The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Halo

Feedback and Reflections on Insider Flighting with The Master Chief Collection: Halo 3

“I would prefer even to fail with honour than to win by cheating.” –Sophocles

I had previously received an invitation to test Halo: Combat Evolved earlier in February, but an account issue prevented me from logging in and participating. This time around, 343 Industries has begun testing Halo 3 ahead of its release into The Master Chief Collection, releasing just over half of the single-player campaign missions and rotating multiplayer game types during its run. I was provided with an invitation to participate in the flighting programme and hastened to experience both the single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game before the test period ended. The Halo 3 flight offered five of the nine campaign missions: out of the gates, I was impressed with the visuals and handling. I will be returning once the game is finished to deal with the story and my impressions of gameplay – this time around, I will be focused more on the technical aspects of the game as a result of the flighting. Out of the gates, there are no major performance issues that are immediately apparent: the game handles smoothly, with no frame drops or any stuttering even in busier areas. The only major issue affecting the campaign is the weapon audio: the report of a weapon is barely audible over the music and ambient sounds during a firefight. However, while Halo 3 appears ready from the campaign perspective, the multiplayer component is stymied by a major problem with the mouse sensitivity to the point of being unplayable: in close quarters engagements, I favour having higher sensitivities to ensure I can continue tracking my targets, and I typically position myself in such a way so that I can favour closer-range engagements in Halo. At present, the maximum available sensitivity in Halo 3 is far too low to be effective in the multiplayer, and this is something that needs to be improved prior to the full release of Halo 3.

The reason why the sensitivity settings are too low in Halo 3 for the gameplay is related to the presence of both mouse-and-keyboard and controller players: in The Master Chief Collection, players who use a controller are given an aim assist utility that is intended to help them keep up with mouse-and-keyboard players by automatically shifting the camera to be centred on an enemy. In practise, this has allowed players using controllers to have an immense advantage over those who use mouse-and-keyboard in close quarters scenarios: since the time-to-kill in Halo is high, being effective means consistently landing shots on an enemy. Players must track their targets and time each pull of the trigger: on a mouse-and-keyboard setup, how well players can pull this off boils down to a matter of skill, and an experienced player can be quite effective with the mouse-and-keyboard in all scenarios. However, controller players have aim assist which handles this tracking; the player only needs to pull the trigger, and aim assist ensures their shots will land. This leaves mouse-and-keyboard players at a massive disadvantage in close-quarters firefights – the inevitable result is that during the Halo 3 flighting, I’ve been unable to see any sort of success in a given multiplayer match against players using controllers. Because of low sensitivities, I’ve experienced a reduced ability in being able to reliably track targets: players move faster than I can keep my crosshairs on them, and if they have a controller, they are assured that their shots will find their mark. Beyond sensitivity issues, the other gripe I have with the flight is that dual-wielding is similarly unintuitive: whereas Halo 2 was designed so that the left mouse button would fire the left-hand weapon and the right mouse button would fire the right-hand weapon, Halo 3 has this reversed, and there is no easy way to change this. Similarly, having separate reload buttons means that it is hardly practical to dual-wield, and for most of the campaign, I simply eschewed dual-wielding in favour of running the battle rifle.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My performance in Halo 3‘s flight was worse than what it was during the old days of LAN parties when my friends switched us over to Halo 3 from Halo 2: back in those days, I was lucky to get 5-10 kills a match, but most games during the flighting, I found myself unable to even hit five. Halo 3‘s gameplay is slower than that of Halo 2‘s, and almost all of the weapons are weaker than their predecessors. As a result, it was quite difficult to get used to the new way things handled.

  • Owing to the weaker weapons and the fact that I simply wasn’t able to aim and track as quickly as I’d like, triple kills did not happen during my time with the flight. I do, however, have a pile of double kill medals for my trouble, and admittedly, while the experience in the flight was decidedly negative, I did have a few moments here and there in the multiplayer. My friends have long felt that Halo 2 was the superior game when it comes to multiplayer, featuring superior weapon balance and mechanics that were more skilled based.

  • While the multiplayer portion of the flight was not quite as smooth as I would have liked, I had absolutely no trouble at all with the campaign: the Halo 3 flight made five of the nine campaign missions available, giving a good spread of what was available. Overall, I have no complaints about the campaign at all. I was originally considering splitting this post to cover both the campaign and multiplayer, but it’d be tricky to do that without the full story on the table. As such, I will be doing a full discussion of the campaign once Halo 3 is launched.

  • Heretic is Halo 3‘s remake of Midship, one of the best close quarters maps in the game for MLG slayer. I’m generally not fond of FFA-style games, since there’s too much opportunity to be vultured after a firefight, but the flipside is that a skillful player has more opportunity to chain impressive multi-kills together in FFA than they would in MLG Team BRs. In the days of old, I struggled to get kills with the battle rifle and instead, most of my kills came from melee or grenade sticks.

  • One aspect I did enjoy in Halo 3 was the addition of the gravity hammer: this Brute weapon is a weaker incarnation of the gravity hammer that Tataurus yields in Halo 2, and with a powerful shockwave projector, can flatten enemies or even deflect projectiles. Having confiscated a gravity hammer from another player on Guardian, I ended up going on a short killing spree with it and earned myself a double kill for my troubles. Guardian is the Halo 3 equivalent of Lockout in terms of design, but no Halo map is as enjoyable as Lockout: an update would later add Blackout, a map that has the same layout, to Halo 3.

  • The other fun aspect of Halo 3 is the inclusion of the Spartan Laser: while I’ve now fired one properly on PC in both the Halo: Reach and Halo 3 flight campaigns, the flight represents the first time I’ve been able to pick up the weapon in multiplayer and get kills with it. It is with the power weapons where players can witness the more sophisticated physics engine of Halo 3 at work. Explosions can result in unusual things materialising, lending itself to comedy in some moments, such as when one accidentally kills themselves with a traffic cone thrown by an explosion.

  • The larger maps in Halo 3, coupled with the fact that the battle rifle is no longer as effective as it was in Halo 2, means that firefights are protracted and drawn-out. At medium ranges, the battle rifle stops being effective. As it turns out, Halo has a mechanic called “bullet magnetism”, which refers to the tolerance a bullet can be from a target and still count as a hit. Halo indicates that a player’s shots will register when the reticule is red, bullet magnetism is in play, and one’s shots are guaranteed to curve towards an opponent.

  • Outpost is probably my favourite of the Halo 3 maps from an aesthetics perspective: the combination of bases on the edges of the map, open areas in the map centre, and massive radio dishes in the background, set under the light of a day coming to an end, creates a very unique and interesting atmosphere. It is on larger maps where the battle rifle feels inadequate in Halo 3, and firefights that would’ve been very manageable in Halo 2 turned into a situation where I would dump an entire magazine at a foe, only for them to kill me instantly.

  • The aim assist aspect of The Master Chief Collection is the subject of no small debate since the launch of Halo: Reach, with some players feeling that aim assist outright ruins the game for mouse-and-keyboard players, and others believing it to be a necessary part of the game for players who run with controllers. I lean more in favour of the former: in excess, aim assist takes the skill out of Halo, and a degraded experience for mouse-and-keyboard players is bad for a game that was ostensibly supposed to bring the Halo universe into the realm of mice and keyboards.

  • As it stands, I consider defenders of strong controller aim assist to be players who want to do well at all costs. Such players fear their advantage might be taken away by any changes to aim assist, and vehemently defend aim assist under the impression that a good enough player should be able to overcome them, irrespective of input scheme. Here on Last Resort, Halo 3‘s interpretation of Zanzibar, I managed to go on a short streak with the sniper rifle. Unlike the Halo 2 sniper rifle, which yields sniper medals for every successful kill, Halo 3‘s sniper rifle only awards medals on a headshot kill.

  • The sniper rifle is even more valuable in Halo 3 owing to the fact that it can reach targets that the battle rifle cannot touch: while my team focused on closing the distance to secure the flag, I hung back with the sniper rifle and picked off stragglers to stop them from firing on teammates. The sniper rifle remains fun to use, but the old firing sound is a little weaker compared to the Halo 2 Anniversary incarnations of the rifle. The UNSC sniper rifles of Halo fire 14.5 mm rounds, which are larger in bore than 50-cal rounds, but as the rifles fire APFSDS rounds, their recoil is far lighter than that of a rifle firing BMG rounds, allowing even the marines in Halo to fire the weapon from the shoulder.

  • Infection is one of the more unusual game modes, officially introduced into Halo 3 after the Halo 2 custom game mode became popular. The inclusion of these novel modes mixes things up a little, although having spent the better part of the past seven years in Battlefield, where games are objective-oriented and set on large maps, upon returning to Halo, I find myself gravitating back towards the smaller-scale eight player matches more frequently, since these represent drop-in, drop-out sessions that fits my schedule particularly well.

  • During one match, I saw for myself the impact of a controller: one of the players on my team, “LilMissLehCar”, began racking up kills at a rate that seemed impossible: we had ended up on a larger map, and I would guess that this player was evidently using a controller and fully enjoying the benefits of aim assist. Players who’ve used both mouse-and-keyboard and controller setups state the latter gives an unfair advantage: LilMissLehCar’s performance is a result of exploiting controller aim assist rather than legitimate skill. This is what lends itself to my page quote: I don’t have fun when I lose unfairly, but I have even less fun when my team wins through the action of players who play dishonourably.

  • Whereas gaming from an older age emphasised improving by having fun (i.e. “the more fun you have, the more you are encouraged to improve, so you can have more fun”), these days, gamers seem fixated on creating meme-worthy moments even if it comes at the expense of integrity, For these people, they believe that if they can make my meme and get upvotes for it, underhanded tactics are acceptable to use.

  • In the old days of Halo 2 Vista, I remember the thrill of improving enough in multiplayer to earn multi-kills and go on kill-streaks on virtue of skill alone: using a controller to gain an advantage over mouse-and-keyboard users, however slight the edge is, is still to be playing dishonestly, and consequently, while I do have an Xbox controller floating around, I am not going to resort to using it just to have fun in a game. As it stands, the Halo 3 flight is still quite buggy, and one of the known issues in the game was poor hit detection, which could further have exacerbated the situation.

  • 343 have acknowledged that hit detection is an issue owing how game steps on PC handles differently than on the Xbox because of to frame rate differences: in conjunction with the poor sensitivity, this is likely why my experience in the Halo 3 flight was particularly poor. The hit detection is a known issue in Halo 3‘s flight, and 343 is likely going to work on getting this one ironed out. However, the mouse sensitivity doesn’t appear to be something on their radar.

  • Another issue I’ve experienced since Halo 2 was the fact my text chat no longer seems to be working. This isn’t an issue in multiplayer, but in co-op, I use it to coordinate with friends who don’t use voice chat. I’ve had several occasions where I needed to pause and step aside for something, but because text chat wasn’t working, they proceeded ahead and entered a firefight short-handed. I’m not sure if 343 will address this issue, but in the flight for Halo 3, I tested the chat out and my messages did not seem to be getting through in the multiplayer, suggesting that it may be similarly broken if I create a lobby and co-op with friends.

  • One thing that was extremely frustrating in Halo 3 was the fact that vehicular handling is worse than it was in any Halo game I played thus far: vehicles bounce and flip on the slightest provocation, and there were a handful of matches where, had I not flipped over or slowed down as a result of the game’s implementation of vehicle physics, I might have actually ended up with a triple kill or overkill.

  • My performance in the Halo 3 flight was so poor that I wondered if I had lost my touch with FPS in general, and so, a day before the flight was set to end, I returned to Battlefield V to see if my skills had been lost. In back-to-back matches of conquest, I went 21-14 and 21-13, respectively. When I spun up a match in Halo 2, I performed as I normally would. This tells me that, rather than my skills being an issue, the poor showing I had was a result of issues in the game and a lack of familiarity with the inconsistent mechanics.

  • With a rough flighting experience, I am glad that things at least ended on a decent note: I won my last match and here, scored a kill on the enemy team’s MVP, ending a spree of theirs in the process. The flight ended two days ago, and I’ve already submitted my feedback for the team’s consideration. I hope that 343 will address the issues and make Halo 3‘s entry a success: I am fully confident that the campaign will be amazing, and I may play a match or two of the multiplayer to see if it is in a state that I am able to have fun in. With this post, we now enter July, and today is Canada Day. Traditionally, it’s a day to go out into the mountains, but owing to the global health crisis, and the fact that Canada Day is in the middle of the week, I will instead spend the day relaxing in a different way, before celebrating Canada Day properly by watching a virtual fireworks presentation.

Consequently, mouse sensitivity is the most critical fix that needs to be applied to Halo 3 at present: increasing the maximum sensitivity by around 50-80 percent will ensure that mouse-and-keyboard players have a fighting chance in close-quarters battles. If a player are given the means track their opponents at least as quickly as they move, then in a firefight, the outcome becomes dependent on skill, rather than the input method. The presence of aim assist is a contentious one in the community, and I’ve felt that a simple implementation of a much higher mouse sensitivity ceiling would level things out considerably. Overall, Halo 3‘s flight shows that once a few critical fixes are made, the game is ready to roll out into the release phase, which currently is anticipated to be mid to late July. I am particularly enthusiastic to go through the campaign: the missions were built with co-op play in mind, and with no critical performance issues whatsoever, the campaign looks like it is ready to be launched, allowing me to finish the fight and wrap up the original trilogy in Halo. Similarly, the core aspects of multiplayer are working in a satisfactory manner, and I’ve not encountered any serious issues like being disconnected from a match, or clipping through geometries in the maps at all during my run of things. If the issue of sensitivity can be adequately addressed, the multiplayer could be an engaging component of Halo 3, as well: as it was during the flight, the multiplayer was unenjoyable and frustrating to play, not for any reason beyond the fact that I’m not able to track my opponents at a speed that I am comfortable with. Beyond this, the other issues I’ve found are more of a matter of acclimatisation, and even if unaltered, I could learn to adjust to the new schemes over time.

Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo 2 Anniversary Multiplayer, A Return with Triple Kills and Killing Frenzies

“When nothing else gets the job done, the BR-55 Battle Rifle will do. As the standard gun for all UNSC forces, the BR-55 is the easiest gun to pick up and use.”

Whereas Halo 2‘s campaign is a superb experience, the multiplayer is the single-most remembered piece about Halo 2; aside from the traditional split-screen and system link setups, Xbox Live was supported, allowing players to verse one another over the internet by means of automated match-making. This was a major innovation, and coupled with Halo 2‘s multiplayer design, resulted in an experience that became an iconic part of 2004. The combination of skill-based gameplay and internet connectivity pushed console gaming into the next generation, and Halo 2 revolutionised games were played. However, even without Xbox Live and internet play, Halo 2‘s multiplayer featured some of the best-designed maps and weapon balance of any game ever made; a group of friends with a sufficient number of televisions and Xboxes could link their systems together for sixteen-player matches, and there is very little that compares to the thrill and energy of a traditional LAN party. It was in LAN parties that I had my first real experiences with Halo 2‘s multiplayer, and while I never particularly excelled, having had no console and therefore no opportunity to familiarise myself with maps, these events were always fun: after several rounds of MLG Slayer (Battle Rifle starts) on Midship and Lockout, we would move towards more chaotic and hilarious game mode like Rocket Ball or Siesta KOTH. This was how I played Halo until some years later, when Halo 2 Vista became available, and having picked it up, Halo 2 became my go-to multiplayer game during my time as an undergraduate student: during evenings after finishing lab summaries, coursework and review, I spent a fair bit of time in Halo 2‘s multiplayer, coming to finally have the experiences that I wished to have at LAN parties.

Because Halo 2 was the only shooter I spent a considerable amount of time in, I became somewhat skilful with the mechanics and came to really appreciate the game: Halo 2‘s multiplayer was something one could drop into, play a few matches and then leave. There was no progression system to speak of, so one could purely focus on enjoying a match. However, to really become skilful, one needed to master the basics. The entirety of Halo 2‘s multiplayer is about the art of timing and knowledge: one needs to use their skills in the right place, at the right time to be successful. From timing a jump to timing a melee attack, Halo 2 is about knowing when to do what. Further to this, Halo 2 demands excellent map and weapon control, which is dependent on knowing where everything is, and what everything does. A well-placed jump on Lockout allows one to escape enemy fire or gain the drop on an opponent. Memorising weapon locations allows one to control the power weapons. In spite of its simplicity, Halo 2 is complex, and therein lies the multiplayer’s genius: this seemingly contradictory mix elegance and depth is what makes Halo 2‘s multiplayer so compelling, and presently, with the Halo 2 multiplayer joining The Master Chief Collection, an old classic finally makes a triumphant return in both its original form, as well as through a re-imagined version that introduces a few minor changes while largely retaining aspects that made the original Halo 2 multiplayer so compelling. Having now finished Halo 2‘s campaign and having sat through a few matches, memories of what makes Halo 2‘s multiplayer great are returning to me.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It is appropriate to start this post off with a screenshot of me getting a kill using the best gun, on the best map, in the best Halo: the BR-55 Battle Rifle on Lockout in Halo 2 is the only way to play the game in the classic multiplayer, and in the anniversary build, things proved equally as fun on Lockdown, the reimagined Lockout. The map has the same layout as the original, but there are a few key differences that change the gameplay slightly, most noticeably, ice stalactites that can be broken to disrupt the sniper tower, BR tower and centre platform on the map. In addition, rather than being set on a snowy evening as with Lockout, Lockdown set set on a clear, chilly-looking morning that has a very Christmas morning-like vibe to it.

  • Halo‘s “Double Kill” is two kills, within 4 seconds of one another; multi-kills are the premiere achievement that players strive for in Halo, since it takes a considerable amount of skill and some luck to be in the right place, at the right time, to bag multiple opponents in a short timeframe. In FFA slayer, it’s just a player and their wits about them, so map and weapon control is instrumental. Having not played Halo 2‘s multiplayer for upwards of seven years, while I still retain knowledge of the maps, I’ve completely gone out of touch with how weapons handle.

  • Having spent the past seven years playing Battlefield, the high TTK of Halo 2 is quite foreign to me: since all players have powerful energy shields, it takes an entire magazine from the assault rifle to drop a player from full shields. The assault rifle is found in standard Slayer matches in the anniversary build, fulfilling a role between the submachine gun and battle rifle. It’s a satisfactory weapon for the most part, but owing to its low accuracy at range, in Slayer matches, the advantage shifts to whoever holds the battle rifle.

  • One thing about Halo 2‘s anniversary multiplayer on PC is that it feels considerably darker than the classic counterpart. Here on Warlord (the remake of Warlock), I toss a lucky grenade that landed me a double kill. Unlike Battlefield, where grenades are primarily used as powerful limited-use tools, grenades are an integral part of players’ arsenals, being used to weaken shields and perform access denial. Halo 2 allows players to carry a maximum of eight grenades: four fragmentation grenades, and four plasma grenades.

  • Regardless of the game, camping is a technique I count dishonourable and low-skill: it is defined as the act of staying in an area and waiting for players to come by, rather than proactively roaming the map for engagements. Because campers have the drop on their opponents, this is a cheap trick, and the fellow I caught with a grenade here, “RolandTheSlayer”, had secured the Energy Sword early on in the match and took to hiding in rooms for kills, before I ended his undeserved streak with grenades.

  • The Sentinel beam is an unexpectedly powerful weapon in Halo 2‘s multiplayer: it quickly melts shields, damages health and has a very fast melee. I’ve had some success with it: if one can keep the beam on their target, it does massive damage thanks to its continuous beam. In a bind, the fast melee means one can use it to deliver a swift attack, and here, I scored a kill on a player who had found the cloak power-up. Halo 2‘s excellence came from its simplicity: the overshield and cloak are the only available power-ups, unlike later Halo titles, which add armour abilities and various pick-ups.

  • Returning to Halo 2 means returning to a multiplayer setup where one remembers the players they played simply owing to the fact that the average match is eight players, and here, I scored a melee kill-from-behind on an unsuspecting player calling themselves “DarlingMarina”. During my time with Halo 2 Vista‘s multiplayer, I noticed that many players had names taking the form “adjective noun“. I’m guilty of this myself (infinite is an adjective, and zenith is a noun); despite not being terribly sure where this trend comes from, I think that the style is chosen because it rolls off the tongue well and is easily remembered.

  • “DarlingMarina” ended up being on the receiving end of several more headshots from me during my quest to warm back up to Halo 2-style gameplay: the battle rifle is my favourite all-purpose weapon in Halo 2, whether it be the campaign or multiplayer (hence the page quote). The most effective way to wield this weapon is to fire three bursts into the body of an enemy, dropping their shields, and then aim the final burst at the head for a kill. In four pulls of the trigger, one can down an enemy, and with 36 rounds available, a modestly skilled player can kill up to three players before reloading.

  • If memory serves, I believe our team ended up winning this match just shy of a “Steaktacular”, thanks in no small part to DarlingMarina being a source of free kills. “Steaktacular” is a special condition where the winning team has a point differential of twenty or more that was named after a bet two Halo developers had placed on the outcome of a match: the vanquished must treat the victors to a steak dinner, and this outcome did in fact, happen. The medal was subsequently incorporated into the game, and while I’ve heard that it appears when one wins with twenty points or more, I’ve only ever received this medal for winning by a margin of twenty or greater, which has occurred in subsequent games.

  • My favourite combination for close-quarters combat is the shotgun shot followed up with a melee attack: a single well-placed shot can down an enemy, and with a maximum of twelve shots, one could hypothetically get a Killionaire and then some if the spawns lined up. This weapon is the ultimate close-quarters tool, and while it can be unforgiving if one misses their shots, against lone players, it is remarkably fun to use. The shotgun’s power is offset by the fact that it is useless at long ranges, and it is easily countered by a battle rifle or sniper rifle.

  • Against most players, I fare modestly well and finish matches with a slightly positive or negative KDR. However, there are matches where I will perform uncommonly well. During one such match of Team Slayer on Lockdown, I started the match by picking up a shotgun and earned a shotgun spree en route to the sniper tower. I managed to get the drop on two players, and one of them had dropped the Energy Sword. I thus decided to forego the sniper rifle and swapped out the shotgun for the sword.

  • After returning to the energy lift, I equipped the energy sword and slew three enemy in rapid succession to earn my first-ever Triple Kill in Halo 2 Anniversary’s multiplayer. On Team Slayer, a Triple Kill can be trickier to get, since the default game mode is a four on four, and most players are usually scattered around the map. An Overkill (four kills, each within four seconds of one another, formerly known as a Killtacular) would be even tougher, since this would entail wiping the entire enemy team out. With a power weapon like the Energy Sword, this isn’t tough when everyone is close together, but owing to the stochastic movement of players, an Overkill in Team Slayer would be rarer.

  • Besides my first Triple Kill, I also earned my first-ever Killing Frenzy (10-streak, formerly “Running Riot”) with the Sword. I believe my luck ran out here, and I was slain by another player. This did little to change the outcome of the match: my team was far enough ahead such that we would go on to win it, and I placed first on my team to earn a nifty achievement for my troubles. The presence of power weapons changes the way a match can progress, and players can completely control a map with the shotgun, Energy Sword or rocket launcher. This is why MLG variants of Slayer only permit the battle rifles to spawn on the map: besides being a skill weapon, it also levels out the playing field.

  • After my first university term started, I had finished Halo 2 Vista‘s campaign and had moved into the multiplayer. My earliest matches were characterised by dying often, but in those days, Halo 2 didn’t track one’s stats, so I never worried about KDR or win-loss ratios. Further to this, I had entered in the knowledge that I’d never really been a good Halo player, having only gotten a handful of kills per match during LAN parties. So, I died often, lost games, and considered it a learning experience: in my LAN party days, getting kills at all in a match was a big deal for me, so I counted it a match well-spent if I walked away with five or more points.

  • Returning to Halo 2‘s anniversary brings back memories, right down to players with the excessive Xes in their name. As I spent more time in Halo 2 Vista, I eventually became more familiar with the mechanics and metrics: on Friday evenings, I spent an hour or so playing Team Slayer on Lockout, and this became my routine right through my first year of university. I ended up skipping the campus-wide end of year drinking party for Halo during my first year and have no regrets about that. By the time I entered second year, I had a reasonable grasp of the mechanics and during the fall term, I ended up scoring my first ever Killimanjaro. However, course work was steadily picking up, and I ended up dialing back on the Halo so I could survive.

  • In the end, I barely survived my second year and fell to just below satisfactory standing entering exams, so that year, I ended up hanging out with my fellow classmates during the campus-wide end-of-year celebrations, and then studied with them. In conjunction with K-On!, I recovered enough to minimally make satisfactory standing, and that summer, I resolved to make the most of things and relax more. When I wasn’t hanging with friends, going to LAN parties and pubs or travelling during my downtime from summer research, I found myself back in Halo 2. I left that summer refreshed and ready to take on my third year.

  • While my third year saw me raise my GPA back above the minimum to do the honours thesis course, it also saw the beginning of the end for Halo 2 Vista; the servers were beginning to shut down, and it became increasingly difficult to find populated servers. I turned to a friend, who suggested picking up the then-recently made free-to-play Team Fortress 2 and the similarly-themed Microvolts. While both games were modestly entertaining, it never quite fulfilled the void that Halo 2 had once occupied (I ended up sticking with Team Fortress 2 for about a year before getting bored, and dropped Microvolts because it reminded me of my pre-MCAT jitters). I also ended up trying Tribes: Ascend, which had a Halo-like atmosphere but otherwise a completely different set of mechanics. It wasn’t until I bought Battlefield 3 that I found a true replacement.

  • I think one of the reasons why I was able to pull of Maple-level stunts in Halo 2 Vista might have been the fact that there were community servers with incredibly high score limits and no time limits, allowing me to play until I couldn’t play anymore. Conversely, in Halo 2 anniversary, the playlists are tightly governed and regulated, resulting in very contained experiences. The plus side is that I am assured to be able to finish a game, even larger modes, like one-flag CTF on Stonetown (Zanzibar), in a reasonable time. On my first match on Stonetown, I ended up playing on the winning team, who had secured a flag in an earlier round and then fought the other team to a draw during later rounds to win the match.

  • “Tea-bagging”, a form of victory dancing that predates the memes of Fortnite, has its origins in Halo, and is an integral part of the Halo culture, being regarded as an in-joke. Bungie was aware of this and even implemented an animation for tea-bagging. I don’t mind admitting that I had partaken in this during my Halo 2 Vista days, and I personally find it hilarious. Of course, tea-bagging leaves a player vulnerable to retaliation, and so, my practise was only tea-bagging players with certain names, or in response to breaking a nemesis streak that they had. Curiously enough, the Battlefield community takes tea-bagging very seriously, and I’ve been kicked from servers before for doing this (although it’s not stopping me from doing this to players who camp or whenever I get a lucky kill against someone who’s cheating).

  • Coming back to Zenith (formerly Ascension) and seeing the remastered visuals was an absolute blast: this open map is excellent for sniping, but also features side passages for flanking options. The original Ascension was a moody, overcast map, but Zenith is set on floating rocks above the surface of a Halo ring. The map is really quite spectacular, and the scale feels much more impressive. During a match, I’m usually more focused on the game, so it is the case that it is only after a game, when I’m sifting through screenshots for posts like these, that I’m really able to appreciate just how nice everything looks.

  • On that sunny Sunday morning many years ago, after I finished working with my friend on our science fair project on the safety of fission reactors and their viability as a replacement for fossil fuel fired plants, my friend put in his copy of Halo 2, hooked up his Xbox and opened up a game of split-screen Slayer on Coagulation. A remake of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Blood Gulch, Coagulation is a large map set in a valley surrounded by cliffs under blue skies. With bases on both sides, and paths to the edges of the map for infantry, it is an iconic Halo map, but it is also unsuited for two-on-two matches where we started with submachine guns.

  • Because all of us were new to the game at the time, the kills were very slow to come, and we ended up messing around for the afternoon. Coagulation would later be replaced by Lockout and Midship at LAN parties, resulting in more action-packed matches. In Halo 2 anniversary, eight-player servers are inherently ill-suited for matches on large maps, so I ended up getting into a match on the remake of Coagulation, Bloodline, by playing on the larger matches. Right out of the gates, I was impressed with the visuals on the map, and immediately set about trying to help my team out.

  • The reimagined Coagulation has a few additional features to further provide cover for infantry, although it still favours vehicles owing to the wide open spaces. I believe our team would end up losing the match, but it marked the first time that I was able to visit Bloodline: it was a trip down memory lane, being quite fun, and while I would’ve like to try my hand at sniping, there’s no better weapon than a shotgun for defending capture points on KOTH, which is pretty much Halo‘s version of Battlefield‘s conquest.

  • Besides Stonetown and Bloodline, Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer also includes Remnant, a remake of Relic. This large scale map is normally used for CTF and KOTH, but with the larger player count, it keeps things fresh enough for eight-on-eight Team Slayer. This implies that it is possible to have Team Slayer on Bloodline as well, and one of the things I look forwards to will be going back to Bloodline again in the near future. Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer uses the same medal system as Halo 4, and so, many of the medals were redesignated: what was once an assassination is now a beat-down, and a beat-down is now simply a melee.

  • In the days of LAN parties, my friends would choose Relic as a map for CTF, although it ended up being chaos as we would go with four teams of four, rather than two teams of eight. Typically, whichever team scored once would have enough points to win the match in this scenario. I believe that this decision coincided with the fact that having four teams meant fire would be less concentrated, but there’d still be plenty of opponents to engage, increasing the probability of scoring an Overkill medal. My friend’s main intention was to gather footage and make a Halo 2 montage set to Dragonforce music, which is why for a time during my days as a high school student, I spent every other Sunday with a bunch of friends at his place.

  • My friend did end up with a fair amount of footage, but I don’t think he ever ended up making any completed montages with them. Instead, what did end up happening was that he introduced me to Dragonforce in the process, along with Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori’s work. I thus picked up my first Dragonforce albums during high school, and found them to be superbly fun songs to listen to; even now, I find that the spirited power metal Dragonforce performs to be vastly superior to any of the electro-pop out there that seems so widespread.

  • Dragonforce’s latest album, Extreme Power Metal, appears to be a poke at their own style, and I’m particularly fond of the song “Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine”. Some of my favourite Dragonforce songs include The Power Within’s “Fallen World” and “Seasons”, as well as Ultra Beatdown’s “Heroes of our Time”, which, while retaining the aural signatures that define Dragonforce, also explored different directions. Their songs have seen mixed reception over the years, being considered lacking in innovation, but of late, their newest albums have been excellent, exploring new sounds while at once retaining faithfulness to the band’s origins.

  • I get a headshot here on a particularly unfriendly player here calling themselves “About 61 Pandas”, having picked up the sniper rifle early on in the match. I’ve never been a particularly good sniper in Halo, and prefer to close the distance between myself and opponents before using a combination of gunfire and melee to score kills. However, after my Battlefield days began, I became much more comfortable with sniping, having made extensive use of bolt-action rifles: one of the biggest things to get used to again in Halo is that most firefights happen in extreme close quarters, although having spent so much time going for the head in Battlefield, getting headshots in Halo 2 is now more intuitive than it had been when I first picked up the game.

  • The updated rendering of the Halo ring in Zenith is most apparent here, and it really feels like I’m floating above the surface of Halo. The best way to really get a sense of scale on Zenith would be to hop in a Banshee and fly around the area. I score a splatter here on someone who was trying to board me during one match while exploring, and wonder why Zenith needs a Banshee when there’s so little space to fly around in: vehicles in Team Slayer feel a bit excessive, and a skilful pilot can go an entire match unchallenged. There is a rocket launcher on Zenith, on a platform on one side of the map, that can be used to take out Banshees.

  • Because Halo 2‘s mechanics do not impose hip-fire penalties, the practise of “quick-scoping” is widely practised: the sniper rifles of Halo are semi-automatic and new rounds don’t need to be chambered after each shot, and moreover, the optics only offer improved visibility. As such, it is possible to be an effective sniper without staying scoped-in – Halo‘s battles are close quarters, and staying scoped-in is to leave one at a disadvantage, with reduced situational awareness. Experienced players argue that no-scoping is an essential skill for Halo, and while this creates a culture where trick-shots are coveted, players of lesser skill, like myself, can also follow-up sniper shots with a melee or battle rifle burst.

  • Using the rocket launcher against infantry is typically considered overkill: the 102 mm rockets deal a massive amount of splash damage and can wipe out entire groups of people in a single shot, but this is offset by the fact that ammunition is scarce, and the reload times are long. Curiously enough, the rockets themselves do no impact damage whatsoever. As a primarily anti-vehicle solution in Halo 2‘s campaign and on larger matches, players nonetheless covet the rocket launcher on slayer matches, capitalising on its power to quickly build up a lead early on.

  • This is one of my favourite strategies in team slayer: if either myself or my teammates could get to a power weapon, it could help considerably with getting easy kills early in the game that set the pacing for the remainder of a match. Power weapons are by definition, weapons that hold a clear advantage over conventional weapons and do not require a great deal of skill to use. The shotgun, Energy Sword and rocket launcher easily fall into this category, since one pull of the trigger will almost guarantee a kill unless one is facing off against an extraordinarily skilled player or unusual circumstances.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Warlord has a very DOOM or Quake-like dungeon feel: the dark stone constructs feel like DOOM‘s Kadingir Sanctum given a different colour palette, and overall, visibility on this map is tricky because of the dark corners players can hide in. Warlock in Halo 2 was a round, arena-like map that was well-suited for small team battles, and the Halo 2 classic incarnation was itself a remake of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s Wizard. The maps have become increasingly grim-looking as time wears on.

  • Because of the close-quarters nature of most Halo 2 engagements, the shotgun is a terrific tool I’ve had a great deal of success with, but owing to their rarity on a map, it takes a bit of map knowledge to find them swiftly when a match begins: if I cannot get an Energy Sword, the shotgun is an acceptable alternative. While powerful, they are easily countered, and so, cannot be said to be overpowered. Shotguns in Battlefield have varied over the years, and from my Battlefield 34 and 1 days, I found them to be solid choices for some scenarios: it is only in Battlefield V where shotguns became inconsistent even at close range, rendering them quite unusable.

  • In returning to Halo 2, I’ve found myself reacclimatising to the fact that the smaller player counts means being killed by the same four people during the course of a match, which is a bit of a departure from Battlefield, where larger-scale maps means I’m defeated by another player once or twice on average. The end result of this is that I tend to remember certain players better than I did in Battlefield (where players really had to go out of their way to be remembered). I’ve noticed that players with screen names designed to irritate others are more likely to participate in negative behaviours in-game. While one might chalk this up to a natural inclination to remember players who act in subversive ways during a match, there actually is a paper by Kokkinakis et al. that demonstrate players with more unusual names are naturally predisposed to actions that degrade the experience for others in the game.

  • In matches where a Steaktacular is inevitable, I usually end up doing well enough to either score a fair number of multi-kill medals or go on longer kill-streaks. To date, I believe I’ve obtained a Steaktacular medal on three occasions, and here, I used the shotgun to further help my team cement our lead, in the process earning myself another Killing Frenzy, ten consecutive kills without dying. Not every match I play is so straightforwards, and I often find myself wondering why the match-making system in Halo is so unpredictable: in some matches, I am a tour de force, racking up kill after kill and earning multi-kill medals like it’s going out of style, and in others, I find myself unable to even land a single burst on an enemy before dying in a single shot from them.

  • Besides players with anti-social sounding names, players with anime-like names are among those that I tend to look out for as well, if they are on the opposing team. Historically, players who seem to be able to one-shot me before I can even flinch have almost always run with Japanese honourifics or picked a name that sounds like either some idol or schoolgirl. I’m sure there’s a logical reason for why people run around with kawaii-sounding names and put so much effort into a game, but that doesn’t make dying repeatedly to these folks any less fun, so a part of the fun in Halo (and any shooter in general) is to get my revenge and get these players at least once, preferably with a tea-bag thrown in to make clear my discontent.

  • Here, during a match of KOTH on Lockdown, which is pretty much a scaled-down version of Battlefield‘s conquest, I managed to score a kill using the stalactites hanging from the BR tower. The environmental hazards are great for dislodging players from a capture point, and add a new level of nuance into Halo 2 that allows players to be strategic, without fundamentally changing the mechanics that made the original games so enjoyable. While my team would lose this match, I still had a good time, and in general, my enjoyment in Halo 2 comes primarily from being able to perform decently in a match. On the whole, save a few games where I’m trampled, I’ve been having a good experience with Halo 2‘s multiplayer; now that Halo 2 is back, it would appear that my days in other shooters is coming to a close.

  • Before then, however, I do have plans to return to Battlefield V and take a look at its upcoming final update, which adds at least one full-scale 64 player map and potentially may have an update to Provence, alongside several new weapons and gadgets. I’ll close this initial impressions post of Halo 2‘s anniversary multiplayer with me getting a Sword-spree concurrently with a Triple Kill on Lockdown; I would go on to win and top the scoreboard with a personal score of 21-7, my best match to date. With this post in the books, I will be focusing on my two upcoming posts: I’m planning to write one more post before the month is over, for Heya Camp△‘s OVA, and then start June off with the long-awaited post on Tenki no Ko, which, at the time of writing, is still on track to being the first and only proper review of Makoto Shinkai’s latest film on the internet.

My old exploits in Halo 2 Vista‘s multiplayer have been the stuff of legends; I recall turning around entire CTF matches on my own and wiping entire FFA servers out back in the day to the point where the SmG Clan named servers after me. However, having not touched Halo 2 for seven years, my skills have since evaporated, and these days, I’m a much more modest player: the mechanics of Halo 2 are something I’ll have to pick back up again and learn anew. However, some muscle memory remains from those older days, and I find myself settling right back into the maps and weapons in the anniversary multiplayer, which I’ve been itching to try since it was released for the Xbox One in 2014. A week into the Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer, I’ve become sufficiently versed as to have made a pair of Killing Frenzy and Triple Kill medals: the next goal on the horizon is to attempt to score an overkill (originally, “Killtacular”). While this is seemingly an incremental task, the setup of Halo matches means that this is much more difficult than it sounds, and the lack of a server browser makes it difficult to consistently know whether or not I’m acclimatising back into the Halo 2 mechanics from my Battlefield days, where movement and TTK are completely different. Being forced to rely on the matchmaker is limiting: I have been matched into very lop-sided situations where I will either get wiped, or else be placed into a server where I perform much more consistently. The absence of a server browser notwithstanding, when I do get placed into a server where the other players are of a similar skill level, I generally have a solid time and perform almost as well as I once did, with a small collection of multi-kill and spree medals to show for it. As I spend more time in Halo 2‘s multiplayer, my performance should become more consistent, and now that it’s finally possible to experience the remastered Lockout in PC, I look forwards to spending more time on the best map with the best guns in the best Halo, especially in the knowledge that Battlefield V‘s reaching its final days with the upcoming patch.

Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo 2 Anniversary

“Master Chief, you mind telling me what you’re doing on that ship?”
“Sir? Finishing this fight.”

– Fleet Admiral Hood and Master Chief John-117

Covenant Supreme Commander Thel ‘Vadam is stripped of his rank and branded a Heretic by the Covenant High Prophets, who recognise his long and distinguished service. They offer him the position of Arbiter. Meanwhile in the Cairo Orbital Defense Station over Earth, Fleet Admiral Hood commends Master Chief and Sergeant Avery Johnson for their actions on Halo. However, a Covenant Fleet soon arrives, and Master Chief fights his way to a hangar where the Covenant boarders have activated a bomb. He disarms the bomb and rejoins the UNSC marines to repel the invading Covenant forces in the city of New Mombasa. The ground forces are successful, and in orbit, the Defense Stations repel the Covenant fleet, prompting the Prophet of Regret to flee. Miranda Keyes follows in the In Amber Clad, arriving at Delta Halo. Meanwhile, the Arbiter is tasked with assassinating a Heretic leader; after fighting through a Forerunner gas mine, the Arbiter catches up to the Heretic leader and defeats him, but learns of conflicting information about the Halo rings. On Delta Halo, Master Chief is tasked with capturing the Prophet of Regret. Intercepting Covenant messages, Master Chief and Cortana learn the Covenant’s obsession with the Halo array is tied to their religion, and with the threat the Halo array poses, Keyes orders Master Chief to kill the Prophet of Regret instead. While he is successful, a Covenant orbital bombardment destroys the area, knocking him into the lake below, where he is captured by a massive Flood. With the Prophet of Regret’s death, the Elites are deemed unworthy and are replaced by the Brutes. The Arbiter is sent to retrieve the Index from Delta Halo’s library, but upon giving the Index to Tatarus, the Brute Chieftain, Tatarus betrays the Arbiter and knocks him down a shaft, leaving him for dead. It turns out that both Master Chief and the Arbiter were saved by the Gravemind, a sentient Flood. Here, Gravemind reveals the function of the Halo array and implores the two cooperate to stop the Prophets from activating Halo. Master Chief is sent to the holy Covenant city, High Charity, to kill the Prophets, while Arbiter returns to Delta Halo’s control room to reclaim the Index. Master Chief ends up saving several captured Marines, but sees the Flood-controlled In Amber Clad crash into the city surface, starting a Flood infestation. In the ensuing chaos, the Prophet of Mercy is killed by the Flood, and Master Chief pursues the Prophet of Truth into a Forerunner ship, leaving Cortana behind. The Arbiter, meanwhile, strikes an uneasy alliance with Sergeant Johnson and fights his way to the control room, where he manages to kill Tatarus. Keyes retrieves the Index, stopping Halo from firing, but this activates a fail-safe that puts the remaining Halo rings on standby. The Master Chief returns to Earth, resolving to finish the fight.

Halo 2 was originally released in November 2004 for the original Xbox and immediately became acclaimed for its multiplayer and game-play, which was far more evolved and sophisticated than that of its predecessor. Dual-wielding was the most prominent feature, allowing players to utilise two weapons simultaneously for increased firepower at the expense of lengthier reload time and versatility (players are no longer able to melee or use grenades). By allowing players to mix a handful of the weapons, one could become more effective in a combat scenario for a short period of time, but then players would need to be mindful of the situation and switch up their loadout accordingly. In addition, the ability to board enemy vehicles (and in exchange, be boarded) was also added, allowing players to now hijack vehicles from the Covenant as needed. Halo 2 marked a major update from Halo: Combat Evolved. Similarly, Bungie took a much more ambitious approach in their storytelling, expanding upon both human and Covenant civilisations by the twenty-sixth century that remained unexplored in the first Halo: Combat Evolved, as well as the horror that is the Flood. While this ambition built up the Halo lore considerably, it also left Halo 2 with its infamous cliffhanger ending, which would not be resolved until Halo 3 came out in September 2007. However, the larger story also gave players a chance to explore unique settings, from Earth and the Delta Halo, to the Covenant city High Charity and Forerunner installations. Halo: Combat Evolved had been criticised for backtracking in its final missions, and Halo 2 averted this outright. While Halo 2‘s story is far busier than the spartan, minimal story of the first Halo: Combat Evolved, it also built up the universe to the point where the franchise could be expanded upon in spin-off novels and other media. With the introduction of new mechanics and deeper world-building, Halo 2 added much depth to the Halo universe through its campaign, setting the stage for future developments in the franchise.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I believe it was eleven years ago when I first set foot on Cairo Station to repel the Covenant boarders; Halo 2 Vista had just released, and I had been itching to play Halo 2 on the PC for the longest time, since I have no Xbox. However, having just bought a Dell XPS that was running Windows Vista, I decided to spring for Halo 2 Vista after learning that there was indeed a version for PC. This turned out to be a fantastic journey, and per tradition, I always kicked things off with the campaign. This tradition has endured for the past decade, and so, once Halo 2 joined The Master Chief Collection, I similarly began with the campaign once the game became available on May 12. A day earlier, I enjoyed a delicious homemade sirloin burger and a side of crinkle-cut fries for lunch and had been reading articles on Halo 2 during breaks to hype myself up for launch.

  • I had been most excited to finally return to Cairo Station once more, but since the game files only unlocked at 20:00 PDT on Steam, I ended up downloading the files the next morning. My initial install proved ruinous, as the Halo launcher declared it was missing several .dll files. It was a tense bit as I sought out the solution: fortunately, after I downloaded the missing files, slotted them into the right directory, and restarted my machine, I was relieved to see that the Halo launcher was at last working, and so, I began my journey later that day. I fired Halo 2‘s BR-55 Battle Rifle for the first time in over seven years, and immediately found myself at home with Halo 2‘s campaign.

  • For this post, I will be going through Halo 2 on the anniversary graphics, rather than the classic graphics. Like Halo: Combat EvolvedHalo 2 allows players to freely switch between the original and remastered visuals seamlessly with the press of a button. While not quite as dramatic as the differences between Halo: Combat Evolved‘s original and remaster, Halo 2 received a very substantial upgrade in its visuals, as well. Weapon models have been given a significant overhaul and look amazing, and the observant viewer can even spot the grain of the grips on Master Chief’s gloves.

  • While the visuals have been given an overhaul, Halo 2‘s anniversary edition plays identically to the original version: despite having mechanics sixteen years old, however, Halo 2 feels very smooth and responsive. Player movement is crisp, and the shooting feels incredibly satisfying. Halo: Combat Evolved feels a bit dated by comparison, and while still sporting a reasonably solid experience, Halo 2 feels very polished and refined in terms of how things handle. The Battle Rifle feels particularly satisfying to fire and feels more powerful, despite being identical to its original in performance.

  • After clearing out the armoury, the Master Chief is able to pick up the Gunnery Sergeant’s M90 Shotgun. Compared to its Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation, Halo 2‘s shotgun had a wider spread and reduced carrying capacity (36 rounds can be carried in reserve at maximum in Halo 2). It is no longer effective against vehicles, but nonetheless remains a powerful weapon at close quarters, and can clear out the Covenant forces guarding the bomb with relative ease on standard difficulty. With a friend, I completed Halo: Combat Evolved‘s campaign on legendary: this marks the first time either of us had the time (and patience) to do so, and for our troubles, we were rewarded with the legendary ending.

  • One thing I did notice in the campaign was that there were some areas where the game slowed to a stuttering crawl and dropped frames. This lag froze out the entire game for a second or two, but never persisted, and as I moved through the campaign, the issue did not reappear. After exiting Cairo Station and single-handedly destroying a Covenant Cruiser with their own antimatter bomb, Master Chief hits New Mombassa to repel the Covenant. Fighting in the remastered city streets was a thrill, and I was able to play around with the different combinations of dual-wielded weapons: most effective to utilise is the plasma rifle with the submachine gun and plasma pistol with submachine gun: plasma weapons make quick work of shields, and then the bullets can finish off unshielded opponents with ease.

  • After clearing several waves of Covenant, a pair of Hunters will breach the courtyard doors. Halo 2‘s Hunters are tougher than their predecessors, but can still be beaten with well-placed shots to their exposed orange regions. If the machine gun is still intact, players can use this to trivially eliminate both Hunters before moving on into what is known as Jackal Alley. This narrow street is covered by Jackal Snipers, Halo 2‘s most-feared enemy: on legendary, Jackal Snipers can one-shot Master Chief, and their low visibility means that by the time players spot them, they’re already respawning.

  • Outskirts introduces players to vehicular gameplay: after fighting through a Covenant squad defending a hotel entrance, players arrive at the river. Marines in a Warthog will greet the player, along with several Covenant Ghosts. These vehicles were common in Halo: Combat Evolved, and in Halo 2, human vehicles are now destructible. Because the vehicular segments of Halo 2 involve a more linear level design, AI drivers were implemented, although they’re not particularly effective, and players looking to complete levels swiftly should take the wheel themselves.

  • I’ve found that a Ghost is the best way to travel through the tunnels of New Mombasa: these light vehicles retain their status in Halo 2‘s predecessor as the fastest and most common Covenant vehicle available. In Halo 2, they’ve been given an infinite boost that makes them the best choice for zipping through the tunnel. Coupled with their moderately effective forward-facing plasma cannons, a Ghost has enough speed and firepower to deal anything that isn’t a tank for much of Halo 2.

  • Outskirts was featured in the E3 footage of Halo 2 from 2003, which had been the world’s first news about a new Halo. Back then, the New Mombasa sections of Halo 2 were supposed to be much longer, and the story had a greater focus on defending Earth from the Covenant invaders. There were also several notable gameplay differences, with the Battle Rifle handling more like the DMR of Halo: Reach, and having the ability to holster dual-wielded weapons. The final product seen in Halo 2 is quite different than the E3 demo, and even now, many players wished that more elements from the E3 demo had made it into Halo 2.

  • The third mission of Halo 2 opens with a battle across the bridge leading into downtown New Mombasa. Players can take the Scorpion Tank or the Warthog depending on whether damage or speed is their priority. While rolling across this bridge, the Anniversary version of Halo 2 will begin playing the Scorpion remix of the Halo Mjolnir Theme, which remains one of my favourite themes to any game. For me, I typically roll across the bridge with a Warthog for speed, but since this is my first time going into the Anniversary version, I figured I’d play the game the way it was meant to be played, slowly turning every single Ghost on the bridge into rubble.

  • Unlike the Scorpion in Halo: Combat Evolved, the Scorpion in Halo 2 has a much more accurate coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and can be reliably depended upon to mop up any remaining forces. The main 90 mm cannon also reloads faster than it did in Halo: Combat Evolved, making the tank much more effective in a combat role. One subtle visual update in Halo 2‘s anniversary mode is that the powerful 90 mm rounds from a Scorpion, and the rockets from the rocket launcher, both explode with a visible shockwave: this is a nice visual touch. A skilled player can also pick Banshees out of the sky with a Scorpion, and while this is the usual course of action in a normal play-through, players looking for the Scarab Gun are advised to keep at least one Banshee intact.

  • At the time of writing, I’ve managed to reach the Scarab Gun, earning myself an achievement that only 0.5 percent of players have, but in this post, I’ll be going through an ordinary play-through: after clearing the tunnel out, players will arrive in a park area covered with Covenant forces. Players can opt to pick them off with the beam rifle from a Jackal Sniper, or else board the Gauss Warthog and move onto the next area, which has a Wraith. The Gauss Warthog swaps out the Vulcan multi-barrel gun for a gauss cannon, which has a slower rate of fire but can devastate infantry and vehicles alike. In Halo 2, the AI are capable of driving, but they tend to take players on a bit of a ride before their destination, so where possible, I will opt to take a Ghost instead.

  • The soldier operating the Gauss ‘Hog, is a passable driver, and with me on the gun, the Wraiths blocking the main avenue become destroyed fairly quickly. After players hit the road leading into the city centre, Earth City (Kilindini Harbour in the Anniversary edition) begins playing on the soundtrack. This song, with a powerful instrumental and choral component, is one of my favourite tracks on the Halo 2 soundtrack, and I remember this song best, having listened to it while en route to school to take a math exam early: I can’t quite remember why I was taking an exam at eight in the morning that day, but since then, the song has reminded me of my high school days.

  • The final bit of Metropolis involves wiping out the crew on the Scarab that had been giving the UNSC forces much trouble: after traversing a narrow canal, it will get stuck, allowing Master Chief to board it and eliminate the occupants. The interior of the Scarab looks much improved, feeling a lot sleeker than it originally did. My first experience with Halo 2 was a year after it launched, when a friend had invited me over to try the multiplayer out: we had been working on a science fair project, and after sorting out the work for that, dropped into Coagulation for FFA Slayer with two other people.

  • I still remember that science fair project: it dealt with the safety of nuclear fission reactors as a power source, and in our category, my friend and I won bronze. In retrospect, that project was very hastily done, and having volunteered as a science fair judge for a few years now, I feel that the assessment of our project was a bit too lenient. I spent the past week looking over virtual submissions for the city-wide Youth Science Fair and focused largely on the health and technology projects, being generally impressed with most of them. There were some truly standout projects and many solid ones; while I might not have been so kind to our old project, my friend was pleased with the results, and in the years subsequent, he would invite a bunch of folks I knew over for LAN parties.

  • In those days, we had to connect the Xboxes together with Ethernet cables to a router to have 16-player parties. Setting these LAN parties up always took forever, and by the time I’d hit high school, my friend became interested in creating Halo 2 multi-kill montages, seeking the coveted “Killtacular” medal (four kills, each within four seconds of one another, or four kills within 28 seconds). Thus, Sunday afternoons became the default for LAN parties. After two years of LAN parties, he never did get a Killtacular under normal match conditions, but the numerous LAN parties he hosted were extremely fun: we would play MLG Team Slayer (Battle Rifle start, first to 50) on classic maps like Midship and Lockout, and then transition to whackier game modes (rocket ball on Coagulation or Siesta on Warlock) as the LAN party progressed.

  • Because we were focused entirely on multiplayer, my best friend and I always wondered what the campaign was like. For the longest time, the both of us could only wonder what experiencing the campaign of Halo 2 felt like, and for me, I would finally get to see it myself when Halo 2: Vista came out. My best friend, on the other hand, would not get to Halo 2‘s campaign until now, when The Master Chief Collection became available on Steam. This release was monumental for us, since it marked the first time we could actually co-op together and experience one of the most iconic games in all of the 2000s.

  • After Metropolis, Halo 2 puts players into the Arbiter’s shoes as he sets off to kill a heretic who had been preaching ideas contrary to what the Covenant believe in. Unlike Master Chief, the Arbiter has an active camouflage system that renders him invisible for a few moments, which is useful for flanking enemies or escaping danger. Towards the end of the mission, the Arbiter will take to the skies in a Banshee, and here, Follow in Flight begins playing. On the whole, I found that Halo 2‘s anniversary had the superior soundtrack, and Follow in Flight immediately evokes memories of the Halo 2 LAN parties my other friend hosted back in the day.

  • While I had originally enjoyed the Master Chief’s missions of Halo 2 more for the locales it brought players to, Halo 2 anniversary has done a fabulous job on remastering all of the missions, and while Arbiter and The Oracle may rank as two of my least favourite missions in classic Halo 2, the remastered version does an excellent job of bringing new life to each area. In Halo 2 anniversary, none of the campaign missions were ever a chore to go through, and I rather enjoyed revisiting the Arbiter’s story.

  • The Oracle was perhaps my least favourite mission in all of Halo 2 because of how the mission left players stuck in areas for extended periods of time; it’s a grim location to be in, and marks the first time in Halo 2 that the Flood are introduced. There is no suspense or terror this time around – the Flood are simply another kind of foe that must be dealt with in the game. While the Arbiter does not have access to a shotgun for this mission, the Energy Sword is actually a superior weapon for handling the Flood: a well-placed sword lunge can destroy a Flood combat form’s body and make it impossible to resurrect, whereas other weapons are only capable of knocking the combat form down, after which infection forms can revive them.

  • After a lengthy elevator ride into the bowels of the gas mine, the Arbiter will be locked in a room and will need to fend off wave after wave of Flood before the doors unlock, allowing one to continue into the next area. The Flood behave as much as they did in Halo: Combat Evolved, although a more sophisticated engine means that players can now instantly kill combat forms if they manage to hit the embedded infection form. Moreover, since the health system is removed, being hit with an infection form when one’s shields are down now becomes an instant death.

  • The absence of a visible health system in Halo 2 is compensated for by a fast energy shield recharge: health recharges at a slower rate and allow players to survive a small amount of damage even when the shields are down, leaving players to focus on the mission rather than worry about locating health kits. According to radio chatter, the heretic leader has escaped onto a different platform, and the Arbiter follows with orders to sever the cables connecting the platform.

  • Unlike Halo: Combat Evolved‘s remaster, Halo 2‘s remaster remains very faithful to the original aesthetic of an area. The former was criticised for brightening up areas of the game that were originally grim and dark: the Forerunner facilities in 343 Guilty Spark and The Library became much more well-lit in the remaster as a result of Forerunner architecture becoming much more detailed. With the inclusion of glow panels and illuminated inscriptions, the facilities become more detailed, but this also took away from the sense of foreboding that accompanied the Flood. By comparison, Halo 2 respects design choices of the original, and instead, simply uses intricate textures to portray Forerunner architecture in greater detail.

  • Beating the heretic leader is relatively straightforwards – despite possessing a hover pack and deploying two holographic doppelgängers to obscure his position, the heretic leader himself is no more difficult than the usual Elites. However, in a twist of irony, the heretic is actually in the right, and a part of the question that is raised once the Arbiter defeats him, is to what extent do the Elites know about the actual nature of the Great Journey their Prophets have been preaching. Thus, the mission to silence the heretics is the set The Arbiter on a path that will lead him towards saving the galaxy and stopping the Prophets from realising the Great Journey.

  • Although the heretic is silenced, the mysteries he holds will endure in The Arbiter. Here, Halo 2 switches back over to Master Chief’s point of view. After Keyes follows the Prophet of Regret’s cruiser into slip-space, they find another Halo ring. With their knowledge of Halo’s danger, Keyes orders Master Chief to locate and kill the Prophet of Regret to prevent him from firing the ring. After an insertion, Master Chief and a group of ODSTs land near derelict temples in a temperate region of Halo. They repel Covenant forces long enough for a Pelican to deliver a Warthog.

  • The verdant scenery of Delta Halo reminds me of the parks around my area, and with the recent rainfall, it finally feels like spring as all of the trees have finally greened. So far this year, the weather appears to have matched the melancholy, with there being more cloudy days than sunny days, and it’s also been rather cooler. This makes the sunny, clear days all the more treasured, although I won’t deny that constant overcast weather is tough on morale.

  • While Master Chief starts Delta Halo with a rocket launcher, intended for making quick work of Covenant stationary guns, I actually carry it a ways further so I can deal with the Wraith across the bridge. Halo 2‘s rocket launcher is a straight upgrade from its Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation – besides having a wider blast radius and dealing more direct damage, the rocket launcher has a faster reload time and can even lock onto enemy vehicles in the campaign. On standard difficulty, two shots will destroy a Wraith. Halo 2 is where my sense of invulnerability against armour originates from: since rocket launchers were relatively common where there were vehicles, I never once felt worried about enemy armour.

  • After pushing through a cliff-side path to a temple and clearing it of Covenant, players end up in a narrow valley crawling with Jackal Snipers. Throughout the mission, Covenant weapons are generally in greater supply, but Pelicans will occasionally drop weapon pods to resupply Master Chief, and while plasma weapons are great against shields, generally speaking, human weapons are a lot more fun to wield in Halo 2. After clearing the valley of Covenant, I turned back briefly to look back into the area, and the lighting threw the details of the sniper rifle into sharp relief. The upgraded firing sound for the sniper rifle in Halo 2‘s anniversary edition, much like it was with Halo: Combat Evolved‘s remaster, feels much more powerful, and every shot fired from a sniper rifle in Halo 2 is immensely satisfying.

  • Upon arriving in one of the temples, Master Chief will come face-to-face with the honour guards, special Covenant members that are tasked with defending the prophets. They are uncommonly tough and may even survive a direct lunge from the energy sword, although they are vulnerable to plasma grenades: on standard difficulty, there are three honour guards keeping watch over the hologram of Regret, and my preferred way is to stick the first two honour guards before dealing with the last one. Once they are dealt with, Delta Halo comes to an end.

  • After reaching the gondola platform, Master Chief and some marines will need to fend off more Covenant, defeat a pair of hunters and then clear the gondola. It suddenly strikes me that there are a fair number of gondola rides in Halo 2 – to the best of my recollection, there were not any in Halo: Combat Evolved. While they can be perceived as dragging out a mission’s runtime further, they also serve to show the scale of the Forerunner constructs on halo, and with the updated visuals, these segments look absolutely stunning.

  • The observant reader will have noticed that I’ve deliberately timed this post to coincide with the home release of Makoto Shinkai’s Tenki no Ko (Weathering with You): May 27 in Japan, and May 26 for me. This is his latest film, releasing in July of last year, and I’ve been longing to see it since it premièred in Japanese theatres. However, for undisclosed reasons, there was a ten-month gap between the theatrical release and home release, rather than the typical six-month gap. Coupled with the fact that theatres in my area adamantly refuse to screen anime films, this inevitably means that by the time I get around to writing about Tenki no Ko, my post will be irrelevant even before I created a draft of it: any post I write about Tenki no Ko, irrespective of how detailed it is, will not likely be worth reading to most, who’ve either seen the film for themselves already or have read earlier commentaries on the movie.

  • This raises the question of whether or not writing about Tenki no Ko is even worthwhile, and while Halo 2‘s release means I’d rather play Halo than write a blog post no one will read, the fact is that there are reviews of Tenki no Ko out there that aim to deliberately misrepresent the film and Makoto Shinkai’s intentions. Having another perspective out there to challenge these existing ones would therefore serve to help readers gain a fairer and more comprehensive picture of what Tenki no Ko‘s themes and messages are. As such, even if it is an exercise in futility, I will aim to write my own piece to address existing points and present fairer, more comprehensive view of things.

  • Back in Halo 2, after traversing a submerged area, Master Chief ends up in an underwater installation. A pair of Hunters will show up, and my current loadout here proved adequate for the job: if one can flank a Hunter, the shotgun will make quick work of them. I will note that later, I discovered that there’s actually a fuel rod cannon concealed in the temple ceiling where the first elevator is, and having one of those handy will make very short work of the Hunters. After fighting through a partially-flooded tunnel and returning to the surface, one more gondola ride awaits Master Chief. This gondola will take players to the temple where Regret is hiding.

  • Regret is well-defended: besides the honour guard, his hovering throne possesses an energy shield that can repel all weapons; the only way to damage him is to board the throne and beat Regret to death. There are a few ways to make this battle go a little faster: either one can clear the honour guards out first and then focus on meleeing Regret, or else focus on meleeing Regret at the expense of ignoring the honour guard. The latter exposes players to fire from the honour guard, and the former means Regret will fire a plasma cannon in his hover throne to deal massive damage. Once Regret is dead, this mission draws to a close as the Covenant forces bombard the temple and perspective returns to that of The Arbiter’s.

  • The Arbiter’s assignment is to lower a containment field surrounding the Index, which the Covenant refer to as the Sacred Icon. In this mission, players must reach lower levels of the facility by means of pistons that can be opened. On lower difficulties, one can conserve on ammo and activate them manually, whereas on higher difficulties, one must shoot them to open them. In the moments before starting the mission, one can look over and see the lakes where the Master Chief had been.

  • Whereas Sentinels simply appeared in Halo: Combat EvolvedHalo 2 introduced the Sentinel launcher, which spawn endless amounts of Sentinels until they are destroyed. When defeated, the Sentinels drop the Sentinel Beam, a directed-energy weapon capable of sustained fire. Suited for dropping shields, the Sentinel Beam is also particularly effective at fighting the Flood infection forms and other Sentinels, replacing the Assault Rifle and Plasma Rifle as the preferred general-purpose close-quarters solution for Flood and Sentinel heavy missions.

  • While going up against a Sentinel Enforcer initially looks difficult, the Enforcer is only shielded from the front, so overloading the shields and aiming for the limbs will do the most damage. Since The Arbiter also has a cloak, it is possible to flank and stick the Enforcer with plasma grenades. Two to three plasma grenades will suffice in defeating an Enforcer. Later, vehicles will make handling Enforcers a lot easier: a Scorpion can destroy Enforcers in two shots, and sustained fire from a Ghost will make short work of an Enforcer. Once this first Enforcer is destroyed, The Arbiter can lower the shields surrounding the Library and continue onward towards retrieving the Index.

  • Sentinel Majors are protected by an energy shield, but remain vulnerable to plasma weaponry and fire from a Sentinel Beam. While my loadout throughout the Sacred Icon mission seems unusual, it is because I am primarily fighting the Flood: the Flood handle more or less the same as they did in Halo: Combat Evolved, and since Halo 2 changed things up, the best setup against the Flood would be a combination of the Energy Sword (for destroying combat forms) and Sentinel Beam (for mopping up infection forms and prompting the carrier forms to explode). In the absence of the Energy Sword, the shotgun works just as well.

  • After dropping through a few more passages, The Arbiter reaches the Covenant camp, where other Elites have gathered. Whereas in my original play-though of Halo 2, the Covenant camp looked especially drab, the Anniversary remaster looks brilliant, the difference between night and day. The only issue I have with the remaster is that in some areas, the more sophisticated lighting actually reduced visibility: dark areas are much darker than they were in the classic graphics, and my screen would occasionally white out when I got hit by plasma fire or was caught in an explosion. I did switch between anniversary and classic visuals from time to time for a more practical reason: the simpler graphics and lighting of the classic Halo 2 means it’s easier to spot enemies.

  • Quarantine Zone is one of the longest missions in Halo 2, involving extensive vehicular sections, followed by a lengthy gondola ride to the Index. The level design was likely a response to the criticisms that in Halo: Combat Evolved, the Library was a very monotonous and repetitive mission. Whereas Alpha Halo appeared to have had its Flood specimens under control until the Covenant released them, Delta Halo’s Monitor, Penitent Tangent, neglected to conform with containment protocols, and was captured by Gravemind. Sentinels began constructing a wall to contain the Flood, and this directed resources from the maintenance of other parts of the Halo, which explains why the areas the Master Chief went through resembled tropical ruins.

  • I ended up commandeering a Scorpion tank after proceeding through the first area so I had the firepower needed to deal with hostile Wraiths and Enforcers alike. While ballistic weapons are said to be useless against the shields of an Enforcer, the Scorpion’s coaxial machine gun will quickly overload the shields, allowing one to hit the Enforcer’s main body 90 mm shells. The Scorpion is the best vehicle for this section despite its slow movement speed, and the only thing to really watch out for are the Rocket Flood, and getting too close to Enforcers: when an Enforcer is sufficiently close, it will use its arms to pick up and crush the Scorpion, resulting in an instant death. It is possible to escape before the Scorpion explodes by jumping out, and then mount a counterattack while the Enforcer is busy using plasma grenades.

  • After reaching the gondola leading into the Library, Tatarus’ Phantom will arrive and provide some covering fire. It is unknown as to whether or not Alpha Halo had a similar gondola for accessing the Library, since Guilty Spark teleported Master Chief directly into the upper floors of the facility. Quarantine Zone is named after the Sentinel Wall that was built to restrict the Flood’s movement, and while lacking its predecessor’s monotony, is still a bit of a slog to get through. Folks who are playing in the interest of speed to reach the gondola may find taking a Ghost as their main vehicle and skipping the vehicular combat to be helpful.

  • The gondola ride is one long waiting game, and Flood will assault the Covenant forces on board. The Energy Sword is the best weapon for the job here, since it will be entirely combat forms that attack. Because of the sword lunge, players can inadvertently find themselves launching themselves over the platform to a swift death, caution should be observed with the energy sword: I find that a melee swipe with the sword will still deal with the combat forms without engaging the lunge, which is useful on some parts of the gondola.

  • After the gondola comes to a stop, The Arbiter will be greeted by the same sight that greeted the Master Chief in Halo: Combat Evolved: the cavernous hallways leading up to the Index. At this point, only a few clusters of infection forms stand between The Arbiter and the Index: a pair of submachine guns is more than enough to deal with them. Whenever the Sentinel Beam is not available, dual submachine guns is a suitable substitute, and during my first play-through of Halo 2‘s campaign nearly ten years ago, this was the same loadout I wielded entering the last moments of Quarantine Zone.

  • While Master Chief starts off the Gravemind mission with naught but a single Needler, there’s a second Needler immediately available for use against the Brutes. The Needler was downgraded from its Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation, and now must be dual-wielded in order to be effective: with a larger magazine, slower rate of fire, slower projectile speed and inferior super-combine explosion radius, individual Needlers are ineffective. As soon as the Brutes are disposed of, they’ll drop the Brute Plasma Rifle, which is a variant of the standard Plasma Rifle with a higher rate of fire and double damage per shot at the expense of overheating and burning through its battery faster.

  • Master Chief’s only goal is to search for the Index, which is with the Prophet of Truth. Along the way, captured marines are found, and Master Chief will witness the beginning of a Covenant Civil War. The infighting is helpful for players, since it allows one to get through some areas more easily: the Elites, Grunts and Hunters take one side, while the Prophets, Brutes, Drones and Jackals are at the other. However, for now, all Covenant are still hostile to Master Chief, and so, while exploiting the in-fighting, players should still be careful. Gravemind also marks the first time players pick up the Brute Shot, a grenade launcher with a large blade.

  • The interior of High Charity in Halo 2 looks far crisper and more detailed: from this vantage point, it is clear that Master Chief is fighting through the edges of this city, and therefore, there won’t be a chance to explore the actual city seen in the distance. Being set in the heart of Covenant turf, there are no human weapons available in this mission, and overall, I found that for a standard play-through, the Covenant Carbine works the most effectively, in conjunction with use of the Brute Shot or Energy Sword as a secondary weapon.

  • Firing an 8 mm radioactive projectile, the Covenant Carbine functions similarly to the DMR from Halo: Reach in that it is a low-recoil, semi-automatic weapon. Halo 2 had it function as the Covenant counterpart to the Battle Rifle, although in practise, the weapon is slightly less accurate than the Battle Rifle at extreme long ranges. Together with the Brute Shot, one has enough firepower to make it through the mission, and occasionally, one will need to switch over to the Beam Rifle for long-range sniping, or dual Plasma Rifles to handle Drone swarms. Of the enemies in Halo 2, I find the Drones and Jackals to be the most infuriating to fight because despite being individually weak, they use a gimmick that makes them require a disproportionate amount of ammunition to neutralise.

  • In order to allow Cortana to track Truth better, master Chief leaves her connected to High Charity’s central computer. Later in the mission, the In Amber Clad arrives in High Charity, but Cortana reports that there are no human signals on board. After defeating the last of the Covenant forces, the mission draws to a close. The situation in Halo 2 rapidly deteriorates as the Flood begins to spread throughout the city. The Prophet of Mercy is killed by an infection form during the chaos, and Truth shows his true colours, intent on starting the Great Journey at any cost.

  • At the start of Uprising, The Arbiter is only armed with a Plasma Rifle. The first few moments of this mission were showcased back in December 2019 during a development update, back when Halo: Reach had released and Halo: Combat Evolved was still a few months away from release. Compared to the in-game screenshot back then, Halo 2‘s anniversary build looks even sharper than it did then. Overall, I’ve had no trouble at all running the game on enhanced settings, save a few areas where the game does stutter.

  • As the Covenant Civil War rages on, The Arbiter will fight Brutes, Jackals and Drones. Despite lacking energy shields, the Brutes are immensely tough and resilient enemies, and further pose the threat that the last surviving Brute will always fly into a rage, making them deadly opponents to face off against. I’ve found that use of the Carbine, in conjunction with the Brute Shot or Energy Sword, and plasma grenades is most effective against these beasts.

  • Uprising sees a segment where The Arbiter must traverse a narrow canyon in order to reach Allied forces. During these driving segments, there will always be spare vehicles around in the event that one’s current vehicle sustains too much damage: the levels themselves are walkable, but having a vehicle is essential for speedy transport between two points. With the Covenant Civil War now in full force, and the Elites stripped of their duties, contempt for the Prophets’ rule begins growing.

  • After reaching the end of the canyon, a group of Wraiths and Brutes await the Arbiter. From reading supplementary materials, it turns out that the Brutes are fond of some human weapons and will occasionally be seen wielding shotguns. This could be an indicator of their barbaric nature: when American soldiers began using the Winchester Model 1897 in World War One against German forces, the Germans protested on the grounds that shotguns could cause “unnecessary suffering” and resolved to harshly punish any POW using a shotgun, with the Americans countering that similar punishment could be expected against German soldiers found in the possession of flame-throwers and serrated bayonets.

  • The Elites’ hatred of the Brutes and dissatisfaction with the Covenant is such that they reluctantly form an alliance with Sergeant Johnson, who had been captured by the Brutes: when The Arbiter and his forces arrive, Johnson and Keyes take advantage of the distraction to commandeer the Scarab. These vehicles were originally used in a mining function and were covered with armour that rendered them impervious to human weapons.

  • The level dubbed “High Charity” is actually the second of the missions set in High Charity and marks the first time Master Chief squares off against the Flood in Halo 2. The first part of the mission had originally been set to feature the Flood juggernaut, a powerful tank-like combat form that is equivalent to the Enforcer in power. They are not present in the final Halo 2, although all of their assets are present, so modders can spawn them in and fight them. Upon defeating them, the juggernauts simply freeze in place, lacking a death animation.

  • As Master Chief proceeds deeper into High Charity, the Flood’s presence is already felt: a noxious haze of Flood spores permeates every environment, and Flood biomass begins accumulating in what were once immaculately clean hallways. More so in the anniversary edition, the Master Chief’s flashlight becomes an indispensable tool here, helping to illuminate corridors and aid in navigation. Master Chief initially starts the weapon with the carbine and a Plasma Pistol, but can pick a shotgun off a combat form. The shotgun is the second most effective weapon against the Flood, and will be useful until acquiring an Energy Sword.

  • If memory serves, I pushed through Halo 2 Vista‘s campaign during final summer break before university started, having decided to not open Halo 2 Vista until the standardised high school exams had finished. I was immensely relieved to receive my results during the summer, as they gave me the requisite grades needed to be admitted to the Bachelor of Health Sciences honours programme, and without much else on my plate that summer, I spent the latter portion of it going through the Halo 2 campaign and writing about my experiences on an older website that is now decommissioned.

  • I believe it was August when I finally had a chance to repel the Covenant boarders for the first time (having spent all my time in the multiplayer when I’d previously played Halo 2 at LAN parties), and I reached High Charity on a hot Saturday afternoon. I would go on to finish the campaign before university began, and subsequently, Halo 2 Vista‘s multiplayer would replace Ragnarok Online and World of Warcraft as my Friday night game of choice: since I was in middle school, I had the routine of never doing any schoolwork past seven in the evening, and instead, took my Friday evenings to relax. Where possible, I would finish as much of my work as I could before six, and if needed, I would continue on Saturday.

  • This approach carried over to university and graduate school right through to the present: while I’m happy to partake in events on Friday evenings, on an ordinary Friday night, I prefer taking the time off for myself, whether that be catching up with various anime, or going through a game of some sort. Having a guaranteed point in the week to relax in a manner of my choosing is what helps me to remain focused during the rest of the week, and in general, while I count gaming as one of my hobbies, I’m actually very casual compared to many out there: I  average of two to four hours on a given week. Back in Halo 2, Master Chief boards the lift just in time to enter the Forerunner vessel, which Truth has taken with the aim of reactivating Halo.

  • Halo 2‘s final mission has player returning to The Arbiter and his quest in stopping Tatarus from activating Halo. Players will get to operate the Wraith, a Covenant tank that’s made numerous appearances throughout Halo 2 already: on most missions, the Wraith is encountered as an enemy and, while players can board it, destroying them is usually the more typical course of action. Compared to the Scorpion, the Wraith is more manoeuvrable thanks to its speed boost, but has inferior firepower: the plasma mortar is powerful against both infantry and armour, but is slow-moving and has limited range.

  • Having the Hunters allied with the player was such a nice feeling: while they have their weak points and can be killed by berserking Brutes, the immense firepower and their ability to absorb damage makes them an incredible asset to have. In no time at all, the facility where the Scarab is docked is cleared, and subsequently, players take to the skies in a Banshee to provide cover for the Scarab as it makes its way to the Control Room. Enemy Banshees will join the fight, along with a handful of Wraiths and plasma turrets. As with previous missions, should The Arbiter’s Banshee sustain too much damage, there are a few spares on the canyon floor.

  • Once Johnson fires the Scarab’s main gun and burns through the door to the control room, the Arbiter will need to fly a Banshee to this platform, which begins the final act of Halo 2Halo 2 lacks a lengthy vehicle sequence as its final mission, and instead, features a boss fight against Tatarus. I’ve heard that High Charity was supposed to have Master Chief embark on a drive through a central shaft in High Charity to reach the Forerunner ship, but this was scrapped, and the Master Chief’s means of entry into the Forerunner ship became much more simplified.

  • The fight against Tatarus is a rather simple one: he will escape onto a central platform and activate a powerful energy shield capable of absorbing almost anything. Armed with a gravity hammer, Tatarus will effortlessly kill the Elites trying to attack him, and here, the energy sword is useless against him. Instead, The Arbiter must wait for Johnson to fire his beam rifle, which will remove the shields and render him susceptible to damage. I found that dual Brute Plasma Rifles was the most efficient way of defeating Tatarus: his shields will restore right as the Plasma Rifles overheat, and by the time they cool down, Johnson will have gotten another shot off.

  • After repeating the process a few times, Tatarus will fall, and the final cut-scenes begin to play. Both Master Chief and The Arbiter’s stories will resume in Halo 3, and I am left with an immensely satisfactory revisit of the Halo 2 campaign, as though I had played it for the first time. With Halo 2‘s campaign in the books, and the month of June upon us shortly, I will spend the final moments of my this post considering the near future. Before this month is out, I am aiming to do two more posts: the next one will be for my Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer experiences, and the last post is for Heya Camp△‘s OVA, which will accompany the BDs and release tomorrow. As for Tenki no Ko, with the film becoming available later today, my main goal will be to give it a watch and then begin setting up a post for it.

Halo 2 Anniversary is a direct port of the original Halo 2, and received a complete overhaul of the visuals, as well as audio. While handling identically to the original Halo 2, Halo 2 Anniversary looks like a contemporary shooter, with crisp visuals and improved audio. However, it preserves the original’s game-play, and with a fresh coat of paint offered by new graphics and sound, it becomes clear that the game-play has aged very gracefully. Weapons feel powerful and effective, and hit detection in the campaign feels solid: Halo 2 handles as well as any modern title, attesting to the incredible technical excellence that went into the game. Old areas that seemed quite dull and lifeless in the original Halo 2 are given new life, looking remarkable, and areas that looked amazing in the original are now awe-inspiring. For the most part, Halo 2 Anniversary is a straight upgrade, although there are a few areas where the original version does things better. The energy sword of the original Halo 2 sounded more like the distinct snap-hiss of a lightsabre when drawn, making it sound more lethal than the digital sound of the Anniversary energy sword. Lighting effects in the Anniversary version are also more vivid, and this can create situations where visibility is dramatically lowered: with its more primitive rendering engine, Halo 2‘s classic iteration has superior visibility in some areas, whereas in Anniversary, the same areas concealed enemies more effectively. These are, however, relatively minor complaints, and overall, revisiting Halo 2‘s campaign in the Anniversary Edition was to revisit an old friend that has withstood the test of time very well. With Halo 2‘s campaign in the books, I can now turn my attention towards Halo 2‘s multiplayer, which the game is best known for: between now and when Halo 3 joins the Master Chief Collection, I look forwards to spending a bit of time in reacquainting myself with an old friend, the first multiplayer shooter I’ve ever played and became somewhat skillful in.

Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo Combat Evolved

“Men, we led those dumb bugs out to the middle of nowhere to keep ’em from gettin’ their filthy claws on Earth. But, we stumbled onto somethin’ they’re so hot for, that they’re scramblin’ over each other to get it. Well, I don’t care if it’s God’s own anti-son-of-a-bitch machine, or a giant hula hoop, we’re not gonna let ’em have it! What we will let ’em have is a belly full of lead, and a pool of their own blood to drown in! Am I right, Marines?” –Seargent Johnson

The Pillar of Autumn barely manages to escape Reach, but is pursued by a Covenant Armada. As the ship sustains fire, Captain Keyes orders Spartan Master Chief John-117 out of cryosleep to safe-keep the AI Cortana. Master Chief manages to escape the Pillar of Autumn and crash lands on a ring-world known as Halo. He helps to rally the surviving marines and learns that Captain Keyes had set the Pillar of Autumn down, but was captured by the Covenant in the process. A contingent of UNSC marines accompanies Master Chief to rescue Captain Keyes, who is being held on board the Covenant’s Truth and Reconciliation, where Cortana taps into the Covenant communications network and discovers that the Covenant is looking for a map to Halo’s control center. When Captain Keyes is rescued, he sends Master Chief to get to the map ahead of the Covenant. Master Chief secures the map and identifies the control room’s location, fighting his way through an icy canyon to reach the control room. Cortana remains behind to study Halo’s systems, and Master Chief is sent to assist marines who are looking for the now-missing Captain Keyes. Arriving in a swamp, Master Chief comes face to face with the Flood, an ancient parasitic life form capable of galactic destruction. Halo’s Monitor, 343 Guilty Spark, whisks Master Chief away to the Library, a building that holds the Index, which activates Halo. While Master Chief successfully retrieves the Index and returns to the control room, Cortana chides him, explaining that the Halo Array doesn’t kill the Flood, but rather, its food source (all intelligent life). In order to prevent Halo from being activated, Cortana suggests detonating the Pillar of Autumn’s fusion reactor, which remained intact following its crash. After disabling several pulse generators to buy time, Cortana teleports Master Chief to the Truth and Reconciliation to locate Captain Keyes, who possesses the neural implants needed to access the Pillar of Autumn’s systems. They find him consumed by the Flood, and too late to save him, Master Chief retrieves the neural implants before returning to the Pillar of Autumn. When Guilty Spark thwarts attempts to manually overload the Pillar of Autumn’s reactors, Cortana and Master Chief manually overload the reactor instead, and then narrowly escape the detonation that destroys Halo. At least, this is about as succinctly as I can be with regards to describing Halo‘s iconic and timeless campaign.

One of the best-known shooters of all time, Halo: Combat Evolved (or Halo for brevity) began its life as a real-time strategy game for Mac OS X, although its transformation into a first-person shooter would result in the title becoming the Xbox’s breakout game. Despite its age, the original Halo remains a solid experience, and the Anniversary Edition brings a modernised re-imagining of classic moments with new visuals. The story and themes of Halo remains unchanged; while ostensibly a first-person shooter set in a science fiction environment, Master Chief’s dynamics with Cortana and the UNSC set the stage for a very curious message about human nature. Throughout Halo, Master Chief is presented as a devoted and committed soldier, following orders and doing his utmost to ensure he fulfils his duties. Whether it be orders from Captain Keyes, or suggestions from Cortana, Master Chief is focused on his objectives. As such, when Captain Keyes goes missing and Cortana is left behind to investigate Halo’s network, Master Chief faces the greatest amount of isolation seen during the game. This leads him to place trust in 343 Guilty Spark, which very nearly brings about the end of half the life in the galaxy as a result. Halo thus suggests that despite the Master Chief being a specially-engineered super-soldier, he still retains much of his humanity, attesting to the strength of human nature even in the most disciplined and dedicated of individuals. At this point in Halo, Master Chief is presented as a silent protagonist, allowing players to draw their own conclusions as they experience each mission. When going through the mission where the Flood is encountered for the first time, players feel completely alone, so once 343 Guilty Spark arrives, with no more information, one does indeed feel compelled to trust Guilty Spark and accept that activating Halo could stop the Flood. That players (and by extension, Master Chief) must trust Guilty Spark shows the vulnerability of people to isolation, and Halo excels at capturing this. Indeed, the human sides of aspect of Master Chief are explored much more thoroughly in the later Halo games (especially Halo 3 and Halo 4, as well as novels), but to see hints of his character even this early on speaks volumes to how well-written Halo is.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve gone through Halo‘s campaign at least six times, speaking to the game’s replay value: my story with Halo begins when I was in middle school, when one of my buddies got Halo 2 for Xbox and invited a bunch of us over to try it out. We spent the morning on Coagulation, a remake of Halo‘s Blood Gulch. At the time, none of us had enough familiarity to make use of the Battle Rifle, so most of the games were spent horsing around with the dual-wielded weapons and vehicles.

  • At the time, Halo had been out for just over three years, and I became curious after the fact: I eventually stumbled upon the Halo Trial, a free version of Halo that provided the Silent Cartographer mission and Blood Gulch multiplayer map. I spent hundreds of hours on Blood Gulch, mostly playing Saturday afternoons, and I ended up becoming good enough with the pistol and plasma grenades to single handedly control a given match by knocking banshees out of the skies. Eventually, curiosity led me to pick up a full version of Halo, and I found the campaign to be most engaging. Enjoyment of Halo prompted me to pick up Halo 2 when it became available on PC. Despite the simple graphics and mechanics, Halo remained mechanically engaging, changing the way I approached shooters.

  • The two-weapons limitation in Halo means players must always be mindful of their surroundings. Up until Halo, I played shooters where players could carry an entire armoury’s worth of equipment, leaving me well-equipped for all situations. Half-Life 2007 NightfireAgent Under Fire and GoldenEye 64 were the shooters I’d played up until that point, and since I always had long-range, short-range and anti-armour options available at all times, there were never points where I felt unprepared for a combat situation. By comparison, Halo allows players only two weapons at once.

  • Going through Pillar of Autumn with the anniversary edition graphics was a breath of fresh air: the original Halo was visually solid, but the graphics have not aged particularly well, and there are many areas that look very flat, simple. The updated graphics give environments much more detail and life; in general, they enhance the atmosphere of Halo considerably, such as the interior of the Pillar of Autumn here, which feels more like a sophisticated warship of the UNSC fleet, and here, through a window, the gas giant Threshold can be seen.

  • A part of the strategy, then, is knowing when to pick up or drop a weapon based on what the situation requires. For the first mission, the assault rifle and pistol are the starting weapons. The assault rifle behaves more similarly to a submachine gun, sporting a sixty-round magazine and high spread that makes it most useful for close quarters combat. On the other hand, the pistol is the most iconic weapon of Halo: with its twelve round magazine, 2x optics and high damage, it is effective at medium to long ranges: the 12.7 mm rounds are armour-piercing and explosive, allowing them to deal massive damage.

  • After leaving the Pillar of Autumn and touching down on the Halo ring itself, the landscapes of Halo‘s remaster become apparent. Outdoor environments feel richly populated and inviting, giving the Halo ring a more Earth-like feeling, with a thicker atmosphere and familiar weather patterns. However, there is a trade-off: the additional details in the sky means that the stars are far less visible, and the original Halo‘s visuals created a much more alien sky where the nearby sun and a star-filled sky were simultaneously visible.

  • One of the best features about Halo in The Master Chief Collection is the ability to freely switch between the classic and remastered visuals. There can be a slight lag as the assets are swapped out, but the process is otherwise seamless, and it was fun to compare between the two different styles. Once Master Chief lands on Halo, the first goal is to repel Covenant forces and regroup with the other Marines.

  • On all difficulties, I prefer running with the pistol and then a weapon suited for the situation at hand: the plasma rifle is a good all-around weapon for dropping shields and is fairly effective at damaging unshielded targets. In conjunction with the fact that it’s pretty common, it’s a fantastic choice for most missions. Here, I continue to defend marines while Covenant drop ships appear: in the original Halo, Covenant dropships are invulnerable to damage, and will take shots at the player. It is fun to rush on in and wipe the Covenant before they’ve had a chance to land (akin to shooting fast-ropers as they descend from a helicopter), but a smarter strategy is required on higher difficulties, since the fire from drop ships can strip one’s shields quickly.

  • While barren and dark in the original, the first major interior section of the Halo ring seen in Halo is richly detailed and has a significantly higher level of detail, conveying the styles of Forerunner architecture. Here, the goal is to activate a light bridge and continue across the chasm into the next section of the mission. I’m rocking a Needler here; while the Needler is overshadowed by the plasma rifle and pistol combination on standard difficulties, it is highly effective in legendary, since the needles will super-combine into a large explosion that can drop even Elites quickly.

  • The final section of the second mission allows players to pick up a sniper rifle. The Halo incarnation of the sniper rifle, the SRS99C-S2 AM (Sniper Rifle System 99C-S2 Anti-Matériel), is the only long-range solution available. As a gas-operated semi-automatic rifle firing 14.5 mm sabot rounds, the sniper rifle’s primary function is picking off enemies from distances, and finds the most efficacy when dealing with Elites and Hunters at long distances that are out of reach of the pistol.

  • Halo‘s third mission is the only time in the game where it’s possible to carry sixty addition rounds for the sniper rifle in reserve: the first section of the mission is a sniping one, as Master Chief engages Covenant Shade turrets from a distance so the marines don’t get torn apart by them. This mission sees a dramatic improvement in visual quality in the Anniversary edition: the desert canyons leading into the Truth and Reconciliation are now covered with vegetation, and things are generally much brighter, compared to the dark and barren designs of the original.

  • Of all the missions in the classic Halo, I’ve felt that the Truth and Reconciliation had some of the most basic graphics, and the mission itself wasn’t generally too enjoyable: the goal is to reach the ship’s brig and free Captain Keyes, so it involves a great deal of backtracking. The interior of the ship itself was very flat and dull in the classic, but the remastered edition gives the visuals a major improvement, to the point where the mission became a visual treat to play through.

  • It is very easy to get lost in the Covenant ship, but fortunately, the Covenant do not differ from humans in their use of symbolism: locked doors are denoted with a red light (red outline in the original), and so, it’s generally straightforwards to push towards the brig where Captain Keyes is held: following the green lights (white outlines in the original) will lead one to their destination.

  • In the narrow corridors of the Truth and Reconciliation, weapons like the plasma rifle and assault rifle are useful: while I don’t see the assault rifle as a reliable mid-range weapon, at close quarters, its rate of fire and large ammunition capacity makes it a solid choice for stopping unshielded targets. The Halo iteration of the rifle has a magazine capacity of sixty rounds, which is strange considering the fact that it fires 7.62 mm rounds.

  • Past the bridge of the ship lies the brig: the Covenant are fond of placing the bridges of their ships in the core, since this is where most of the commanding forces are, and in supplementary materials, Elites consider it strange that human vessels expose their bridges in vulnerable locations. From a real-world standpoint, the reason why the bridge of a ship is so exposed is to improve visibility for the vessel’s commanders, who’ve come to rely on sight to identify the battlefield situation, and this approach has carried over to even space-faring vessels, whereas the Elites, with their superior technology, can accommodate for the visuals using cameras and screens and therefore, can build their bridges at the heart of their vessels.

  • Of all the campaign levels in Halo, The Silent Cartographer is my personal favourite, being the most open in how players can approach the mission and also offering the most epic, emotionally-charged opening sequence. This is Halo‘s interpretation of Normandy, and while it may not be of the same scale, it carries all of the weight. As soon as players touch down and storm the beach with rifles blazing, one can truly get the sense that this is Halo. Things quiet down once the beach is cleared, and Echo 419 drops a Warthog to help players traverse the island more quickly.

  • The Warthog is the standard four-wheel drive vehicle for transport in Halo, and the most basic version is equipped with a Gatling gun. Highly mobile and speedy, the Warthog can deliver a blistering amount of firepower and enables for speedy movement around a map, but is also prone to flipping, requiring some degree of skill to operate. Owing to the physics engine in Halo, grazing any enemy, even at lower speeds, will kill them.

  • Rocket launchers and sniper rifles are the best way to engage Hunters, large, heavily armoured enemies composed of worm colonies that combine together to form massive organisms. They are equipped with a fuel-rod cannon capable of great destructive power and carry shields composed of the same metal from Covenant warships, making them nearly invulnerable to small arms fire. In the absence of heavier weapons or a vehicle, the easiest way to neutralise one is to get behind it and shoot at the exposed orange flesh: one pistol round is enough to stop these behemoths in their tracks if placed correctly.

  • Once players override the security system and enter the map chambers, there’s actually a very quick way to get to the map room: I typically go through the large shaft and jump down the map: there are a few platforms one can use to break their fall, and at the bottom of the area, adjacent to the passage way leading to the map room, there’s an overshield. Because activating the overshields render one invulnerable to all damage as the shields charge, landing on the overshield will negate all falling damage.

  • From here, it’s a simple matter of engaging the map room and then returning to the surface for extraction. My approach for The Silent Cartographer, while a time saver, does not even compare to the routes and methods speed-runners have used: this mission is one of the most fun to speed run, and using certain tricks to outrun certain events have allowed players to complete the mission in a matter of minutes.

  • The next mission, Assault on the Control room, is one of the lengthiest missions in all of Halo: Master Chief fights through legions of Covenant forces en route to the control room for Halo, and this mission is fully combat oriented, as Master Chief fights through the corridors of Halo’s facilities and the valleys between the canyons. Generally speaking, the pistol and plasma rifle will be the best choice of weapons, providing one with a combination of close quarters and medium range firepower in all environments, although there will be several occasions where it is prudent to switch the plasma rifle out for a sniper rifle or rocket launcher.

  • Not shown in this talk is the ability to drive the Scorpion MBT: these are the mainstay armour available to the UNSC and is functionally equivalent to the Covenant’s Wraith tank. The Wraith is not a usable vehicle in Halo, and compared to the Scorpion, offers superior mobility at the expense of accuracy and precision. Players do have the option of taking the Scorpion with them though a section of the fifth mission: the 90 mm cannon and its explosive damage makes it effective against everything the Covenant have to throw at it. Enemy Wraiths and Hunters stand no chance against the Scorpion from a distance.

  • The fifth mission really conveys a sense of cold, with the heavy snowfall and icicles on the terrain. It evokes a sense of chilliness during the summer months when I revisit the level, but by winter, the coldness of the air is even more noticeable and it feels as though I were actually in the canyons themselves, attesting to the strengths of the atmosphere in the game. Another aspect about Halo that stands out is the sound; this is especially noticeable in Halo‘s anniversary build. The sound was given an overhaul, and on the whole, all of the weapons sound more powerful. The sniper rifle gives an especially heavy and noticeable report, feeling like a proper anti-materiel rifle.

  • It is easy to get lost in the circular rooms within Halo, but there is fortunately a simple way to avoid getting lost: there are arrows on the ground that indicate which direction one should be going, and for this mission, following the arrows will lead one to their destination. There are several spots throughout the mission where one may find sleeping Grunts: they can be felled with a single melee attack, and doing so allows one to preserve a bit of stealth to get the drop on other enemies in the area.

  • After reaching the final canyon, Master Chief must fly a Banshee from the natural bridge to the control room. For the final part of the mission, I recommend keeping the sniper rifle handy, since a well-placed headshot can drop Elite minors quickly and stun Elite majors, making it easy to get a follow-up shot away. This is especially important, since the Elites can and will take Banshees from the player. Once the corridor to the control room is reached, and the defending Covenant forces defeated, the fifth mission will draw to a close.

  • When Master Chief arrives in the swamp, there’s immediately a sense of unease: Jackals and Grunts flee from an unseen foe, and there are no Elites in sight. Mysterious dots appear on the motion tracker, and upon entering the facility, there are corpses everywhere. The two most unsettling parts of the level are a corridor with Grunt blood splattered all over the walls, and a pile of Needlers with needle crystals, which is seen nowhere else in the game. As players move deeper into the facility, they’ll encounter Private Jenkins, who is delirious after encountering an unknown foe.

  • This foe is the Flood, an ancient parasitic life-form. Halo masterfully foreshadows, yet conceals, their appearance that when they first appear, it is a complete shock to players to the extent that some have likened it to as though in Pac-Man, the dots suddenly went rogue and began attacking the player. With Cortana absent, and no allied forces, Master Chief has never been more alone anywhere else in Halo: after the initial shock wears off, it’s time to fall back on the trusty assault rifle as waves of infection form burst into the room. The assault rifle may not have been terribly effective earlier, but now, with its high firing rate and magazine capacity, it is the optimal weapon for dealing with the swarms.

  • Combat forms also begin appearing. Players will initially have the M6D pistol available to them, and these are moderately effective at stopping the infection form until one acquires the shotgun. These mutated hosts form when an infection form takes control of a body, and are the most deadly form of the Flood, as they leap towards the player, and will attack with their tentacles and wield their host’s old weapons. The shotgun can stop combat forms dead in their tracks with one or two shells, and a single shotgun blast can even fell multiple combat forms if they are clustered together.

  • Even when downed, Flood combat forms can still get back up and rejoin a fight. Since Halo does not have the means of permanently destroying a downed combat form, the only solution is to continue shooting at them. True to their name, the Flood will spawn forever, and in the labyrinthine tunnels of this ancient Forerunner installation, getting lost can be a daunting thought. The path through the area to reach the surface is not explicitly clear, and while I’ve gone through the area numerous times on multiple play-throughs, the only solution I offer to folks unfamiliar with the map is to keep one’s wits about them: a quick trigger finger will be enough to dispose of the Flood long enough to work out an escape plan.

  • When I encountered the second elevator on my first play-though, I thought to myself, “finally, time to get out”. This actually led me deeper into the complex, so when I returned back to the surface and found myself facing marines, it was a very welcome sight. Sentinels begin appearing and will help to slow the Flood down, and Foehammer will tell players to head to an opening in the swamp for extraction, but before that can happen, Halo’s Monitor will appear and teleport Master Chief away as a part of Flood containment protocol.

  • The Library is a level I remember best for long, lengthy mission filled with dark corridors and an unending wave of Flood. In its original form, the Library was very easy to get lost in, and the shadowy environment gave it a very ominous feel. By comparison, the Anniversary Edition visuals give the Library better lighting: everything is well-lit. The end result is that the mission itself becomes less intimidating and also less frustrating to complete: a darker level meant hidden Flood that could wipe the player on a moment’s notice, increasing both the immersion and frustration.

  • The Library adds the Flood carrier form to Halo: these bloated, slow-moving monstrosities are easy to eliminate, but will explode and spread infection forms if they take any damage. The explosion is equivalent in strength and blast radius to a fragmentation grenade, making them useful in dispersing clusters of Flood. However, in close quarters, they present a threat to players, as well. Against the Flood in general, fragmentation grenades are the preferred way to go, as the Flood’s ceaseless rush means plasma grenades have a risk of being returned to the sender.

  • In times like these, self-discipline, fortitude, and remaining calm in adversity are vital to surviving challenges. Coupled with forward thinking, such as knowing what supplies and provisions to acquire, plus how to keep oneself busy while at home, the COVID-19 outbreak can be beaten. Back in Halo, I’ve found that a combination of shotgun and assault rifles, plus fragmentation grenades, are sufficient to keep the Flood at bay while making one’s way to the Index. Players know they’re getting close after the third elevator ride: the Library consists of four levels

  • The greatest challenge players will encounter in the Library will be combat forms carrying rocket launchers: these so-called “rocket Flood” are a major annoyance, and the community regards them as the bane of all existence in Halo, as they can make an otherwise survivable situation very challenging. Once players arrive at the Index, a torrent of Flood lie beyond the doors, and the time has come to be generous with ammunition and explosives. I suggest making a beeline for the Index, since the mission ends automatically once Master Chief gets close enough; it’s not worth fighting the Flood since they will continue spawning forever.

  • Back in the control room, Master Chief learns of Halo’s true purpose, and with Cortana’s information, refuses to activate the ring. Guilty Spark sics the remaining Sentinels against him: these automaton were mildly effective against the Flood earlier on, and their beams are relatively weak, but sustained fire will burn away Master Chief’s shields. Players start this mission with a plasma pistol, and this weapon, normally useful against shields, can be used to great effect against the Sentinels: one charged shot will disable a Sentinel, which are otherwise resistant to gunfire.

  • Cortana’s determined that the best way to stop Halo from firing is to destroy the ring. Despite their great size and strength, Halo rings are not invulnerable; Cortana estimates that the blast and temperatures generated by a fusion explosion will be enough to destabilise the ring and prevent it from firing. To this end, she proposes disabling several pulse generators that will buy her and Master Chief some time to retrieve Keyes’ neural implants and prime the Pillar of Autumn’s main reactor for detonation. This entails walking into the pulse generator, which drops  Master Chief’s shields.

  • The whole of the Two Betrayals mission is a retracing mission, sending players on more or less the reverse route seen during Assault on the Control Room. The only key difference here is that the mission is set at night and is a ways darker, and there’s a heavier Flood component. For most of this mission, the plasma rifle and shotgun combination is the most efficacious: while the plasma rifle does not have the assault rifle’s ability to sustain fire for longer, it remains effective against infection forms, and its main utility is that it is further useful in destroying Sentinels.

  • Two Betrayals is not one-to-one with Assault on the Control Room in that there are some areas players must use a Banshee to access: the pulse generators are located in platforms high above the canyon floor, and the only air vehicle in the game must be used to reach these rooms. Banshees are thankfully common in this mission, and will always be available where the player requires them. Overall, I found this to be the most uninspired mission of the remastered Halo: by now, the novelty of fighting the Flood has worn off, and the mission is a lengthier one.

  • The final pulse generator requires a banshee that is being protected by a pair of Wraiths. There is a rocket launcher and plenty of rockets available in the valley leading in, and I opted to flank right in order to get closer to the Wraiths without exposing myself to fire. Firing 102 mm rocket-propelled shaped charges, the M41 SPNKR Rocket Launcher is the most powerful weapon on a per-shot basis in Halo, and is capable of making one quick follow-up shot, as well, thanks to its rotating barrel assembly. The weapon excels against Hunters and enemy vehicles, but the rockets are slow-travelling, requiring a bit of leading to hit their target.

  • Halo‘s penultimate mission sends players back to the Truth and Reconciliation, which has now been infested with Flood and sustained severe damage, but otherwise remains space-worthy. Most of the Covenant have evacuated at this point, and special forces were sent in to clear the ship of the Flood. It is under these circumstances that Master Chief joins the fight, and with a massive hole blasted into it, players must navigate the coolant-filled canyons below the ship.

  • After a harrowing fight through the canyons, a pair of Hunters blocks the way to the gravity lift leading back into the Truth and Reconciliation. There is, fortunately, a sniper rifle available: after dropping the two Hunters, it is prudent to discard the rifle in favour of a weapon suited for close quarters engagements. The sniper rifle, for all of its stopping power and range, is useless against the flood: the high-velocity sabot will pass right through the Flood’s biomass without causing any damage.

  • Captain Keyes’ vast knowledge of the UNSC means that the Flood recognises him as a potential host for a proto-Gravemind and have moved his biomass to the ship’s bridge. Throughout the mission, Keyes can be heard imploring Master Chief to stand down, suggesting that he is able to resist the Flood’s influence. Once Master Chief retrieves Keyes’ neural implants, the proto-Gravemind is deprived of criticial military intelligence, and later on, is destroyed by the Covenant.

  • As the missions wear on in Halo, the situation against the Flood becomes increasingly desperate, and the revelation that the Flood might be able to take control of a starship is a terrifying one. For humans, the spread of disease ranks high on our list of fears, alongside war and crime, so the Flood’s presence in Halo is especially terrifying, playing to our fear of things that defy our ability to understand and control.

  • Because individual Flood are weak and easily dispatched, I’ve likened the Flood infestation to Twitter and Reddit mobs, with their spread of misinformation: it is simple enough to destroy them one-to-one, but their numbers are overwhelming and pervasive. To be fighting the Flood with standard weapons is ultimately a gesture that can only buy time, similar to fighting those who spread misinformation on social media. On board the Truth and Reconciliation, there is very little point in holding an area: endlessly spawning Flood make the mission difficult, and the best strategy I have for this mission is to always push forwards to the next area as soon as one is able.

  • Returning to the Pillar of Autumn holds a degree of melancholy, to see the UNSC ship in such disrepair. By this point, the ship was no longer space-worthy, having been damaged by Covenant weaponry and the crash landing. Despite this, much of the ship’s interior remains largely intact, attesting to the ship’s toughness. In this final mission, Covenant, Flood and Sentinels will be countered. The best loadout going through this mission is a combination of the shotgun and plasma rifle.

  • After reaching the bridge, Cortana will attempt to remotely detonate the Pillar of Autumn’s fusion reactors, but this is blocked by Guilty Spark. Fortunately, the manual option always exists, and so, Master Chief fights through hordes of Flood and Covenant, with the occasional Sentinel, to reach the reactor room. There is an armoury nearby with rocket launchers and grenades available: the key here is to use the computer consoles to pull back the reactor coupling and hit the vents with ordinance, which damages the manifold and the core itself.

  • Strictly speaking, a rocket launcher is not necessary: a well-placed fragmentation grenade will be more than enough to damage the manifold, and this approach also allows one to carry an additional weapon, rather than taking one of the weapons slots available and therefore limiting one’s options to fight the Flood and Sentinels in the reactor room. However, the rocket launcher does have its advantages, being a ranged solution that allows the manifold to be hit from further away. Once all four are destroyed, the reactor will begin going critical and it’s time to leave.

  • The drive from the vehicle room to the exit is one of the most iconic missions in Halo and a thrilling one: it’s a race against the clock and will demand a player’s full understanding of driving mechanics in Halo to safely make the journey. I remember this mission best for having played it after a Christmas party with my classmates during my days as a health sciences student: after imbibing three drinks the night before, I woke up the next day, close to noon, with the emperor of all headaches, and played through this mission in an attempt to distract me from the hangover. Since then, I’ve not had more than one drink in any social events.

  • After a lengthy drive, I reach the remaining Longsword in the Pillar of Autumn’s rear hanger with a minute to spare. Boarding it brought my experience of Halo‘s campaign, in the Anniversary graphics, to an end. I liken this experience most to the difference between Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario Bros 3, which was similarly remastered in Super Mario All-Stars: in both cases, classics were given a new set of visuals while retaining classic game-play and were compiled together into one fantastic volume. The PC version of The Master Chief Collection would be most analogous to the upgraded Super Mario All-Stars that included Super Mario WorldHalo 4 is set to be a part of The Master Chief Collection, and will likely not be given too many upgrades owing to the fact it’s still relatively recent (rather like how Super Mario World was not given a visual overhaul when it was included with Super Mario All-Stars).

Overall, while simple by contemporary standards, Halo pioneered features that have become commonplace in modern games. The idea of a regenerating energy shield became all the rage in shooters following Halo, as it allowed players to focus on positioning and movement over locating badly-needed medical kits. Carrying two weapons at once forced players to carefully consider their weapon selection as they moved to a new area: weapons effective in some situations may become completely ineffective in others, and weapons that may appear useless most of the game can occasionally be superbly effective under some conditions. Even in its classic form, Halo has aged very gracefully: shooting and movement feels smooth for a game of its age, and with the remastered graphics, Halo does not feel like a nine-year-old game, much less a nineteen-year-old game. I admit that Halo‘s addition to The Master Chief Collection was somewhat unexpected, but not unwelcome: the original Halo is where it all started, and it was such a phenomenal experience to be able to go through the remastered Halo with updated visuals and sounds, treading through familiar maps that I spent countless hours playing during my time as a high school student, except now, every level has been given a fresh coat of paint. The game might not look as sharp as something like Battlefield or Crysis, but Halo retains all of its magic, and its campaign has near-infinite replay value, especially when co-op is taken into consideration. Having gone through co-op, I can say that the feature is seamless, as smooth as the classic Xbox experience. The addition of classic Halo to the Master Chief Collection on PC is one I’ve been anticipating for quite some time, and with this one now in the books, the next Halo title will be Halo 2, which, as far as I’m concerned, has the best multiplayer experience of any Halo ever made. For Halo 2, I will naturally be going through the campaign and writing about that, but this time, I will also make a more concerted effort to enjoy the multiplayer component, which I feel to be the best of any Halo game.

Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo Reach

“It didn’t take long for Reach to fall: our enemy was ruthless. Efficient. But they weren’t nearly fast enough. For you had already passed the torch. And because of you, we found Halo, unlocked its secrets, shattered our enemy’s resolve. Our victory, your victory, was so close, I wish you could have lived to see it. But you belong to Reach. Your body, your armour, all burned and turned to glass. Everything, except your courage. That, you gave to us. And with it, we can rebuild.” –Dr. Catherine Halsey,

Noble Six is the latest to join Nobel Team, a fireteam of elite Spartan super-soliders. As a member of Noble, Six is deployed to investigate a communications array that had gone offline unexpectedly, and encounter an advance group Covenant soldiers; Noble Team learns that the Covenant intend to invade Reach, and in response, the UNSC enact the Winter Contingency plan. Noble Team is sent to defend Sword Base, and are subsequently tasked with gathering intel on the scale of the Covenant forces and join an assault against the invading Covenant. When a Covenant super-carrier joins the fight, Noble are tasked with boarding a smaller corvette and using it as a makeshift bomb. While they are successful in destroying the super-carrier, Jorge is killed when he volunteers to stay behind and detonate the bomb, which had become damaged. However, a Covenant armada appears. Six and the others return to the surface to assist with evacuation efforts, and Kat is killed by a sniper during evacuation. Noble team is then recalled to extract a critical asset from Dr. Catherine Halsey: the AI chip for Cortana. Jun accompanies Halsey to another base, while Six and Emile fight their way to the Pillar of Autumn. Emile dies when Elites impale him, and Six takes the mass driver, destroying a Covenant battle-cruiser. This buys the Pillar of Autumn enough time to escape Reach, and Six courageously fends off hordes of Covenant soldiers until he is overwhelmed and killed. The Pillar of Autumn arrives at Halo, and six years later, Reach has begun recovering from the Covenant invasion. This is Halo Reach, the final of the Halo games that would be developed by Bungie Studios. Originally released in September 2010, Halo Reach quickly became recognised as the best Halo instalment. It remained available only for the Xbox 360 until joined the ranks of the Master Chief Collection for PC in December 2019, and since its launch, I’ve had the chance to go through the campaign of the first Halo title on PC since the days of Halo 2 Vista.

Halo Reach is best remembered for a sophisticated and engaging multiplayer component, which was praised for its depth and customisation, with the campaign being regarded as a bit less notable than previous titles. Indeed, Noble Six’s path through the game takes him into operations that are only loosely connected as the Covenant begin their invasion of Reach, and in conjunction with the gradual but noticeable death of Noble team’s other members, this can create a sense of disconnect. However, this hectic, impromptu manner also lends itself to Halo Reach‘s thematic elements: the game was meant to showcase the hopelessness and futility of the efforts to stop a Covenant invasion at Reach. As players move through the missions, the already cold and uninviting atmosphere of Reach becomes even more hostile as the Covenant make their presence felt. What begins as a routine operation turns into a desperate push to repel the Covenant and, upon the understanding that the UNSC is outmatched, resistance turns into buying people enough time to escape and also, delivering a construct that ultimately proves instrumental in ending the Human-Covenant War. Halo Reach‘s message is that behind every hero, is a hero. Master Chief’s role in the Human-Covenant War was only possible because Noble Team demonstrated exemplary courage and resilience to complete their mission after discovering the presence of Covenant forces. Even in the face of overwhelming odds and the loss of squad members, Noble Six is committed to the mission, and so, despite making the ultimate sacrifice along with the others, Noble Team ultimately shows that there are some scenarios where in order to win the war, some battles may need to be lost along the way. The chaotic, disconnected missions of Halo Reach therefore are present for a reason: to both show the extent of Noble Team’s heroics in a range of situations, and also show that in war, there isn’t always going to be a story that can be neatly sectioned into a beginning, middle and end. Through its campaign, Halo Reach shows a much more sombre, serious view of conflict and the sacrifices it entails.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This screenshot of me in Halo Reach‘s opening mission, carrying the MA37 Assault Rifle marks the first time I’ve posted anything Halo related to this blog in nearly seven years. The last time I wrote about Halo, I was contemplating the shutdown of the Halo 2 Vista servers; this was a time when I was on the verge of wrapping up my undergraduate thesis. Halo 4 had just been out for a few months then, and I still recall watching TheRadBrad’s videos of Halo 4‘s campaign. Halo 4 won’t arrive for a while, but it’s time to turn my attention to Halo Reach‘s campaign.

  • Nine years and three months after Halo Reach was originally released for the Xbox 360, I’m finally stepping into the campaign on PC. My journey began on the shortest day of the year – I had deliberately chosen to wait a few weeks after Halo Reach released on PC to start the party, on the virtue that this would allow me to capitalise on the Steam Winter Sale. While The Master Chief Collection (understandably) did not receive a discount, purchasing The Master Chief Collection allowed me to also level up my Steam rank.

  • The first mission of Halo Reach involves investigating a communications array that had gone offline. While Noble Team is expecting insurgent forces to behind the unusual occurrence, it becomes very clear that there are other forces at work. The events of Halo Reach occur in July 2552; humanity had first encountered the Covenant in 2525, and so, the UNSC prepares itself for the worst when the Covenant arrive at Reach, a major human colony with sizeable titanium mines, shipyards and UNSC facilities.

  • For me, the go-to weapon in Halo Reach is the M392 Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR). With fifteen shots per magazine, low recoil and high accuracy, the DMR is the best weapon for medium-to-long range engagements. It is superbly effective against all Covenant foes in the campaign, although its main drawback is that ammunition for it is comparatively scarce.

  • Having not played any Halo on PC since 2013, I admit that it took me a bit of time to get back into the swing of things. Initially, I configured Halo Reach with my keyboard and mouse configuation for Battlefield (so, right mouse to ADS, ‘G’ to throw grenades and ‘Q’ to switch grenades), but this proved surprisingly cumbersome. After fiddling around, I reverted to my old setup for Halo 2 (right mouse to throw grenades, middle mouse to ADS, and ‘G’ to switch grenades). It appears that muscle memory has endured, and I found myself doing much better.

  • Dual-wielding is absent in Halo Reach: it was a major component of Halo 2 and Halo 3, allowing players to essentially double their firepower at the expense of an increased reload time and a cumbersome weapon swap. While a cool feature, Bungie would find that dual-wielding negatively impacted weapon balance, and that most competitive matches were fought using weapons that were two-handed. To offset the removal of dual-wielding, weapons that were formerly dual-wielded were improved.

  • One of the more visible aspects of Halo Reach is that, as the campaign progresses, the environments gradually become more apocalyptic and intimidating as the Covenant increase their presence on Reach. Early in Halo Reach, players get a good sense of what the planet typically feels like, and it becomes clear that even on an ordinary day, the different atmospheric properties and space around Reach make the world feel completely different to the skies on Earth.

  • When players encounter Wraiths, the Covenant tank, they are given a H-165 Target Locator, which marks a ground target for close-air support. On my first shot at the mission, I managed to destroy both Wraiths with a single strike to earn a nifty achievement. Traditionally, I dealt with Wraiths either by hammering them with rockets, or else closed the distance to board the Wraith and commandeer its firepower for myself.

  • Since 343 Industries ported Halo Reach into The Master Chief Collection, the PC version has support for up to 4K resolutions and has made considerable improvements to the textures and rendering so that the game looks crisp and sharp even on contemporary monitors. At 1080p, I’m running the game with enhanced visuals, and while Halo Reach may not have the same fidelity as a more recent title, the game certainly looks polished and clean in the graphics department.

  • At the Sword Base, I fight Hunters for the first time in Halo Reach. These enemies were among the toughest in a given Halo game: when I first encountered them in Halo CE back during my days as a high school student, I still remember that on my first encounter without a rocket launcher, I wasted upwards of a quarter hour and my entire reserve of ammunition trying to down them. It wasn’t until later that I realised the exposed orange flesh on a Hunter was vulnerable to damage, and since then, I’ve always dealt with Hunters by blasting them there with a pistol or shotgun.

  • The end of Sword Base takes Noble Six to a familiar atrium: this area ended up being used as one of the multiplayer maps. In the campaign, the facility has been breached by the Covenant, and I was able to find a M41 SPNKR Rocket Launcher. Halo CE and Halo 2‘s rocket launchers were easily the most powerful weapons on a per-shot basis in their respective games, and while one was limited by the ammunition they could carry, having one on hand meant that dealing with enemy armour became trivially easy. At Sword Base, there are no tanks to deal with, but Noble Six will have plenty of Banshees to deal with, and enough rockets can even tear a Phantom apart.

  • After clearing the interior of Sword Base, I take a moment to regroup before pressing forwards with the mission. I’ve got the M45 Shotgun here: compared to the M90, the M45 has a tighter grouping, increased range and higher damage per shot, but the trade-off is that it only holds six shots, compared to the twelve it once held in Halo CE and Halo 2. Upon reaching the top of Sword Base, Noble Six must grab a rocket launcher and eliminate as many Banshees as possible. Care must be taken up here, since careless use of the rocket launcher can result in a quick death.

  • I played the first two missions on the Winter Solstice and the day after, during which I was celebrating 冬至 (jyutping dung1 zi3, the Chinese Winter Solstice) with family. After this, I returned to work, but with the Christmas season upon me, I spent most of the afternoon of Christmas Eve going through Halo Reach. At this point in time, I had reached the third mission, a nighttime sniping mission not unlike the start of Halo CE‘s third mission: the goal here was to recon the strength and positioning of the Covenant numbers.

  • While night missions typically entail a stealth aspect, the Spartans of Halo are not particularly suited for stealth: all engagements in Halo inevitably go loud. Weapons in Halo Reach do not have suppressors, further accentuating the idea that blasting through a scenario is the best route to go. Being accustomed to this is play-style is why I typically fare so poorly in stealth-driven missions: a first person shooter without an emphasis on shooting is hardly a shooter.

  • In order to fight in dark environments, players have night vision capabilities built into their visors. This ability replaces the flashlight that Master Chief had, and is a bit easier to use, since it illuminates the entire screen rather than the area underneath the beam. This ability helped me in the third mission, and after blasting Covenent as I moved through human settlements and reaching the end of the mission, I ended up going out into the cold of Christmas Eve for a steak dinner at a local Chinese bistro, before taking a drive to enjoy the Christmas lights around town.

  • On Christmas Day itself, after the traditional morning gift exchange, I moved into the fourth mission, which entails disabling Covenant assets that have been impeding UNSC air support. This mission marks the opening of the full-scale battle against the Covenant, and while humanity will be defeated, it does feel like humanity stands a chance when Spartans are present; armed with the M319 Grenade Launcher, better known as the “pro pipe” for the difficulty one encounters in wielding this properly, players can decimate scores of Grunts and Jackals.

  • The Covenant Type-31 Needle Rifle is their counterpart to the DMR and stands in for the Covenant Carbine. While lacking its smaller cousin’s automatic fire and tracking ability, the Needle Rifle is a precision weapon that can also super-combine to create devastating explosions in its victims. Where the DMR ammunition is in short supply, the Needle Rifle will work very well in a pinch, and this quickly became my favourite Covenant weapon to utilise.

  • Halo Reach has both the Type-51 Plasma Repeater and the Type-25 Plasma Rifle. Both weapons seem similar in function, but the Plasma Repeater has several distinguishing characteristics: its projectile velocity is slightly higher, deals slightly less damage and fires fewer rounds, but never overheats owing to its ability to vent automatically. As the weapon is fired, its rate of fire decreases. Hence, for most close-quarters situations where one is looking to disable shields, the Plasma Rifle is superior, whereas for more general-purpose combat, the Plasma Repeater is preferred owing to its versatility.

  • The fourth mission entails destroying Covenant anti-air emplacements and a shield spire. There are small shielded grates one must get through, but once these are defeated, any sort of damage will be sufficient to wreck these turrets. Once the shield spire is weakened, a UNSC frigate will descend upon it and ready its MAC, prompting Jorge to wonder why MAC rounds are approved for use in the atmosphere. He’s likely referring to the fact that firing from a Frigate while in the atmosphere may have adverse effects on the engines, but this is a moot point; after the frigate destroys the spire, it is annihilated by the cloaked Covenant Super-Carrier, Long Night of The Solace.

  • After beating the fourth mission in the morning, I went for a brief lunch, then stepped out for a walk. After Christmas biscuits and hot chocolate on my return, I resumed the Halo Reach party, finally reaching the secret Sabre base for what is probably my favourite mission in all of Halo Reach. The level opens with Noble Team storming the grounds leading to the base, and besides the exciting gameplay in this mission, I also know this level as the first time I’d ever played Halo Reach‘s campaign.

  • On the evening of that May LAN party concurrent with the local anime convention, my friends had begun arriving after I had wrapped up The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, but it was still too early to fire up the grill and make burgers. However, we had the right number of people to co-op, and one of my buddies wanted to try Long Night of The Solace out. After we stormed the grounds to the base and died numerous times on account of the fact that neither of us are console gamers, we finally reached the launch pad and lifted off into space to square off against the Covenant there.

  • At the LAN party, I believe we had just boarded the Covenant Corvette, when enough people had arrived for us to start cooking. We put the game aside and prepared to enjoy dinner. A massive thunderstorm had just rolled through the area, as well, and when we finished our burgers, the only thing left on the agenda was Halo Reach‘s multiplayer. Fast forwards to the present, and as the sun set, I finally returned here. It feels great to be back here after nearly ten years, and the controls for controlling the YSS-1000 Sabre, a multi-purpose UNSC fighter that could operate in low orbit, as well as deep space. Armed with a pair of 30 mm cannons and missiles, the Saber also possesses powerful shields.

  • The ultra-dense 30 mm rounds are suited for dropping shields, and the missiles themselves are excellent against unshielded targets. The performance of the Sabre in Halo Reach would suggest that Sabres could hold off Covenant forces reasonably well, and indeed, Halo lore pegs Sabres as being excellent weapons against the Covenant counterparts, although due to the secret nature of the Sabre programme, only a few hundred were ever manufactured, and these excellent space superiority fighters never became mass produced. With PC controls, flying a Sabre was a joy, and I had considerably less difficulty with the Covenant forces than I had during co-op.

  • I thus boarded the Covenant corvette, fought my way through the bridge and cleared it, allowing UNSC forces to commence boarding. The plan was to bring a bomb on board and then detonate it while the corvette was refuelling from the Long Night of The Solace. Covenant environments look amazing by the time of Halo Reach, featuring distinctly advanced alien architecture. In Halo CE and Halo 2, more primitive graphics left more to the imagination, and I personally found Covenant environments to be more dull.

  • Once the UNSC forces board, they’ll bring with them the typical human weapons, and it feels great to top up on DMR rounds. I’ve found that the assault rifle performs reasonably well at close quarters against unshielded targets like Grunts and Jackals, but beyond this, it takes more than a full magazine to down the shields on an Elite at normal difficulty. As such, I see the assault rifle as being a less-effective plasma rifle, intended to help one close the distance and get in for a melee kill. With the ‘F’ key bound to melee, these have traditionally been my favourite way to get kills against Elites and Brutes.

  • The “bomb” that the UNSC forces utilise to destroy the Long Night of The Solace is a slip-space drive: by creating a slip-space rupture, the device can forcibly transport matter in the affected area elsewhere to create desctruction. The human drives are known as Shaw-Fujikawa engines and operate by accelerating particles to generate miniature black holes that act as a short cut of sorts between two points. In Halo lore, humanity developed the Shaw-Fujikawa engines independently of any ancient technology, which is an impressive feat: the Covenant’s drives are based off Forerunner designs.

  • Once the Covenant corvette is clear of hostiles, it’s time to evacuate and let the makeshift bomb do its magic. Unfortunately, the timed detonator has become damaged, and there are no vehicles left on the corvette that are flight-worthy. Jorge stays behind to manually detonate the bomb, sacrificing himself to defend Reach. He throws Noble Six out of the hangar and sets the bomb off to destroy the Super-Carrier, but unbeknownst to him, the Super-Carrier was only the tip of the iceberg, and a full Covenant armada has arrived at Reach.

  • Halo Reach suddenly goes from being about repelling a Covenant invasion to evacuating the planet and extracting an item critical to the UNSC. Back in New Alexandria, a large metropolis on Reach, Noble Six and the rest of the squad are tasked with assisting UNSC forces to help the civilians evacuate ahead of the main invading force. New Alexandria is an iconic location in Halo Reach, with its high-tech, ultra-modern skyline: the multiplayer map, Boardwalk, is famous as being the location of the showdown between Arbiter and Ch33f’s “n00bs” in Arby n’ The Chief‘s “Digital Fruitcakes” episode.

  • Brutes make an appearance at this stage of the campaign: these ursine-like beasts were first introduced in Halo 2, being savages that were essentially slower, more durable Elites with a tendency to charge at players once all of their allies were killed. While some have wondered why Brutes show up in Halo Reach, the answer is that they were deployed to assist with the invasion, being powerful shock troops that were both more resilient and expendable than the Elites.

  • The arrival of the Brutes means that I got to fire the Type-25 Spiker, which fire super-heated tungsten rods. While hitting harder than the assault rifle, the Spiker’s rounds have a much lower muzzle velocity: human weapons in the classic Halo games are hit-scan, and immediately deal damage to targets that are hit. Hit-scan weapons are those that project a ray out from the weapon into world-space, and then if the ray intersects with any entity that can be damaged, that entity will lose health equivalent to whatever the damage value of the weapon projecting the ray was. This is a very computationally inexpensive approach, and results in weapons that have no drop or travel time.

  • The observant reader will note that for the most part, I almost always run with the “sprint” armour ability. Armour abilities were first introduced in Halo Reach to specialise a Spartan’s abilities. The base “sprint” specialisation allows one to briefly run faster, although players can also equip a jetpack for aerial travel, active camouflage to conceal themselves from enemies, a hologram that acts as a distraction, a drop shield that provides temporary cover and recover health, and the infamous armour lock, which renders one invincible for a short period of time. All armour abilities have their utility, but sprint allows one to escape difficult situations and is generally the most versatile. There are only a few places in the campaign that require the use of a jetpack.

  • When Brute Chieftains appear, they wield the Type-2 Gravity Hammer. These weapons were once simple war hammers that the Brutes used, and were modified by the Covenant to incorporate a powerful anti-gravity drive that emits a kinetic blast. The weapon is the Brute counterpart to the Elite’s Energy Sword, holding unique advantages and disadvantages over one of Halo‘s most iconic weapons.

  • One of the most noticeable things about Halo Reach was its soundtrack: while still composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori, who had done the earlier Halo soundtracks, Reach‘s OST is much more solemn in tone, making use of much slower tempos and choral pieces to create a sense of melancholy. The music captures the subdued mood of Reach’s fall well, lacking the intensity and upbeat energy that was prevalent in the earlier Halo soundtracks. However, there are also some spirited pieces in Halo Reach‘s soundtrack that accompany the action-oriented moments.

  • The second of the missions in New Alexandria takes Noble Six to some of the most detailed and visually impressive locations in the game as they work to clear out buildings and provide as much support as possible to UNSC forces and civilians alike. The mission is unique in that the order in which players are asked to destroy Covenant jamming devices are randomly assigned: on my first run, I started at the hospital, moved to the night club and then finished at the penthouse.

  • The night club has some impressive lighting effects, especially considering that the original Xbox 360 version was similarly detailed. The Master Chief Collection‘s version of Halo Reach is said to have been only given some improvements with respect to visual quality, and aside from things like more sophisticated lighting techniques and improved texture resolution, plus updating assets so they can be properly rendered at up to 4K, the graphics have otherwise remained unchanged.

  • Here, I pilot the UH-144 Falcon: this is the only time during the campaign where I was able to fly in an atmosphere, and I was unsuccessful in trying to commandeer Banshees. The Falcon handles quite unlike any vehicle I’d piloted in Halo previously, acting similarly to a helicopter in its flight characteristics. The campaign version of the Falcon has a 20 mm autocannon, and this weapon excels both in anti-personnel and anti-armour roles; the high-explosive rounds have some splash damage, and so, can be useful for dealing with groups of foot mobiles. In the air, Banshees stand no chance against it. In the campaign, the Falcon has a unique ability to lock its altitude, making it much easier to fly.

  • I never did bother to find out what would happen in the mission if one were to lose their Falcon, although I imagine that Halo Reach would have mechanisms to ensure the mission was not lost. Half-Life 2 outright punished players for losing mission-critical assets, and I vividly recall the days of losing my scout car to the train in the Highway 17 mission, netting me a “failure to preserve mission critical resources” game over.

  • It turns out that the multiplayer map, Reflection, is modelled after the penthouse segment of the mission, and the penthouse itself was modelled after Halo 2‘s Ivory Tower. Compared to the utilitarian Ivory Tower, Reflection is more intricately detailed, feeling like an indoor zen garden with Japanese and Chinese influences: the level designer is said to have Asianed It Up™, and the unique aesthetic of the map, coupled with its iconic and familiar layout, means that this is probably going to be my favourite of the multiplayer maps.

  • Once all of the Covenant jamming devices are destroyed, Noble Team is recalled to extract critical materials from Dr. Halsey. The Covenant begin glassing Reach, and the Spartans make their way to a shelter. However, Spartan Kat is killed by a Covenant Sniper, and three days later, once the Covenant have left the area, the remaining members of Noble Team re-emerge and prepare for one final mission.

  • Here, I pick up the Type-52 Special Applications Rifle (Focus Rifle) and wield it against distant foes. While similar to the Beam Rifle in earlier Halo instalments, the Focus Rifle fires a continuous beam that takes a few moments to damage enemies. Its unusual operation makes it a weapon that is only useful under certain conditions, and the beam itself actually has a limited range.

  • It is only this late in the game that I’m able to helm a Scorpion MBT. The main tank of the UNSC, the Scorpion is a force multiplier in the hands of a Spartan, and used it to clear off the Covenant forces standing between Noble Six and Dr. Halsey. The damage to Reach from the glassing is apparent here: the atmosphere has taken on a brown-orange hue consistent with that of a massive forest fire, and it feels like the apocalypse here.

  • It is under these desperate conditions that the remnants of Noble Team must fight their way to Sword Base and reach Dr. Halsey, who is located in a research facility deep underground. Of the Halo titles I’ve played, backtracking was also present in Halo CE, where players would go through Halo’s Control Room and the canyons leading there twice, as well as fight through the Pillar of Autumn twice. In Reach, players visit Sword Base and its surroundings twice; like Halo CE, returning to the base sees it under completely different circumstances.

  • At this point in time, I’ve got no idea as to when Halo CE will be added to The Master Chief Collection, but with closed betas occurring at present, it looks as though February or March could be reasonable release dates for the PC version of Halo CE. The original Halo: Combat Evolved was released in 2001, and I played through it during my days as a high school student. I’ll reminisce more about those days once Halo CE comes out for PC, and return my attention back to Halo Reach for the present.

  • After taking an elevator into a vast subterranean cave, Noble Six and the others must defend against waves of Covenant soldiers who are determined to seize the Forerunner artifact. Dr. Halsey had been studying the artifact and is very nearly complete with its analysis, prompting Noble Team to lay down automatic turrets to help with the counterattack. These turrets can be taken offline with enough damage, but during my run, I managed to keep all of them up. During this skirmish, I attempted to board a Wraith, thinking to seize its firepower for myself, but after some difficulty, was forced to destroy it.

  • With the Covenant repelled for now, Noble Six takes possession of the AI matrix holding Cortana and evacuates. Sword Base is destroyed, denying the Covenant their prize, and the final mission of Halo Reach becomes a desperate race to the Pillar of Autumn. After a brief drive, the road becomes blocked, and Six must proceed on foot, eventually reaching the docking area. Here, I made use of a sniper rifle to pick off distant foes before setting off in search of a more versatile weapon for combat.

  • Somewhere along the way, I acquired a Model 6 Grindell/Galilean Nonlinear Rifle (more commonly known as the Spartan Laser), an immensely powerful laser capable of ridiculous destructive power. A Spartan Laser can punch holes through organic matter, blasting through multiple armoured vehicles and exiting with enough power to grievously wound infantry on the other side. It is so powerful that even Phantoms can be punctured. To offset its incredible power, the Spartan Laser has a charge time before it can be fired, a low rate of fire, and only has enough battery power for four shots.

  • In the final mission, I also had the chance to try out the Type-52 Plasma Launcher, which fires homing bolts of plasma that globe up and stick to their targets before exploding, similarly to plasma grenades. The weapon is fun to use and quite damaging, being effective against all enemies in the campaign, although like the Spartan Laser, the weapon is limited by its low capacity. Here, I fight my way to the Pillar of Autumn and manage to deliver the AI Matrix to Captain Keyes. When Noble Six notices Emile is killed, Six opts to stay behind and continue manning the mass driver to provide covering fire.

  • Noble Six manages to deliver the package to Captain Keyes of the Pillar of Autumn. This “package” is the matrix for the AI, Cortana, and the success of this delivery plays a major role in the remainder of the Human-Covenant War. After Emile is impaled by an Elite (and dies in the most spectacular manner of anyone in Noble Team), Noble Six decides to stay behind and man the mass driver in order to keep the skies clear for the Pillar of Autumn’s departure.

  • After nine years, I finally get to sit behind the controls of the mass driver and merrily blasted away incoming Covenant forces. It’s been a month since I’ve completed Halo Reach‘s campaign, and a full month into the new decade, things are beginning to settle down now. At this point in time, High School Fleet The Movie has been in Japanese Cinema for nearly two weeks, and I’ve been immensely fortunate in that Anime News Network has not yet sent anyone to tear this one down. This could be in part owing to rumours the film is still plainly incomplete in some areas, and if true, it could mean an earlier BD release, as they would cut the theatrical run shorter to push the improved version in the home release.

  • With the knowledge that Anime News Network does not have a shot at dissuading others from watching High School Fleet The Movie for the present, I can rest a little easier. Back in Halo Reach, I took the shot to destroy the Covenant cruiser and then sat back to watch the closing cinematic, then survived briefly against the Covenant onslaught to end the game. Thus, after nine years, I’ve finally had an opportunity to go through Halo Reach and experience the story for myself, and I can say that it was an unexpected, but completely welcome. With Halo Reach‘s campaign in the books, I do see myself revisiting the campaign through co-op play, and I’ll also look to take a shot at the multiplayer.

Having now completed Halo Reach‘s campaign, this marks the first time I’ve properly played a Halo game for PC since 2007’s Halo 2 Vista. Although that was counted as a failure amongst some circles, I derived hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of Halo 2‘s campaign and multiplayer. To be able to go back now and relive a game that was integral to my youth is such a blessing, and so, when news of The Master Chief Collection‘s arrival on PC became a fact, I was ecstatic. The first instalment, Halo Reach, was marked by a series of delays in its development and release, but for me, this simply demonstrated 343 Industries’ commitment to excellence. The finished product shows this commitment: while I’ve encountered frame drops in Halo Reach, and saw a bug that prevented one mission from loading, the remainder of Halo Reach is a masterfully crafted. Aside from minor visual updates and support for high resolutions, Halo Reach is otherwise a 1:1 reproduction of the original game, conferring the same incredible experience that players in 2010 would have had upon spinning up Halo Reach for the first time. This sense of wonder and excitement has translated very well into the PC environment, and beyond the aforementioned issues of performance and loading, the PC version of The Master Chief Collection offers a chance for those who’ve played the originals to relive timeless experiences. For folks like myself, who are predominantly PC-focused, The Master Chief Collection provides a chance to finally see why the Halo games of Bungie’s era are counted as some of the greatest of all time. However, Halo Reach‘s campaign is merely the beginning of this great journey – I have yet to fully experience the refreshed multiplayer component and cooperative modes. Beyond Halo Reach‘s full offerings, The Master Chief Collection will be bringing back each and every Halo instalment from Halo CE, all the way to Halo 4: the Halo games are massive, and I am incredibly excited to have this opportunity to go through the games that defined my youth.