So, the story picks up shortly after the first Halo game. I\'d guess less than a month after. If you read the book \'Halo: First Strike\' you get all the gory details of what happened between the two games. But that\'s not necessary, all you need to know is the Master Chief has made his way back to Earth, and Earth knows that the Covenant are on their way. You start off like the last game, in a tight human environment. This helps the player by giving them a very linear area to move in, with distinct environment pieces. \'That\'s stairs, so that means it leads somewhere\', before going onto later larger areas. This seems to be good so far. Then you make contact with your first enemy. When I say contact I mean \'All heck breaks loose and you unload the clip of your (fantastically presented) battle rifle into it\'s body\'. Then the game gets REALLY fun. Corridor and corridor of blasting the heck out of Aliens with little or no disregard for your own safety until you hear the \'bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep\' of your energy shields. Oh, and the shields, they\'ve gotten an upgrade since the original game. They\'re more powerful, and they recharge faster, but you have very limited health once they are depleted. This was a welcome change, as it meant I no longer had to search for health packs, and didn\'t have a heartbeat constantly coming through my speakers when on a higher difficulty when my health was low. Then there\'s the next change. Duel wielding. If you are holding a single-handed weapon, you can pick up another and, for a decrease in accuracy, pump the Covenant (aliens) full of both guns\' ammo. This in theory leads to interesting combinations of plasma pistols, submachine guns, pistols, needlers, and everything else under the sun besides the larger guns. So far... no gripes.
Then there\'s the story. I wish a little was told to you about what happened between Halo and Halo 2. But I guess it isn\'t necessary. Although fans of the series will wonder what happened to the other SPARTANs, and a number of other characters. I will save this review from spoilers and not include every detail, but I will tell you that there are twists in the game that you will be VERY surprised at, and I hope that to you, as they were to me, they were interesting and not things that confused you too much.
The controls are mostly the same from the original Halo, although dual-wielding and boarding now use extra buttons. Also, you may occasionally want to merely tap \'X\' to exit the vehicle you\'re in... this leads to sitting around wondering why it won\'t work. But that\'s merely a case of forgetting the old ways :-)
Game play is... how do I say?... Fantastique! I played on Heroic (One down from the hardest) first time, and loved it. It was hard enough to keep me wanting to play, and the checkpoint system meant I didn\'t have to keep doing the same area too much. The variation in enemies, such as the new Drones and Brutes, meant that the game has become quite different when there are 5 different species\' at once, acting in different ways to kill you, at the same time.
Music is quite different from the first game, with different composers presenting music for the game. But the most surprising thing is it WORKS! When you walk into a room on Heroic with the most heavy fighting in the game in it, and the only rock song in the game swells up, you\'ll know what I mean. :-) Sound is great too, especially with a 5.1 surround sound system. The sound of a Covenant Carbine being shot past your head will make you nearly duck in your seat. It is wonderful.
Graphics are fantastic, some of the best the XBox has mustered as of yet, although during cutscenes you may see textures load onto objects on the fly. This has been commented by the creators as being necessary, in order to reduce loading time. And I welcome no loading time, I didn\'t even know there was a change in level a number of times! Now... I could comment on the online multiplayer, the ranking system set up, the clan system, the wonderful games I\'ve played, the vehicles, the balance, the energy sword, the huge variation in game types, the ability of Bungie.net to track every single kill you\'ve ever made from every position in a multiplayer game and relay it to you later online, and so on. But I won\'t. I will merely say that I have not had a bad game yet due to the fault of the creators. Only due to bad players.