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Halo: Combat Evolved Adds A Mode It's Never Had Before In The Master Chief Collection

Microsoft continues to update and support Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and the newest change brings a multiplayer mode to Halo: Combat Evolved that it’s never had before.

The latest playlist update brings the mode Team SWAT and FFA SWAT to Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. This might not sound like a big deal, but this is the first time that SWAT has been available in original Halo game. It’s been featured in most of the Halo sequels, but never the first game.

You can now find out for yourself how SWAT plays in the original Halo. The matchmaking gametype is currently available for both PC and Xbox One in Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

The Team SWAT playlist features the Battle Creek, Damnation, Prisoner, Hang ‘Em High, Chill Out, Derelict, and Wizard maps, while the FFA SWAT playlist has all those maps except Wizard.

SWAT is a brutal and punishing game mode that can be immensely frustrating or highly satisfying depending on how good you are and the skill level of the opponents you’re playing against. In SWAT, you have no shield or motion-tracker, and you spawn with a precision weapon. This means you can kill opponents with just a single, well-placed shot. The lack of a motion-tracker means you never know where your enemies are, making SWAT a very intense game mode that rewards skill and precision.

In addition to ongoing support for MCC, developer 343 Industries has another internal team focused on Halo: Infinite. The studio recently sent its employees home due to COVID-19. While the team is continuing to work remotely on Halo: Infinite, which is set to be a launch title for Xbox Series X this year, the studio has warned that the global pandemic may get worse before it gets better.

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Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary – Skull Location Guide

With Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary having recently released on PC via The Master Chief Collection, tons of gamers across the globe have been re-experiencing the beginning of Bungie’s storied franchise. While not every aspect holds up to time, the game still offers a unique feeling that many other shooters haven’t replicated.

There are no new levels in this remastered port, but a bunch of new collectibles have been sprinkled about for eagle-eyed space marines to find. One of these collectibles happens to be the skulls that were introduced in Halo 3. Oddly, you’ll need to be playing in the “Remastered” graphics mode to spot these skulls, but you can actually switch between the different modes on the fly.

There are a total of 13 skulls in the game spanning the game’s 10 levels. For some reason, the campaign mission “Keyes” does not feature any skulls, so you can take a break on that level.

Here is where you’ll be able to find them. This guide applies to both the Xbox 360 Anniversary and the Xbox One/PC release.

The Pillar of Autumn

Iron

The first skull in the game is located immediately at the beginning. Once the Master Chief exits from the cryochamber, turn around and look behind it. You’ll spot the skull in the back behind some crates.

Halo

Mythic

The next skull comes on the second level, “Halo.” At the very beginning after crash landing on the planet, head directly to the waterfall in front of you. Ignore Cortana’s pleas to run and you’ll spot this skull behind a rock in front of the falls.

Boom

On the same level, you’ll encounter this skull after Foe Hammer drops you a banshee. Instead of going directly down into the gulch, drive along the right ledge to a bush that the skull is sitting behind.

Truth and Reconciliation

Foreign

Fairly late into the level, you’ll find this skull in the hanger where the marines get ambushed. You can actually access it early by bum-rushing the locked door and running in when enemies jump out.

The Silent Cartographer

Famine

Right at the start of The Silent Cartographer, ignore the beach assault and walk backward. Once around the mountain, you’ll spot a small hill in the middle of the beach. Walk around its base, climb the hill, and you’ll spot this skull at the end.

Bandanna

When going to the control room to unlock the security doors, this skull can be found on a distant platform outside. You’ll need to grenade or rocket jump to reach it, or can stack up on your friend in co-op.

Assault on the Control Room

Fog

Another skull you’ll need to grenade jump to. After crossing the first bridge and riding the elevator down, this skull can be found in the middle of the room inside of an opening. Use the picture to help you spot it.

Malfunction

When traversing through the level, you’ll come to a gorge that requires you to drive your tank across a bridge. Kill all the enemies, then go back to the start and look at one of the pipes. You’ll have to die to grab this or have your co-op partner wait for you.

343 Guilty Spark

Recession

From the beginning, turn left and walk deep into the swamp. You’ll find this behind some trees. You can also progress in the level until the game asks you to turn right into the facility. Hang a left instead and jump off the cliff near the turret.

The Library

Black Eye

This skull can be found inside one of the vents before entering The Index for the first time. You’ll need to grenade jump to reach an elevated platform, then hop over into the vent on the right and climb up a black void to spot the skull. It’s in the first area of the level, so you won’t need to progress too far to find it.

Eye Patch

At the end of the level, instead of running for the objective, take a right and follow the path to the back. You’ll find the skull nestled between two large blocks. You may need to take all of the enemies out first.

Two Betrayals

Piñata

When progressing towards the third generator, fly past the objective and to the right. This skull can be found on top of the entrance to the underground tunnel you previously came out of.

The Maw

Grunt Birthday Party

During the final escape sequence, this skull can be found in the location where Cortana tells you to stop. You’ll need to position the warthog to the right of the bridge so you can jump onto the pipe and claim this skull. There’s plenty of time to do it while Foe Hammer is dying.

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Halo: Combat Evolved on PC sparks fond memories of a simpler time

Aaaah, now this is Halo. Three months after releasing Halo: Reach on PC, Microsoft surprise-added Halo: Combat Evolved to Steam yesterday—both standalone and as part of the Master Chief Collection. Unlike Reach, the original Halo had its day on PC back in 2003. This is the Anniversary edition though, the remaster from 2011.

And you know what? It still holds up surprisingly well—visually, at least.

Combat Devolved

Playing the game? That’s a different story. The original Halo’s an interesting one, missing key features that came to define the series later. Regenerating health, for instance. You still have a shield in Halo: Combat Evolved but it’s a flimsy one, and you collect a lot of Red Cross-emblazoned medkits off the floors here. It wasn’t until Halo 2 that Bungie settled on the idea of only having regenerating shield health, a decision that influenced shooters for over a decade after.

And if you’ve played Halo: Combat Evolved before, you doubtless know the starting Pistol is the only gun worth using. Fan-favorite weapons like the battle rifle and sword don’t exist here, and the rest of the roster is either highly situational or near-useless. The Assault Rifle is equivalent to sneezing on most enemies. Meanwhile the humble Pistol has a 2x zoom and can one-shot through the Covenant with ease.

It has rough edges, and a lot of them. Voice acting is passable, but pretty rough circa 2020. The tutorial is loooooong. Level design is dated, with an over-reliance on labyrinthine corridors, especially in the infamous Library level. Even the once-impressive outdoor levels feel small and stilted by today’s standards. It’s very much a game that tried a lot of interesting ideas, but with one foot still stuck in the ‘90s.

Still, it’s the Halo campaign I’m most nostalgic to boot up. I associate the Halos that came after with multiplayer, primarily. Sure, I played every campaign, but I finished Halo 2 maybe twice and spent the rest of my time with it (hundreds of hours as a teenager) on Xbox Live. There, I’m nostalgic for Lockout, Ascension, Zanzibar, all the time I wasted in those iconic arenas. Halo 3, it’s the same. I finished once on Heroic, once on Legendary, and then never went back.

But I barely played the original Halo’s multiplayer at the time—only ever in splitscreen, and only with two people. Instead, my buddy and I spent a lot of time playing and replaying the Combat Evolved campaign. I can picture it, every step of the way: The winding corridors of the Pillar of Autumn, those first cautious steps onto the Halo installation, the beaches of the Silent Cartographer, the arrival of The Flood, the fate of Commander Keyes (and his pipe), the Warthog run.

We spent hours perfecting the Warthog Jump, and stealing Banshees to get to parts of the level we weren’t supposed to see. We mined the levels for secrets, like the hidden room on the Pillar of Autumn.

It’s a landmark game for me. I think you generally only get a few of those in your life, and most of them come when you’re young and your access to games is limited. I wrote about this a bit with Warcraft III, another from around that same time. Halo: Combat Evolved is more than a game I once played. It’s emblematic of a time and a place. I can picture the room my friend and I used to sit in, the couch we used to sit on, the crappy 14-inch TV we squinted at when a fight went sideways.

I play Halo not so much to relive the campaign but to relive those memories. They come flooding (heh) back as soon as I take my first steps on the Pillar of Autumn, and so while I think this is objectively one of the weakest parts of the Master Chief Collection—seriously, it’s showing its age—I have to admit it’s also probably my favorite. Or at least tied for my favorite with Halo 2’s multiplayer.

You probably had to be there, but I was there, and my friends were there, and we had one hell of a summer.

Combat Re-evolved

And now it’s easier for me to boot up Halo on a whim. That’s the promise of the Master Chief Collection, and I’m pretty impressed with it so far…with a few caveats.

My complaints about the original Halo are identical to my complaints about Reach. First and foremost, the bizarre manner in which weapon switching is handled. Mirroring the Xbox controls, swapping between primary and secondary weapons is done with a single mapping, the “1” key. Hitting “2” to go to your secondary instead changes your grenade type.

It’s been three months, and it still irks me. This is not how PC games handle weapon swapping. I’ve adapted to a lot of strange control schemes in my life, but this one flies in the face of PC shooters both before (i.e. Doom-era) and after. It’s an aberration, and I wish 343 would simply give PC players the option to use the scroll wheel, or map “1” to primary weapon, “2” to secondary, and “3” to swapping grenades. The option, is all!

Speaking of which, Halo sports the same three options as Reach: “Enhanced,” “Original,” and “Performance.” As with Reach, any halfway decent gaming PC will run Halo maxed out, so I understand logically why 343 didn’t bother with more granular graphics settings—and yet I find it weird. It’s a PC port. Where is my list of settings to set to “Ultra” so I can feel smug?

There are a few Halo-specific bugs I’ve noticed. Cortana has a bad habit of talking over herself if you progress through a level too fast (which is easy to do on Pillar of Autumn especially). Shadows don’t render correctly sometimes.

And you can still toggle between the original graphics and the updated Anniversary edition remaster by hitting Tab—an ingenious feature, which will prompt anyone who played the game in the early ‘00s to sputter “There’s no way it looked this bad back then.” Time makes fools of us all.

Remastered…

…versus original. And this isn’t even the worst of the old graphics.

Unfortunately the jump back and forth is nowhere near as smooth as it was on Xbox—at least on my PC. If it’s been a minute or two since I last switched, the first new instance causes the game to stutter and hang for a second before flipping over. After that it’s fine, as I assume all the old (or new) textures get loaded properly into memory. Still, it’s not quite as seamless as I’d like. Also, there’s some ill-advised 2011 meme humor embedded in the Anniversary graphics that I wish was stricken from the game.

There’s also a “bug” that’s actually a feature: Control settings are per-game. They don’t carry across the entire Master Chief Collection. If you remapped melee to Mouse 4 or weapon switching to Mouse Wheel Up last time (as I recommended), you’ll have to do it again here.

Annoying? Maybe, but also kind of neat, I’ll admit. The Master Chief Collection is smart about how it packages and presents the series, and unique per-game controls are emblematic of 343’s mostly hands-off approach. You can also pick-and-choose which Halos you want to install from an in-game menu, and each entry is further split into singleplayer and multiplayer components.

Snag the ones you plan to play and don’t bother downloading the rest. I wish more games were this kind to my hard drive.

Bottom line

Anyway, it’s Halo on PC—again. That’s going to be the takeaway for all of these, and at some point I’ll probably stop writing up every single release in the Master Chief Collection.

But for now, I still find it exciting. The PC went nearly 15 years without a Halo game. Now they’re all coming over at once, and that makes them infinitely more accessible than they were on my Xbox One, which is in a box in my closet. Master Chief Collection was one of two Microsoft games (along with Rare Replay) this generation that I wanted to come over, and now it’s happening. That’s worth celebrating, at least one or two more times.

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