Ever since 343 Industries and Microsoft revealed Halo: Anniversary – an updated version of the original Halo: Combat Evolved – fans expected that the developers would do the same with its successor. It was finally confirmed at E3 2014 that Halo 2: Anniversary would be released as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, packaging the updated game (with multiplayer intact) alongside Xbox One ports of Halo 3 and Halo 4.
The announcement trailer confirmed that the team would be revisiting some of Halo 2‘s most beloved multiplayer locations, with assets improved or redesigned entirely for the Xbox One (no PC or Xbox 360 release coming). The first map confirmed to be on the shortlist was Ascension, and at this weekend’s RTX 2014, the developers offered the first extensive look at the re-imagined location.
There’s no need for 343 to explain why the location claimed a spot in the six maps revisited, as the rocky facility hovering over the surface of the titular Halo is one of the most iconic. In many ways, the blend of long range sniping, close quarters frenzy, and all-too-tempting ‘thunderdome’ (the rotating dish at its center) encapsulated many of the reasons for the game’s multiplayer success.
Microsoft’s decision to appease fans long demanding a way to continue playing Halo 2 multiplayer would have been a crowd-pleasing announcement on its own. Yet the developers clearly didn’t let that legroom impact their commitment to updating the game’s visuals, as the improvements for next-gen go far beyond resolutions or textures. Like Combat Evolved: Anniversary before it, Ascension is an evolution of its former self.
As was also the case with Anniversary, noticing the improvements may be too large a reality check for some wearing rose-colored glasses (“That’s how it’s always looked!”). So it’s particularly handy to have David Mertz, lead multiplayer designer on hand to make sure the changes stand out: with the real-time rotating backdrop chief among them.
While the team’s decision to significantly tweak the level may irk some purists, Mertz makes it clear that the developers were still intent on improving the overall level design wherever possible (and with years of experience to draw upon). Lessening the dominance of long range weapons seems to be one of their top priorities, but the addition of a triggered energy shield covering the central dish is sure to be a hot topic in the coming months (especially if the emphasis on new elements is carried over to the recently-revealed Coagulation as well).
The developers have promised plenty more announcements on the way, but what’s your reaction to seeing what they have and haven’t changed for this fan-favorite location? Is it the next-gen improvements that have you excited for The Master Chief Collection to hit Xbox One, or is any chance to hop back into Halo 2 multiplayer (or local campaign co-op) with friends one you’ll gladly take Microsoft up on?
Of course, we can’t forget about Halo 5: Guardians – a new chapter in Master Chief’s story that will be teased throughout the campaign of Halo 2: Anniversary. Share your biggest hopes or concerns for the total package in the comments below, and stay tuned for more updates.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection arrives November 11, 2014 on Xbox One.
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Source: RTX (via XboxCulture)