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Is Halo 2 Anniversary a Perfect Remake?

OP RustyArcher7259

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At this point, it is widely accepted that there is a terrible tonal shift between Halo CE and Halo CE Anniversary. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyeCb99cb2Q&t=716s
Most people seem to agree that Halo 2 Anniversary was a vast improvement, but did it get everything right, or did it still fall short in many ways? I’m here to share some points on why I don’t believe Halo 2 Anniversary successfully recreated the look and feel of the original Halo 2 and would love to hear why you agree or disagree. Here goes…

I’d like to start by stating that Halo 2 Anniversary does not have its own artstyle, nor does it replicate Halo 2’s. While Halo 1 (Halo CE classic) was very clean, polished and highly saturated in colour, Halo 2 was dirty, chipped, gritty and toned down a little across its units and levels. Spartan armour no longer shined like it used to. Extra wear and tear was added to every texture, and overall there was a lot more detail in Halo 2’s earthy environments, characters and enemies. The features of Halo 2’s artstyle was consistent across the field, and that’s worth remembering.

Enemies, Vehicles and Weapons
Were Halo 2 Anniversary a faithful recreation of Halo 2, every enemy type would be based solely on Halo 2’s original models with a suitable update via increased polygons and higher-detailed textures. Short of that, it would have used existing models from other games except highly modified to fit Halo 2’s aesthetic and be much more reminiscent of what they were based on. Instead, Grunts, Jackals and Drones (amongst plenty more enemies, weapons and vehicles) are ripped directly from Reach with few barely noticeable modifications. Sentinels, Hunters and Warthogs (also amongst many more weapons, enemies and vehicles) are taken from Halo 4. Both Halo Reach and Halo 4 have drastically different artstyles from Halo 2 as well as from one another. Shoehorning them into Halo 2 Anniversary and completely pulls apart any possibility of a uniform, faithful Halo 2 artsyle existing within the game. What’s more, the few new models that are exclusive to Halo 2 Anniversary, and there are only a few, look nothing like their originals, such as the blocky and chunky SMG or the flat-faced Sangheili that do not remotely resemble the sleek, angular Elites from Halo 2 (and Bungie’s Halo trilogy as a whole).

Levels and Environments
Think back to Halo 2’s marketing. What was consistent across all of Halo 2’s commercials?... The Chief’s new MJOLNIR Mark VI; the devastation of Earth and the hazey, atmospheric, amber skies caused by the pollution and destruction of New Mombasa. You can guess where this is going. The amber skies are completely removed for a fresh, clear, blue that completely destroys the distinct mood and characteristics Halo 2 had. The tan, dusty, crumbling slums of Old Mombasa; the technologically advanced super city of New Mombasa with its mechanical roads and detailed billboards; the ever-looming threat of Regret’s carrier silhouetted through the haze… These things could have and should have been leaned into heavily and improved upon graphically in Halo 2 Anniversary. Instead, they were thrown away. And while the changes to Earth’s atmosphere in Halo 2 Anniversary (one that now contradicts Halo 3 ODST) is the primary example of a tonal shift between Halo 2 and Halo 2 Anniversary’s levels, there are plenty of other differences across the levels. Some examples that come to mind include:
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While some levels like Cairo Station and Delta Halo do a fantastic job of transitioning Halo 2’s levels into an upgraded engine, there are far too many inconsistencies, breaks and shifts in tone across the campaign for Halo 2 Anniversary’s environments to be considered faithful overall.

Characters
Regarding characters, it’s easy to get specific. For example, Cortana is no longer purple, and her in-game head looks detached from her body. The Prophets no longer look bloated and fishy with big dangling wattles and ear lobes. Tartarus’ jaw is now squashed, turning his ape-like nostrils into a pig’s snout and his cruel, angular eyes into goofy wide-set ones. Johnson is no longer an aged war veteran with dark weathered skin and crow’s feet wrinkles. Miranda no longer looks like a twenty-seven year old woman with the light-coloured eyes of her father. Etc. Etc. I could go into detail about each one, but the point is that the characters in Halo 2 Anniversary lose their character. They lose what makes them them. Their original appearances were designed the way they were for specific reasons; to tell us something about who they were when the story wasn’t going to stop to tell us directly. Just like with the environments, where the game could have dialled up the features of each character to make them look even more distinct and memorable as well as faithful to the characters we’d come to know, Saber and Blue turned them into entirely new beings, stripping them of who they were to begin with.
Original Post Continued
...The quality of the CGI cutscenes might be admirable, but are they faithful to the original game? Not even close.
So why does it matter that Halo 2 Anniversary is not a faithful recreation of the original? Well, two reasons: 1. With the port to PC and the excitement around Halo Infinite, there are a lot of gamers playing Halo for the first time. And while that is great in itself, new players are going to be misled into believing this is the experience Halo 2 players received in 2004 but improved. And that’s exactly what they should believe; that Halo 2 Anniversary is the best version of Halo 2 to play. Unfortunately, it’s inaccurate. And 2. It breaks the trilogy. Where improvements could have been made to increase the flow across the Halo Trilogy (Halo 1, 2 and 3 - and ODST in a way) by ensuring consistency in more advanced graphics, Saber, Blue and 343i went in new directions that pulled away from the flow of the trilogy. It breaks the narrative and the escapism the player should feel when entering the Halo universe. If the universe is not even consistent across the original Halo Trilogy, then what’s the point?
So my question to you is, AFTER reading this, do you believe Halo 2 Anniversary to be a faithful recreation of Halo 2 and the best version of the game? Or do you believe it could have been done better? Why? Why not? What adjustments would you have made had you been working on Halo 2 Anniversary?
Follow-up questions: Which graphics mode do you play in and why, Original or Anniversary? Which would you recommend to a first-time Halo player? And why?

Apologies, I had already typed it up and it was a little over the word limit. Now I know there is one. :P
Halo CE's remake has some important improvements, such as vastly better lighting on most areas, but it changes too much the tone and feel of the original, indeed. Halo 2 isn't perfect but it's a more proper remake, considering we actually want to retain the original feeling of these games. Small changes in older titles can actually be beneficial if they can remove canon contradictions e.g: what is cortana's exact color?
what is cortana's exact color?
According to the books it's purple but changes depend on her mood.
While I have a ton of nostalgia for Halo CE, but never really played Halo 2 that much, I actually enjoyed playing Halo 2 on PC again more than Halo CE. The reason is purely the fluidity of gameplay. The game just plays better with smoother animations and tighter gunplay. The ragdoll physics also added a huge plus for me. With the arbiter missions, I enjoyed the variety of gameplay too. Overall I think Halo 2 benefited the most from a simple graphical overhaul since the underlying gameplay was more refined and polished than Halo CE.
I’d say it is The Cutscenes are amazing and the Gameplay is a 100 out of 10 for me
Campaign made me always come back to play h2a but the multiplayer has serious lighting issues on mcc pc
Surasia wrote:
Campaign made me always come back to play h2a but the multiplayer has serious lighting issues on mcc pc
Yeah, my main issue with the remake is visibility. It's at its worse in the MP segment, but even in campaign, enemies can be harder to see, effects are either too blinding (energy explosions) or barely visible (enemy shield flare). But at least in the campaign most of these issues are just the standard trade offs for better looks in lighting and effects. Like how it's easier to see opponents in the original Halo 2 Multiplayer, but no one would say it looks better than Halo 3's.
Perfect, no. Its a pretty good remake though.
Perfect, no. Its a pretty good remake though.
You may be right. I could pick apart different aspects of H2A all day because it's not perfect, but at the end of it all, it still holds together. It still feels like Halo 2 for the most part. Lessons were learned after the mistakes of CEA, and while the corrections for H2's Anniversary may not have been executed 100%, they're not going to drastically dampen the experience. There's plenty to like.
If we are only talking about the new coat of paint, I think they did a better work than CEA but you are right in a lot of things... I think we only disagree on delta halo (they made it look more like earth and less alien), thershold (i always found the clouds more violent and red in the remaster, and the facilities look more spooky and... forerunner) and mombasa (you're right about the sky but the city needed much improvement and they left it pretty much the same, I was thinking about the e3 2003 city, a lot of H4's MP maps or at least ODST).
The main human characters look great on it's own, my gripe is how different they made them.
I'm split about the flood because their infected environments look awsome but themsleves look less fungal and shiny and more like cliche zombies with rotting flesh and teeth all over (and they... choke now? put that with the moonwalking phantom or how it's daytime and the arbiter shoots more in that same cutscene or how all the covies move like humans, and speaking of...)
What's inexcusable is what they did to the brutes, elites, prophets, the outsides of the control room and warthogs.
Though I did like some of the new covenant tech, like the banshee or wraith are perfect 1:1 updates. The carbine felt different but I honestly prefer it's more alien appearance. IF only they did this with high charity, if they could... take away some of it's human aspects (instead of making them more obvious like the city) and make it darker and more connected to H3, it would be better, but the detail and more gem- like textures were really good.
If I showed H2 to somebody I'd show them both version and let her or him choose, but personally I almost always choose the remaster even if it isn't perfect. I enjoy the high quality.
Campaign wise, yes. I would've preferred its remastered multiplayer to not have been based off Halo 4's. That would've taken much more resources, and time though.
If we are only talking about the new coat of paint, I think they did a better work than CEA but you are right in a lot of things... I think we only disagree on delta halo (they made it look more like earth and less alien), thershold (i always found the clouds more violent and red in the remaster, and the facilities look more spooky and... forerunner) and mombasa (you're right about the sky but the city needed much improvement and they left it pretty much the same, I was thinking about the e3 2003 city, a lot of H4's MP maps or at least ODST).
The main human characters look great on it's own, my gripe is how different they made them.
I'm split about the flood because their infected environments look awsome but themsleves look less fungal and shiny and more like cliche zombies with rotting flesh and teeth all over (and they... choke now? put that with the moonwalking phantom or how it's daytime and the arbiter shoots more in that same cutscene or how all the covies move like humans, and speaking of...)
What's inexcusable is what they did to the brutes, elites, prophets, the outsides of the control room and warthogs.
Though I did like some of the new covenant tech, like the banshee or wraith are perfect 1:1 updates. The carbine felt different but I honestly prefer it's more alien appearance. IF only they did this with high charity, if they could... take away some of it's human aspects (instead of making them more obvious like the city) and make it darker and more connected to H3, it would be better, but the detail and more gem- like textures were really good.
If I showed H2 to somebody I'd show them both version and let her or him choose, but personally I almost always choose the remaster even if it isn't perfect. I enjoy the high quality.
It's interesting you mention Halo 4. Most people generally agree that Halo 4 and 5 had vastly different visual styles from the other Halo games. However, its human city environments were often very faithful to what we'd come to expect from Halo 2 and ODST. The ending cutscene of Halo 4 in New Phoenix and parts of Battle of Noctus from Halo 5 are actually fairly faithful. My main issue is with the tarmac roads. New Mombasa in Halo 2 and ODST had these very mechanic roads that could be modified by the Superintendent to manage traffic. They appeared to be coated in an almost metallic concrete (maybe even straight-up textured metal) with all these glowing lights to guide drivers. In Halo 2 Anniversary, they just look like the average tarmac roads we see in our cities today. There's a lot Halo 2 Anniversary could have drawn from ODST (and Halo 3 as a whole) including the skies of ONI Alpha Base. I'm not sure why they elected to ignore it all. ODST's New Mombasa and parts of Halo 3's High Charity were direct upgrades of what we saw in Halo 2.

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The main human characters look great on it's own, my gripe is how different they made them.
Considering it's supposed to be a trilogy and they no longer match how they look in the first and third game, it's a complete mess and a really odd decision to make. But like I said, I'm more disappointed by how dulled down all their features are in H2A. Johnson just looks like an average guy rather than an aged, experienced war veteran. The Prophets have lost all their bulgy and dangly bits. Elites lost their pointy bits which they had in every other game before Halo 4. Why? What's the point of these changes? They had to have been conscious decisions. So, what were the reasons for them? It just makes you wonder.

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Though I did like some of the new covenant tech, like the banshee or wraith are perfect 1:1 updates
Agreed. And the Shadow and Spectre. They were done so right! How are they so perfectly updated when, say, the ODSTs and SMG are completely changed? What's with the weird black-visored ODSTs? Halo 2 Classic had the most reflective-faced ODSTs in the series. They're the one model that could have been directly ported from Halo 3 or Reach without needing to change too much at all. Instead they created new models, which is more than they needed to do and is truly awesome... Or would be awesome if they were done as faithfully as the Covenant vehicles.

Halo 2 Anniversary isn't the mess that Halo CE Anniversary is. But there are so many specific decisions that were made that just make you go, "Huh? Why?" I'd love to have been a fly on the wall while H2A was developed. My only wish now is that, at some point, 343i release modding tools (a creation kit of sorts, like with Custom Edition) for modders to alter these games into the best versions they can possibly be.

Edit: Almost forgot...
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instead of making them more obvious like the city
This. What a really weird decision it was to make High Charity look more like New Mombasa. The CGI cutscenes make it look decent enough, but the in-game skybox is actually one of the few decisions in H2A that I think is outright inexcusable. There was no reason to raise the scale of the buildings. All it does is make everything else look smaller and takes away from the looming Forerunner Dreadnought that's supposed to be a big deal. It's even weirder that only the buildings closest to the middle are so much larger when the ones around it are still 'small'. (Obviously they're not small, just far away.) In my opinion, they should have drawn from buildings such as the Mausoleum Tower and the building on which Halo 3's Assembly is set, which are very typically Covenant in shape and design, being unconventional by human standards.
It's way too dark. Playing on remastered graphics is almost a handicap a lot of the time.
h2a is the worst halo game ever made because it's too dark. Wish the devs would acknowledge the problem. Better yet just fix it.
I love H2A campaign but I can’t play H2A multiplayer without thinking I’m playing a tweaked Halo 4, which is my least favorite of the MCC line up.
i think its a perfect remake,especially the campaign.
CE was bland and average but they nailed it with 2 anniversary,especially the sounds.
the only thing i disliked was the anniversary soundtrack.
as for the inconsistency in halo universe, halo reach seems to me the most inconsistent and lore breaking than a few visual changes to an old game.
especial
I'm happy halo 2 got the anniversary treatment. There was a bug with halo 2 on the 360 where you would get these shadows frozen into the screen. For removing that alone I was looking forward to the anniversary remake. Halo CE's remake had sloppy anniversary graphics that didn't match original level geometry and a lot of detail and mood were lost in the upgrade. Also the night vision was also totally messed up in CE. My biggest and only criticism of Halo 2 Anni is the lighting. It can be blindingly bright. Using the carbine on shielded enemies while scoped in just blinds the player. The shots flair at the muzzle, flare on impact, flair in the air, and make the shields flair. It's sometimes so difficult to see what you are aiming at while shooting with all these lighting effects. Halo 2 originally had the carbine shots and the enemies stay very visible. You could see the enemies the location your shots hit and the environment without being totally blinded with green and golden mists of light.
Surasia wrote:
Campaign made me always come back to play h2a but the multiplayer has serious lighting issues on mcc pc
So much this, I really enjoy the campaign and hell I enjoy the MP a lot too - I would just enjoy it far more if I could reliably see enemy spartans. Maybe it's because of my setup, but as it stands 2A MP is almost a stealth game (or a horror game with frequent jumpsacres, depending how you look at it).
I completely agree with you. It actually bothers me that some items are taken straight out of other previous Halo games instead of being upgraded from the original Halo 2 models. And sometimes the new graphics get a bit overbearing. There's too much lighting at times, and other times there isn't enough. Some effects are waaay too overstated, while others are far too understated.

Overall, I enjoy H2A quite a bit, but I do find myself switching back to the old graphics at times, just to set the proper mood that was originally intended to be felt. Same goes for the music. Especially on The Arbiter, where the music went from Incubus to... meh.
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