HOWEVER, I said that I couldn't see Halo 2 possibly living up to the hype. Not that I expected it to suck; but with a hype machine so monolithic, so all-encompassing, it could be the best game of all time and still fail to meet some expectations.
Among all the other things this ad campaign succeeded in though, it did manage to draw in at least one non-fan. I've never been a real lover of First-Person Shooters. Mostly because I suck at them. There have been a handful of exceptions though; Half-Life being the most prevalent. Give me my third-person hack 'n slash fests or my arcade racers any day.
Nonetheless, I gave it a rental. And I'll have to admit, it's not bad. Not quite as immersive as Half-Life (though it comes as close as I've seen to date), or as ambitious as The Chronicles of Riddick, or as irreverent as No-one Lives Forever (now there's a trip down memory lane!), I think it accomplishes what it sets out to do.
In fact, if you set it within the right context, it may very well be the best. It is likely the best First Person Shooter on XBox. I'm not going to expand beyond that, because I think that's stupid. It's not going to be the best game ever to RPG fans. It's not going to be the best XBox game to Ninja Gaiden or Fable or Project Gotham Racing fanatics. It's not going to be the best FPS to Gamecube or PC owners (that honour will likely go to Metroid Prime 2 and Half-Life 2, respectively). But within its boundaries, it's pretty unique.
Granted, I haven't gotten very far yet, so maybe there'll be some genre-transcending gameplay that I have yet to encounter. I'll reserve any complaints until I've gotten a real meaty amount of play out of it. Well ok, maybe one complaint: How do they expect me to believe that someone with the voice of David "Mr. Show" Cross is some military hardass?!?