It isn’t just painting Daleks that has kept me occupied during lockdown – I have also been working on a huge range of campaign mods for the PC version of Halo 2 Anniversary, available on Steam. Since the start of June I have been regularly uploading these mods to the Halo: The Master Chief Collection Mod Nexus, and between then and the time of writing this post the mods have had over 4,800 combined downloads.
But what do these mods actually do? The answer varies from mission to mission. Initially the project began as a simple idea to implement one tiny change to Halo 2: I wanted more allied Grunts on Uprising. After downloading Assembly and fiddling around with several failed attempts, I finally figured out how to ensure that the 2 hapless Grunts that spawn to help the player at the start of the mission are now 4 hapless Grunts. Or 6 hapless Grunts. Or 8 hapless Grunts. Or 20 combat-ready Elite Majors dual-wielding Brute Plasma Rifles.
Since childhood I have been playing the same campaign missions over and over again – whether that is a testament to the game’s enduring replayability or my zealous obsession is up to you, but either way over time I have come to know the Halo 2 campaign missions very well, and this knowledge came in very handy when creating modded versions of each mission. Because the program breaks down the entities in the game into lists and assigns each entry on the list a number, all that is required is to figure out which number correlates to each entity from there the rest falls into place after 100 or so botched experiments.
I eventually had a stable build, which I dubbed ‘Uprising Evolved’ – simply because ‘Evolved’ was the first Halo-sounding word that popped into my head as I was naming the file. I have since realised that this is somewhat ironic, as the inclusion of the tagline ‘Combat Evolved’ on the original Halo was a decision made entirely due to marketing purposes. Nonetheless, this began a naming convention for my mods of the Arbiter missions in Halo 2.
Over the month of June I created mods for every campaign mission in Halo 2, and I created a mod page for each campaign mission on the Nexus so I could upload several versions of each level. The regular versions of the mods added more allies to the mission and expanded the range of weapons and ranks that pre-existing allies have. Another feature of the mods was that each one had several variations – for example, The Arbiter included a Heretic Edition which allowed the player to play through the level as Heretic forces fighting the Covenant, and the modded Chief missions had variants that added Elite allies.
However, when Halo 3 was released on PC, disaster struck. 343 industries made changes to the Halo 2 level files, correcting bugs with the port that had existed since the first release of MCC on Xbox, including the infamous disappearance of dual-wielding in Halo 2 Anniversary. This update, whilst absolutely necessary for the long-term health of the MCC, also had the unfortunate side effect of breaking all the mods I had created up until that point, which included all of Halo 2’s campaign and the various sub-mods.
Since then, I have been rebuilding my mod portfolio from scratch, and although the current mods do not have as many variations as the original range, they are arguably more polished as I was able to learn from the mistakes that I had made when creating my first set of Halo 2 mods to ensure that the second wave are more stable. Although a future MCC update might render them all unusable, for now these Halo 2 mods are fully-functional and they can be found here. If you want to play through Halo 2’s campaign in a whole new way, all you have to do is download the file, make a backup of your Halo 2 mission files and copy the new ones over. All the instructions are included on the mod page, the installation process is quick and simple.
Since the release of Halo 3, I have also released modded versions of Sierra 117, The Storm and The Covenant, with more on the way. These mods add more allied Elites, who were tragically overlooked in the vanilla game, to make combat encounters more exciting. Across all of the mods currently released so far it is possible to play through Halo 2 with allied Elites on almost every mission, so for those who love to fight alongside the greatest warriors of the Covenant, these mods are for you.