Halo 2 has always been a special game for me. It was the first real game I couldn’t wait for, from counting down the days to release, to reading every little piece of news about it from various gaming magazines. I can’t count the times I watched the E3 single player demo and was left awestruck each time. Back in 2004, the hype was just surreal thinking about the game, and although we still get blockbusters games today, something about Halo 2 back then made it bigger than the rest.
Ten years later, with multiple Halo games released over two new console generations, the anniversary of Halo 2 is upon us. Many expected Halo 2: Anniversary to be announced, but I don’t believe anyone expected the rumors would be true that four Halo games would be bundled in a single package. Thankfully, the rumors ended up being true, and we were graced with the announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection at E3 2014.
A few years back we were treated to Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Overall, it was a good update, but it did have some faults that did bother Halo fans, from the lack of true Halo 1 multiplayer, to various minor technical issues. It was a good package that served the Halo community well, but at the end of the day it was missing something that made the game special for a lot of players, myself included. Now, with Halo 2: Anniversary, the issues present in Combat Evolved Anniversary are gone and we are treated to an amazing game that is well deserving of it’s $60 price tag.
For a lot of older Halo fans, Halo 2 is considered the pinnacle of their Halo history, as it was the first Halo game to have Xbox Live. However, there is no denying that the campaign was also something special. Yes, the abrupt ending gets me a little mad, but even with that fault it’s still one of my favorite campaigns in the Halo series.
When I first started Halo 2: Anniversary, one of the first things that threw me off was how good the game looked in Classic mode after all these years. It isn’t until you start flipping back and forth between the Classic and Anniversary mode that you will recognize the incredible work Saber Interactive and 343 Industries have done retouching the campaign levels in every facet to make it look like a next-gen title on the Xbox One. There were countless times where I would look into the background scenery or skyboxes of levels, truly amazed at how far the game has come two console generations later.
While the game does look amazing, I do have some gripes regarding the new and improved art direction. At times in the campaign it would be too dark for me to see in Anniversary mode, and I would have to revert to Classic to get my bearings again so I could continue on the levels path. This happened enough in the campaign that it would get annoying at times. Believe me, this wasn’t a TV or settings issue, but a misstep in the art direction. Perhaps 343 could look into some sort of update to fix this, but in it’s current state it did interrupt my experience.
I also experienced a few other technical issues, ranging from audio being out of sync with animations, and AI not behaving properly in scripted dialogue sequences. After a quick checkpoint reset, these bugs seemed to smooth out or go away. I don’t believe these were fluke situations, instead, they were just times the game’s remastered audio or graphics ran into issues. I cannot say that I am surprised when you are running two game engines at the same time, which is no easy feat. These bugs are only minor issues, but again, they stood out enough to draw away from my experience playing the campaign.
To reiterate once again, this is a 10 year old game. A.I. has come pretty far since 2004, so there were situations in the campaign (which I played on Normal) where enemies didn’t notice me at all or responded to combat with mind-numbing reactions. I’m definitely glad they didn’t touch the A.I. in the long run; I wanted to play it how I remembered it, but if you are new to Halo or have become acclimated to recent triple-A franchises in gaming, try to lower your expectations when it comes to Halo 2: Anniversaries combat.
Now, onto the best part of Halo 2: Anniversary campaign, Blur Studios’ cinematics. You’ve probably seen the lifelike screenshots and videos in recent months, and yes, they are that damn incredible. While playing the campaign, I felt like a kid again while watching these; I knew the scenes from playing the campaign for years. It was just amazing to see how well they turned out both visually and audibly. I would love to see future Halo games and projects utilize studios such as Blur to continue creating incredible and immersive cinematic sequences such as these.
As for the remastered soundtrack, the work that Skywalker Sound has done with Marty O’Donnell’s classic pieces is also very well produced. They do sound different enough at times to become noticeable, and I caught myself hanging around levels listening to the re-done work to hear the differences. At the end of the day though, nothing tops Marty O’Donnell’s original score for the Halo 2 soundtrack, and to this day, it still remains my favorite of the Halo soundtracks.
The Halo 2: Anniversary campaign is a treat for any Halo fan, and is an absolute must-play. Being packaged with its new and classic multiplayer, with three other Halo games in their entirety all bundled into one deal, it makes it the best video game bundle since The Orange Box in 2007.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately the multiplayer playlists and matchmaking were not live for The Master Chief Collection as of Thursday night. I felt it would be best not to review the multiplayer as I’ve only played a handful of customs. Expect to hear impressions of the multiplayer from our Staff in the coming weeks.
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Halo 2: Anniversary Campaign Review – Written by Ray “CyReN” Smith