I'm Worried About These Halo Remakes

I'm Worried About These Halo Remakes

I came into a recent Halo: Master Chief Collection preview event expecting to think, "Yep, it's Halo alright" and be on my merry way. Instead I encountered a surprising number of problems.

Halo 2 Anniversary, specifically, left me curiously cold, which is worrisome because the game is only a couple months from release. I got to play a bit of the campaign's first level (largely to try out the totally redone graphics/art, which can be instantly toggled on and off with the press of a button) and a few multiplayer maps. I have concerns about both.

Let's start with the single-player, because it lost me among a forest of red flags. Most notably, the frame rate dipped pretty significantly when I switched to upgraded graphics. The effect of seeing the old original Xbox version of Cairo Station instantly repainted in dazzling last-gen calibre visuals was neat as ever, but the game suddenly felt chuggy and slightly awkward to control. Truth be told, I ended up switching back to dull, washed out original Xbox graphics for a lot of the bigger firefights. They just felt better that way.

And that wasn't the only weird thing for a game that's right around the corner, at the point where many big-budget games are in spitting distance of the finish line. Enemy AI was only partially implemented according to developer 343 Industries, and the new sound effects (which are supposed to toggle on with the new graphics) weren't in at all. The portion of the level I got to play was extremely brief, too. I didn't even get to see the now infamous "give the Covenant back their bomb" scene.

The rest, thankfully, was Halo 2. The level layout was exactly the same (read: decent enough but fairly repetitive and corridor-heavy), the enemies were exactly the same, and Sergeant Johnson was as endearingly grumpy as ever. It was solid, but hampered by some odd hitches and omissions.

I'm Worried About These Halo Remakes

Executive producer Dan Ayoub chalked all of this up to a final polishing pass — business as usual, in other words. "Obviously we're showing work in progress," he said. "Right now is the point where we're optimising everything. So yeah, you're absolutely right. There's a frame rate dip. There's other stuff. It's still a work in progress."

I just haven't seen many works in progress that are this rough around the edges so close to release, especially when they're slightly enhanced remakes of games from a decade ago. UPDATE (7:43 PM): Microsoft got in touch to explain that the single-player build shown at the event was four months old rather than current. Presumably, then, the campaign is in much better shape already. Here's hoping.

Multiplayer, meanwhile, ran a lot more smoothly. I got to try out a few maps including classics like Zanzibar and Lockout, and I pretty much immediately fell back into the swing of things. Admittedly, it was a lot slower than the modern shooters I've grown accustomed to, but that had its own sort of charm.

And oh Halo 2 battle rifle, let me count the ways. You feel so right in my hands, like a warm, purring kitten that fires bullets. Pop goes one shield, pop goes another, pop goes a third. What's that in the sky? It's a bird, it's a plane, it — doesn't matter now, because I headshotted it with perfect, pulse-shattering precision.

Problems enter the multiplayer picture, however, when you consider that Master Chief Collection will contain over 100 maps scattered between four separate games. I worry that certain maps will be ghost towns, that it could end up very difficult to find matches sometimes when the audience is so fragmented and — on top of that — not that many people own Xbox Ones yet.

Ayoub said 343 is hoping to make the experience of finding a match as seamless as possible, and they will be monitoring matchmaking extremely closely so that certain maps and match types don't fall by the wayside.

I'm Worried About These Halo Remakes

"It's a challenge," he confessed. "When we decided to go down this path, we realised we have all these maps and they're all running on their own engines. That only adds to the problem. If they were all running off one multiplayer engine it'd be a lot easier for us. But if you launch a map from Halo 2, you play in Halo 2. If you launch a map from Halo 4, you play it in Halo 4."

"We're going to be managing very closely, making sure we keep the matchmaking experience vibrant and ensuring that there's a good population. The other thing we're doing is having two ways to get into multiplayer. You can select an individual game like Halo 2 or 3, or you can select by gametype. You can say, 'I want to play slayer,' and then you'll go to a screen with different options from different games."

"But it is a challenge and it's gonna force us to pay very close attention so we're kinda nudging the experience in the right direction."

Even so, all the monitoring in the world can only do so much. I'm concerned, then, despite the fact that on the whole Halo 2 Anniversary's multiplayer played quite well. It feels a little ancient these days, but it will come in the company of its less creaky siblings, Halo 3 and 4. If nothing else, you will not be at a lack for options, and the ability to leap between them relatively seamlessly — like you're binge-watching on Netflix — is a really smart way to handle a collection like this.

Fingers crossed that 343 uses these next couple months to really iron out the Master Chief Collection's kinks. It has the potential to be a massive walk — or days-long marathon, really — down memory lane, but potential issues abound. I want to give the Covenant back their bomb, not be given one myself. Here's hoping I get another chance to do just that.


Comments

    I gotta feeling this is not going to end up well. 4 months old version? Hell its a very old game running on a much better machine an your excuse is 4 months old? Gtfo

      I suspect all the optimisation is something that gets done towards the end once everything is 'in' the game so they can actually see if it's making a difference.

      And the article says that the 4 month old build ran fine when using the graphics featured in the very old version of the game: it only took a nose dive when using the new pretty graphics. That's not so unexpected for a beta build of the game.

        Time will tell. But a game thats struggling to run smooth so close to the release date is a no go. If it was old version why the hell do they let people play it? Especially the media? I know that its the new graphics thats having issues but thats pretty much the reason people would buy it. Who would play it in the outdated graphics? Its like microsoft took an oath to fck everything up this generation. Its their biggest title and they know that they are struggling, yet they do nothing about it... This edition suppose to be perfect in everyway, especially Halo 5.

        Last edited 22/09/14 5:08 pm

          Looking at the release date, the build would be around six months prior to the release date. That's a non-trivial fraction of the development cycle.

          You're right that it could be a sign of problems. But it could just as easily indicate that it was a debug build containing additional diagnostics that wouldn't be in the production build. There's not enough information to say which it is.

          "Who would play it in the outdated graphics?"
          I would.
          Hell, I still play Half-Life ONE on a regular basis, it's not the graphics, it's the game play.
          I mean, don't get me wrong, graphics are NICE, but I'd rather run around a world with 2004 graphics and ace game play than a world with the best graphics around and shitty game play.
          =3

    Rrrrrgh! I'm... fighting... the urge... to rant!

    This is especially difficult as I'm currently going through the script for my Halo 2 review and I don't want to repeat anything I'm planning on saying. Especially the part about the BR!

    AAAAAAAAAARGH that bomb scene is stupid because the world is molding itself to make Chief a badass rather than making it seen natural.

    Dammit!

    As long as the Halo 3 multiplayer works like Halo 3 and not "343 presents a reimagining of Halo 3 after we ruin everything you ever loved about Halo" I don't really care. I'll blaze through the campaigns on Heroic with the original graphics for fun/nostaglia and than finally enjoy multiplayer again.

    The multiplayer was always going to be a challenge with this. Honestly I'm amazed they kept so much in. I would have just given them a shared multiplayer mode with a selection of maps from each game. Multiplayer is the heart of the series but getting it all in there without overloading the players is no easy task, especially when it's going to have to compete with other major new releases and Halo 5.
    Personally I'll just be playing the campaign one end to the other and leaving it at that. If I can get a group together I'll do one normal mode co-op run and then a solo Legendary run.

    Isn't that the same thing for all the NBA and FIFAs? Slap a new number on it, add a few names and ship it to the stores.

    So ummm... this is not coming to PC is it? Cos for those of us who've never had an xbox, it would be nice to be able to play.

      343i responded to this and their answer was pretty much, "Selling on PCs would hurt Xbone sales".

    I think it'll be good. Not sure if I want to buy an XB1 for it, though...

    "Let’s start with the single-player, because it lost me among a forest of red flags. Most notably, the frame rate dipped pretty significantly when I switched to upgraded graphics."

    So, pretty much the same thing that happened with Halo Anniversary on the 360? I was so disappointed with the totally distracting and annoying frame rate on that remake that I couldn't even bring myself to finish it (I literally traded it in from sheer ennui after having been given it as a gift from my girlfriend). I can remember a lot of people complaining about it at the time, while other people defended it. Seems as though some people will never pick up on a bad frame rate, even if it was to reach out and slap them in the face.

    At any rate, it seems to me that 343 Industries doesn't know how to optimise. Oh well, I was probably never going to get an Xbox One, or a PS4 for that matter ... neither of them seem compelling to me at this point in time or for the foreseeable future TBH.

      I didn't notice any frame drops on the 360 version?

      The only parts I remember dropping was during the load sections which happened in the old game as well.

      And they did mention it was an older build :/

      I'm with you on this one. I never bothered to finish Anniversary because it was a buggy, mess of a game. Then came Halo 4 which didn't feel much better.

      The experiences you're describing with Halo 2 issues are the exact same issues that made it to the final version of Halo 1 Anniversary on 360. I have no confidence in 343 Industries to do this compilation justice... on top of which, where is ODST and Reach??

      Rather than this "look how far we've come in 20 years" crap, they should have just redone Halo 1, 2 , 3, ODST (and 4) in the Reach engine. Bring all MP maps and modes into the same game, all campaign stages playable from the same lobby. Imagine a multiplayer playlist that would swap between maps from all the Halo titles.

      Thats what they should have done. That would have got my interest, only thing holding me back would be performance and stability issues seen in Anniversary and 4.

        While it makes sense that Reach and ODST aren't in the package since it's "The Master Chief Collection" all about Master Chief and the games he was playable in...
        ...it's still a shitty excuse used to exclude two great games from the series.

          Yeah, I'm pretty sure the decision to exclude those entries came first, the naming of the collection came after.

    we realised we have all these maps and they’re all running on their own engines. That only adds to the problem. If they were all running off one multiplayer engine it’d be a lot easier for usAnother reason you should have remade them completely in the latest engine you have rather than patched them and given them new textures. Keep everything unified and release a single product with only one core to support. Harder work to start with but better in the long run.

      A release like this is going to rely partly on nostalgia to get sales. So presumably they think having something that will faithfully play like the originals is more desirable than rebuilding those games' campaigns and maps on a new engine and having it play like a more recent release.

      Enhanced graphics are worth working on, because most people wear rose tinted glasses when reminiscing about old games, but they'd be more likely to notice if it doesn't play how they remember.

        Oh I definitely get that and in many ways I appreciate them doing it the way they have but they've made their own problem when they could have done a complete recreation down to including the old assets to give the retro graphics mode and not split the multiplayer up the way they did

    Yeah, I'm worried about Destiny too.

    If this is true that is indeed disappointing, but I've seen a lot of Halo 2 Anniversary campaign footage with no frame dips. What gives?

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