Halo: Combat Evolved is on PC. Again. Unlike its original release back in 2003, this new release has the fancy campaign graphics of the 2011 Xbox Anniversary remake, along with multiplayer matchmaking and other perks of the Master Chief Collection, like being available on Steam. Developer 343 did a surprise launch today with no lead-up announcement, though there was a hint that Combat Evolved might be coming soon. This is the second game in the MCC to hit PC following Halo: Reach back in December.
Three months, with a holiday break in the middle, feels like a speedy turnaround for a new PC port. The whole collection was in development throughout 2019, but it's encouraging that Halo: CE didn't need a ton of beta testing. 343 Industries ran a couple beta "flights" in January and February, and we'll have the full thing in our hands soon.
On Steam, you can buy the whole Master Chief Collection for $40, or you can buy individual games for $10 apiece (assuming they all cost the same as Halo: Reach). This version of Halo: Combat Evolved has an unlocked framerate, FOV options, and supports high resolutions like 4K. The original PC version still has an active playerbase today thanks to a long-lived modding and mapmaking scene, which 343 called a "community tradition" in a recent blog post.
At release the MCC version of Combat Evolved won't have a server browser like the old PC version, or come with any mod tools to help modders along. But it won't be blocking them, either, and the game files are still based on that original PC version. Modders have already been adding weapons and other new things into Reach, so hopefully Combat Evolved's legacy maps and mods will be easy to carry over.
In that blog post dedicated to modding, 343 senior producer Michael Fahrny wrote that "for modding, we’re very much still dipping our toes in the water. I have some long term goals to empower the modding community more than they already are, but I’m not quite ready to go into details yet on that." The development team is crafting a new EULA, with inspiration from Minecraft's, that will allow modders to safely tinker with the game without stirring up any legal drama between 343 and the community.
"I think the key is lowering the barrier of entry as much as we can to not only enable people to make mods, but also to allow less technical people to manage their mods," Fahrny wrote. "The current ways can be complicated and lead to people getting themselves into bad states, it’s just not good for long term modding health. More official tools, things like Steam Workshop support, etc. are the best path forward."
In addition to Steam, the Master Chief Collection is also available on Xbox Game Pass for PC.