The graphics and sounds are great. Everything is far more detailed in Halo 2. There are reflections, detailed textures and smooth animations. Even the flashlight casts a far more realistic field of light over dynamic surfaces.
The Marines seem to be a lot more on-the-ball than they used to be. The Covenant is smarter as well. Both sides seem to be using a lot more duck and cover tactics.
The level plays out much like would expect ... up to a point. Eventually, you find yourself squaring off against a new foe: The Drones. These jerks are like flying Elites. It is easy to see that they are going to quickly become my new object of hatred in the Halo universe.
Even in the first level, it is apparent that boards are a lot less linear than they were in the original. There are several paths through each area and some loop back on themselves. While this felt a little confusing at first, it will eventually amount to several ways to skin a cat when fighting the Covenant on harder difficulty settings.
I made it through the first level without a problem. After another cutscene, I was on Earth and it was time for street-to-street urban combat in a desert city (hmmmm....). The game abruptly leaps into high gear. The Marines and I fought off one ambush after another. My ever-changing audience oohed and aahhed with each new wave of attacks. We all noticed more and more little details as I played through. My run and my hour ended with two Hunters smashing the crap out of me. Boy, oh boy is this game ridiculously cool.