Halo 2 Anniversary ( H2A) launched with Halo: The Master Chief Collection in Fall of 2014. It’s well documented how broken the game was at launch and it was never really in an acceptable state until years after the game was released.
Because of this, the game never got its proper due in my opinion. Halo 5 launched a year later and stole the attention of Halo fans and 343’s development resources.
There were never any more maps added to the game, the game only had about a year in the tournament scene and was plagued by disconnects and bugs due to the game still having a lot of issues.
The game disappeared from the public conscious. You can still play it of course, but it just feels forgotten and unsupported in many ways.
I recently picked it back up and it reminded me how much I liked it. I realize after playing Halo 5, and in my current position of waiting for Infinite to come out, that Halo 2 Anniversary is the Modern Halo I’ve always wanted.
It’s the game that I always wanted 343 to make, and it shows me that they are capable of creating an incredible Halo experience.
It’s ironic, and simultaneously kind of sad, that the game I always wanted them to make was released in such a horrible state and not given any updates in terms of maps or other additions. The game I believe 343 should have made the entire time was right there for them, but they didn’t see it themselves.
Halo 2 Anniversary is inspired by the original Halo 2. It feels like an updated Halo 2 in terms of feel, map design, and art style. The shooting and mechanics feel similar but better, meaning the hit registration and “feel” are what should be expected for a modern shooter.
The maps that we are given are all remakes of fan favorites of Halo 2. It’s a real shame we only got a few maps, I would have loved to see the entirety of Halo 2’s maps brought over.
I want to focus on what makes this game so special. To do that, I’m going to look at the two main things H2A gets right; Gameplay, Art Style and Design.
I’ll start with gameplay, which is the most important thing for a Halo game to do right. H2A is the best feeling Halo game 343 has ever made, and arguably the best feeling Halo game ever made.
I want to focus first on the weapon sandbox.
The hit registration on the weapons feel fantastic. The Battle Rifle, the primary precision weapons in the series, feels better than ever before. If you’re a good shot, you can melt someone from across the map with 4 solid BR shots. The game uses hitscan, like Halo 2, 4, and 5 use. Basically, where I aim, the bullets go. There’s no leading shots like Halo 3 or bullet drop like a battlefield game.
The Battle Rifle feels like the perfect incarnation of what it’s supposed to be. It’s a weapon that’s easy to use and hard to master. You can do damage with it if you’re a casual or new player, but if you’re good at the game the Battle Rifle is the only weapon you really need.
As much as I love Halo 3, the Battle Rifle was basically useless past a certain distance. Up close you could do damage, but the fact that the gun wasn’t hitscan and you had to actually lead your bullets lead to a lot of frustrating moments where you felt as though you were useless from far away.
H2A got it right, and I think it’s the best iteration of the weapon to date.
The Sniper Rifle is among the best in the series as well. I’ll admit it feels just a bit too easy to use. It shoots incredibly fast and lining up headshots feels automatic if you have the proper aim.
(But I’ll probably give the nod to the sniper to Halo 3. It has the right balance of fire rate mixed with ease of use but not feeling like you can automatically headshot an opponent.)
Needless to say, the H2A sniper is fantastic. It sounds great, it looks great, it feels great. It’s the best sniper 343 has ever made.
The automatic weapons in this game are great as well. It’s still a little bit frustrating to spawn in with an SMG, especially on bigger maps (just make Battle Rifle starts standard for every playlist, 343!) but you don’t feel like you’re shooting marshmallows at enemies from more than 5 feet away like in some other Halo games.
Other weapons like the rocket launcher feel powerful without feeling cheap. The grenades feel like they pack a punch without feeling like mini nukes, but I would take out the hit markers they create.
Hit markers on grenades give away the enemies position, and I don’t feel like throwing a random grenade and then getting a hit marker from it should be in any Halo game. It feels like an exploit.
To make a long story short, the weapon sandbox in the game feels great and it’s probably among my favorite in any Halo game. It feels like a “best of” from every Halo game, and every weapon feels like the best version of itself.
Another reason the game feels so good to play is the movement. The movement speed feels perfect, the jump height is just right, the strafing is on point. This game doesn’t feature sprint or armor abilities. Quite frankly, the game doesn’t need it. I never feel slow or like I need something else to make the movement feel fun in Halo 2 Anniversary.
I feel like a super soldier, a “spartan”, or whatever 343 wants you to feel like in their games, all without the excess movement.
Halo 2 Anniversary’s gameplay is the modern Halo game I’ve always wanted. The game is incredibly fun to play without drastically changing or altering the core pillars of the series.
It honestly could add a few things like new weapons or pickups and it wouldn’t drastically change the sandbox, and I desperately want a day where 343 adds new maps. But the core game is near perfection in terms of FPS gameplay, and it’s among the best shooters I’ve ever played.
Art Style and Design
THIS is the art style and design that made Halo so iconic. It looks absolutely fantastic. This is the follow up to Halo 3 I wanted, the logical step.
It’s documented how much I dislike what 343 did in Halo 4 and 5 in terms of look. To see 343 pull this off, albeit inspired by Halo 2, begs the question as to why Halo 4 and 5 had the art style they did. Halo Infinite looks to be a return to form and if it looks as good as H2A, or better, we’re in for a treat.
To focus on specifics, I’ll start with the look of the weapons then move on to the look of master chief in multiplayer and end with the maps.
If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. Halo 4 and 5 made very strange changes to fan favorite weapons. The Battle Rifle in Halo 4 and 5 made odd changes, such as changing the look of the scope and the color of the weapon, and it just looks wrong. The sniper in Halo 4 and 5 also looks off. It looks clunky and just odd.
There are numerous other weapon design choices I disagree with but that’s for another day. Simply, the weapons in Halo 2 Anniversary look like the best incarnations of themselves. They look like they are inspired, and then innovated upon, weapons in previous games.
The Battle Rifle and Sniper look like glossy new versions of the Halo 2 weapons. The Rocket Launcher looks like a best of from the previous 3 games. The Assault Rifle looks like a shiny version of the Halo 3 variant. All of the weapons look great and feel like they belong in the Halo universe.
The Master Chief you play as in H2A looks like the logical next step following Halo 1, 2 and 3. The colors are just right, the armor looks great, the helmet variants fit with the universe. It looks like a proper homage to the look of a Master Chief. 343 absolutely nailed the look and clearly took heavy inspiration from Halo 2 as well as other previous games.
Now, the maps are the real stars here. They are incredible looking maps, featuring some of the best art styles, texture work, lighting, and overall aesthetic of any Halo game.
Just take a look at some of the maps.
They look great. They all have an aesthetic that feels like it fits into the Halo universe. I simply can’t believe how good they look, and I believe they are among the best looking maps this generation.
In terms of how they play, well, they’re remakes of Halo 2 maps. Halo 2 featured some of the best multiplayer maps ever made, so it goes without saying that they play well.
I could go on and on about this game. I could go into further detail on each map, talk about the great sound design, and more.
But the gameplay and the art design are what stand out to me every time I play. The gameplay feels like a culmination of what the original trilogy built into a modern day game.
It feels like a true spiritual successor to what Bungie created. The game is inspired by Halo 2, so I’m not saying this game is wholly original by any means. But it also has touches of other games as well, and it culminates into an incredible playing game.
The art style is near perfect. It looks incredible, and I find myself often walking around the maps just looking at the detail.
It’s the best looking game 343 has ever made, and I would hope they draw some influence from this game while working on Infinite.
Halo 2 Anniversary is a special game that was bogged down by launch woes and a tight cycle. Halo 5 launched less than a year after this game came out, and the game didn’t have a chance to shine.
Like I’ve said previously, it feels like a homage, a love letter of sorts, to what I love about Halo. When I sit and think about what I want in my dream Halo game, a lot of what I dream about actually exists in this game.
It’s too bad that it may never be updated in terms of maps or new features, and that it is forced to share the spotlight with others games in The Master Chief Collection. But, it exists, and I’m thankful that it does.
Halo 2 Anniversary’s Multiplayer is an incredible culmination of everything I love about Halo, and in many ways it is the Halo I always wanted.