Halo 2 is a 2004 first-person shooter game developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft Game Studios. Released for the Xbox, the game is the second installment in the Halo franchise and the sequel to 2001's critically acclaimed Halo: Combat Evolved. The game features a new game engine, added weapons and vehicles, and new multiplayer maps. The game shipped with global multiplayer matchmaking via Microsoft's Xbox Live service. In Halo 2's campaign story, the player assumes the roles of either the human Master Chief or the alien Arbiter in a 26th-century conflict between the human United Nations Space Command, the genocidal Covenant, and the parasitic Flood.
|Publisher(s)||Microsoft Game Studios|
After the success of Combat Evolved, a sequel was expected and highly anticipated. Bungie found inspiration in plot points and gameplay elements that had been left out of their first game, including online multiplayer. A troubled development and time constraints forced cuts to the scope of the game, including the wholesale removal of a more ambitious multiplayer mode, and a cliffhanger ending to the game's campaign mode. Among Halo 2's marketing was an early alternate reality game called "I Love Bees" that involved players solving real-world puzzles. Bungie supported the game after release with new multiplayer maps and updates to address cheating and glitches. It was released in November 2004.
Halo 2 was a commercial success. The game became the most popular title on Xbox Live, holding that rank until the release of Gears of War for the Xbox 360 nearly two years later. Halo 2 is the best-selling first-generation Xbox game with more than 8 million copies sold worldwide. The game received critical acclaim, with most publications lauding the strong multiplayer component. In comparison, the campaign and its cliffhanger ending was divisive.
Halo 2 was highly influential for online gaming and cemented many multiplayer in-game features such as matchmaking, lobbies, clan organisation and user emblems. Halo 2 marketing heralded the beginnings of video games as blockbuster media. A port of the game for Windows Vista was released in 2007, followed by a high-definition remastered version, Halo 2 Anniversary, released as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection in 2014 for Xbox One, and for Microsoft Windows in May of 2020.
Halo 2 is a shooter game. Players primarily experience gameplay from a first-person perspective, with the viewpoint shifting to third-person for vehicle segments. Players use a combination of human and alien weaponry and vehicles to progress through the game's levels. The player is equipped with a damage-absorbing shield that regenerates when not taking fire; their health bar is not visible.
Players can utilize a variety of human and alien weapons and vehicles. Certain weapons can be dual-wielded, allowing the player to trade accuracy, the use of grenades, and melee attacks for raw firepower. The player can carry two weapons at a time (or three if dual-wielding; one weapon remains holstered), with each weapon having advantages and disadvantages in different combat situations. For example, most Covenant weapons eschew disposable ammo clips for a contained battery, which cannot be replaced if depleted. However, these weapons can overheat if fired continuously for prolonged periods. Human weapons are less effective at penetrating shields and require reloading, but cannot overheat due to prolonged fire. New in Halo 2 is the ability to board enemy vehicles that are near the player and traveling at low speeds. The player or AI latches onto the vehicle and forcibly ejects the other driver from the vehicle.
The game's "Campaign" mode offers options for both single-player and cooperative multiplayer participation. In campaign mode, the player must complete a series of levels that encompass Halo 2's storyline. These levels alternate between the Master Chief and a Covenant Elite called the Arbiter, who occupy diametrically opposed roles in the story's conflict. Aside from variations in storyline, the Arbiter differs from Master Chief only in that his armor lacks a flashlight; instead, it is equipped with a short duration rechargeable form of active camouflage that disappears when the player attacks or takes damage. There are four levels of difficulty in campaign mode: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. An increase in difficulty will result in an increase in the number, rank, health, damage, and accuracy of enemies; a reduction of duration and an increase in recharge time for the Arbiter's active camouflage; a decrease in the player's health and shields; and occasional changes in dialogue. Enemy and friendly artificial intelligence is dynamic, and replaying the same encounters repeatedly will demonstrate different behavior.
There is hidden content within the game, including Easter eggs, messages, hidden objects, and weapons. The most well known of the hidden content are the skulls hidden on every level. The skulls, which can be picked up like a weapon, are located in hard-to-reach places. Many are exclusive to the Legendary mode of difficulty. Once activated, each skull has a specific effect on gameplay. For example, the "Sputnik" skull found on the Quarantine Zone level alters the mass of objects in the game; thus resulting in explosions being able to launch these objects across larger distances. Skull effects can be combined to provide various new levels of difficulty and/or novelty.
Like Halo: Combat Evolved, the Xbox version of Halo 2 features a multiplayer system that allows players to compete with each other in split-screen and system link modes; in addition, it adds support for online multiplayer via Xbox Live. The Xbox Live multiplayer and downloadable content features of the Xbox version of Halo 2 were supported until the discontinuation of the service in April 2010,with the final multiplayer session concluding May 10, almost a month after the service was officially terminated. Multiplayer for the PC version of the game used Games for Windows – Live. In January 2013, it was reported that the PC multiplayer servers would be taken offline on February 15, 2013, due to inactivity; this was later extended to June.
Instead of implementing multiplayer by having players manually join lobbies, as was common in games at the time, Halo 2 used matchmaking. Players chose the general type of match they want to play, and the game selected the map and gametype and automatically finds other players. This "playlist" system automated the process to keep a steady flow of games available at all times, and layered a skill-ranking system on top.
Halo 2 takes place in the 26th century. Humans, under the auspices of the United Nations Space Command or UNSC, have developed faster-than-light slipspace travel and colonized numerous worlds. Human worlds come under attack by a collective of alien races known as the Covenant. Declaring humanity an affront to their gods, the Forerunners, the Covenant begin to obliterate the humans with their superior numbers and technology. After the human planet Reach is destroyed, a single ship, The Pillar of Autumn, follows protocol and initiates a random slipspace jump to lead the Covenant away from Earth. The crew discovers a Forerunner ringworld called Halo. Though the Covenant believe Halo's activation will lead to divine salvation, the humans discover that the rings are actually weapons, built to contain a terrifying parasite called the Flood. The human supersoldier Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 and his AI companion Cortana learn from Halo's AI monitor, 343 Guilty Spark, that activation of the Halos will destroy all sentient life in the galaxy to prevent the Flood's spread. Instead of activating the ring, Master Chief and Cortana detonate the Pillar of Autumn's engines, destroying the installation and preventing the escape of the Flood. Master Chief and Cortana race back to Earth to warn of an impending invasion by Covenant forces.
Halo 2 opens with the trial of a Covenant Elite commander aboard the Covenant's mobile capital city of High Charity. For his failure to stop Halo's destruction, the Elite is stripped of his rank, branded a heretic, and tortured by Tartarus, the Chieftain of the Covenant Brutes. Spared execution, the Covenant leadership—the High Prophets Truth, Regret, and Mercy—give the Elite the chance to become an Arbiter, a rank only bestowed upon Elites in times of crisis. As the Arbiter, the Elite quells a rebellion and recovers 343 Guilty Spark.
On Earth, Fleet Admiral Hood commends the Master Chief and Sergeant Avery Johnson for their actions at the first Halo, with Commander Miranda Keyes accepting a medal on behalf of her deceased father. A Covenant fleet appears near Earth. In the ensuing battle, a single ship carrying the Prophet of Regret slips through Earth's defenses and besieges the African city of New Mombasa. Master Chief assists in defending the city. With his fleet destroyed, Regret makes a hasty slipspace jump, and Keyes, Johnson, Cortana, and the Master Chief follow aboard the UNSC ship In Amber Clad. The crew discovers another Halo installation; realizing the danger the ring presents, Keyes sends Master Chief to kill Regret while she and Johnson find Halo's activation key, the Index.
Responding to Regret's distress call, High Charity and the Covenant fleet arrive at the new Halo, Installation 05, just before the Master Chief kills Regret. The Covenant bombard Chief's location, and he falls into a lake and is dragged away by a mysterious tentacled creature. Regret's death triggers discord among the races of the Covenant, as the Hierarchs give the Brutes the Elites' traditional role as the Prophets' protectors. The Arbiter is sent to find Halo's Index and retrieves it, subduing Johnson and Keyes in the process before being confronted by Tartarus. He reveals that the Prophets have ordered the annihilation of the Elites, and sends the Arbiter falling down a deep chasm.
The Arbiter meets the Master Chief in the bowels of the installation, brought together by a Flood creature called the Gravemind. The Gravemind reveals to the Arbiter that the Great Journey is false, and sends the two soldiers to different places to stop Halo's activation. The Master Chief is teleported to High Charity as the Covenant falls into civil war. The Flood-infested In Amber Clad crashes into the city, and Cortana realizes that the Gravemind used them as a distraction. As the parasite overruns the city, the Prophet of Mercy is consumed. The Prophet of Truth sends Tartarus to Halo with Keyes, Johnson, and Guilty Spark to activate the ring. Master Chief follows Truth aboard a Forerunner ship leaving the city; Cortana remains behind to destroy High Charity and Halo if Tartarus succeeds in activating the ring.
On the surface of Halo, the Arbiter joins forces with Johnson and confronts Tartarus in Halo's control room. When the Arbiter tries to convince Tartarus that the Prophets have betrayed them both, Tartarus instead activates the ring, and a battle ensues. The Arbiter and Johnson kill Tartarus while Keyes removes the Index; the unexpected deactivation sets Installation 05 and all the other Halo rings on standby for remote activation from a place 343 Guilty Spark calls "the Ark." Meanwhile, Truth's ship arrives at Earth, and Master Chief informs Admiral Hood that he is "finishing this fight."
In a post-credits scene, Gravemind assumes control of High Charity. Cortana agrees to answer the Flood intelligence's questions.
Halo had never been planned as a trilogy, but the critical and commercial success of Combat Evolved—selling more than five million copies in three years—made a sequel expected. Xbox general manager J Allard confirmed Halo 2 was in production at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2002, with a planned release in time for Christmas 2003.
Many at Bungie wanted to make a sequel, building on cut ideas from Combat Evolved with a more ambitious followup. The added publisher support for a sequel allowed greater leeway and the ability to return to more ambitious ideas lost during Combat Evolved's development. Not satisfied with merely adding back cut content to the sequel, designer Jaime Griesemer recalled that the team "tripled everything," rebuilding the game engine, changing the physics engine, and prototyping a system for stencil shadow volumes. The game's development would suffer from a lack of clear leadership. Early development discussions happened in small, unconnected teams that did not talk with each other. Jason Jones, who had been exhausted shipping Combat Evolved, similarly burned out during Halo 2's production. Jones left the project to work on another Bungie game, Phoenix, leaving fewer people to work on Halo 2. Bungie cofounder Alex Seropian left Bungie in 2002, causing additional friction and politics in the workplace where Seropian had once mediated tensions. Writer Joseph Staten described the team's ambitions thusly:
Then we just plowed ahead, much like we'd done with Halo, with one notable exception. We ordered ourselves a giant sandwich, took a bite but didn't realize exactly how big it was before we started in. And we did that across the board, technically, artistically, and story wise. But of course, we didn't figure that out until way too late.
Griesemer put it more bluntly: "What's the phrase? Putting ten pounds of crap into a five-pound bag? We really tried to cram it too full, and we paid the price."
An important feature for Halo 2 was multiplayer using Xbox Live. Multiplayer in Combat Evolved was accomplished via System Link and had nearly been scrapped altogether in the rush to complete the game. Most players never played large maps, while a subset greatly enjoyed 16-player action, connecting consoles together with network cables for group play. "We looked at the small set of fans who were able to do this," said engineering lead Chris Butcher, "and just how much they were enjoying themselves, and asked ourselves if we could bring that to everybody. That would be something really special, really unique." Initially, Combat Evolved's multiplayer was supposed to involve larger maps and player counts than what shipped, and members of the team wanted to resurrect those plans for Halo 2. The smaller multiplayer modes and local split-screen capabilities of the first game would have been removed. Designer Max Hoberman successfully argued against wholesale removal of a successful component from the previous game. He was put in charge of a small team to further develop the small-scale arena multiplayer, while the rest of the team developed a larger "Warfare" mode. Bungie promised in previews that the core of this multiplayer would be squad-based online battles between human Spartans and Covenant Elites, with players able to call in airstrikes.:52 Hoberman's pitch for Halo 2's arena multiplayer was to bring the fun of couch multiplayer online. As Hoberman was not an excellent video game player, he wanted to make sure the game remained fun for even lower-skilled players, rather than catering to the very competitive ones. The system of playlist matchmaking and allowing friends to "party up" to play games together were crucial to creating a global community of players.
The story for Halo 2 grew out of all the elements that were not seen in Halo: Combat Evolved. Jason Jones organized his core ideas for the sequel's story and approached Staten for input. According to Staten, among the elements that did not make it to the finished game was a "horrible scene of betrayal" where Miranda Keyes straps a bomb to the Master Chief's back and throws him into a hole in revenge for her fathers' death; "Jason was going through a rather difficult breakup at the time and I think that had something to do with it," he said. Staten and Jaime Griesemer discussed seeing the war from the Covenant perspective, forming the idea to have part of the game told from the perspective of a Covenant warrior known as the Dervish. Late in development, the Dervish became the Arbiter, after legal teams at Microsoft were afraid the game was sending a message about Islam.
In February 2003, Bungie began developing a gameplay demonstration for E3 2003. The demo, which was the first gameplay seen by the public, showcased new enemies and abilities. Many elements of the trailer, however, were not game-ready; the entire graphics engine used in the footage had to be discarded, and the trailer's environment never appeared in the final game due to limitations on how big the game environments could be. Elements like vehicle hijacking were entirely scripted, and in order to keep performance at an acceptable level, a Bungie staff member deleted objects from the game as the player passed through. The restructuring of the engine meant that there was no playable build of Halo 2 for nearly a year, and assets and environments produced by art and design teams could not be prototyped, bottlenecking development. Griesemer recalled that development was "moving backwards", and after E3 the team realized that much of what the team had worked on for the past two years would have to be scrapped.
In order to ship the game, Bungie began paring back their ambitions for the single- and multiplayer parts of the game. All other Bungie projects, including Phoenix, were cancelled, with their teams folded into Halo 2 to complete the game. The campaign was completely rethought and remained unplayable for more than a year while the multiplayer was being developed. Ultimately, a third act of the game where Master Chief and Arbiter came together on Earth to defeat the Prophets was cut entirely. Staten hoped the resulting cliffhanger would be treated like the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Planned vehicles, such as variants of the Warthog and an all terrain vehicle, were scrapped.:49 With the single-player mode in trouble, very little had been done with the large Warfare multiplayer mode. Eventually, the entire warfare mode was cut, and Hoberman's small team project became the shipping multiplayer suite. Engineer Chris Butcher commented, "For Halo 2 we had our sights set very high on networking. Going from having no internet multiplayer to developing a completely new online model was a big challenge to tackle all at once, and as a result we had to leave a lot of things undone in order to meet the ship date commitment that we made to our fans." To test real-world network conditions, Bungie ran a closed alpha of the multiplayer with 1000 Microsoft employees for five weeks.:4
Outside of Bungie, Combat Evolved's success had become a problem for Halo 2's development, as the success of the Xbox platform was riding on Halo. Microsoft originally pressured Bungie to have the game ready as a launch title for Xbox Live in November 2002, which Bungie employees told them was impossible. At one point, Microsoft executives had a vote over whether to force Bungie to ship the incomplete game, or give them another year of development time. Microsoft Studios head Ed Fries walked out of the vote and threatened to resign to get Bungie the extra time.
Missing the Xbox's last Christmas season before its successor console, the Xbox 360, shipped was not an option. To hit its new November 2004 release date, Bungie went into the "mother of all crunches" in order to finish the game. "A lot of people sacrificed themselves in ways that you should never have to for your job," design lead Paul Bertone recalled; he kenneled his dog for nearly two months and slept in the office for the final days of development. Griesemer said that this lack of a "polish" period near the end of the development cycle was the main reason for Halo 2's shortcomings. Butcher retrospectively described Halo 2's multiplayer mode as "a pale shadow of what it could and should have been" due to the tight schedule; the campaign mode's abrupt cliffhanger ending also resulted from the frenzy to ship on time.
Halo 2's soundtrack was composed primarily by Martin O'Donnell and his musical partner Michael Salvatori, the team that had composed the critically acclaimed music of Halo. O'Donnell noted in composing the music for Halo 2 that "Making a sequel is never a simple proposition. You want to make everything that was cool even better, and leave out all the stuff that was weak." O'Donnell made sure that no part of the game would be completely silent, noting "Ambient sound is one of the main ways to immerse people psychologically. A dark room is spooky, but add a creaking floorboard and rats skittering in the walls and it becomes really creepy." Halo 2, unlike its predecessor, was mixed to take full advantage of Dolby 5.1 Digital surround sound.
In the summer of 2004, producer Nile Rodgers and O'Donnell decided to release the music from Halo 2 on two separate CDs; the first (Volume One) would contain all the themes present in the game as well as music "inspired" by the game; the second would contain the rest of the music from the game, much of which was incomplete, as the first CD was shipped before the game was released. The first CD was released on November 9, 2004, and featured guitar backing by Steve Vai. Additional tracks included various outside musicians, including Steve Vai, Incubus, Breaking Benjamin, and Hoobastank. The Halo 2 Original Soundtrack: Volume Two CD, containing the game music organized in suite form, was released on April 25, 2006.
Halo 2 was officially announced in September 2002 with a cinematic trailer.
The release of Halo 2 was preceded with numerous promotions and product tie-ins. There was a Halo 2 Celebrity Pre-Release Party at E3 2004, in which a private home was transformed to replicate the world of Halo, complete with camouflaged Marines and roaming Cortanas. A trailer for the game was shown in movie theaters, making Halo 2 the first video game so promoted.
In addition to more traditional forms of promotion, Halo 2 was also part of an elaborate Alternate Reality Game project titled I Love Bees. Microsoft approached 42 Entertainment's Elan Lee, who had helped launch the Xbox with Microsoft, on producing a "cultural event" to promote the game. I Love Bees cost an estimated one million dollars. This "game" centered on a hacked website, supposedly a site about beekeeping, where an AI from the future was residing. The project garnered significant attention from sites including Slashdot and Wired News; Wired noted that the game was drawing attention away from the 2004 Presidential Election. The game won an award for creativity at the 5th annual Game Developers Choice Awards and was nominated for a Webby award. Ultimately, nearly 3 million people participated in I Love Bees.
Halo 2 was sold in a standard edition and "Limited Collector's Edition". The Collector's Edition includes the game, packaged in a metal case. It also includes bonus content on an extra DVD, such as a making-of documentary, art gallery, and audio tests. The instructional booklet is also written from the Covenant point of view rather than from the UNSC point of view used in the regular edition. Also enclosed is the "Conversations from the Universe" booklet that contains additional information from both the human and the Covenant side of the Halo storyline; transcripts are available online.
Halo 2 first released on November 9, 2004 in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Anticipation for the game was high; a record 1.5 million copies were pre-ordered three weeks before release. Massive lines formed at midnight releases of the game at more than 7000 stores across North America; the event garnered significant media attention. This was followed by releases on November 10, 2004 in France and other European countries, and November 11 in the UK.
The game sold 2.4 million copies and earned up to US$125 million in its first 24 hours on store shelves, thus out-grossing the film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest as the highest grossing release in entertainment history. The game sold 260,000 units in the United Kingdom in its first week, making it the third fastest-selling title in that territory. It ultimately received a "Double Platinum" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), indicating sales of at least 600,000 copies in the United Kingdom. On June 20, 2006, Xbox.com reported that more than a half-billion games of Halo 2 have been played on Xbox Live since its debut. Halo 2 is the best-selling first-generation Xbox game with 8.46 million copies sold by November 2008. As of September 25, 2007, Halo 2 was the fifth best-selling video game in the United States with 6.3 million copies sold, according to the NPD Group. From the day of its initial release and up until mid-November 2006, Halo 2 was the most popular video game on Xbox Live, even after the release of the Xbox 360; its position was eventually surpassed in 2006 by the 360-exclusive Gears of War. Halo and Halo 2 are still some of the most played games for the Xbox console.
On release, Halo 2 was the most popular video game on Xbox Live, holding that rank until the release of Gears of War for the Xbox 360 nearly two years later. By June 2006, more than 500 million games of Halo 2 had been played and more than 710 million hours have been spent playing it on Xbox Live; by May 2007, the number of unique players had risen to over five million. Halo 2 is the best-selling first-generation Xbox game with at least 6.3 million copies sold in the United States alone.
Halo 2 received critical acclaim upon release. On review aggregate site Metacritic, the Xbox version has an overall score of 95 out of 100. Halo 2 won multiple awards from the Interactive Achievement Awards (now known as the D.I.C.E. Awards), including "Console Game of the Year", "Console First Person Action Game of the Year", "Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay" and "Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design", as well as a nomination for "Game of the Year". According to Xbox.com, the game has received more than 38 individual awards.
Many reviewers praised the audio for being especially vivid. Multiplayer especially was noted in being the best on Xbox Live at the time. Game Informer, along with numerous other publications, rated it higher than Halo: Combat Evolved, citing enhanced multiplayer and less repetitive gameplay. Most critics noted that Halo 2 stuck with the formula that made its predecessor successful, and was alternatively praised and faulted for this decision. Edge's review concluded that Halo 2 could be summed up with a line from its script: "It's not a new plan. But we know it'll work."
The game's campaign mode received some criticism for being too short, and for featuring an abrupt cliffhanger ending. GameSpot noted that although the story's switching between the Covenant and human factions made the plot more intricate, it distracted the player from Earth's survival and the main point of the game; while Edge labeled the plot "a confusing mess of fan-fiction sci-fi and bemusing Episode-II-style politics."
The Windows version of the game received mixed reviews, with IGN rating it a 7.5/10, and GameSpot giving it a 7.0/10. Most criticism was due to the late release date, and the graphics being dated. It received an aggregate score of 72 out of 100 from Metacritic.
Updates and DLCEdit
A common complaint regarding Halo 2's online play was widespread cheating, which began occurring almost immediately after the game's release. Users exploited bugs in the game and vulnerabilities of the network to win ranked games and thus increase their matchmaking rank.
Some players used "standbying" or "lag killing" to cheat, in which the player hosting the game intentionally pressed the standby button on his or her modem; this resulted in all players except the cheaters freezing in place. This way, the cheater would be given time to freely kill other players or capture objectives.:115 "Dummying" involves using an Elite character and a vehicle, exploiting a glitch which would cause a doppelgänger of the player to appear. Cheating also includes softmodding, in which a player uses devices such as Action Replay and computer programs to gain unfair advantages, and bridging, which uses computer programs to give a player "host" status, and therefore the ability to disconnect other players from the game session. A game exploitation called "superbouncing" or "superjumping" is labeled cheating by many in the Xbox Live community, and Bungie employees have described it as cheating when used in matchmaking. Another exploit called "BXR" allowed players to melee, cancel the animation, and quickly attack for an instant kill; this exploit and many others were removed from the game's sequel.
Bungie released several map packs for Halo 2, adding new environments for multiplayer matches. The Multiplayer Map Pack is an expansion pack intended to make Xbox Live content and updates available to offline players, and was released on July 5, 2005. The disk contains the game's software update, all nine new multiplayer maps, a documentary about the making of the maps, and a bonus cinematic called "Another Day on the Beach", among other features. As a backwards-compatible title for the Xbox 360, the game runs at 720p with scene-wide anti-aliasing.
On March 30, 2007, Bungie announced that two new maps would be available on April 17, 2007. Bungie's own Frank O'Connor confirmed that both Xbox and Xbox 360 users would have access to the content. The two new maps were remakes of maps from the original Halo: Combat Evolved, "Hang em' High" and "Derelict". Due to issues with distribution of the maps, the updates which made the maps mandatory was released on May 9, 2007, later than planned. Bungie also reset all ranks for Halo 2 at the same time. On July 7, also known as "Bungie Day", Bungie released the map pack called the "Blastacular Map Pack" for free.
Ports and rereleasesEdit
On February 9, 2006, Nick Baron announced that a version of Halo 2 would be released on PC, exclusively for the Windows Vista operating system. While this was a deliberate decision by Microsoft to push sales of Vista, the game could be enabled to play on Windows XP through an unauthorized third-party patch. The game was ported by a small team at Microsoft Game Studios (codenamed Hired Gun) who worked closely with Bungie. As one of the launch titles of Games for Windows – Live, the game offered Live features not available in the Xbox version, such as guide support and achievements. The Windows port also added two exclusive multiplayer maps and a map editor.
Halo 2 for Windows Vista was originally scheduled for release on May 8, 2007, but the release was pushed back to May 31 on the discovery of partial nudity in the game's map editor – a photograph of a man mooning the camera was presented as part of the ".ass" error message. Microsoft offered patches to remove the nude content and revised the box ratings.
A high-definition remastered version of Halo 2 was released as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection in November 2014, for the Xbox One titled Halo 2 Anniversary and in May 2020 for Steam and Windows Store.
Halo 2's release was part of a shift towards blockbuster gaming releases. In 2004, the video game industry was estimated to gross $7.76 billion in the United States, behind the $9.4 billion gross of the domestic box office. Halo 2's success was seen by the press as evidence of a generational shift in entertainment. The CBC's Greg Bolton remarked that prior to Halo 2's splashy release, "the video-game industry hadn’t yet found a recognizable public face, a universally acclaimed megastar." The Ringer called Halo 2 "the birth of the video game as we know it today: a mass shared experience," and credited it with birthing modern multiplayer infrastructure and popularizing American esports.
Several publications have listed Halo 2's innovative matchmaking technology as one of the turning points in the gaming industry during the 2000s. Television channel G4's Sterling McGarvey wrote that "Bungie's sequel was a shot in the arm for Xbox Live subscriptions and previewed many of the features that would set the standard for Microsoft's online service on the next machine". The editors of Popular Mechanics crediting the game with bringing online multiplayer to the console masses. The Province's Paul Chapman concurred, writing that games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 would not be as enjoyable to play if not for the ground Halo 2 broke.
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