In this edition of RVA Game Cave, columnist Jonah Schuhart lets us know that Halo 2 Anniversary For PC is the best ever version of an undisputed classic video game.
This month I’m talking about Halo 2 Anniversary. If you don’t know what Halo is, I have included a step by step guide on informing yourself. Step One: Crawl out from the impenetrably dense boulder you have been living under…
In 2014, current Halo developer 343 Industries released The Master Chief Collection for its latest console, the Xbox One. The game’s name bore no secrets. It’s Halos 1-4 (plus Reach and ODST) all conveniently wrapped up into a single package on Microsoft’s latest, highest-performing console. In short, it’s the ultimate Halo experience for any fan of the series. The Collection came with newly resurrected multiplayers for every entry, and featured the remastered version of the original Halo game: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. For many Halo fans, though, the most exciting thing about The Master Chief Collection was the announcement of another Halo remaster, exclusively available through the Collection: Halo 2 Anniversary.
Halo 2 Anniversary was as sleek and sexy as its predecessor. The graphical improvements made to Halo 2 in the Anniversary edition put the improvements of Combat Evolved Anniversary to shame, all while still maintaining the ability to switch between classic and modern graphics at the push of a button (one of CEA’s most notable features).
Halo 2 Anniversary also received a total cutscene makeover; the scenes were reanimated and directed completely from scratch. The new versions looked magnificent, and every Halo fan without an Xbox One gaped, slack-jawed; like hungry dogs begging at the dinner table, fiending for that sweet, sweet remaster.
I was one of those hungry dogs, but I never caved in to buy an Xbox One, so when 343 announced last year that the Master Chief Collection would come to PC, with each game coming out individually over the course of months, I sat back in my chair and waited with the widest of grins.
Well today is the day — or rather, March 12 WAS the day. After PC releases of Reach and CEA, Halo 2 Anniversary has finally come to PC, and I am here to tell you that… it’s pretty freaking good. What? Did you think I would tell you it’s bad? It’s Halo 2, people. Even if this version had zero improvements, it would still be one of the greatest first person shooters ever designed, with an equally potent, yet terrible cliffhanger ending.
If anything, this version of the game is the new standard for judgement. It plays better, looks better, has a wider array of control schemes, and has two fully functioning multiplayers. You could slam dunk my Collector’s Edition copy of the OG Halo 2 into a boiling tar pit for all I care. I can finally hit the right bumper to reload (which was the default control scheme between Halo 3 and ODST for some odd reason), so I no longer have to readapt to normal FPS controls whenever I want to play Halo 2. As far as I’m concerned, this is all I’ll ever need.
It also doesn’t have as many performance issues as the original. Don’t get me wrong, this is still Halo 2. Parts of wrecked ghosts still get caught in the environment’s collision, creating a ceaseless cacophony of vehicle crashing noises. But when I slapped my original copy of Halo 2 into my Xbox 360 and gave it a whirl, I noticed a distinct drop in frame rate. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, and it may just be the 360’s emulation, but it certainly makes the MCC a better option than what was more readily available.
Speaking of superior options, prepare for a bad time if you try to play this game’s multiplayer with anything but the mouse and keyboard controls. Most people associate Halo with Xbox, and that means controllers. But the series also has a long history on PC, and when it comes to accuracy, the unfortunate reality is that a mouse will always run, where a controller’s analog sticks walk. If you don’t wanna get headshot from across the map in the SWAT game mode, then I suggest you let go of the thumbsticks and put your fingers on WASD. That goes for both multiplayers by the way. I don’t care if you’re playing the classic, or the altered version of Halo 4’s multiplayer labeled “Anniversary.” You will die equally horrible, teabag-infused deaths in both.
Personally, I choose to have my brain perforated in the classic multiplayer. I may not be able to switch to fancy graphics there, but I’m also not forced to use the Assault Rifle in a game that famously dropped it from the weapons roster for the SMG. More importantly, however, the classic appeals to a sense of nostalgia. In my case, that nostalgia is completely manufactured, since I didn’t even own an Xbox until Reach, but I doubt that many original Halo 2 fans are booting up Anniversary to play what is ostensibly a modded version of Halo 4. If that’s the kind of thing you’re into, then more power to you. But there’s a larger sense of history and retrospection to playing the game as it was originally designed.
And that’s what the Halo remasters have really come to be about — retrospection. The series has such a powerful, seminal reputation. You don’t see many high school kids singing bathroom a capella versions of other video game themes. When a person can press a button and see how far gaming’s graphical capabilities have come in the past couple decades, it gives you a new perspective. You can see how much has really changed, and appreciate the things that modern video games have to offer. And when you can press that same button again, and get transported back into the video games of yesteryear, you can truly relive some glory days. It’s a simple, binary choice, but one that makes Halo 2 Anniversary from The Master Chief Collection a worthy buy, especially at only $9.99 when purchased individually.
There is no numerical score for Halo 2 Anniversary. This is a piece of gaming history. You already know it’s good.
Top Image: Xbox Game Studios/343 Industries. All other images by Jonah Schuhart