Ahh, Halo. It's good to see you back. After well over a decade lost in the Xbox wilderness, Halo is now officially back on PC. Halo: Reach is the first title in an eventual 6-game Halo: The Master Chief Collection, offering revamped 4K visuals, mouse and keyboard support, and every bit of content that was ever released for Halo Reach on Xbox 360.
It's a great package at a bargain bin price and it's also booming in popularity very quickly. Halo Reach has already hit a peak concurrent player count of 161,000 players on Steam alone, so this should be a franchise which is back and here to stay.
While it may be cheap purchase then, you're possibly wondering how the PC port of Halo Reach fares. We've been having a bit of a mess around with both the single and multiplayer in Halo Reach to see whether it's worth your time and money.
Halo: Reach Graphics Settings
Graphics settings in Halo Reach and Halo: The Master Chief Collection are, surprisingly, pretty much non-existent. There's the usual smattering of video options but in terms of tuning the visuals there is just a single graphics setting - Graphics Quality.
Halo Reach Video Settings
- Vehicle Field-of-View
- Window Mode
- Aspect Ratio
- Resolution Scale
- HUD Anchoring
- Frame Rate Limit
Halo Reach Graphics Settings
- Graphics Quality - Performance/Original/Enhanced
And that is literally it for the graphics settings. Original is the same settings as the original Halo Reach, Performance lowers the graphics quality to improve performance, while Enhanced increases the visual fidelity at the cost of performance. Luckily, Halo Reach is one of the easiest to run major releases we've ever encountered, at least in terms of performance. There are one or two teething problems but just about anyone should be able to run Halo Reach in some form at 60 frames per second.
Halo Reach Performance
I'm going to have to have a rummage around and try and find the weakest graphics card I have because I did boot up both Halo Reach's campaign and the multiplayer with a GeForce RTX 2060 and discovered performance never even dipped below 120fps on 4K/Ultra (Enhanced). At lower resolutions the sky is basically the limit.
The bottom line is that a GeForce RTX 2060 absolutely tears Halo Reach apart. It's not stretching Nvidia's new-ish GPU in any capacity whatsoever, even at 4K screen resolution. This is probably to be expected for a fairly rudimentary remaster of a game this old, although we'll certainly do some additional testing to see how Halo Reach runs on older GPUs.
On a 60Hz display, it's safe to say it's all very overkill. With V-Sync turned off, there is a heinous amount of screen-tearing and a bit of noticeable lurching. Unless you've got a snazzy G-Sync or FreeSync monitor, cap Halo Reach at 60FPS where it's perfectly playable with consistent frame times.
One thing that is worth pointing out are the mouse controls, which feel a little iffy. It's not mouse acceleration, as this can be manually toggled, but it does feel as if, with an uncapped frame rate, trying to aim smoothly is a little unpredictable. I can't quite put my finger on what is yet, although it may simply be tied into me playing Reach on a 60Hz monitor.
Overall, I'm not totally satisfied with the feeling on playing Halo Reach on a mouse and keyboard. First-person shooters are pretty much universally better to play with a mouse but the Halo franchise is one of those rare ones which has been absolutely designed for an Xbox gamepad from the ground up. It's difficult to shake that feeling while playing Halo Reach, where everything's not quite as snappy as we'd like from a typical PC shooter.
And one final oddity to point out - Halo Reach doesn't launch from the Xbox app on PC. It just flat out refuses to and pops up some message about minimising the Xbox Windows 10 app. The only way I can get it successfully launch is by searching for Halo in the Windows taskbar and launching from there. Somehow, it appears that the Xbox launcher interface isn't even hooked up to the Halo: Master Chief Collection executable, which is a strange oversight.
Halo Reach Low vs Ultra
(Performance v Enhanced)
To be honest, bar one oddity, you really do have to run a fine toothcomb over Halo Reach to actually detect any visual differences between the Performance and Enhanced modes. Considering these are the only graphics settings that means there's really not a whole lot you can do to make Halo Reach look better or run faster. Enhanced typically costs away from 10-20% in terms of frame rates though, so if you're hoping to squeeze a few extra frames out then there's not really much harm in option for either Performance or Original modes.
That's said, here's how Halo Reach shapes up when comparing its lowest and higher graphical settings.
This fair pair of screenshots demonstrates the minor difference in terms of weather effects such as fog, as well as antialiasing. On Ultra there's marginally more realistic rain, while on Low you'll see more noticeable aliasing on the tree which is growing out from the rock in the centre of the screen.
(slide your cursor over the images to compare)
Again, you've really got to peer at this next comparison to note any differences. There's maybe, maybe, a case to be mode of higher quality texture filtering on Ultra in Halo Reach on PC but it's really so granular that it's almost impossible to detect.
Here's the same scene, only this time we're not zoomed in. You can see a slightly higher level of detail on the bridge pillars themselves while playing in Enhanced mode. There's also some additional detritus on the bridge itself, which you can see just to the left of the barrel.
This final image comparison is the exception rather than the norm but it was the one moment during which Halo Reach's Low/Performance visuals stood out for being exactly that. I'm talking about the trees of course, which demonstrates low Level of Detail (LOD). This causes the higher quality tree models to pop in as you get nearer, which means they look very ugly from a distance. You'll see there are plenty of other trees in the other comparisons where this doesn't happen though, so it would appear the culling is perhaps more aggressive in the more open areas.
In addition to this, you can also see enhanced shadows on Ultra, in particular if you look toward the dam-like structure to the left of the image.
As it currently stands, Halo Reach is a decent if not fantastic PC port. There's a whole lot to sink your teeth into for £7/$10, and this is just the start of Master Chief's adventures on PC. There's a ton of maps and modes, a solid single-player campaign, and plenty of online integration including a free battle pass-style system. It's a good starting point, albeit with sadly very few graphics settings and potentially problematic mouse aiming.