Editor’s Note: This is the first part of our week-long review of Halo 2: Anniversary and the entire Master Chief Collection! Stay tuned for more throughout the week, as we give our final verdict on the game.
Rose-tinted glasses can really be misleading. All those watery-eyed memories of your digitized halcyon days, when multiplayer games required all participants to be present, you didn’t pay for extra content, developers laughed while crafting their sadistic masterpieces, and shooters didn’t have ADS, can make you really nostalgic for the old games. Unfortunately, our next-gen eyes aren’t trained to see past the flaws of the days gone.
Thankfully, 343 realized this when crafting The Master Chief Collection – the single greatest piece of fan service ever crafted by a video game developer. Halo: Anniversary, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 all received an upgrade to 1080 p and 60 fps. And that’s not all. Included in the box are all four games, EVERY multiplayer map ever, and a couple new little pieces of narrative that connect past games to the upcoming Halo 5. Oh, and there’s that whole business of a completely remastered Halo 2 just in time for its 10th anniversary…
Halo 2 received a jaw-dropping graphical makeover that proves the game can still keep up. The score and sound has been remastered, and even the multiplayer maps have received a bit of a touch up. This isn’t just a rehash of old ideas. Halo 2: Anniversary is a brand new experience. As we begin our week of Halo coverage, here are five levels from that campaign and five maps from multiplayer that look just as good now as they did back in 2004:
First up, the campaign levels…
“Delta Halo” was like taking a trip to a lush, exotic isle for a pleasant day trip, if a pleasant day trip for you involves slaughtering hundreds of alien religious zealots. “Delta Halo”‘s beautiful lakes, lush foliage, tumbling waterfalls, and ancient temples instilled an almost tangible sense of anxious mystery. And the level still looks great with the visual makeover. Besides the natural scenery, the ancient temple ruins look leagues better with some actual new-gen textures.
While “Delta Halo” takes place on the fringes of Installation 005, “Uprising” brings us deep into the wooded interior of the ring, treating us to a level similar to “343 Guilty Spark” from Combat Evolved. The plant life is just as alien, and much more dense. 343 has added even more life to this level, taking advantage of the extra memory they have at their disposal. The vehicular mayhem that takes place is also a bit refined. The small army of elites following you on ghosts, blasting away at countless adversaries (also on vehicles), look spectacular, with explosions going off left and right.
The Forerunner ship that dominates the horizon line in “High Charity” always looked strangely like an oil painting in Halo 2, a beautiful effect for the times. In Halo 2: Anniversary‘s upgraded engine, it’s absolutely a sight to see. The level was also quite dark, despite what seemed like recessed lighting adorning every corridor of the massive Covenant flagship. Thanks to the mproved lighting, the ship’s various corridors and chambers glow with a new radiance, and the graphical fidelity stretches for miles into the distance. The lighting is the visual centerpiece of this level.
Also taking place within High Charity, this level shows off the scope of the space station, an alien capital if I’ve ever seen one. Working your way through what appears to be a man-made conservatory, this level is littered with winding forest pathways, alien plants (some of which are lambent), and grassy fields. Leaving that area, you encounter more traditional Covenant architecture – with purple-tinted gravity bridges and dark corridors. As Halo: Anniversary showed us with “The Truth and Reconciliation” level, though, these environments get 10 times more attractive when you put a fresh coat of paint on them.
Though this level had far too many corridors for its own good (something that the front end of Halo 2‘s campaign was guilty of as a whole), the exterior chase scenes were a feast for the eyes even 10 years ago. The storm raging around the space station surely provided 343 with plenty of inspiration for what they could do with the graphics. Flashing lightning, intense gusts of wind, and countless explosions coming from enemy Banshees popping like electrical baloons make this level light up once you step outside of the calustrophobic corridors.
Now let’s take a look at those good-looking multiplayer maps…
Sanctuary is beautiful for many of the same reasons that “Dela Halo” is beautiful – tons of lush greenery, ancient alien temples, and a spattering of water. In fact, this level seems to be ripped right from a portion of that level. Seeing those temples beaming and the small pools of water glistening under the scorching sun is sure to be a distraction during the breakneck multiplayer matches. I was killed a lot the first few times I played this map again.
This level isn’t so much spectactular because of the level itself, but because of what lies just outside of it. The skybox surrounding this floating rock was one of the most spectacular things my 14-year-old eyes had seen up to that point. With all the new tech 343 has to play with, though, those grey clouds and sparse rocky outcroppings that make up the outside of this map have become something more. There have also been a couple of big adjustments to the map in terms of layout that makes this map seem completely new. You definitely have to play it a little differently.
Taking place on a lonely island, this map is dominated by an ancient Forerunner structure where countless runs have been made at the enemy flag. Dominating the sky is the titular Halo ring. I can’t stress enough how much detail has been added to this ring and 343 has done with lighting. With the sun hanging over the map like it is, everything looks and feels much more brighter…right before getting show in the head.
This map probably had the most going on visually. With a thick layer of green fog dominating the map, it was definitely the most moody and atmospheric. It created a unique difficulty when playing match types such as Team SWAT, where sight is pivotal to getting the headshot. The lighting in this map makes for a much better experience…it’s a little less frustrating perhaps, and a bit more scenic than before. The small station that dominates the center of the map glows with a certain radiance, as well.
Colossus had a lot of moving parts. In addition to the massive grav lift, there was also the assembly line of plasma containers running though the lower-center portion of the map. Bungie always had a penchant for bringing their maps to life with something going on in the background, and this was one of the greatest examples of that. I’m excited to say that 343 does this level justice in the Anniversary edition.
What about you? Which single-player levels and multiplayer maps are you most excited to see redone with a fresh coat of paint? Let us know in the comments below!
For more Halo, check out our coverage hub.