Halo: The Master Chief Collection
At PAX 2014, a large Halo panel from 343 Industries dove into the the future of the Halo franchise, including Halo 2’s myriad changes as it makes its way to Xbox One.
The panel included 343 Industry’s Frank O’Connor, Certain Affinity president Max Hoberman, Halo series executive producer Kiki Wolfkill, senior director for publishing Paul Lipson, and Halo: Master Chief Collection executive producer Dan Ayoub.
The panel began with a showcase of impressive Halo cosplayers where one (dressed as the comical Mister Chief) proposed marriage to another Spartan cosplayer. “Thanks for saying yes,” O’Connor said after she said yes to the proposal, “That could have been awkward.” After the romantic opening, the panel moved onto Halo.
This year is the 10th anniversary of Halo 2, which is why its release on the Master Chief Collection is so timely. Some details showcased during the panel were previously revealed, like the instantaneous switching from the new to old visuals, but a new detail is that the game’s music and sound will also switch from new to old.
Halo 2’s soundtrack has been completely adapted and re-orchestrated. The sound effects have also been overhauled, and they played some of the new music and sounds for the audience. The new music is familiar but much fuller, as it was recorded in surround sound. Steve Vai has returned to re-record guitar for the soundtrack and it sounds as good as ever. They showed off (or rather sounded off) on some of the new sounds for the guns, and they are all deafeningly loud. Every weapon is much more intimidating, even the pistol which was famously nerfed for the Halo sequel. The energy sword in particular booms when it is brandished. It makes the old energy sword’s original brandishing effect sound like you flipped on a malfunctioning light switch.
An official Halo 2 soundtrack will release alongside Halo: Master Chief collection on November 11.
After breaking down the game’s sound, the panel dove into some of the multiplayer updates focusing specifically on the recently revealed Lockout. I played the game yesterday, but the game felt so familiar that I didn’t notice some of the changes, or in other cases, I just didn’t get a chance to interact with them. The corner of the ramp leading from the area with the darkened hallway up to the sniper perch, for example, has been pushed out a little bit, creating a point of cover on the way up and a new place from small skirmishes.
Other changes include the glass in the middle of the battlefield can now be broken, though it must take a significant amount of damage first. A clip of the new Lockout showed a Spartan tossing four grenades on it before it broke. Also, a handful of stalactites now hang above a few key points in the map, and they can be shot down to kill people camping on the sniper perch, for example. Using Forge, these new additions can be removed if you so choose.
Here are some of the updates and changes coming to Halo 2's Forge.
We also got chance to see some of Lockout’s original design documents, which were revisited when rebuilding the game. You can see them in the gallery below. Lockout was one of the first maps created for Halo 2, and it apparently played very poorly at first. It took a number of small adjustments to make it ultimately become one of the game’s most popular maps.
After Halo 2 (which was the majority focus of the panel) we got to see a bit of the updated Halo 3 in action. The game runs in 1080p at 60 frames per second, and it looks very smooth. We got to see the opening cutscene and a little bit of the first level. Small details like the water and leaves stood out as looking cleaner and more distinct. Seeing them in higher detail reminded me of putting on a pair of glasses for the first time. The game’s lighting effects have also been overhauled, but without comparing it directly to Halo 3’s original release, it’s hard to say if it made a big difference.
Unfortunately, no details were offered regarding the changes made to Halo 1’s multiplayer. 343 did say that switching between the new and old graphics in the campaign will be instantaneous as opposed to the fade of the Xbox 360 version of Halo 1. 343 is promising more details coming in the next month for Halo 1’s multiplayer.
Finally 343 acknowledged their fandom for Halo: Reach, but confirmed that there are no current plans to similarly update it for Xbox One.