flood is annoying many offline players and lowers the replayability factor, and the storyline has gone in a completely different direction to where everybody assumed it would go.
  65. You name it, Halo 2 does it at an A+ level: wonderfully improved visuals, a solidly engaging and well-scripted storyline (with an unexpected sense of humor intermixed with the strong religious overtones), good voice-acting, splendidly ear-pleasing orchestral music, and the coup de grace, exciting online play.
  66. It's certainly not the game to convert anyone from one camp to the other. It delivers a new story, new features and kick-ass multiplayer functionality, but still has exactly the same gameplay as we've all seen before.
  67. The system works well, even if it is different from what you are used to. Stop whining, learn how to create a party for custom games and enjoy the benefits of the matchmaking system the rest of the time. It's not perfect but neither is the traditional server list model.
  68. 91
    It's technically accomplished, wonderfully diverse and ridiculously fun. It's the sort of game that you want to quit work or dump the girlfriend to play.
  69. Halo 2 is an amazing game. The negatives are by far overshadowed by the positives.
  70. Despite a genuinely better plot this time around, the short, linear campaign and unresolved ending will certainly aggravate those hoping for a more evolved single-player game. But make no mistake – what Halo 2 lacks in its single-player it more than makes up for in its great gameplay, gorgeous delivery and flat-out addictive multiplayer.
  71. The problem is that the ending feels more like a mission briefing than a conclusion. Secrets are revealed, the final battle is set, the music swells and then bam, credits.
  72. Edge Magazine
    It's fitting that we're able to steal a line from the script to sum everything up. No spoilers here, just an epitaph, from the moment Cortana turns to Master Chief and says this: "It's not a new plan. But we know it'll work." [Christmas 2004, p.74]
  73. The truth is, for every hour our blood was pumping like a turbo charged locomotive through our adrenaline scored veins, there were an equal number of hours where we were bored with the unimaginative repetition of formulaic corridor based FPS trawls. [Single-Player review; Multiplayer also rated 90]
  74. games(TM)
    Bungie has managed to whittle away many of the elements we felt uncomfortable with in the original game (specifically some dull level design and unappealing multiplayer), as well as adding enough polish to make Halo 2's gameplay shine... As a sequel that's good enough to convert even those who didn't enjoy the original title, we doubt anyone could have asked for anything more. [Christmas 2004, p.122]
  75. The end still lands with a blindsiding jolt. It doesn't help that the last moments of gameplay are so anticlimactic. Regardless of the game's end and its other problems, it takes a fool to say that Halo 2 is a bad game.
  76. It begins at a frantic pace and those early stages are particularly brilliant, however it's over all too soon and the cliffhanger climax is likely to infuriate as many as those who begin counting down the days until "Halo 3."
  77. Marty O'Donnell has done an incredible job with the game's audio, and it may stand alongside the multiplayer component as the game's best achievement.
  78. 90
    It's a great game that will be a disappointment to some people due to the length of the single player experience but multiplayer easily makes up for any shortcomings the campaign may have.
  79. A significant step forward from the original but hardly revolutionizes the genre or even the series. The game starts off playing and looking like the original and slowly evolves into something slightly new and improved.
  80. Graphics are about as good as they're likely to get on the Xbox... But close-ups, particularly textures in some of the outdoor environments, are jarringly ugly when juxtaposed with the many areas of sheer beauty.
  81. The problem is that these improvements come across more as refinements than groundbreaking changes since they do not dramatically alter the overall game playing experience.
  82. 88
    What Halo 2 isn't is a huge leap forward for the FPS genre, and Halo 2 suffers for it in terms of it's longevity. Run, gun, hide, run, gun and hide again; this isn't a cerebral shooter -but then again, it was never meant to be. We were wishing for more than we ended up with, however. [Single-Player review]
  83. The game is shorter than the original title, and if you play games to get a great ending, Halo 2 is not going to give it to you. The ending made our jaws drop, but not in a positive sense.
  84. A fun, fast paced shooter with lots of multiplayer action. It is not, however, the be all and end all of gaming that the hype machine has unfailingly claimed.
  85. 80
    No single level in Halo 2 is as good as The Silent Cartographer (though the second level does come close), and there are moments that are just as repetitive and lazy as The Library.
  86. In spite of a weak ending that is little more than a setup for "Halo 3," the game is a satisfying experience. It is tremendous fun to jump on an enemy vehicle, punch the driver until he falls out, get in and start blasting.
  87. Bungie have succeeded in creating a world of characters that are impossible to care about. It turns from "Star Wars" into "Battlefield Earth" far too quickly, and even John Travolta would pass up on this one...The dominating storyline robs from what should have been a fantastic title, the atmosphere gets bogged down with drawn out cutscenes and then ultimately peters out. [Offline review only - includes multiplayer]
  88. The single-player campaign is boring and ineffective, the action is dull, the level structure is bland and the overall game lacks the oomph and power of the original. HALO 2's multiplayer aspect fares a little better but it's marred by an ineffective matchmaking service and some poor judgment in the balance department.
  89. Awfully flat and mediocre. The plot is labyrinthine, missions run on rails through an endless stream of lookalike corridors, action is strictly of the repetitive shoot-everything-that-moves school of design, and the art department at Bungie clearly should have tried coloring with more than one or two of the crayons in the box.
  90. I felt so screwed out of some sort of satisfaction, screwed out of more levels off of the Halo, screwed out of many hours of my life that I just poured into one of the most amazingly bad excuses for a single-player first-person shooter campaign. I was bored, I was tired and by the end of it, I was just really pissed off.

Awards & Rankings

#1 Most Discussed Xbox Game of 2004
#2 Most Shared Xbox Game of 2004
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 2275 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. May 27, 2012
    Probably my favorite war shooter multiplayer game. Had so much fun with this one. One of the best multiplayers ever.
  2. Jun 12, 2014
    This game didn't only change my life but I'm sure it changed other peoples too. This was not only the start of Xbox Live and Xbox, but theThis game didn't only change my life but I'm sure it changed other peoples too. This was not only the start of Xbox Live and Xbox, but the start of something bigger. Life. Yes Halo 2 was life for me back then. What I like about this game is that everybody can relate to it. It is by far the best Xbox game created. It really changed how gamers thought (Considering there werent a lot back then). This game not only boosted its series but it boosted Xbox, gaming, and even some peoples lives. Including mine. I know they will continue to make Halos and I believe it will continue to succeed. I Full Review »
  3. Mar 31, 2014
    Halo 2 is the best games that have been created in history, by the fact the gameplay, story, soundtrack and others, this is my favorite videoHalo 2 is the best games that have been created in history, by the fact the gameplay, story, soundtrack and others, this is my favorite video game, and no one can change it Full Review »