Let’s break it down. Firstly and most fundamentally Halo 2 doesn’t deliver fights with the promised pizazz. Shooting people, which constitutes 100% of Halo 2’s game, struggles to satisfy from the start. The AI of both enemies and allies is solid and reliable, but hardly as inventive as that in Half-Life 2 or F.E.A.R. The weapons are all agonizingly similar, and none of them require much skill to master. They’re either splash-damage monstrosities, or designed to spit loads of damage over a wide angle. Point in roughly the right direction and you’re going to win (perhaps do some weird floaty jumping to avoid hostile fire).
The same is true of the enemies who are fighting you: by the end of the game it’s a case of ordnance-spam attrition. Can you pump out more grenades and rockets in the first few moments of the fight than your enemy? Good, then you’ll reach the next checkpoint. It’s boring. Halo 2’s fighting is soulless and tiresomely predictable. It’s boring like cleaning your house is boring. Pick up some shoes, wash the dishes, bazooka the conveyor-belt of linear monsters. Halo 2 has no puzzles that we can recall, no notable physics events, a handful of interesting scripted scenes and no memorable emergent glories at all. It is repetitious shooting that leaves us feeling, at best, sad and unfulfilled.
These problems are amplified by the overall pacing. It starts out competently, with a punchy opening sequence, but soon it stumbles, occasionally picking itself up and looking around, clueless and dazed. There are long, absent-minded pauses, as if the game forgot to make anything happen. It happens again and again - moments pass... weren’t we supposed to be saving the human race? The vehicle-based levels are the worst culprits. These are huge open maps where you can find yourself wandering on foot if your Warthog jeep (now destructible) gets exploded. We found ourselves simply driving through a couple of the later vehicle levels, just to get past their tedious, lingering exchanges of ammo. The AI seems to assume that we’ll stick around to fight it, and had no real plan for us just driving on through.
Fighting through the last two hours is painful, like hard math where you have to show your work. We couldn’t enjoy it, and began to feel ill.