Writing the review of a remastered like Halo 2: Anniversary always brings a bit of nostalgia, because the first thing that you are forced to notice is the time that has passed since the launch of the original. Halo 2 was released way back in 2004, a fateful year for the world of video games and in particular for the FPS genre, due to the release of still very popular titles such as Half-Life 2 and the first Far Cry.
A few years earlier Bungie, with Halo: Combat Evolved, had finally managed to make the first-person shooters on console playable in a dignified way and had created the most iconic franchise of the newborn Xbox, a machine that desperately needed products that would make it recognizable and gave it an identity.
Halo 2, therefore, had the ambitious goal not only to consolidate the success of the first Halo but to transform that hugely successful experience into a real franchise. If we want, it is from here that the mythology of the series was born, which was then expanded with the subsequent chapters and the spin-offs. Halo 2 was hailed as a print and public masterpiece, managing to sell nearly nine million copies (a huge amount at the time) throughout its life cycle.
It was also the title that made console multiplayer affirm and allowed to overcome the mistrust of many Japanese producers. Even with the joypads, it was possible to have a more than satisfying online experience. Of course, the remastered version has completely lost this very strong innovative charge, almost revolutionary in its own way, but this does not mean Halo 2 cannot represent an excellent experience even today.
Halo 2: Anniversary is the third Halo to be launched in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection for PC (the Xbox One has long been available). It comes after Halo: Reach and Halo: Combat Evolved because Microsoft has decided to follow the narrative chronology of the series and not the actual release of the various titles. Halo 2 begins immediately after the end of the first episode, with Commander Thel ‘Vadamee, head of the Particular Justice fleet, transformed into an Arbiter by the Covenant board for his failure in Combat Evolved.
His fate is to die in battle to defend the cause of his people. On the other side of the barricade, Master Chief is celebrated on Cairo station as a liberating hero. From this simple premise comes a story that leads the player to follow the deeds of both characters, in a breathtaking succession of missions, up to the grand finale … which of course we won’t tell you.
2The PC port
Halo 2: Anniversary isn’t the first time in Halo 2 on PC. Fortunately, we are faced with a completely different product from the one launched in 2007 for Windows Vista, which was not exactly of excellent quality and had many unsolved problems. The most logical choice for 343 Industries was to start from the work already done on the 2014 Xbox One version, present in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection, offering the same graphic revision and the same contents.
In this sense Halo 2: Anniversary does not impress, because it is in all respects it was expected to be: a faithful port. Being an Xbox game, the remastering work was much deeper than that done for the chapters released on Xbox 360, including completely redone textures, finished models, a vastly improved lighting system and various other changes that will make fans happy of numbers, such as support for 4K, 60fps or the ability to switch in real-time from remastered graphics to the original with the press of a button.
Speaking of the game itself, it is clear that Halo 2: Anniversary carries some limitations due to its no longer young age. The multiplayer, as revolutionary as it was said in 2004, today is much less upsetting and shows some problems widely overcome by the following chapters, such as the inaccurate hitboxes and a very ethical and competitive way of conceiving the online that is now of interest to very few people. That said, the single-player campaign remains more than enjoyable and, indeed, superior to a great deal of modern stuff in terms of storytelling and story conducting.
At the time someone complained of its brevity and a certain confusion in the plot, but these are now limits exceeded, either for the ways in which it is sold (it is included in a collection with dozens of other contents), or because we already know how certain situations will develop.
Changing the subject, playing we could not help noticing the excellent artificial intelligence of the enemies, a positive fact, but that left us with a lot of bitterness in the mouth because it showed us in a plastic way how little has evolved the world of video games in this field. There are obviously difficulties in overcoming certain models, otherwise, it cannot be explained. In any case, this is not the right space to reason on the matter.
Halo 2: Anniversary is an excellent title, essential for those who want to replay the entire series in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection, also because it represents a fundamental piece of the franchise’s narrative universe. By purchasing it on PC, you will take home the full optional version, but don’t expect it to become too detached from the Xbox One version, because that’s the game.