Pixel Boost: Halo: Combat Evolved at 5120x2880
Twice a month, Pixel Boost guides you through the hacks, tricks, and mods you'll need to run a classic PC game on Windows 7/8. Each guide comes with a free side of 4K screenshots from the LPC celebrating the graphics of PC gaming's past. This week: Halo PC survives the death of Gamespy.
I lost the entire summer of 2004 to Halo on the PC. While my family PC was still an aging Pentium 4, my best friend (who lived a convenient five minutes away) scored a beastly gaming rig powered by a 2.8GHz AMD CPU and a 128MB ATI 9600. It could play anything, and in the summer of 2004, our game of choice was Halo on the PC. We'd take turns playing multiplayer for days straight, honing our pistol skills to get those crucial three-shot kills. Servers hosted CTF matches that lasted for hours. Today, Halo: Custom Edition still has a small but active playerbase thanks to a Bungie patch (11 years after release!) that replaced Gamespy with new master servers. The patch also added support for resolutions up to 4800x3600. You know what that means—it's time to Pixel Boost.
Halo PC isn't available on Steam, or Good Old Games, or any other digital distribution platform. But it is available in classic disc-in-a-box form on Amazon for $20. New! It's Amazon Prime, even!
Halo installs happily from a disc, but before you play, you'll want to download the 1.10 patch from this thread. If you plan to play multiplayer, download the 1.10 patch for Halo: Custom Edition from the same thread, then grab the Halo: CE installer here. Custom Edition supports Custom Maps and is where you'll find the online action.
Install the 1.10 patch for Halo, then install Halo: Custom Edition and its patch. After that, you're ready to play.
Run it in high resolution
Halo PC should run properly on either Windows 7 or Windows 8. Booting the game will probably go off without a hitch for you, but it's possible you'll have trouble launching it. Running a multi-GPU setup on the Large Pixel Collider with Nvidia Surround, I ran into an error: the game wouldn't boot because it had trouble initializing DirectDraw. It suggested hardware acceleration might be disabled. Best I can tell, this is an issue with Surround that I couldn't fix. Even if you're not using Surround, though, you might see the same error.
It's possible (but unlikely) that hardware acceleration is actually disabled on your computer. You can check by running DXDiag and looking under the first Display tab. If acceleration is disabled, grab DXCpl from this thread and use it to re-enable hardware acceleration.
One other fix that may help you if DirectDraw fails: changing your registry settings.
If you don't run into those problems, you should be able to boot Halo and play it at your native resolution (up to 4800x3600!) no problem. I wasn't satisfied with running the game at 2560x1440, so I decided to downsample it. And good news: Halo CE works flawlessly with Durante's downsampling tool GeDoSaTo, which you can download here. With GeDoSaTo installed, add Halo to the application's whitelist (or run it in blacklist mode, which means it will be active for all applications except a few it has listed as off-limits).
In GeDoSaTo's settings menu, you need to set the resolution you want to downsample from and the resolution you want to downsample to (this is your monitor's native resolution). Make sure neither line is commented out. Finally, you need to create a shortcut for Halo.exe and add a line of code to the Target field to make it run at the proper resolution while downsampling is active. Simply append -vidmode 3840,2160,60 or [horizontal res],[verticalres],[hz]. Here are the settings I used for GeDoSaTo and Halo's shortcut:
If you plan to play Halo multiplayer, Halo: Custom Edition is essential. If you want to create your own maps, download the Halo Editing Kit. There are plenty of CE maps to download, but to know which ones are in popular use, you'll have to boot up the game and survey the server browser. There are also Halo mods on ModDB that change the singleplayer campaign.
Halo: Combat Evolved at 5120x2880 on the LPC
These screenshots were captured by running Halo: Combat Evolved on a single 1440p monitor on the Large Pixel Collider. Using Durante's GeDoSaTo tool, I downsampled the game from a resolution of 5120x2880. While the HUD scales poorly to such a high resolution, some of the game's textures and geometry look fantastic for a game released in 2003. For more guides to running classic games on modern Windows and more classic game screenshots, check out Pixel Boost every other week.