Halo 2: Anniversary PC review — Solid overall, but the cracks run deep

While this port is generally solid, many bugs have nevertheless desecrated Halo 2 with their filthy footsteps.

Halo 2: Anniversary
(Image: © 343 Industries)

After two months since Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was ported to the PC platform, Halo 2: Anniversary has officially made the migration and is now available as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Steam, the Windows 10 Store, and Xbox Game Pass for PC. Included with the game is the full Halo 2/Halo 2: Anniversary campaign experience, as well as both the Halo 2 and Halo 2: Anniversary multiplayer. But is the PC port a good one?

After playing it extensively since its release, I can say the answer is a complicated one. In some ways, the game plays excellently, while in others, the experience is marred significantly by a slew of nasty bugs. Overall, the state of the game is solid, but it leaves much to be desired.

Halo 2: Anniversary PC Campaign

When it works properly, Halo 2: Anniversary looks stunning on PC hardware.

In general, Halo 2: Anniversary's campaign experience on PC is good, but there's a sizable amount of room for improvement.

When it comes to graphical quality, the visuals overall look better than they ever did on Xbox One thanks to the power of PC hardware. Unfortunately, there are times where the look of the game suffers from visual bugs. Specifically, textures both close to and far away from the player can appear low quality, and some foliage LOD textures may not even render at all. Shadows may appear very blurry, too, and it's pretty distracting considering that Halo 2: Anniversary is defined by its clean, crisp aesthetic.

Thankfully, these happenings were few and far between. For the vast majority of my playthrough, Halo 2: Anniversary's campaign was nothing but gorgeous to look at.

Audio is a mixed bag, to say the least. Music and sound effects come through loud and clear, and there are no instances of audio cutting out like it did for previous ports. However, when you switch between Halo 2: Anniversary and the original Halo 2 version of the campaign on the fly, music can skip around or prematurely end. Music is quieter than it's supposed to be in the original Halo 2 mode, too, which will disappoint fans who want to hear the original game's score. On top of this, switching between modes can randomly switch your PC's audio output, which is annoying to have to fix. You'll never experience these issues if you stick to Anniversary mode. Still, it's unfortunate that people have to deal with them if they want to switch between the original game and Anniversary. Part of the fun of Halo 2: Anniversary is comparing the original game to the remaster in real-time, after all.

Thankfully, the performance of Halo 2: Anniversary's campaign is stellar. While there may be the rare slight frame rate drop or micro-stutter, the game runs fantastically overall. The core gameplay of the title is also fully intact; aside from a weird glitch where Elites can't dual-wield properly, Halo 2 and Halo 2: Anniversary's campaign will play just as you remember them.

Halo 2: Anniversary PC Multiplayer

The state of Halo 2's classic multiplayer at launch is unacceptable.

The multiplayer experience in Halo 2: Anniversary is either excellent or abysmal, depending on which game you're playing. Halo 2: Anniversary's multiplayer is nearly perfect — aside from the occasional lighting problem, it looks, sounds, and runs just as it does on Xbox One. Not having Forge mode at launch is unfortunate considering Halo 2: Anniversary didn't have many multiplayer maps to begin with, but it's not a terrible setback.

However, the classic Halo 2 multiplayer is in an awful state at launch. While the servers run great and there's no lag to speak of, there are tons of issues with hit registration. Frequently I've experienced cases where my shots didn't do damage to other players (you can observe it in the clip above when I'm sniping at the player on the balcony), and this has also occurred with melee attacks, grenades, and explosive projectiles as well. At the time of writing, there's also a bizarre glitch where rockets and grenades you use may vanish, only to reappear next to teammates across the map, killing them. If this happens several times, you can be booted from the game for betrayals. Killing enemy players can also register as betrayals as well on rare occasions. It's simply not acceptable that Halo 2 plays this way.

Considering we're in the middle of a pandemic and everyone at 343 Industries is currently working from home, I understand that the development process isn't ideal right now. However, I don't understand why the game couldn't have just been delayed for a while until these problems were solved. Maybe Microsoft is pushing to have all of the games on the Master Chief Collection ported to PC before Halo Infinite? Whatever the case may be, these problems have seriously soured what should have been a triumphant return of Halo 2's beloved multiplayer.

Should you buy Halo 2: Anniversary PC?

Halo 2: Anniversary

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

At the end of the day, I think people should only get Halo 2: Anniversary on PC right now if they're planning to stick to the campaign and/or Halo 2: Anniversary multiplayer. The state of Halo 2's classic multiplayer is really rough, and honestly, I don't think people should subject themselves to the numerous frustrations I mentioned in this review. You'd be better off waiting if Halo 2 multiplayer is what you want to get Halo 2: Anniversary for. The campaign has issues of its own, but they're tolerable — the bugs afflicting Halo 2's multiplayer aren't.

The steady reduction in port quality from Halo: Reach on PC to now has me worried about how Halo 3: ODST, Halo 3, and Halo 4 will turn out. From a consumer perspective, it seems like the priority is to get each game in our hands as quickly as possible and then fix the problems later. Microsoft may not want multiple Halo releases vying for consumer attention when Halo Infinite comes out, but these games represent the best of what Xbox has to offer. They, and the PC gamers who get to experience them for the first time, deserve better.

Halo 2: Anniversary on PC is available for $10 on Steam and the Windows 10 Store. You can also purchase the full Master Chief Collection for $40.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.