Guest Author - Lisa Shea
The PC adaptation of 2004's phenomenally successful Xbox game, "Halo 2 for Windows Vista" comes 3 years later, right before the release of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. Despite this gap and apparent poor planning on the part of Microsoft's release department, does Halo 2 for Vista stand up even with the test of time?
The first difference comes with the transition from the uniform, high-end console to the more variable PC, with regards to graphics and computing power. While even at "high" settings I did not notice a marked improvement from the Xbox's graphics (though opinions tend to differ on this point), Halo 2 still commands a hefty "5.0 Recommended" rating on Vista's new gaming rating system. To put that in perspective, my current system is a "5.3", and newer games like Company of Heroes, World in Conflict, and Command and Conquer 3 top off at "4.1 Recommended". Apart from its variability with regards to graphic quality, Halo 2's only other new technical feature is the option for a widescreen Heads Up Display (instead of the stretched-out one used in the Xbox version).
Halo 2's connectivity to Xbox Live is the other major new system added in the PC transition, and this is simultaneously well-done and irritating. It is well-done because, like a console, the live system integrates itself almost seamlessly into the game and adds features such as online play, unlockable achievements (the first "Games for Windows" title to feature them), and friend lists. However, there is also a step back from Halo 1 for the PC; while Halo 1 had free, no-strings-attached online multiplayer, Halo 2 requires at least a silver account to play even the single player game. Thus, as with Valve's "Steam" software for Half Life 2, one must be online in order to play the game. However, unlike Steam, one need only log on to make an account and then transfer the account to one's computer; after the first time, there is no requirement for online connectivity for single player. The free account also allows access to Halo 2's online play, though many of the features (including matchmaking services and private rooms) are reserved for people with paid "Gold Accounts". Finally, Halo 2 for Vista features 2 new official maps for multiplayer, as well as a map editor. However, said editor is mostly intended for hardcore designers, not casual fans. Despite this, it is a fairly welcome addition and allows for a community effort in creating new and exciting arenas.
Overall, this game is done reasonably well by itself. However, when counting in its status as a ported version of a 3-year-old game, and adding the further frustrations of "Live" play and its unusually high requirements, I would not recommend this game to anyone who has already played it. This game is a last resort, meant exclusively for people who only have a PC, and who have not played Halo 2 prior.
I rate it a 3/5.