So I bought Half Life 2 'cause my Halo 2 was half a week late. Fun, but it loads agonizingly slow, and alarmingly often. Every segment goes on too long, by the time I'd finished the first vehicular segment I was thinking it was about three times longer than it should have been.
Then Halo 2 finally arrived. I played a half dozen rounds multiplayer, and it's like, meh. UT2004 kicks its ass all over the map.
But single player... fucking WOW. This is why I was excited for Halo 2. This is awesome fun. Superbly well paced, and the chatter - oh man, the chatter. HalfLife 2 seems to take the coward's way out, making up for their lack of ability by coming up with all sorts of reasons to leave your character alone in the game. Every time you meet an NPC (non player character) they're torn away from you a few minutes later, and then you spend twenty minutes alone. Perhaps it's by design, making the player feel hopeless and frightened. It works, but more often I feel bored.
Not so with Halo 2. Wow. I can't get over how it makes me feel like the events unfolding around me are really happening. Squads chatter and hoot and congratulate me on particularly good kills. I genuinely feel like I'm playing with a few dozen comrades and repelling alien invaders. This is wild fun, where HalfLife 2 is slow and irritating, with its long periods of zero contact and relentless puzzles.
Halo 2 initially irritated me with the pad controller over the mouse + kb I'm used to, but now - an hour or so into the game - I'm kicking ass with skill and no shortage of abandon.
Woo yay, props to Bungie, and a meh to Valve. You lose boys, Bungie 0wned you this time around.