It's a weird feeling to turn on your console, PC game, whatever, and go to the main screen, and realize that it's not supported anymore. Helpful messages are gone, unable to connect to the servers; it feels like you walked into a barren wasteland, but you can remember everything that was there before. It becomes a shadow of its former self, a hollow shell. I get this weird sinking feeling, "eventually, is this going to happen to everything I know and enjoy? In 10 years, can I fire up my Xbox 360 or my DS and will they still operate? Could I still check my friends list and get updates for the games?" It's weird to think about, especially for games and systems that you hold a soft spot for.
For me, one of these games is Halo 2. Last night was the last night you could ever play it online. Being one of the primary games that got me into gaming, it left an empty feeling inside of me. Something akin to (but not as serious) a relative dying, or a friend moving away. I felt that it needed something, a nice toast to send it off into the vast expanse of dead electronics. A true gem in the pile of nothing.
Halo 2. I salute you.
"The movement felt tight, like as in Halo 1 and 3 where it seems you can jump 30 feet in the air. You feel like you've got fluid motion" -Codey Blevins
Before achievements, before dedicated unlockables, before any of that, there was Halo 2. Good, classic, wholesome, human competition. Nowadays, people won't even touch a multiplayer without some reward system, and let's not even get started about achievements. It forces developers to move time to developing some crazy unlock and rank system, and away from making the actual game worth playing (cough cough F.E.A.R. 2, Modern Warfare 2). If you wanted a test of skill, character, and manliness, you both grabbed an oversized Xbox controller and booted up Halo 2, arguing about the map and variants. It was winner take all, and that usually meant finding where the hell the shotgun, sword, and rocket launcher were located.
You didn't hop into a match against people higher level than you knowing that you would get obliterated simply because you were a lower rank. It was a test of skill, and sometimes even luck. People twenty ranks higher than you didn't have superhuman abilities like extra grenades, no fall damage, faster running speed, etc. They had experience. They were battle-hardened veterans that didn't need overpowered weapons to kick your puny ass from here to Zanzibar, and would teabag you every opportunity while doing it.
Each weapon had a distinct usage, sound, look, and feel. The rocket launcher, for example, was an extremely dangerous tool, but it only had two bullets per clip, and had a long reload time. You reacted differently to each weapon as well. You see someone running at you with a sword or shotgun, you immediately backpedal. It was the reason players who used those weapons would always be so damn sneaky. You see someone with a sniper rifle, you duck and cover. You see someone in a scorpion tank, or warthog, you either run the hell away or try to jack it. Each weapon was balanced to perfection, and no one weapon was the "go to" weapon. I mean you would run for the shotgun every chance you got, but drop into an open area with people at middle range and you might as well be a turkey with a broken leg on Thanksgiving weekend.
"Slayer. Killtacular. Game Over." -Announcer
Halo 2 invented matchmaking. Hell, Halo 2 reinvented the console multiplayer experience. It took what the Xbox Live service could do, and peered into the future. Lobbies, voice filters, matchmaking, stat tracking, these things were unheard of! Jumping into a Halo game meant jumping into streamlined, lagless multiplayer, and it knew it. Not only that, but dedicated playlists that would change and vary weekly with special events made you feel like you were playing in an organic world. Throw in "social" matches that would allow you to bring in up to 3 other people that didn't have Xbox Live accounts, and you have yourself a party. Big Team Battle 4EVER!
Speaking of stat tracking and big team battle, creating a Bungie.net account allows you to view every single thing you ever did while connected to Xbox Live during Halo 2. My last game was in 2007, Big Team Battle, on containment, the map you see detailed above. I had two guests, my best weapon was the battle rifle, and i took the other team's flag a whopping total of 1 time, my nemesis was akaDAMAGEINC. Clicking on his profile, I can see that his last game was today, April 15th, 2007, at 10:50 AM. He was in Big Team Battle on Coagulation and killed 11 people. If that doesn't make you want to walk up to Bungie and give them a big hug, I don't know what can. That kind of stat-tracking, as far as consoles go, is only available on 1 game, besides Halo 2, as of this writing. Halo 3.
Remember that puppy? 9 Multiplayer maps, bonus interviews, deleted scenes, and a free update, for only $20. Activision just got done charging $15 for 5 maps, 2 of which are simple remakes, for their big multiplayer shooter, Modern Warfare 2. If you want all the Fallout 3 DLC without the GOTY addition it's $40! Bungie was clearly 5 years in the future during the development process of Halo 2. What other game had DLC?! We take it for granted now, but back then we had to go to the store for our DLC.
"You told me there wouldn't be any cameras." "And you told me you were gonna wear somethin' nice!" -Master Chief and Sgt. Johnson on "Cairo Station"
Try to not read it in their respective voices. I dare you.
Halo 2's campaign was nothing to shake a stick at. It was overshadowed by everything else, but in no way was it a pushover. Fully featured 2-player co-op comes to mind. Remember, back in 2004, it was a technological masterpiece to support a whole 2 players in a dynamic setting. The story and characters weren't very good by today's standards, but you liked them anyway. It didn't even really capture the B-movie feel that a lot of games try to run with today. It was just some badass super-soldier in a suit popping one-liners and killing some communist aliens. Extremely original. To this day, i can't imagine to hear the words "Halo" and "Covenant" without immediately thinking of the big ring that could destroy everything and the failed alien pact that tried to do it. I played through the story god knows how many times, with god knows how many people. I will admit that I never beat Cairo Station on legendary, I doubt that anyone actually did. But the campaign was just... fun. Something about how it felt, maybe it was the epic soundtrack, Sgt. Johnson, setpieces, or the Easter Eggs. Halo 2 had an awesome campaign, it just gets left out to dry amongst everything else.
Easter eggs you say? Hidden secrets? Glitches? Super jumps? Skulls? Don't even bring me there. Halo 2's singleplayer and multiplayer was chock full of goodies for us to search for, some intentional and some not. There are sites dedicated to the weeding out of these little boogers. Some say that everything has been found. Some still believe there is more to be seen. Whichever side you're on you have to admit there have been some damn good things to find. Scarab gun anyone? Come on, you remember. Grab the banshee right as you go through the loading area so it doesn't dissapear? Yeah don't give me that, you know exactly what I'm talking about. What about ling ling's head, pictured above? The giant soccer ball on Metropolis? Or maybe getting out of Delta Halo and driving around that huge lake? Don't you even mention the skulls. IWHBYD (i would have been your daddy) is by far the greatest skull ever. It adds a dumpster load of new dialog lines that are ridiculous and awesome. It also appears in Halo 3, but getting it in Halo 2 is man's work. You have to fight off 7 waves of ultra elites using only a plasma pistol. Tell me that's not impossible.
Finding all the super jumps, getting out of maps, searching for easter eggs and clues; all this occupied countless hours of my life, alone or with friends. It was just innate curiosity and pure joy. There were no achievments or stat-tracking awards for finding these things. I felt like an archaeologist digging through ancient relics, and getting to school or my friend's house the next day to describe in detail my findings, with their eyes wide and their hands nearly trembling with excitement, it was something no other game had offered me before. Normally, open world games hold the top spot for Easter Eggs, because those things could be ANYWHERE. But, somehow, Halo hid them in places so far out, that it took hours just trying to get there even though it was ten feet away.
I can still remember the drill. Boot up the game, start co-op, go to the "Quarantine Zone" level and right at the start, run left. Grenade jump, grab the Sputnik skull, save and quit. Now you're in business. The Sputink skull would increase the physics of grenades and rockets, so it was much, much easier to get to higher places. View a nice montage of old Halo 2 glitches, secrets, and eggs, here. And that barely scratches the surface.
"there are no games where you can get together and play lan like you could in halo 2" - Mitch Sturm
So many awesome games these days are dropping LAN and splitscreen support. Bad Company 2 and Starcraft 2 come to mind immediately. Halo 2 simply screamed LAN Party. Two of my birthday parties growing up were completely dedicated to Halo 2, and I remember them with complete detail. Soda, chips, microwaveable pizzas, nearby bathrooms, and T.V.s within close proximity of each other are really all you need for a fun night. There was the one "classic" Red Vs. Blue match, 3 vs. 3 on coagulation, no time limit, flag must be at home to score, that will always be remembered That game must have lasted hours, with a back and forth war complete with tanks, long drawn-out battles, sniper rifles, unison "AAGGGGGGGGGH!!!! "s, and best of all, true gaming nirvana, where your neck hair stands up, and you just think to yourself, "man... that was f***ing awesome."
I won by the way.
Halo 2 will be missed for a bevy of reasons. I have mine, you have yours, and that's the best part. It was one of the most important shooters to come out ever, and it nearly single-handedly brought gaming into mainstream culture. It was everywhere, news debates, reports of gruesome murders being linked to it, getting 10/10 nearly everywhere for fear of raging internet mobs, the list could go on and on. It had some of the best graphics ever on an old console, and those still hold up today. It had some of the greatest soundtrack songs ever, and if you can't visualize the monk-sounding "AHHH OHH EE AHH AAHH AHH OHHHH", then you should never have read this. From start to finish, Halo 2 never stopped being exciting. And it is with great honor and sadness that I see it go away. More words need to be said, more remembering needs to be done, it can never be enough to remember the huge cultural grasp Halo 2 had on the industry. Bungie could have launched their own console and had Halo 2 be the only game, and it would have put Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to shame. Still today, the indistinguishable green of the Master Chief is the Mario of Microsoft.
As a final farewell, and to salute Halo correctly, listen to this nice medley of songs from the Halo 2 credits, and read some comments and inputs from all across the globe. Halo 2, you will be missed. I salute.
" my first time playing, I picked up an energy sword. my best friend was so damn pissed off at me because I kept camping and sorting him out with a sword that he wouldn't play it with me for a week at least after that day."-sonofkorol, Gamefaqs message board
"Eating chips and wiping your hand on your pants between deaths is like, the definition of Halo 2 multiplayer. xD" -sonofkorol, Gamefaqs message board
"I put in alot of hours to halo2 online. good times." -Slamfunk Gametrailers message board
"I played Halo first, that was the key
Then Halo 2, and Halo 3
And after a time, then ODST
But Halo 2, was a killing spree
Halo 2 I left you, but that game it was so sweet
I always followed my BR, and I never missed a beat
Destiny was calling, I just couldn't stick around
Halo 2 I left you, but I never let you down
Halo 2, was always fun
With every single game of slayer that I won
We rocked all night, we all looked tough
Until I found, they would turn it off
Halo 2 I left you, YES that game it was so sweet
I always followed my BR, and I never missed a beat
Destiny was calling, I just couldn't stick around
Halo 2 I left you, but I never let you down
Now that I know, they will turn it off today
This could be the last chance, for me to play
So with a 20 oz., of Mtn. Dew
I played those last games of Halo 2
Halo 2 I left you, I honor you with this humble ode
I always followed my BR, shooting coils that did explode
Destiny was calling, I just couldn't stick around
Halo 2 I left you, but I'll never let you down" - xDylan1Kenobix, Bungie.net forums
"My best memory is my first game ever played, Big Team on Burial Mounds. I did well and got two friends immediately, something which Halo has that no other game can match. I've made more friends through Halo than all other games combined, and the community and atmosphere of Halo 2 is something that no other game can match" - Ace 237, Bungie.net forums
"I thought Halo 2 sucked. That's just me" -Matt Papic
"Halo 2 I salute You" -Prometheus-plus-fire, Gametrailers.com message board
"Damn, I could shed a tear, oh how I loved Halo 2 multiplayer. How great the game still stands today. Love it, Miss it, Loved it."-Dreamingreality, Gametrailers.com message board
"hmmm...all the weapons were so balanced and each felt distinctly different. none of them were like overpowered. like the rocket launcher is really powerful but it only has two shots and has a long reload" -Mitch Sturm, STURMN8ER
"I remember a time when I was a kid, and had practically no friends. I would make up for my lonliness by playing Halo 2. Turns out the kids next door layed it too. We met up and played custom games, and we would scream and laugh, and you know what? Those kids I played Halo 2 with ended up being my best friends for 5 years now.
The first few games I ever played on was Waterworks, a very under-appreciated map. I'd play for hours on that map. It's potential limitless. Lock on rockets, sniper duels, flipping hogs, I'll carry those nostalgic memories forever.
The first time I played Xbox live, I was in love. It completely redefined my definition of gaming. 8v8 battles on Coag, Headlong, and Waterworks was the best. What used to be just me and my two best friends, quickly turned into me and my buds, and 13 other strangers. We played practically everyday during summer time. CTF, Assult, the works. I look back now and I recognize I'll never get to experience that feeling of astonishment again. Nothing will replace the authenticity of Xbox live and Halo 2. I've gone though so many accounts and Xbox's it's impossible to estimate how many games I've played.
As time went on, and Halo 3 came out, I eventually migrated over to the newest Halo. But even then I knew that Halo 2 was better. I missed it. But so many people abandoned halo 2, Finding a game on BTB was near impossible. So I left it. If there was any good that came out of it's servers getting shut down, it's that it's been glorified once more. I can relive it for just a breif amount of time.
Halo 2, you were what motivated me into wanting to be a game designer. Within the next few years I plan on going to college to get my degree so I can make games that motivate other gamers the way you motivated me. Halo 2 is my favorite game, and always has been my favorite game.
Thank you for everything you did for me.
-Jacob" -Spartan H90, Bungie.net forums
"At the time I don't remember anything like it, and LAN parties with that game was a lot of fun." -Tyler Crisp, RAD3WhiteNinja
"fuck halo 2 all halo games suck with the execption of the first" Mark Cottrell, Alfonzthegreat
"The memories." - Codey Blevins
"The memories you have shared will live on in our hearts and minds. Thank you for such a kick ass game that truly dominated the world." -Retromonster, Bungie.net forums
What can I say about you that already that hasn't already been said about Jessica Alba? You were beautiful from the moment I laid eyes upon you. Fresh from the dentist on launch day, just a Sophomore in high school, I made a trip to the store just to purchase you, numb mouth and all. Oh, the times we had were amazing.
I'll never forget before the first patch how my immature 15-year old self thought I was cool because I could ghost only to turn around once I grabbed the flag and walk two feet to the base. Yes, they screamed "Cheater!", but you never judged me, Halo 2. You stood by me knowing that one day I would grow out of being a jerk and a cheater.
I'll also never forget being dominated by everyone from 6 year old kids and once being BXR'ed by someone's 42 year old mother. Oh, Halo 2, you were such a jokester then, letting that lovely woman handle me so rough. What about whenever we had that modder let us shoot trains all over Terminal? It was wrong, but it felt so right, and I know you felt that too.
Out of everything, though, what I won't forget is how you stayed with me even when I hated you, cried out in anguish over double shots, etc. I won't forget how great you were then and still are today. Most of all, I won't forget how you have made me into the man I am today; valorous, noble, strong, and extremely quick to drop the crouch teabag over any foe I defeat in my life." -Random Hero 807, Bungie.net forums
"You brought me great joy for my first XBL experience. Trying to find you that holiday season of 04 was difficult but the journey was well worth it.
Thank You Bungie for Halo 2." -doch teck, Bungie.net forums
"You weren't the first Halo game I ever bought, but you were the first I noticed. You shall be missed my dear Halo 2. Rest Assured me and my friends will be keeping you alive through LAN parties for years to come. xx" -JaHawk2009, Bungie.net forums
"im sad :( Halo 2 got me into videogames." CHOCOLATE CAKE, Gametrailers.com message board
"lol just play halo 3 its the same F---ing game online." -crazeeavery. Gametrailers.com message board
"Nothing will ever match Halo 2's online experience for me. I made knew friends, bonded with the ones I already new, and had an all-around awesome time. Thanks." IIDWells55XI, Bungie.net forums
"Thank you Halo 2,
For all the memories of fun and hours of joy. For being the second part in an epic trilogy. For raising the golden bar for FPS's once again from Halo:CE. For all the long nights and days of play with my friends and family in campaign and multiplayer. For helping to evolve xbox live into what it is today. For some of the greatest moments I have ever had over xbox live. For helping me to become the person I am today. For bringing Bungie one step closer towards world domination.
You will always hold a special place within my very soul, R.I.P Halo 2 Live Multiplayer. May the memories of you never be forgotten and LAN parties continue for many years to come." -Cyco Halo Fan, Bungie.net forums
"I salute you Halo 2" -rushx5, Gametrailers.com message board
"(Cracks open a 40) One for me , One for my Homie. R.I.P Halo 2" ADadWithAGun, Bungie.net forums
"I would. I'm gonna miss Halo 2. My favorite map of all time to plai on live and off live was containment. Me and my friends used to have some of te best matches ever" -JChurch13, Roosterteeth forums
"Thanks Halo 2:
-All the nights staying up late and gaming
-Bringing a way bigger community into XBL
-Making me almost fail school classes
-Being the BEST FPS ever!" - HC Hern, Bungie.net forums
"Well, I played my last matchmaking game on Coagulation, got a good amount of kills on it, had fun dicking around after the deadline, and it's waaaay past the time I should have gone to bed.
Bye, Halo 2." ZayneH, Neogaf
"Time is so old and love so brief,
Love is pure gold and time a thief.
We're late, darling,we're late,
The curtain descends, everything ends,
too soon, too soon....
Good night sweet prince." -Cerrius, neogaf
"Halo 2, you were the reason I got XBL. You are the game that gave me the most possible memories on XBL a person could ever have. You reunited me and my friends every day after school, and you introduced me to the gaming universe as a whole. I would still go on to play you even as the newer Halos came out. All of the glitches in your game, and all of the failed attempts into the Gateway To Hell will be dearly missed, as well as your extraordinary maps, gameplay, and outstanding campaign. Halo 2, I bid you to Rest In Peace for all the time you would like to, because without you, 'Earth Will Never Be The Same'.
Halo 2 Rest In Peace. November 9th, 2004 - April 15th 2010" -Dario S, Bungie.net forums
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