Halo 2 Anniversary Mods – Custom Campaign Missions!

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.

The mission ‘Sacred Icon’, modded to include Brute allies and more Grunts and Jackals

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.

The mission ‘Regret’, modded to include ODSTs and more allied Marines

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.

Star Wars Empire at War Mod Review – Thrawn's Revenge

Welcome to this Star Wars Empire at War mod review, this post will cover the Thrawn’s Revenge mod for Star Wars Empire of War: Forces of Corruption, created by Corey Loses. To say that this mod is an overhaul of Star Wars: Empire at War is an understatement. This mod is nothing short than a complete re-imagining of the core mechanics of the game that not only expands on the original idea but improves it in almost every conceivable way.

To break down exactly why Thrawn’s Revenge (also known as Imperial Civil War) is such a fantastic mod, we need to explore some key elements to this project that make it worthy of a mod review here on Sacred Icon.

The Galaxy Far, Far Away

One of Empire at War’s biggest drawbacks was the underwhelming nature of the Galaxy map. Considering the fact that Empire at War is a layered game with both space and ground combat battles coordinated by a greater map screen that depicts the Star Wars galaxy, the layout was uninspired and cramped. Thrawn’s Revenge completely overhauls this by accurately recreating the Star Wars Galaxy from various Legends sources, and the mod adds hundreds of new planets, asteroid fields and other systems that can be fought over in the game. To account for this huge Galaxy, there are also multiple new factions in the game.

Control New Factions

If the mod’s two titles ‘Thrawn’s Revenge’ and ‘Imperial Civil War’ don’t give it away, this mod is set during the post-Endor era in the Star Wars Legends continuity, meaning that Emperor Palpatine is dead (for now) and the Empire has splintered into multiple warring factions. In total, the number of factions in this game varies dramatically depending on what mode you play, and there are lots of new non-playable factions that populate the updated, larger Galaxy. Playable factions include the standard Empire, the New Republic (formerly the Rebel Alliance), the Pentastar Alignment, the Greater Maldrood, Zsinj’s Empire, the Corporate Sector Authority, the Eriadu Authority and the Empire of the Hand. Needless to say, that’s a lot of Imperial splinter factions, and each one is represented by its own colour and distinctive sector of space.

However, there is a lot more distinguishing these factions than just their colour. Each former Imperial faction has its own set of specific ships and units, and with that come specific strengths and weaknesses. The Greater Maldrood, for example, lacks a large starting territory but specializes in heavy-hitting capital ships with lots of firepower. Conversely, Zsinj’s Empire starts off with a fairly large territory – as well as a Super Star Destroyer – but must rely on inferior frigates, even ex-Rebel ships, to maintain its dwindling fleet. This highlights one of the greatest strengths of the Thrawn’s Revenge mod, and that is that it encourages players to use the various tactics and strategies of their chosen faction in order to succeed. The New Republic relies on starfighters and hit-and-run tactics at first as it lacks sufficient capital ships, whilst the Imperial Remnant must cede territory and fortify a specific area otherwise it will be carved up by the greedy warlord factions.

Whichever faction you play as, you will have unique units and heroes to try out, and each faction has a different difficulty rating as some control vast swathes of space whilst others are tiny juntas holding out against the New Republic and Imperial Remnant. The huge swathe of new units and heroes added to the game make each and every faction feel unique and learning the best way to play each one is an interesting process that can make for hours of fun. Specific highlights include the Quasar Fire carrier for the New Republic, an early and somewhat costly frigate that comes loaded with starfighters, the Boarding Shuttle, which lets opportunistic New Republic players capture Star Destroyers. Add to that the huge range of new types of Star Destroyer available in this game and there is a diverse array of fleets to see here, and this is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Build the New Republic

With Palpatine dead, the Rebel Alliance has formed the New Republic and entrenched themselves in various systems across the Galaxy. One of the best things about the Thrawn’s Revenge mod is the era progression, which allows you to start out as the New Republic in its early years and claw your way to power with just a handful of systems, or start out in later eras in which the New Republic is already an established power.

If you do choose to play as the New Republic in a later era, you will see a rare example of post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars Legends content rendered in painstaking detail with high-quality custom models, including the elusive E-Wing – the replacement for the X-Wing, the Nebula-class Star Destroyer of the New Republic, and the MC80B and MC90 Mon Calamari Star Cruisers. There are also a huge array of old Clone Wars ships up for grabs in this game, as several factions rely on older warships from old Republic Venator-class Star Destroyer to former Separatist Munificent-class frigates to prop up their navies. All of these models look fantastic, and the mod itself can run surprisingly well on lower-end computers despite the extensive graphical upgrades.

Hold Out as the Imperial Remnant

Palpatine may be dead, but the Empire lives on. In Thrawn’s Revenge, you can turn the tide against the New Republic by playing as the Empire and attempt to wrestle control back from the fledgling government whilst also quelling multiple treasonous Imperial splinter factions. Like the New Republic, the Empire is capable of era-progression, and as you play through a game the era will advance when a particular goal has been achieved or enough time has elapsed. This means that the Empire can progress from old Star Destroyers to brand new ships, and over time your fleet will evolve and adapt to combat the New Republic tactics.

You can also control the infamous Grand Admiral Thrawn himself, who will aid both the Empire and the Empire of the Hand depending on the era and gamemode. Thrawn is one of the many unique Imperial heroes included in the mod, including some who have their own powerful ships and abilities. A great mechanic to take advantage of when playing as the Empire is that as you progress through the eras your cast of heroes is radically shaken up, so you can afford to expend minor heroes early on as they are gradually replaced as time goes by. Even the great strategist Thrawn himself, is not immune to this mechanic, though rumors of his death in the early-game are greatly exaggerated…

Conquer the Galaxy

One of the best things about the Thrawn’s Revenge mod is its flexibility – there are so many playable factions that you can play out your own alternate version of the events post-Return of the Jedi, and depending on who you play as there can be some interesting results. You can control on Imperial faction that would usually occupy a tiny corner of the Galaxy and make a push for the Core. Alternatively, you can play as a difficult faction like the Greater Maldrood and subvert key trade routes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and secure a foothold.

New mechanics added to the game allow for some interesting influence over the Galaxy, from the Galactic elections that, depending on the victor, can influence what ships you can build, or the newly-added boarding shuttle system, which allows the New Republic to capture capital ships of various kinds and build a ragtag fleet of stolen ships to combat enemy invasions. Hours of fun doesn’t quite cut it with this mod for Empire at War – you can sink days into week-long campaigns and find that you have hardly even started.

Download Thrawn’s Revenge

If you’re a fan of Empire at War or even just a fan of Star Wars in general, it is essential that you give the Thrawn’s Revenge mod a go. You can download it now for free from Steam, all you need is a copy of Star Wars Empire at War: Gold Pack (which includes the Forces of Corruption DLC) and a Steam account.

Halo – SPV3 – CMT’s Re-Masterpiece

As Halo mods go, you can’t get much better than SPV3. Custom Mapping Team, headed by Masterz1337, have created nothing short of a masterpiece with their fantastic re-imagining of Halo: Combat Evolved‘s campaign. Downloadable for free on PC, SPV3 features many interesting surprises for even the most hardened Halo veteran, thanks to remastered graphics, new assets, new weapons and vehicles, and in some cases totally re-imagined levels with new playspaces to explore. As if all that were not enough, the mod also features new enemy types including Brutes, Skirmishers, Sniper Jackals, Honor Guards three different types of Hunters. With so much in this mod, it can be hard to summarise totally in one article, so this may not be the only time this mod features as a topic in the future. For this introduction, the focus will be the new features of this mod that stand out the most when compared with both Halo: Combat Evolved and it’s Anniversary version.


The Music

One of the first aspects of this mod that jumps out at you is the music. Whilst Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary’s soundtrack mostly stuck to the tunes featured in the original game, SPV3’s soundtrack draws from various other Halo games and many of the remasters are radically different from their original counterparts. Whilst many of the classic musical cues in the levels we remember make a return, the mod adds enough new music to make each level feel like an entirely new experience. Highlights of the soundtrack include Under Cover of Night, Rock Anthem for Saving the World, Halo, Sleeping Grunts, Covenant Dance, Leonidas, Brothers in Arms and In Amber Clad, but each and every track in the game has been painstakingly and quite spectacularly enhanced for this updated Halo campaign.


The New Levels

The most exciting of the new additions to the campaign in SPV3 is the new levels, as each and every one has had its weapons, objectives, encounters and atmospheres altered or expanded in various ways. The Anti-Gravity sections in The Pillar of Autumn, the Anti-Air Wraith battle in Halo and the Grizzly rampage in Assault on the Control Room are among the most notable stark enhancements to the campaign’s fun factor, and long-time fans of Halo: Combat Evolved who know the game inside out will be met with many wonderful surprises when playing through SPV3’s campaign as the familiar and the unfamiliar collide in a thrilling single player experience. With all ten of the original levels plus an alternate take on The Silent Cartographer featuring in SPV3, there are a vast variety of classic and brand-new enemy encounters to overcome and dozens of tweaks to each and every facet of the original Halo experience.


The Covenant

In the original version of Halo: Combat Evolved, there were four Covenant races featured – Elites, Grunts, Jackals and Hunters, with some of these having variants such as the Jackal Major, the Stealth Elite and the infamous Zealots. SPV3, on the other hand, has the benefit of hindsight – since Halo: Combat Evolved‘s release, various other Covenant races and variants have been introduced into the franchise such as Jackal Snipers, Elite Honor Guards, Skirmishers and Brutes, and thanks to the power of mods all of these and more are featured in SPV3’s campaign, as well as a vast variety of new Covenant weapons like the Focus Rifle, the Brute Plasma Rifle, the Brute Shot and even Halo 5’s ‘Voi. Also, the CMT have created many of their own totally new Covenant weapons that blend seamlessly into the aesthetic of the game, such as the Shredder (a Brute version of the Needler), the Particle Carbine (like the standard Carbine but battery powered) and the Brute Plasma Pistol (which includes an overcharge that spews fire upon impact). These additions to the Covenant make them more dynamic enemies to fight and the vast variety makes for some challenging encounters with larger groups of enemies that the original Halo: Combat Evolved would have struggled to process.


The Flood

Another big surprise in SPV3 is just how much the Flood have changed in this mod compared to the original game, as they are now a more dynamic threat than ever before. Each of the five Flood levels have been totally reworked from the ground up – the original identity of levels like The Library, Keyes and The Maw have been retained but the mood and atmosphere have been altered considerably, essentially transforming the latter half of the game into a unique and exhilarating horror experience. Levels that were formerly bogged down by repetitive level design and unimaginative encounters have now been re-imagined into some of the best Halo experiences, and this is made all the more exciting by the wide variety of forms the Flood can take in this mod. In the original game, the Flood came in four basic forms – the tiny Infection Forms, the bloated and explosive Carrier Forms and the two varieties of Combat Form, derived from either Elite or Human host bodies. In SPV3, new additions to the Flood ranks include Jackal Forms that howl and screech as they leap towards the player, Brute Forms that are essentially tankier versions of the standard Combat Forms and, for the first time in a Halo game, ODST Combat Forms that are stronger and more dangerous versions of the standard Human Combat Form. If all this were not enough, CMT went one step further and added Halo 3’s instantaneous infection feature, meaning that any Covenant or Human soldiers that are attacked by an Infection Form will be transformed into a Flood form before your very eyes.

In Conclusion

Those out there who are Halo fans and have not yet given SPV3 a go are strongly advised to download this mod, it has clearly had a lot of time, care and effort put into it to make it fun and fresh for fans of Halo: Combat Evolved and the Halo series in general.

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