A coalition of Halo modders and developers have been digging up the series' forgotten history—including an adorable set of RTS vehicles

A picture of Spasm, a reclaimed map from Halo, featuring a looming ring in the distance and two lonesome buggies on the grass.
(Image credit: 343 Industries / The Digsite modding team)

Last year, it was announced on the Halo: Waypoint website that 343 Industries would be working with a coalition of modders from the community to dive into  "the darkest depths of ancient folders" and salvage what they could from the cutting room floor of 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved, then bring those scraps to the Master Chief Collection, which came to PC in 2019.

They released a three-part blog series: "Cutting Room Floor", "Cutting Room Corps" and "Cutting Room Lore", then went dark until last week, tinkering away with what community writer Alex Wakeford calls "the secret tenth circle of Hell (the cutting room floor of game development)". Fortunately they survived Cortana's Inferno, and came out with some real gems.

The blog post starts with some maps that never made it into Halo PC's retail release, from a much more ambitious multiplayer experience that never was: "Some of these were cut before they even had a name more evocative than gbx_map#. Nevertheless, two were interesting enough to playtest and bring over the finish line within MCC." The maps found were Indoor and Dusk, which were remade into Underground and Abyss by the team's modders.

The rest of the blog dives into a treasure trove of cut content. Among the more fascinating relics, however, are indications of Halo's previous concepts as both a third-person shooter and an RTS.

From the over-the-shoulder side, a bounty of weapons: "We do want to point out that the recovered weapons shown below were from the third-person era of Halo development [...]  All of the cut pre-release Halo: CE weapons with first-person models in these Digsite releases were done from-scratch by the team as a labour of love!"

An image of modded weapons from an ongoing Halo project. The first has "204 triangles", while the next has "1324" triangles.

(Image credit: 343 Industries / Digsite Modding Team)

This arsenal includes an assault rifle/grenade launcher and an SMG with a side-mag, for which the team had to create custom animations and models to bring them to first-person. They also built in the other direction, tidying up a revived third-person mode: "the CE engine can now support third-person weapons, allowing us to replicate their original look".

My favourite bit in the whole post, however, is a callback to Halo's weird conceptual phase as an RTS: a set of dinky little vehicles, which the team plan to make available to modders. "After internal testing and discussion, we ultimately decided to release these as data-only assets due to a lack of documentation on their weapons and performance [...] We look forward to seeing what the community does with them."

An image of several reclaimed vehicles from Halo's RTS days. They're low-poly, and very cute.

(Image credit: 343 Industries / Digsite modding team)

Look at these li'l guys. I want low-poly plushies for all of them. Halo did eventually realise its original RTS ambitions with Halo Wars and Halo Wars: 2, but I doubt anything in either title will capture my heart like these chunky lads.

There's far too much to go over here, so I highly recommend diving into the blog post yourself. There's freaky animals, scrapped vehicles and enemies, and details on bringing crunchy in-development sound effects up to a modern standard. There may also be some new music tracks on the horizon: "we are, of course, far from the culmination of our journey into Halo’s audio."

I'm not a big Halo guy myself—I am, however, fascinated by game preservation, and I can't wait to see what the team digs up next. I won't have to wait long, either: the team plans to drop a second blog on July 14 to uncover "some of the additional things the crew has been up to—from the E3 2003 demo of Halo 2, to the Guardians cut from Halo 3, more weapons, maps, vehicles, characters, and more general awesomeness."

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.