Live for Windows; great gameplay, all the perks of the Xbox version...
...except for matchmaking. And it's essentially a 3-year-old game. No graphics update or new features.
I played a lot of Halo 2 on the Xbox. Every night for most of a year, I’d fire up the game with some buddies, lead off with a couple of swords-only rounds on Lockout, then jump into Coagulation or Zanzibar for some CTF or team deathmatch action. For that reason, I was looking forward to playing Halo 2 with the superior mouse/keyboard combination when it finally came to the PC.
Halo 2 for Vista is essentially the same game that was released for the Xbox in November of 2005. You fight the Covenant on Earth, just like in the Xbox version. An amazing twist is in the single-player campaign, just like in the Xbox version. The single-player story stops just as abruptly as it does in the Xbox version. And the multiplayer kicks as much ass as the Xbox version’s. However, the biggest problem is that there just aren’t many people playing. Even when you log on during prime time, you don’t see many people playing online. At best, there are just a few dozen populated servers. Generally, there aren’t enough players for matchmaking (a feature in the paid version of Live) to work properly.
The most notable addition to Halo 2 for Vista is that it’s one of the first titles that supports Games for Windows Live—the PC-specific version of Xbox Live’s friends and matchmaking services. Once you get Live working, you’ll see your friends list and have a bevy of communication options (text messages, voice messages, or live chat) within the game. I experienced some compatibility problems with the service but managed to get it working with a little help (see my previous article for more info). You need to pay $50 a year for the privilege of getting all of Live’s features, but a subscription works for both PC and 360 games, so current subscribers to Live can log in and play immediately. Without a subscription, you won’t have access to matchmaking (which doesn’t work) or multiplayer achievements. Woo.
Despite the crappy graphics and very first-gen implementation, this is still a brilliant game. Of course, it’s a brilliant, almost three-year-old game with a $50 price tag. And the Xbox 360's already on Halo 3.