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Halo: The Master Chief Collection preview - anniversary plans

343 Industries shows off more of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, with Shacknews able to go hands-on with the upcoming compilation. We also learn more about the steps 343 is taking to update Halo 3 and 4, as well as some new details about the Halo Channel.

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The ten-year anniversary of Halo 2 is fast approaching and 343 Industries is ready to celebrate in grand style with the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. It's been no secret that one of the major draws of the upcoming compilation will be the remastered Halo 2 Anniversary update. Shacknews recently had a chance to go hands-on with this part of the game, while also checking out a few other pieces of the Master Chief Collection puzzle.

The first thing to note about Halo: The Master Chief Collection is that 343 made ample improvements to the graphic switches. Throughout my time with Halo 2's single-player, I was able to switch back-and-forth between the remastered graphics and the original Xbox-style visuals instantly. On top of that, the switch now extends to audio. The development team went to painstaking measures to add new sound effects to each of the game's weapons and inventory items. However, the audio will likewise switch between the remastered sounds to the original Halo 2 effects at the press of a button. It's a cool feature for anyone looking to experience the original game just as they remembered it.

As for the game itself, I had a chance to run through Halo 2's Cairo Station, starting from the 'Home Field Advantage' sequence. The stage is just as brutal now as it was back then, with invading Covenant forces bursting through the blast doors with no mercy. Everything about this stage remained intact, from the checkpoints, to the weapon placement, to the original dialogue. With Cairo proving just as difficult today as it did back in 2004, I had more than enough time to switch back and forth and appreciate both the remastered visuals, as well as the original aesthetic. It's hard to place a preference on either, so I'll simply say that it's nice to have the choice.

The rest of my hands-on time was spent with Halo 2 multiplayer, trying out the remastered multiplayer maps for Slayer. Among the maps I was able to try out were:

  • Zenith (formerly Ascension) - An open stage with spires along each side and a wide open space in the center. The spires leave ample room for snipers or anyone that wants to fire from a safe distance. The center area was home to a lot of firefights, conveniently accessible from the spire exits. A Banshee is available and capable pilots will make pests out of themselves in no time, since only a rocket launcher and a great sense of aim will be able to take it down.
  • Lockout - Lockout is laid out similar to Ascension, in the sense that it's filled with multi-level towers. The towers all converge in one large center area, which is where a lot of the fighting will take place. But just like in Ascension, some of the tower locations will make for great sniping locations, while the towers' many narrow passageways will set the stage for a lot of close-quarters combat.
  • Shrine (formerly Sanctuary) - Shrine features dual stone bases, each consisting of multi-level towers over an active outdoor creek. While the bases are good for close quarter fighting, the area surrounding the water is one of the more wide-open combat spaces, with only a few large rocks to act as cover. There are a few gravity lifts to help get you to some high-ground, but this map will mostly be a lot of face-to-face firefights.
  • Zanzibar - Zanzibar was the most wide-open of the arenas I did battle in, leaving a lot of space for vehicle combat. Warthogs, Mongooses, and Ghosts are placed throughout the map and are the quickest way to get across the area. There's a large base that's ideal for close combat and anyone that makes it up to the upper area can find turrets, which will make picking off anyone riding a Mongoose a snap, though a ledge just underneath will be the perfect spot to pick off any turret users. There's also the distinctive giant wheel in the center of the map, housing some of the stage's heavier-hitting weapons.

It should be noted that I played the entirety of multiplayer with the Halo 2 controls, for a greater sense of authenticity. However, the control schemes for all of the Halo games are also present on the options menu. That includes the controversial Halo 4 controls that featured a 'sprint' button. I did attempt to use these controls and the sprint didn't appear to work, meaning this function will likely be disabled in older Halo maps for the sake of balance.

While 343 is putting a lot of effort into the Halo 2 restoration, that's not to say they're ignoring the other games entirely. The team made sure to note that they are indeed putting fresh coats of paint on both Halo 3 and Halo 4, making sure both run at 1080p and 60fps. To that end, 343 showed off a demo of Halo 3 running at its new resolution, showing off improved lighting and textures through a stretch of the game's opening stage. It's a small sample, but should hopefully be indicative of the effort that the studio is putting into the remainder of the latter two Halo numbered sequels.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection hopes to be a major culmination of a major 2014 Halo blitz that includes the launch of the Halo channel. In addition to serving as a hub for Halo gaming lore, original programming, and eSports matches, 343 is opening the possibility to tying certain Master Chief Collection and Halo 5 multiplayer beta unlocks to content viewed on the Halo Channel. Halo will also take full advantage of its Twitch integration, with a built-in event feed and a ticker that keeps track of who's killing who, what game mode is currently being played, and the current map on display. 343 will look to keep this part of the channel active at all times by randomly featuring a Twitch user that's playing through any of the Halo games.

The next step on the road to Halo 5: Guardians is set to begin in two months when Halo: The Master Chief Collection hits Xbox One on November 11.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 17, 2014 6:01 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Halo: The Master Chief Collection preview - anniversary plans.

    343 Industries shows off more of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, with Shacknews able to go hands-on with the upcoming compilation. We also learn more about the steps 343 is taking to update Halo 3 and 4, as well as some new details about the Halo Channel.

    • reply
      September 17, 2014 6:09 AM

      [deleted]

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      September 17, 2014 6:09 AM

      Even though I'm getting burned out on re-releases, I love it when an entire series winds up on one system. True, the collection lacks the two side entries, but all the games starring Master Chief calling one system home is pretty cool.

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        September 17, 2014 6:34 AM

        After playing Reach because I got it for free, this is really piquing my interest and might get me to buy a One D:

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      September 17, 2014 6:25 AM

      I'm really looking forward to this. I really don't care about the ability to switch between the OG graphics and the new ones. I'd almost rather they didn't tie themselves to reproducing everything that closely and make some minor adjustments to make the game play better or look even better.

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        September 17, 2014 6:51 AM

        Yeah this.I've been playing black mesa source and I first thought the changes would 've blasphemous.
        But actually they're really smart and use the technology to improve the game. It fixes some corridors, opens up some of the bigger environments and makes the facility generally look more realistic, rather than impressionistic pipes and walkways

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        September 17, 2014 6:55 AM

        Eh, you know if you started futzing with mechanics, the rage would be insane. Hell, it's insane on games that aren't hyper-classics like Halo, like Diablo 3 and Battlefield and shit.

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        September 17, 2014 7:20 AM

        If done right it can basically be a well edited final draft or whatever they call the latest release of books are. I know this is common in book series where they have to tighten up the graphics story so they fit with changes made in newer books.

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      September 17, 2014 6:43 AM

      Any word on a PC release?

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      September 17, 2014 8:26 AM

      So now rooster teeth can redo all of RvB :)

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      September 17, 2014 11:58 AM

      Thanks for this write up! OMG so Halo 3 and 4 are going to get a the same face lift as Halo 2, I hope I did not miss read this that would be incredible, I really hope so man they can delay 3 and 4 all they want as long as it gets the 2 treatment is my opinion.

      Cool stuff really looking forward to it.

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        September 17, 2014 12:12 PM

        It's not going to get the "Anniversary Edition" treatment, but it's going to get better lighting and shaders to go with 1080p and 60fps, so 3 and 4 will at least get SOMETHING.

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          September 17, 2014 12:12 PM

          Last of Us on the PS4 was pretty great. Halo at 60fps will be awesome.

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