Halo has been Microsoft's most recognizable video game franchise since Bungie's Halo: Combat Evolved launched alongside the original Xbox in November 2001. It's so ingrained in the tech giant's brand that the AI character Cortana serves as Microsoft's real-world virtual assistant, up against Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. Even after Bungie moved on to start the Destiny series, Microsoft continues producing Halo games with its Xbox Game Studio 343 Industries.
While other Xbox franchises like Gears of War and Forza Horizon also get a lot of attention, Halo remains a cornerstone. Over the last few years the series has become more ubiquitous thanks to Halo: The Master Chief Collection pulling together multiple titles for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S users. Its flagship next-gen title Halo Infinite also released to positive reviews after being delayed over a year past the latest console launch. However, Halo fans have reason to mourn this week as seven Xbox 360 games will see "reduced or disabled" online services starting January 13.
What Halo's Xbox 360 Server Sunsetting Will Look Like
Developer 343 Industries outlined its plans in a Halo Waypoint blog post last month, announcing Xbox 360 servers will be turned off for Halo 3, Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 4, and Halo: Spartan Assault. People who own the games will still be able to play their story campaigns, but other features are impacted to varying degrees. For example, Spartan Assault and Halo Wars will not support Splitscreen or LAN play, but will have matchmaking despite it no longer being supported for Halo 3, ODST, Reach, and 4.
All the features becoming inaccessible after January 13 will not work for players using backwards compatibility on Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S consoles, according to 343 Industries. It said, "The underling software is still the original Xbox 360 content and relies on legacy online services for some functions." As a result, any achievements based on matchmaking or challenges, as well as Avatar awards tied to in-game activities will no longer be available. The impending sunset date has led to fans reminiscing about games like Halo 3, but it's not all bad.
Options Remain for Halo Fans
Although the experience of playing this Xbox 360 collection of Halo games likely won't be the same, most of the titles included in the wave of server shutdowns are not lost forever. The aforementioned Halo: The Master Chief Collection includes Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and Halo 4, all of which retain online services as they've been rebuilt for modern hardware. Halo Wars: Definitive Edition on PC and Xbox One will also remain unaffected by the server closures, and fans of the real-time strategy subfranchise can also play 2017's Halo Wars 2 via Xbox Game Pass.
Despite being lesser-known titles in the franchise, the top-down twin-stick shooter Halo: Spartan Assault and its sequel Spartan Strike are also available on Game Pass as of this writing. The description for Spartan Assault even says players can "unlock new customizations for your Halo 4 career," and it connected with The Master Chief Collection as far back as 2014.
January 13 will no doubt be a sad day for those who spent late nights playing Halo 3 with friends in 2007, but Microsoft's focus on preservation and backwards compatibility lessens the blow. The franchise has also made a strong impression with Halo Infinite, and while 343 Industries continues to fix modes like Big Team Battle, people are logging in every day to complete their battle pass and take part in limited-time events such as Fracture: Tenrai. Playing Halo games today also doesn't come with concerns about the Xbox 360's Red Ring of Death, which should be a comfort to many.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
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