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Here's Why Halo: MCC Made The First Two Games Look So Good

Paying attention to Halo's most devoted fans, ancient Xbox dev kits, and plenty of hard work are just some of the reasons why the original two Halo games look so good in the Master Chief Collection.


Halo: The Master Chief Collection isn't just a massive collection of Master Chief's greatest adventures; it's also a time capsule that shows just how far the series and video game technology has come over the last two decades. It's also impressive to see Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition and Halo 2 running smoothly on Microsoft's latest Xbox Series X|S consoles, with both games having preserved their original Xbox visuals.

So how did developers 343 Industries and Saber Interactive manage to get legacy game code working on newer Xbox consoles? Through sheer effort, going back to the past, and paying attention to the analyses done by the Halo community. In a Halo Waypoint post, Saber Interactive tech lead Roman Lebedev--who served as lead project programmer on Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition on Xbox 360--explained how he had to find original Xbox devkit documents and learn how older software worked so that the first two Halo games could have more authentic legacy graphics.

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"Most fixes required us to restore original high-level code and make correct DX11 implementation, for example, H:CE active camo, sun, water, fog, and some other effects," Lebedev said. "I made a list of all shaders and fixed them one by one since all shaders were written in code. While some fixes uncovered bugs in shader generation that helped to fix several bugs at once, it was not even close to Halo: Combat Evolved, where shading fixes covered 99% of graphical issues."

Lebedev added that while he handled the fixes for the first Halo, more hands were needed for Halo 2. Some of the most challenging areas to fix in those two games were water, sound, and cinematic interpolation for both the legacy and remastered graphics, while Halo 2's shadows proved to be especially challenging. All the hard work by Saber Interactive paid off though, with both Halo games looking more authentic than ever before. It's the kind of detail that's most likely only noticed by a very observant section of the Halo community, but it just goes to show just how dedicated 343 Industries and Saber Interactive are to preserving the legacy of Halo, a passion which Xbox boss Phil Spencer wants to see more of in the wider gaming industry.

This week though, Halo Infinite will likely hog the spotlight. With its multiplayer having been out in the wild for a few weeks--and hiding a few extra multiplayer modes it seems--December 8 will see the launch of the campaign portion of the game. For more on the game, you can read our Halo Infinite campaign review, as well as our Halo Infinite multiplayer review-in-progress.

Darryn Bonthuys on Google+

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