What's wrong with Halo: CE Anniversary

I first became familiar with the Halo series very recently, with the release of The Master Chief Collection on PC, and I loved it immediately. Halo: Combat Evolved is the first game of the franchise and a legend that feels great even today, and is unequivocally, without a doubt, recommended for passing.
One of the significant features of the Anniversary Edition, which is included with MCC, is the ability to switch instantly between new and old graphics. Going through old games, I prefer to still see how they looked originally, but for the sake of interest, I occasionally switched to the updated look. At first it was really fun to compare the old soapy textures to the new crisp resources, but after a while I started noticing that there was something completely wrong with the remastered version. In this post, I'll explain why Halo: CE Anniversary is the worst remaster I've seen, and why Halo: CE's problems on the PC haven't ended in nearly 20 years.

The beginning of the legendIt all

started when 343 Industries suggested that Saber Interactive do a remake of Combat Evolved for the game's tenth anniversary. This gave the studio, which hadn't worked on such major franchises before, a year to update the legend. The contract included an attempt to sit on two chairs (which will be the leitmotif of the entire project) - a complete redesign of the look and music, while retaining the spirit and gameplay. To do this, on top of the original engine hung another - its own, to handle the new graphics. In addition, the multiplayer was supposed to come with it, so we had to attach the Halo: Reach engine as well.

It

seemed that nothing foretold trouble

...

Graphics enhancement: cheap or not at all freeThe principles

by which the geometry and textures were updated remain a mystery to me. Most of the weapon models were simply carried over from Halo: Reach. Even at this point I want to call such a project an Asset Flip, but the worst is yet to come. Since some elements of CE were missing from Reach, a lot of the assets didn't come from Reach, but from Halo 3.

You can't just take and transfer objects from one game to another without regard to art design. All of the enemies in Halo: CE were very bright, prominent colors. Combined with the sparsely detailed terrain, this allowed for an instant readout of the battlefield. Now they just blend in with their surroundings.

Contrast is important.

Also, Bungie has completely overhauled the visual style several times in 10 years, and Reach's visuals in particular are completely unlike anything that came before it. Halo 3's graphics are also a bad source: CE couldn't afford a fraction of the realism it achieved and had to rely on stylization and simplifications.

Reminder: we are playing a remake of Combat Evolved.

However, what was created specifically for Anniversary looks more like a free fantasy on the theme of the original, rather than a faithful graphic update. Everything went under the knife:

  • characters - you don't have to be a casting director to know that the new model must have a different voice, which, of course, they didn't update;
Someone has gained a lot in ten years.
  • textures - now the old animations have lost all meaning;
What does he click on?
  • they added a character from the books to the game canon;
Does Bungie even know who Linda-058 is?
  • they decided to replace even the old jokes.
I appreciated the joke about the goose laying golden eggs; my homage to whoever brought that into the game-he had them in steel. But why did they do that?

Many of the changes in the levels were made as if only to artificially add details to the detriment of common sense and the original intent.

If these are pistons, what are they pushing? If they are pipes, what are they doing here and what is around them?

The Wheel of Sansara was gaining momentum, and with more detailed characters it was necessary to update their animations as well. In the original, the movements of the characters in the cutscenes were a combination of natural character animations and point-and-click scripts. For example, if Masterchief needed to walk up to a terminal and press a button, Joe Staten (director of cinematics) would walk right in the game to the right place - at that time the natural walking animations were played, and then run a special script animating the button press. So the cutscenes looked unrealistic but natural in the world of the game; I'd say "cartoonish" if that word wasn't so cringe-worthy. It was part stylization, part Halo look, and they decided to replace it all with poorly executed motion capture. As a result, the cinematics look bouncy and buggy, and the characters move completely unnaturally.

Good commentary from someone who understands animation.

As I went through it, I just shrugged: 2011, what can I do; but then I remembered that Halo 3 came out a year earlier.

I hope the reader still remembers that the new graphics were superimposed on the old engine. So the collisions were calculated based on the old geometry, not the new one. So now you can drop a whole clip into a tree that has changed shape but keeps the hitboxes.

Do you like shooting from cover?

My favorite mistake is at the end of the Library level. They decided to put a wall there that wasn't there in the original.

If you go through it, you can see the level through.

They killed the atmosphere! You bastards!

If looking at the redrawn textures and models made it suspicious that the authors didn't play the original, then looking at the overall picture, it becomes quite obvious. It turns out that Microsoft even had to intervene when Saber Interactive got too carried away with the new effects, blurring the accents.

Who needs to look at the ring? Better to see what cool atmospheric effects we know how to do!

To see how they still managed to ruin the atmosphere of the levels, just take a look at 343 Guilty Spark and the adjacent Library. They introduce the player to Flood, the conditional zombies of the Halo universe. They are introduced very gradually, masterfully pumping up the suspense with the surroundings.

The mood is very similar to the corridor from MGS.

So, shall we find out how they want to scare us in Anniversary?

For starters, we need to add more light sources.

In this screenshot, I counted 9 new light sources, counting the drawing on the ceiling and the scope as one.

In the original, they also gave you a flashlight for some reason, but now let's remove the need for it altogether.

Now instead of turning on the flashlight you can just switch to the new graphics.

Surprisingly, the developers have demonstrated that they know how to work properly with the light, but only in the place where they were trained to use the flashlight.

Screenshots from the first level. Turns out you could do that.

Was it scary? Or was it more like a nightclub?

That's how the scene I showed you at the beginning was redone.

The main

reason I think so highly of Halo: CE to this day is its soundtrack. Martin O'Donnell wrote epic and energetic tracks as well as more atmospheric and immanent ones, which were the most satisfying surprise of the game for me. I often stopped or just avoided the shootout solely to listen to the music, which clung to me from the first notes. Therefore, the new soundtrack was the most painful blow to me. Careful, there's a huge streak of sickening audio nerdiness ahead.

I'll analyze the changes on the basis of my favorite game track - Under Cover of Night. By the way, it, like many other tracks, was renamed - now it's Cloaked in Blackness. Good luck finding your favorite title tracks in the new OST.
The pad in the intro is completely unfiltered, but at least it was played on the same Roland JD990. The first really affected is the bass part. Delay is now much less pronounced and adds more noise (along with the new noise effects). Originally it was recorded with a synthesizer, but now it was played on a real instrument that clearly has a single pickup, which makes the attack more pronounced and adds string tapping sounds to the mix. Now instead of alien atmospheric music, you can listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers

!

Around this point appears, without irony, a really good find of the new composers - the sparse beats of the rhythm guitar, on which they finally put an appropriate repetition delay. Unfortunately, they decided to replace the string and string part of the original, which is no longer as satisfying.

By the introduction of the percussion, you can listen to the new noise effects, which were added by the authors. Listening to the new OST while writing this article, I took my headphones off several times and went up to the door to check if somebody was knocking. Great addition to the mix! A characteristic feature of O'Donnell's music are the silence bars, or ones where all the space is given to just one instrument. I think if this were a Halo 3 remaster, you could say goodbye to the piano music - it's not cool, it sounds a bit empty. Let's add some noise here, it would be super!

No kidding, that's exactly what they did with Halo 2 Anniversary - they cut the original sound completely out of it, including Breaking Benjamin and Incubus tracks, as well as the original weapon effects. A real treat for the fans!

The percussion, too, is completely out of keeping with the original. It has particularly fallen victim to normalization. The viciousness of this technique is a matter of taste, but the fact is that it was never there in the original; on the contrary, O'Donnell avoids it on principle. The snare drum in the original mix was the loudest element throughout the entire track, but now you can hear it just like the other instruments.

As for the vocal track, my version - it was originally needed to connect to the main Halo theme. This is purely my speculation, but O'Donnell's music is very characteristic of leitmotifs: echoes of the main theme can be found in many other tracks. Surprisingly, if I'm right, this element has actually transferred quite nicely to the new record. Nevertheless, this leads me to my next thought.

343 Industries and Saber Interactive were prohibited from bringing in original writers. Martin O'Donnell said in an interview that he would have agreed to work on the remaster sound for free. What was speculation about the vocal part could have been fact confirmed by the author. What was a mistake or inattention could have been corrected or at least clarified.

A great decision by Microsoft: both the graphics and the sound unambiguously demonstrate power and independence. As a result, the new composers played the same game as Saber Interactive - you have to transfer the old mood to a new quality without having the slightest idea what they wanted to achieve in the original.

Best Focus of 2003To

this point, it might have seemed that the new shell, though a miss in style, at least looks crisper than the old soapy version. What if I told you that Saber Interactive and 343i went into battle not just with the old one, but also with the handicapped one?

Olds will remember that Halo: CE first hit the PC back in 2003, and Gearbox Software handled the porting. It was the port that the Anniversary authors took, apparently because the networking part was decently done there. But the rest of the port was really bad...

In 2001, Bungie was one of the first to use bump mapping. This extra texture allows flat surfaces to react to light as if they had realistic bumps. Gearbox, through a bug or a flaw, only implemented this on dynamic lighting. That is, textures would suddenly gain depth when shining a flashlight on them.

However, the light in general has been moved very poorly, just look at this. Source - Digital Foundry.

Also, the transparent textures were broken because they were rendered with a completely different shader. As a result, all transparent objects now shade and blur everything behind them, and they look like pieces of plastic. It also ruined a lot of the atmospheric effects.

Jackal shields now have no color change and no animations, and some objects are not visible behind the glass. Source - Digital Foundry.

All of these problems were not fixed when MCC was released. They may indeed give new players a false impression of the original, as it did in 2003. Fortunately, and to my sincere surprise, 343i promises to improve the look of the old version for season seven. One can only hope. In the meantime, I can even understand those who say that the new graphics are unequivocally better than the old, because under the guise of the old graphics they've been slipped another Randy Pitchford trick of turning candy into sweet bread.

We screwed it up, oh, I mean redid it I

can

't describe the product of Halo: CE Anniversary other than completely schizophrenic. In an attempt to sit on two chairs, they took only the worst of both worlds: old and new bugs, and a completely inappropriate visual and musical stylistics for the game.

Certainly, you could say that I'm picking on the changes the remaster has made. It's not that the original was some immutable ideal, I don't have the same warm nostalgic feelings for it as probably many others do; I just really enjoyed the game. The thing is, the changes were made without regard to what the authors were trying to achieve back in 2001, with absolutely no understanding of the project. The author of one of my favorite HD projects said that if the remasterer can't explain his decision with concept art, references or even just ideologically, then there's no place for that decision in the project. How can you explain the new models of people, the new atmosphere of locations, the addition of another Spartan to the canon, and new music that looks like anything but Halo? And how do you explain the bugs with animation, bugs with new geometry and still uncorrected port of the game from 2001?

This is what a graphics update should look like

Halo: CE Anniversary is a remaster, not worthy of the level of fan-made HD textures and mods. Absolutely everything went wrong on this project, from management setting a very tight deadline and forbidding communication with Bungie, to motion capture and music mixing. Unfortunately, this is the version that those who want to familiarize themselves with this legendary game on PC have to deal with

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