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Master Chief Collection Update Overhauls Halo 2’s Visuals


Master Chief stands in his massive armor, talking with a holographic projection of his AI Cortana.

Screenshot: Microsoft

Halo 2 is a very good video game. It has everything you could ever want: little blue-green guys, bigger blue and red guys, some cool gorilla men, the list goes on! However, in its 2014 re-release in the Halo anthology the Master Chief Collection, it did not have most of the graphical details that actually made the video game look good. Now, seven years later, classic Halo 2 is back and looks way better than I expected.

Upon original release, Halo 2 was the flagship remaster for the Master Chief Collection. Many players, however, were disappointed by the graphics of classic Halo 2. One could blame this on nostalgia, and that is definitely part of some player’s responses, but something was unquestionably wrong about the game’s visuals. Most famously there were no shadows in cutscenes, which make the game look disgustingly flat. Coupled with the washed out lighting and odd colour grading of the Windows Vista version, and Halo 2 starts looking pretty dreadful. Many of Window Vista’s most messiest features were dragged forward into the future when the anthology was released in 2014.

In addition to more obvious graphical glitches, there were issues with wind and water coloration on some levels and multiplayer maps that have since been fixed. The patch also adds in weather effects on several maps that have been missing since the game’s re-release and fixes foliage rendering issues on nVidia graphics cards. All-in-all, the difference is night and day. If you want to see an overview of every fix in Halo 2, including—much to my chagrin—the removal of a very friendly Brute who accidentally rolled his tank, you can check out the video below.

As someone who didn’t grow up with Halo 2 (I grew up with Halo 3 and Reach), I had absolutely no idea how intense the visual downgrade of the MCC was until I saw the post-patch comparisons. This was an especially egregious issue because of the Master Chief Collection’s role in maintaining the history of the franchise. Halo 2 classic didn’t land for me the way it could’ve with the original graphics intact. The game’s status as a technical leap forward from Halo: Combat Evolved was totally undercut by these visual glitches. Fixing the classic graphics means better representing Halo 2’s place in the series’ history, and the history of the XBOX as a whole.

Now, please port Halo 5 to PC (I know 343 won’t actually do this, and that they’re incredibly busy with Halo: Infinite. Let a girl dream though.).

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