Halo is superbly re-imagined in fan-made project SPV3

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Halo has always been a hard sell on PC, but with the Destiny 2 introducing a once-neglected audience to a world of floaty jumps and immensely satisfying shotguns, Bungie has fully extended the olive branch to once-spurned PC gamers. Fitting, then, the week prior to Destiny’s beta saw the release of SPV3, a massively expanded fan-made remake of the original Halo over ten years in the making.

Based on (and working miracles with) Gearbox’s wonky port of the original Halo, SPV3 re-envisions the first game as a direct followup to prequel Halo: Reach, patching in new and familiar enemies, weapons and vehicle types, along with gameplay features from later titles such as vehicle hijacking and suit-power modules, and a few entirely new gubbins. Aside from a few visual low-points it’s remarkably pleasant to look at. Not quite as pretty as 343’s official HD remastering, but no slouch for a 16-year-old game. There’s even an FOV slider.

If you’ve never played Halo before, SPV3 could be a rough crash course. While anyone can jump in, it’s aimed primarily at long-term series fans, and has you tussling with high-spec enemies such as Hunters (who only take damage from direct hits between their armor plates) in the first level. Veteran fans will find exploration rewarded by a slew of additional story details in the form of Human, Covenant and Forerunner text-logs, presented in classic Bungie style. A feature later Halo games experimented with, but never fully committed to.

The Flood, previously a monotonous zombie horde revealed halfway through and the nadir of the original – are a fully fleshed out faction now, with the ability to infect and corrupt almost any other unit in the game. They’re leveraged more intelligently, allowing for unpredictable 4-way battles later in the game. They’re still space-zombies, but now they’re an interesting, varied tactical challenge.

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To allow these new elements to breathe, the levels have grown to match. Even the opening mission has several new battles in sprawling cargo bays as artificial gravity falters, and some later missions have estimated completion times of 90+ minutes, including large-scale vehicular combat scenarios. Thankfully, quicksaving is one of the new features of the mod, something notably lacking from Gearbox’s original release.

Enemy AI is still sharp as a tack, exhibiting better survival instincts than most modern FPS foes. There’s even a new difficulty setting – Noble – to emphasize this, favouring smaller groups of higher quality foes. The unpredictable AI and increased number of moving parts also lends SPV3 surprising replay value, with familiar fights playing out in new and unique ways each time.

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Normally, fan-works of this scale are risky to cover, but due to a fortuitous alignment of stars (including Microsoft issuing an official fan-works policy), this is as legit as they get. SPV3 comes in an entirely self-contained installer, but will ask for an official Halo CD Key. Any CD key, given that the game has no authorization servers, even used or second-hand strings of letters or numbers will suffice. Not too big a barrier to entry for a game over a decade out of print.

SPV3 is easy to recommend to Halo fans, and pretty damn good for everyone else. One part remake, one part Greatest Hits compilation, one part new game, and all surprisingly polished. While not perfect, there have been five updates released since launch, and the development team continue to identify and squash bugs in impressively professional form.

All screenshots taken from this gallery under a CC license. Download SVP3 at the dedicated subreddit.

22 Comments

  1. Spuzzell says:

    I just completed this yesterday!

    It’s a fair bit tougher than I remember the original, largely due to Hunters and a hugely expanded Flood. The Library is LONG.

    And I may say that reading this and finding out there is a quicksave the day after I finally struggled through relying on checkpoints made me say “oh, for fucks sake” out loud.

  2. Harvey says:

    Oooh, is there co-op multiplayer? please say yes.

    • Spuzzell says:

      SPV3 = Single Player Version 3

      So. Not so much with the co-op.

      • Harvey says:

        Ah. I had worried it would be the case when the write-up said it was based on the original PC port, but with all the other changes I did hope.

        I have fond memories of playing with my best friend on the ol’ megaBoX. I would dearly love to play with him again, it just wouldn’t be the same for me in single player.

        • Premium User Badge

          Nauallis says:

          You could, just saying, play couch-co-op (or online) with your bud via the Master Chief Collection on an xbox one. That’s pretty stable. But it is just the original game + graphics facelift, and doesn’t have these expanded AI features (though you can also opt to play with the original graphics).

          • Mabswer says:

            Or better yet, M$ should just port it over to PC via “play anywhere” since its really underutilized.

            Since that was the pitch how it was Sold to us in the first place. Playing Halo on both platforms, and currently we have none of that.

            and we can all forget forge to even exist.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I still find myself amazed when a company doesn’t immediately CnD these sorts of projects.

    Amazed in a good way.

    Bravo on MS having the restraint not to quash fanworks, or at least this one, so far anyway.

  4. fuggles says:

    Is it a hard sell when they just didn’t sell it?

    Granted as a pc shooter it was behind the curve, so is that what you mean by hard sell? I mean it was a bit dull, but I probably would still have played the next ones.

    • Marclev says:

      Well, they did sell it, eventually, but we were used to Half Life 2 and things like that, so it felt a bit meh, compared to its hype, AFAIR. I guess on consoles it was revolutionary because they had nothing to compare it to.

      And the repetition in later levels was terrible (someone else mentioned “The Library” above, that still brings back bad memories of endlessly repeating prefab sections and enemy waves), like they were rushed to finish the game so just reused artefacts throughout the levels instead of bothering to design unique ones.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      I merely meant that for the longest time, Halo was a dirty word amongst PC gaming circles. The ultimate example of those whippersnappin’ console kids coming to ruin everything.

      It’s taken time and perspective, but I think we can look back at the original Halo now and appreciate just how good a piece of design it was, even if it had room to improve and be built on – as SPV3 has.

      • fuggles says:

        No, it was good design for console which was blossoming but I fought the same dudes in the same rooms with the same weapons a lot. Not playing multiplayer probably didn’t help.

        I also meant they didn’t sell all of them. Also see gears of war.

  5. Chromatose says:

    Heya! I did some work on the audio for this mod. Absolutely warms my heart to see it get such a good write-up here on RPS.

    Just to answer the question about co-op further up the thread, Halo’s PC netcode does not support syncing AI, which unfortunately makes developing stable co-op mods a very tricky proposition indeed. That said, we wouldn’t have been able to release the mod in its current state without the work of a few incredibly talented developers who enabled us to patch in such things as proper normal / specular channels on textures (Halo CE only supported specular highlights out-of-the-box), vehicle boarding, increased triangle count on BSPs, and properly interpolated animations and physics.

    Given that, it’s entirely possible that somebody else will come along and manage to hack the shit out of Gearbox’s rickety old netcode to let it run AI, but it probably won’t be CMT. Sorry!

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Congrats on the release! It looks absolutely wonderful.

    • Spuzzell says:

      Thank you so much for you and the teams hard work.

      I think the best compliment I could possibly pay you is to say it looked and played even better that my rose tinted memories ‘remembered’ the original.

      Two of the new weapons were my go-to choices (the human Turret and the Covenant Shade Cannon) the new vehicles were great, and I don’t remember the VISR in the original but it felt perfect in game.

      I’m sure you’re all incredibly proud and you deserve to be.

      Thanks again for improving on what was a treasured memory.

    • Mabswer says:

      I remmember back in the Days.. There was one mod that brought the Ai compatants to the Multiplayer map on Halo pc Demo.. Not sure if it was Multiplayer or not thou. Oh boy those were the days :D

  6. GernauMorat says:

    Thanks for the the notice. Halo 1 is still one of the best single player campaigns I have ever played, and I’m looking forward to replaying it. I actually have it on CD, but I wonder if the CD key will still be valid.

    Da DA DA, DA DA DA, da da da ta da tada da ta

    • Chromatose says:

      Your CD key will still be valid, yes :)

      • GernauMorat says:

        Excellent. Also, you and your fellow modders are a huge part of what makes PC gaming so excellent. Thank you for your work, and thank you for making my day that much better.

        • Morat Gurgeh says:

          Cool name mate… :)

          OT, definitely got to check this out. Thanks for the hard work fellas.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      As mentioned in the article, the game doesn’t have any kind of online authentication, so technically ANY Halo CD key, no matter where you found it – even if written on a toilet wall – will function fine.

      To clarify, SPV3 is a 100% self-contained installer. It comes with the Halo PC engine.

  7. Dominic Tarason says:

    Oh yeah, since writing this, there’s been a few new releases of the Chimera DLL, the magical little piece of code that the cleans up so many of the problems with Bungie’s port, including the old 30fps animation limit.

    link to opencarnage.net

    Just download, unzip, and overwrite the existing Chimera.dll (in SPV3/Controls) with the new build. Now with better optimisation, and it clears up the last couple bits that weren’t fully interpolated, like the floppy antennas on Warthogs.

  8. Morat Gurgeh says:

    Having downloaded this now I can say, with no bullshit, it’s tip top. Wildly more difficult though! Fun!