Halo: Reach Evolved is a sandbox overhaul of Halo: Reach that brings in certain aspects from the original trilogy of Halo games, re-balances the Legendary Campaign difficulty, edits some of the Campaign encounters, introduces brand new content, and alters the weapons and vehicles to give each tool of destruction their own distinct niche in the game.
To ensure the end result is well-rounded and refined, 343 have been shipping testing “flights” intermittently before release. The first weekend of the second flighting period has just concluded, so, whilst you wait to get your hands on Infinite’s next set of features this weekend, here’s five mods to keep you distracted.
Reach was the last of Bungie’s forays in the Halo franchise, and they chose to send out their vision with a prequel to their very first game. However, whilst Reach’s sandbox now enjoys a comfortable niche for fans, some still express disappointment at how extensively different its offering is from the game that follows it narratively. Many classic Halo elements are either revised or removed altogether, and new mechanics take centre stage. This mod aims to bring Reach into better parity with Combat Evolved and its sequels, featuring a modified gameplay loop that pays better homage to the other games in the series. Graphical changes are also made to enemies to signpost them more clearly as per their classic counterparts, and as a result, the experience feels more like a middle-ground between Reach and Combat Evolved.
It’s no secret that Halo’s classic PC ports were, for the most part, botched in one way or another. Whilst Halo 2’s PC port did not come with the same depth of graphical and gameplay issues that Halo: CE’s did, many elements are still at a definite disadvantage compared to the original Xbox release. This mod, then, tries to restore the features that did not survive the transition from Xbox to PC, and with some of these fixes not yet implemented even by MCC’s version of Halo 2, this is a great way to try out a more faithful edition of Halo 2’s classic gameplay.
Custom Edition’s modding tools created a prolific modding community surrounding Combat Evolved, carrying maps, gameplay mods, and more over the years. Lumoria is one such project, a huge-scale campaign total conversion that transports the narrative and gameplay to a whole new locale. Featuring revised gameplay and an original story, Lumoria brings players more of the classic CE gameplay they love with a new goal to pursue.
MCC’s recent modding efforts have not been lost on mod creators. Whilst fan-made tools did the trick for a long time, official modding support is always the best boon a modding community can receive, and thanks to a mixture of powerful community documentation and added functionality, this modder has created a taste of the kind of new experiences possible in Halo 3 for the first time. Arrival sees you inhabit a dark alternate universe where Master Chief did not survive the events of Halo 2; thus, you’re placed into the shoes of a standard marine, forced to contend with an early Flood outbreak and ending with a callback to one of the creators’ other mods for Halo 3. A whole campaign played this way would be incredible - and with new modding possibilities on the table, it could well be possible.
A lot of Custom Edition’s fun boils down to giant war maps started up in LAN games of friends where nuking each other with Longswords is the name of the game. However, for those looking for a more refined and solitary experience alongside your own hive of locally-sourced friends, The Flood: Virulence will satisfy your curiosity. Featuring five mini campaigns that see you play as one of the space parasites integral to Halo’s story, The Flood: Virulence has you take another go at the events of Combat Evolved, with the guidance of the hive mind behind the menace. This campaign presents a great “what-if” and brings a lot of unique experiences to the table!
Halo Infinite will be the next big Halo game released by 343, and will be the sixth game in Master Chief’s storyline. Unlike the majority of its preceding games, Infinite will launch on PC natively as well as the usual suspects of Xbox consoles. Prior to launch, 343 is committed to ironing out the big issues, implementing community feedback, and making sure the release - delayed as it has been - is as solid as possible.
Infinite sees the player resume the role of the Master Chief on yet another of the remaining Halo rings
To that end, they’ve commenced a series of flights on PC for Halo Infinite, the first having taken place in late July and crossing over into early August. This flight is the longest testing period so far, beginning September 23rd and not concluding until October 4th. The two weekends that bookend the testing period will be focused around specific gamemodes and organised into sessions where these modes will be enabled at certain times of the day.
343 has made a real attempt to bridge the gap between their divisive style revisions seen
in Halo 4 onwards, and the classic visual style players are familiar with.
I was lucky enough to be involved in this flight and so there will be two editorials - today’s will focus on the smaller-scale gunfights that made up the bulk of last weekend’s testing, and the second will describe the vehicles in more depth. In short - I think Infinite’s got a really solid foundation built already. Whilst I wasn’t a huge proponent of Halo 5’s singleplayer campaign, the multiplayer was brilliant, and that comes from someone who has spent the majority of his time acing the Halo campaigns on Legendary, not playing multiplayer. Infinite’s multiplayer is fast-paced and satisfying, with most guns feeling weighty and effective. The classic battle rifle makes a real splash in the sandbox, the assault rifle feels better than it ever has, and some of the new guns - especially the shock rifle and the pulse carbine - took a little getting used to, but are a great addition to the gunplay.
Infinite does throw a few loose features out there that classic Halo game fans won’t be used to - such as the clambering and sliding mechanics, the grappleshot pickup, and a small (but reliable) sprint
I think the majority of the sandbox hits the mark, but a few stand-out examples don’t quite sit right for me. The Sidekick is satisfying, but visually still rather out-of-place being that it looks like your usual small-arms pistol. I could’ve seen it being the “backup” pistol and the magnum resuming its CE role of being a portable hand cannon, but, as the replacement, it leaves a little to be desired. It’s not got quite as much personality as its forefather. The needler is pretty naff, as it always has been (except in Halo 2, where it was a force of nature when dual-wielded), the plasma pistol is probably at its weakest here, and the new Commando is simultaneously not iconic enough visually nor effective enough in gameplay to supplant the lovingly recreated battle rifle or surprisingly punchy sidekick in my mind. Of all the weapons, I’d say the Heatwave was the most hit and miss for me. It’s a difficult weapon to use and plan around, but landing melt-shots on unsuspecting spartans was very satisfying. I think it’s a weapon I’ll grow to love as I get better at using it.
New weaponry, with more still to be revealed in future flights or trailers,
significantly change the options available to the player in combat
My takeaway from the flight so far? It’s looking good. The state the game appeared to be in - visually and gameplay wise - when Infinite was first revealed left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but the work on show in these flights indicates that, if nothing else, the multiplayer will once again be a solid component worth playing alone; the free-to-play elements will only encourage an active player base of competitively-minded people.
(You can also check out more Halo: Combat Evolved mods here)
There’s more to come from this flight, and I’ll be covering how vehicles and larger battles feel next week. As for the game itself, it’s not all good news at launch, with campaign co-op and Forge being notable exceptions from the features coming initially. Hopefully, 343 gives these two features the dedication they deserve post-launch to ensure Halo’s community is given the option to both play co-operatively with friends and create their own insane gamemodes.
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Alternate/optional Assembly Patch download. Installation instructions included in the readme.
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