From Halopedia, the Halo wiki
Halo 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie Studios for the Xbox video game console and is forwards-compatible with the Xbox 360. It is the sequel to Halo: Combat Evolved and features a newly built graphics engine as well as many new gameplay elements. Storywise, Halo 2 develops the struggle between the United Nations Space Command, Covenant, and the Flood during the Human-Covenant War in the fall of 2552. A sequel, Halo 3, was released on September 25, 2007.
The game is one of the most successful and actively played video games for the original Xbox console, with 8.46 million copies sold as of November 2008. Despite this, the game's online servers, along with all other original Xbox LIVE services, were discontinued on April 15, 2010.
A PC version of Halo 2 was released in 2007. Halo 2: Anniversary, a remastered edition of the game, was released for the Xbox One as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on November 11, 2014, the 10th anniversary of the original game.
Characters and setting
Halo 2 does not pick up directly after the events of its predecessor, but rather, after the events depicted in the novel Halo: First Strike, taking place in Halo: Combat Evolved with the events explaining Master Chief's return to Earth not featured in any game so far. The story dives deeper into the society of the Covenant, their goals, beliefs, and alliances, as well as continuing Master Chief's story to put an end to the Covenant threat on Earth as well as another Halo. Halo 2 also introduces the Brutes, who were first mentioned in First Strike. They are shown as large, hairy, ape-like beasts; although they do not have energy shields like the Elites, their immense bulk and strength allows them to absorb a large amount of damage before dying.
The game follows a linear series of episodes that differ from Halo: Combat Evolved. The player will play as both the Master Chief and a troubled Covenant Elite known as "the Arbiter".
The game begins on High Charity, the mobile capital city of the Covenant. The former Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice, Commander Thel 'Vadamee, is on trial before the High Council for his failure to protect Halo. Despite his insistence that the Flood hampered his abilities, the Hierarchs who lead the council, the High Prophets of Truth, Mercy, and Regret, deem him guilty of failing to protect the Sacred Ring. 'Vadamee is then stripped of his rank and his armor and is branded with the Mark of Shame by Tartarus, the Chieftain of the Brutes.
The story then turns to Earth's Orbital Defense Platform Cairo Station, where Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 receives the new MJOLNIR Mark VI armor from the Master Gunnery Sergeant. Avery Junior Johnson, who recently has been promoted to Sergeant Major, arrives to take the Master Chief to an awards ceremony overseen by Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood. At the ceremony, John-117, Johnson, and Miranda Keyes, Captain Keyes' daughter, are awarded medals as those in attendance celebrate. The festivities are soon interrupted by Cortana reporting that "15 Covenant Capital ships holding position just outside the kill zone," signaling the start of the Covenant siege of Earth. UNSC Marine forces, along with John-117, protect the station from the invading Covenant forces while other stations are overwhelmed and destroyed. A bomb is discovered on Cairo station, and John-117 sends it into space. He detonates it, destroying several Covenant ships, before landing on the hull of Keyes' ship, the UNSC frigate In Amber Clad. The frigate heads to the Earth city of New Mombasa to fight off the Covenant troops, which are led by the High Prophet of Regret. After the Covenant invasion force is halted by the UNSC defenses, the Prophet of Regret flees Earth with Keyes and her detachment in pursuit on the In Amber Clad. The hasty in-atmosphere jump devastates the city of New Mombasa, destroying the Space Elevator and scattering its wreckage for miles around.
The story returns to the disgraced Elite Commander, Thel 'Vadamee, who is given a chance for redemption by the High Prophets of Truth and Mercy by taking up the mantle of Arbiter and the imminent mortality it entails. The new Arbiter becomes the will of the Prophets, seeking redemption by completing seemingly impossible tasks assigned to him. As his first mission as the Arbiter, 'Vadamee is tasked with the assassination of a Heretic Leader, Sesa 'Refumee, who has become disillusioned with the Covenant following the events on Installation 04 and its destruction. 'Vadamee tracks the Heretic Leader through the gas mine where the Heretics sought refuge, battling the Heretics and the Flood along the way. When the Arbiter finally faces the 'Refumee, he asserts his belief that the Prophets have lied about the Great Journey. 343 Guilty Spark appears and corroborates 'Refumee's assertion (both Elites consider Guilty Spark to be an Oracle of the Forerunners, the ancient race the Covenant hold as gods). Before 'Vadamee can learn more of the claims, 'Refumee attacks 'Vadamee, and the Heretic Leader is killed. Tartarus then appears to extract the Arbiter and Guilty Spark, further preventing 'Vadamee from learning any further information from Guilty Spark. 'Vadamee departs, not learning what caused the Heretics to betray their sacred oaths to the Covenant.
Returning to SPARTAN-117's story, the In Amber Clad exits slipspace with the Prophet of Regret unaware that he had been followed. To the surprise of the pursuers, they discover that Regret has led them to another Halo Ring. Keyes sends John-117 and ODSTs to the surface of Installation 05 to capture Regret while the In Amber Clad is repaired. In the course of pursuing Regret, John-117 discovers, with the aid of Cortana, that the Prophet intends to personally activate Halo, in the belief that it will propel true believers on the Great Journey. To buy time to acquire the Activation Index before the Covenant are able, Keyes orders John-117 to kill the Prophet of Regret, a mission he successfully achieves. Before making his escape, however, High Charity and its escort arrive and attempt to kill John-117 by glassing the area. He survives by jumping into the lake surrounding the structure in which he encountered Regret. Incapacitated from the shock of the Covenant bombardment, John-117 is last seen being dragged into the depths of the lake by tentacles belonging to a sentient creature.
The story now shifts back to the Arbiter on High Charity, in orbit around the ring. The Hierarchs have declared Regret's death to be the Elites' failure, and the Elites have been removed as the protectors of the Prophets. This role has now been given to the Brutes, causing further tension between the Brutes and Elites who were already at odds. Now that the new ring has been discovered, Truth and Mercy query Guilty Spark on how to activate it. They learn of the Sacred Icon that will light the ring and they dispatch Thel 'Vadamee to recover it. He makes his way through the Quarantine Zone of Installation 05, fighting scores of Flood and Sentinels, seeking the Activation Index. 'Vadamee arrives at the Library to find Keyes and Johnson have retrieved the Index from its protective housing. While 'Vadamee fights to take it from them, Tartarus arrives and again intervenes in his task. Upon taking the Index himself, Tartarus reveals the Hierarchs ordered him to kill 'Vadamee and oust the Elites. His treachery revealed, Tartarus knocks the Arbiter down a shaft in the Index chamber to the abyss below.
Beneath the Library, John-117 finds himself in the clutches of the Gravemind, the creature that acts as the controlling intelligence of the Flood. It is revealed that Thel 'Vadamee has been saved from his fall by the Gravemind as well. It is within the Gravemind's chamber where the Arbiter and John-117 meet. The Gravemind announces to John-117 and 'Vadamee that he has much to tell them. The Prophet of Regret and 2401 Penitent Tangent, the Monitor of Installation 05, appear, both now infected and assimilated into the Gravemind's mass. They argue back and forth before the Gravemind reveals that Regret's "Great Journey" and Penitent Tangent's "Containment" are one in the same. Then both the Gravemind and John-117 try to convince 'Vadamee that the Covenant's belief about the Halos is a lie. They reveal that the Halo installations were created not to save life, but to destroy it, causing the Arbiter to question his faith. These new revelations, paired with the imminent genocide of the Elites, lead 'Vadamee to reluctantly join John-117 in the mission to stop the ring from being activated. The Gravemind then sends John-117 to High Charity to retrieve the Index while the Arbiter is sent to the Control Room of Installation 05 to stop the Covenant from activating the ring.
John-117 is teleported inside of High Charity in the middle of a broadcast by the Prophet of Truth. Upon John-117's arrival, Truth and Mercy flee to the Forerunner Dreadnought, and formally transfer command of the Covenant Military to the Brutes. Before the prophets make it to the ship, however, they are attacked by the Flood, and Truth leaves Mercy behind to die. Meanwhile, John-117 pursues the Prophets. Throughout his pursuit, he kills many Covenant troops, witnesses the conflict between the Elites and Brutes and saves a group of Marines. At the same time, the Flood, under the control of the Gravemind crash into High Charity using the In Amber Clad. John-117 finds Mercy being infected by the Flood, and the Prophet tells the Spartan that Truth is going to Earth to "finish what we started." Cortana implores John-117 to pursue Truth, but he is hesitant as his mission to retrieve the Index is not complete. Cortana devises a plan to complete his mission by detonating the crashed In Amber Clad to destroy the ring if it is activated. This plan, however, requires Cortana to stay on board High Charity. John-117 boards the Dreadnought through an energy conduit before promising Cortana that he will come back for her.
Meanwhile, Thel 'Vadamee is teleported to near Halo's Control Room. There he finds many dead Elites, which he has no doubt were killed by the Brutes. With the help of a few deployed Elites, and sympathetic Grunts and Hunters, he fights his way to meet the Special Operations Commander Rtas 'Vadumee, who is surprised to hear that the Brutes murdered the Councilors. Seeing Tartarus land on Halo's Control Room, the Elites fight their way to a Type-47A Scarab, where Sergeant Johnson is held. Johnson forcefully initiates an uneasy alliance between the humans and the Elites and takes control of the Scarab. With the combined efforts of Johnson and 'Vadamee, the Scarab breaches the Control Room doors by using the Scarab's main energy cannon, and 'Vadamee enters to confront Tartarus. In the Control Room, Tartarus hears the truth of the Halos directly from 343 Guilty Spark. Still blinded by faith, Tartarus forces Keyes to activate Halo. Many Zealots and Councilors aid the Arbiter in his final fight against Tartarus, and eventually after a long and tough fight, manage to kill him. Once Tartarus is defeated, Keyes grabs the Index just in time to stop Halo from firing. However, 343 Guilty Spark says that this has activated a failsafe protocol, causing the Installation to send a signal to the rest of the Halo Array, putting them on standby for remote activation from the Ark.
The Forerunner Dreadnought arrives at Earth with John-117 onboard. He alerts Admiral Hood of his presence, and tells him that he is "finishing this fight."
In a scene after the credits, it appears that High Charity has been completely taken over by the Flood, as thousands of Flood spores are visible floating throughout the air. The Gravemind speaks satisfactorily of being free of his "empty grave," and suddenly Cortana appears as a hologram on a pedestal in his room. The Gravemind tells her that there are questions that linger in his mind which Cortana must answer. Cortana replies, "Alright...shoot," before the screen turns black.
The campaign consists of 15 levels, of which 14 are playable.
Halo 2 features a modified version of the engine from Halo: Combat Evolved. This new engine featured support for online play via Xbox Live, improved visuals, and the implementation of the Havok physics engine that would replace Bungie's in house physics engine used in Combat Evolved.
Halo 2 was initially meant to implement a new graphics engine called Pstencil that would allow for objects to cast real-time shadows. This lighting technique proved too expensive for the Xbox's hardware to handle, and was only ever seen in the E3 2003 demo of Halo 2. In order to make the demo playable on stage, massive optimization had to be done across the demo map, such as the deletion of objects that were no longer in frame.
Gameplay and design
In the aftermath of the success of Combat Evolved in the multiplayer and LAN scene, there was a desire to double down on multiplayer development. The team was also involved in the development of Xbox Live at this point.
One of the biggest alterations to gameplay in Halo 2 is perhaps the ability to dual wield weapons; this tactic allows for twice the firepower at the expense of being unable to throw grenades or melee without dropping the left weapon. In terms of vehicles, all vehicles from the first game remain except the M12A1 Warthog LAAV (rocket warthog) from the PC version and the Spirit dropship. Also, a few new vehicles are introduced. In Halo 2, however, the previously indestructible vehicles can now be destroyed and the player is able to "board" an enemy vehicle by climbing on and knocking the driver out, as well as planting grenades to further damage the vehicle. The same can be done by an enemy to the player when driving.
When playing as the Arbiter, the player's flashlight is replaced with a rechargeable active camouflage that lasts for ten seconds, giving the player a preemptive advantage on unsuspecting enemies.
The player can have a variety of allies; if they are playing as the Master Chief, they will be assisted by UNSC Marines, and occasionally ODSTs. However, the Arbiter is joined by Grunts, Jackals, Hunters, and other Elites, allowing for deeper insight into Covenant culture.
On the damage mechanics, fall damage now has been reduced considerably. The threshold minimum damage has been increased, such as from 3 stories building height will not cause player any damage while on the previous game, it gives the player some damage. The most benefits come from splatter damage as a slight touch from the object now is no longer kill anyone instantly including player (Except some who are designed to be invulnerable). The player now needs more effort to score a splatter kill.
Campaign and story
Halo 2 has been the only game in the series to have the most content either cut from the game entirely or redesigned completely as evidenced in many forms of media. In the Halo 3 Essentials disc featuring the "Director's Commentary" of the cutscenes, three separate levels were discussed as having been proposed but ultimately scrapped due to time constraints: Covenant Ship, Forerunner Tank, and Forerunner Ship. In the "Making of Halo 2" documentary there was concept art seen regarding a level location The Ark, although the design was later placed into Halo 3's The Storm as the Portal. The former could have been a part of pre-production for Halo 3. Marty O'Donnell was also quoted in a Bungie Podcast (Episode 13, at 21:00) saying that all the actors had recorded the lines to the original Halo 2 ending and that it still exists today, but he will never show it. The Flood Juggernaut was a character that was modeled and placed in the coding of the game but never had AI programmed or had been placed on any level, similar to the Engineer in Halo: Combat Evolved.
The head writer for Halo 2 was Joseph Staten. With the Halo 2 campaign, Staten was interested in expanding the game's scope from solely the Master Chief and humanity, fleshing out the Covenant antagonists through the perspective of the Arbiter. The core idea behind the Arbiter was to create a character who suffered the consequences of the Master Chief's victory in the first game. According to Staten, Bungie co-founder and the game's project lead Jason Jones was extremely passionate about including two particular scenes that were ultimately cut. In one of these, the Master Chief would be standing on an orbital above Earth and look down on the carnage inflicted by the Covenant, saying "Only blood will pay for this." A similar scene occurs in the final game, at the conclusion of "Cairo Station", but the quote is absent. Jones also wanted to have Miranda Keyes play the role of an antagonist and have her betray the Master Chief, strapping and bomb to his back and throwing him down a hole. Staten was not fond of the idea and, though great effort, convinced Jones it would not work in the context of the story.
A key theme in the story's development was bringing the war to Earth.
According to Microsoft Halo Franchise Development Group employee Eric Trautmann, who liaised with Bungie on the development of the Halo story, Bungie was initially skeptical that fans would recognize the ODSTs during the Delta Halo level, and questioned the in-universe purpose they served. This was the last work Trautmann worked on before leaving development on the Halo franchise in November 9, 2004.
A total of 21,090 lines of dialogue was recorded.
Unlike its predecessor, Halo 2 allowed players to compete with each other over the Xbox Live online service, in addition to the originals support for split-screen and System Link multiplayer. Halo 2's Xbox Live mode offered a unique approach to online gaming that is intended to alleviate some of the problems that have plagued online first-person shooters in the past. Traditionally, one player sets their computer or console up as a game server (or host), specifying the game type and map and configuring other settings. The game software then used a service like Xbox Live or GameSpy to advertise the game to the world at large; other players choose which game to join based upon criteria such as the map and game options each host is offering as well as the ping times they are able to receive.
In Halo 2, Xbox Live players do not choose to host games, and they do not get to specify individual maps and options to search for. Instead, players sign up for "playlists" that are geared to different styles of play. For example, the "Rumble Pit" playlist offers a variety of "free-for-all" game types, primarily Slayer or variations there of; "Team Skirmish" offers a number of 4-on-4 team games, which are primarily objective-based games like Capture the Flag; "Big Team Battle Skirmish" is similar to Team Skirmish but allows teams of up to 8 players. Other playlists allow various things such as matches between different clans. The Xbox Live servers create games automatically from the pool of players that have signed up for each playlist, choosing a game type and map automatically and selecting one player to serve as the game's host. Players can create small "parties" with their friends and enter games together as teammates or, in Rumble Pit, adversaries. They can also play custom gametypes like regular multiplayer. Unranked gametypes allow people on the same Xbox console without an Xbox Live account to play with them as "guests". If the Xbox console hosting the game drops out, the Xbox Live service automatically selects a new host from among the remaining players so the game can continue.
Since launching in November 2004, the service has been very popular with gamers. While some players resent the loss of individual control inherent in Halo 2's approach to online gaming, others feel it provides a significantly improved gaming experience compared to more traditional online first-person shooters. Bungie's servers match players up by skill level, which tends to eliminate the kind of severely imbalanced games that less-skilled players often consider unfair and not enjoyable. The automatic host selection process also eliminates the ability of the host to exert outsize control over the parameters of the game.
Halo 2 players with Microsoft Passport accounts can log on to bungie.net and obtain highly detailed statistics on their performance, including level maps for several hundred of the player's most recent games that indicate graphically where and when the player scored a kill or was killed him or herself.
On April 15, 2010, the Halo 2 multiplayer services, along with all other original Xbox LIVE services, were discontinued. However, some of Halo 2's fans left their Xbox's running after April 15. Xbox LIVE did not boot the approximately 500 people who had signed into Xbox LIVE before the discontinuation of service on April 15. These players continued playing online amongst one another but no new players could sign on. On April 30, 2010 only 12 fans who had managed to keep their Xbox and Xbox LIVE connections stable remained logged into Halo 2 on Xbox Live. Nicknamed the "Noble 12", they continued to play games among themselves. In response, Stephen Toulouse, director of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live, tweeted "To those noble folk keeping halo2 alive: we see you, and we salute you,". These hardcore fans were awarded Halo: Reach Beta keys because of their attempts to keep Halo 2 alive. Over the next 9 days, 10 of the 12 gamers would experience either Xbox malfunctions or Internet malfunctions. Some were reported as logging off voluntarily to play the Halo: Reach Beta they received. Only two people remained online in Halo 2. On May 10, 2010, "Agent Windex" was quoted as saying "I just got kicked off guys. Good Job Apache, you're the last one". Later that day, "Apache N4SIR", the very last person on Halo 2, was booted from Xbox LIVE. This marked the end of Halo 2 on Xbox LIVE and the end of the original Xbox LIVE.
Marketing promotions and release
In 2002, Bungie released the first glimpse of Halo 2 in a pre-rendered CG trailer. The trailer featured the Master Chief in his new MJOLNIR Mark VI armor preparing for battle in a space station. Cortana is also heard and has dialogue with the Chief. It also featured Earth and CCS-class Battlecruisers in orbit. The UNSC seem to be losing in the battle. The events of this trailer were featured in the final version of Halo 2. Some of the events and dialogue of this trailer was changed to fit the finished storyline of the game. Most of this now appears in the Halo 2 level Cairo Station.
E3 2003 featured the release by Bungie of footage of a playable in-game demo of the Halo 2 campaign. The demo featured the battle on Earth in the city of New Mombasa. Master Chief, Cortana, Sergeant Johnson, Corporal Perez, Major Easley, and Sergeant Banks were all seen/heard in the demo. The demo showed off new features like Dual-Wielding (the Master Chief could actually keep both his dual-wielded weapons when he switched to his secondary sidearm; this was changed for the final product), Vehicle Damage, and Boarding. Three new vehicles shown were the Gauss Warthog, Type-29 Shadow, and the Covenant Phantom, which at the time had only one plasma turret on its underside instead of three.
Returning vehicles featured the Ghost, Pelican, Covenant Cruiser, and Longsword Fighters. New weapons the Battle Rifle, SMG, and Brute Shot were also shown, although the final Brute Shot design for Halo 2 was vastly different from what was shown in this trailer. New enemies such as the Brutes were shown in this demo, but as a secondary warrior race by the side of the Elites. The events of this demo were featured in the final version of Halo 2. Some of the events and dialog of this demo was changed to fit the finished storyline of the game, such as the AA Gun becoming a Scarab. Most of this now appears in the Halo 2 level; Metropolis.
Halo 2 Council
To help promote Halo 2, Microsoft established the Halo 2 Council, an off-shoot of its celebrity "Xbox Playaz Club". It had seven members, consisting of actors Wilmer Valderrama, Benjamin Mckenzie, and Aisha Tyler; Jeremy Shockey of the New York Giants; and bands Hoobastank, Incubus, and Linkin Park. Members of the Halo 2 Council received advanced copies of the game, as well as an exclusive "Halo 2 Pelican Case", a portable Xbox contained in a personalized suitcase with a 15-inch HDTV, two controllers, Xbox Live headset, and an Ethernet connection. They were also offered "VIP tours of Bungie Studios, voice-over recording sessions for game integration, [and] access to Halo 2 during the development process." Members promoted the game through Halo-related events, such as Aisha Tyler's birthday party, where around 100 guests were invited to play an advance version of Halo 2's multiplayer.
Halo 2 also had a significant presence at E3 2004 (May 11–13, 2004). On May 8, Microsoft held a preview event in a private home in Beverley Hills, California, which had been transformed into a replica of "the stunning futuristic world of Halo, complete with camouflaged marines and roaming Cortanas." It was attended by the members of the Halo 2 Council, as well as well-known celebrities of the time such as Joe Reitman, Jolene Blalock, Andrew Keegan, Jordana Brewster, Bai Ling, Ben Foster, Kelly Hu, Kyle Boller, Laura Prepon, Brad Bufanda, Lindsay Lohan, Breckin Meyer, Luke Walton, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Masterson, Danny Masterson, Rick Yune, Good Charlotte, Ryan Phillipe, Gregory Smith, Shannon Elizabeth, Taryn Manning, and Tara Reid.
During the event itself, Halo 2 held a central position in Microsoft's showcase. At the pre-event Xbox conference on May 10, Bungie released footage of a playable in-game demo of the Halo 2 multiplayer. The demo featured the multiplayer map Zanzibar and displayed playable character models the SPARTAN-II model and the Sangheili model. It also showed off some of the weaponry of the game and some special features. The Battle Rifle, SMG, Needler, Rocket Launcher, and Energy Sword were displayed. The Gauss Warthog and the Ghost also made an appearance. Some features included the lock-on feature of the Rocket Launcher, the Dual-Wielding ability, Explosive Barrels, Ghost's boosting, vehicle boarding, Warthogs horn and Gauss Cannon and Sword Lunging. The demo also featured the official announcement of the release date, November 9, 2004. After the demo's public unveiling, fans were allowed to try it out for themselves throughout the Expo on the showfloor.
Halo2.com was the promotional website registered by Microsoft for Halo 2. It first went live on May 11, and had national or regional variants, such as the Australian site (www.halo2.com.au/). Initially, it consisted of a straightforward promotional site, featuring screenshots, wallpapers, videos, and news. Later, it was relaunched by AKQA on October 15, expanded and updated with a Covenant theme and tied to the i love bees alternate reality game. After Halo 2's release, it was merged with the official Xbox site.
i love bees
During the summer of 2004, the website ilovebees.com was used as a publicity site for Halo 2, with the site being pointed to by adverts for the game during movie trailers. Ostensibly a beekeeper's personal site, the server appeared to have been taken over by an unstable A.I. whose thoughts were scattered on the site. These included a number of "Axon" clips, which when put together formed an audio drama. This alternate reality game acted as a prologue to the story of Halo 2.
In October 2004, a short trailer for Halo 2 was shown in movie theaters and cinemas throughout the United States. It featured short clips of game play, some newly rendered scenes, as well as materials recycled from the E3 2003 demo. The trailer also featured a brief promotion of i love bees.
In October through November 2004, a television advertisement for Halo 2 aired throughout the United States. It consisted of footage from cutscenes and gameplay. There were two versions of the ad, a 30-seconds and a 60-seconds spot.
There are two volumes of the Halo 2 soundtrack, one released alongside the game, and the other released in Early 2006. You can usually find them at any retail store that sells music or games, or Ebay.
Halo 2 was very successful in sales. In company with PlayStation 2's hit of the year, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, it was the most sought-after video game among critics and gamers in 2004. Three weeks prior to launch, stores in the U.S. alone had pre-sold 1.5 million copies of the game to consumers. When it launched for the Xbox on the 9th of November, over 7000 video game, toy and electronics stores in the U.S. opened at midnight to welcome fanatical fans. Halo 2 instantly began to prosper. One national retailer sold 8,500 copies of the game in just 11 minutes, and another had sold 200,000 units by daybreak. One single store sold 500 Halo 2 units in three hours, 350 of them being sold between midnight and 1 a.m. Early on the launch day, Microsoft expected Halo 2 to generate more money in 24 hours on store shelves than any game had done before. Moore said “I'm calling a $100 million day on Halo today.” Halo 2 went on to be the success that Microsoft was anticipating, selling approximately 2.4 million copies in North America in 24 hours, generating $125 million. The video game software retailer GameStop sold more than half a million Halo 2 copies in one day. In Australia, where more than 42,000 gamers had pre-ordered the game prior to its release, Halo 2 shattered retail sales records by selling more than 104,000 units in no more than one week after launch, generating nine million dollars and beating the previous record holder by 38,000 copies. In Canada, Halo 2 succeeded in selling 222,000 units in its debut month, making it the biggest premiere month for any game up to Grand Theft Auto IV. Before its release in New Zealand, more than 8000 units of Halo 2 had been pre-sold.
Three weeks after its release, Halo 2 had sold over 5 million copies, making it the second-best selling Xbox game, with approximately 19% of all Xbox owners possessing a copy of Halo 2. The game also had the most successful opening night of any game up until Halo 3, and, later, Grand Theft Auto 4. The game had a generally amazing reception, gaining a 9.7 out of 10 from OXM (10 out of 10 from its Australian counterpart), a 9.8 out of 10 from IGN, a 10 out of 10 from Game Informer, a 9 out of 10 from Play Magazine, a 5 out of 5 from X-Play, and a 9.4 for Xbox from GameSpot. It gained more Game of The Year awards in 2004 than any other game that year. X-Play, in late 2006, included it as #3 in their top 4 greatest shooters of all time (#4 was Resistance, #2 Half-Life 2, and #1 was Gears of War). In early 2007, it made #8 on their top 10 Games of All Time countdown. The game had an average meta-score of 95 out of 100, making it the 3rd most critically acclaimed Xbox game, right behind Halo: Combat Evolved and the Grand Theft Auto Triple Pack. The games multiplayer was held to be one of the best of all time, staying consistently number 1 the most played Xbox Live title from November 2004 up until November of 2006, when Gears of War released.
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 noted in its review, “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 an original plan. But we know it’ll work.'" According to Xbox.com, the game has received more than 38 individual awards. The game's campaign mode has received some criticism for being too short, in addition to some dissatisfaction with the abrupt, cliffhanger ending that sets up the sequel, Halo 3. GameSpot noted that the story switching between the Covenant and Human factions made the plot more intricate, but also distracted the player from Earth's survival and the main point of the game. There is also some criticism of the game's on-the-fly streaming and level of detail adjustment, which can sometimes result in textures loading erroneously and "popping in" when the camera changes in cutscenes. Bungie has stated that this issue had been fixed for Halo 3 and the Windows Vista port.
In an interview with Edge magazine in January 2007, Jamie Greisemer, one of Halo's design leads, said that the main reason for Halo 2's shortcomings was a lack of "polish" period near the end of the development cycle. Staff member Frank O’Connor admitted the cliffhanger ending was abrupt, noting “we drove off Thelma & Louise style." Nonetheless, in the interview Greisemer promised that they would make Halo 3 a more than worthy successor.