Halo: The Master Chief Collection hit store shelves this week, just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Halo 2. Like many gamers I’ve had many fond memories of playing Halo 2 in my teen years. Halo 2 after all was the game that convinced me to make Xbox my console of choice. Sure Halo:CE had been a launch title for the original Xbox but it lacked the online component that it’s PC port had received.
Up until that point the only way to enjoy Halo’s Multiplayer was to get at least 3 of your closest friends together on Saturday for some split screen or system link action. Halo 2 upped the ante with Xbox Live support. No more waiting for the weekend or a day off in order to coordinate a hang out—you and the guys could play on a Tuesday night from the comfort of your own homes. Even if your best friend moves to another state, it’s no problem because you two could hop into a co-op or multiplayer match.
One thing always got me about playing with the same people over and over again: it gets old. There is nothing wrong with friends but sometimes they become a bit predictable. One of your friends might always make a run for the sniper rifle while another will charge right down the middle with an assault rifle. Sure maybe they change up their strategy after getting killed a bunch of times but sometimes you need something new. This is where online matchmaking comes into play. Taking on strangers over internet added a certain level of randomness that you simply cannot get from playing against your closest friends for the one hundredth time.
The matchmaking process streamlined the way people found matches to play. PC gamers can recall a time when online matches were hosted by a single person and it was up to other players to scroll through a list of games before selecting the game they wanted to join. With matchmaking the process was simplified to simply select a desired playlist. Players were then evaluated on their skill and matched with players accordingly.
Split-screen seems to have been on the decline since the online multiplayer boom but that didn’t keep it from being part of the package from Halo 2. Even better was the fact that Halo 2 allowed you to take friends with you on your online frag-fest via split screen. This was something that games with online multiplayer weren’t doing at the time. It’s also something that not a lot of games do right now. Nonetheless this became a fairly common request among players.
The Ranking System
Halo 2 was one of the first games to feature a visible and straightforward ranking system. Next to your gamertag there is a number. The better you did, the higher the number. The worse you played, the lower the number. Other games would eventually pick up this ranking system and even expand on it such as Call of Duty. However, few games nowadays would punish your lousy skills.
Halo 2 had one of the most expansive DLC packs of its time. The original Xbox boasted its hard drive as one of its innovative features at the time. Giving it a leg up over the Gamecube and PS2 (although the PS2 had an expansion port for an HDD). Both of which used memory cards for saving game data. The added bonus of the hard drive paved the way for DLC. Yes there were other games that had DLC but it was sparse. Halo 2 offered some of the earliest DLC that had a price tag. Of course it’s important to note that all maps were available for free shortly afterwards. The new multiplayer maps were also available on a special disc for those who didn’t want to buy them digitally.
The Bottom Line
Online multiplayer hasn’t been the same—just take a look at Call of Duty. The convenience of matchmaking is here to stay and ranking systems have become a robust staple in online shooters. DLC has become a smaller, more lean way to keep games fresh.
Based on the available stats, I’ve played 1206 multiplayer matches and logged 5211 total kills. Halo 2 was the game that convinced me that the Xbox was a console worth owning. I know I’m not only one who has fond memories of playing Halo 2. If you have any fun Halo 2 stories, sound off in the comments.
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