Halo 2 (Windows Vista)
Halo 2 received a PC port, commonly nicknamed Halo 2 Vista, which was developed by Hired Gun for use on the Windows Vista operating system exclusively and as a release title for the "Games for Windows" category. The release date was originally planned for May 8, 2007, however, the release date was delayed to May 22, 2007 because the team needed "to make some improvements to the install experience and address other technical issues." However, release dates for the game were erratic, as Australia had publicly available copies, and some stores in the United States were selling copies as well. Microsoft had stated that the release date had been pushed back one final time, due to partial nudity found in the Halo 2 Vista Map Editing Kit, making the release date May 31, 2007 for the United States.
Halo 2 Vista has been reworked graphically for the PC, including high-resolution textures and support for very high resolutions. While the single player campaign does not differ from the Xbox version, the player can earn newly implemented single and multiplayer achievements. One of the selling points of Halo 2 Vista is an included map editor. It has include the same programs as previously used in the Halo Editing Kit and also includes a pre-made "custom" map by default, named Example, which was made for players to observe as an example for making their own custom maps.
A new ability pushed by the Microsoft team is a feature called "Tray and Play". It is an attempt to emulate the ability of consoles to instantly play new discs in a DVD drive without installing them. It allows the end-user to play the game as it is installing.
Halo 2 Vista, being a release for the Games for Windows service, includes support for the Live for Windows system. It intertwines with the Xbox Live system, allowing communication with someone who has an Xbox. However, cross-platform play is not supported, despite being planned, initially. The GFWL interface is similar to that of the Xbox 360 dashboard. Instead of using peer to peer matchmaking, players are able to create dedicated servers, which are created with a program that comes with the disc.
Gamertags, which are used on Xbox Live, are also used on Live for Windows. If a player were to have an Xbox Live gamertag, they would be able to log on using that. Otherwise, a free account can be registered for a player. Players can also match up in parties, and the party leader can specify maps and game types to play on the go.
Exclusive to Halo 2 Vista are 2 new maps, District and Uplift. However, Halo 2 Vista does not include the maps Desolation or Tombstone. Modders have managed to port Desolation & Tombstone to Halo 2 Vista.
On January 16, 2013, citing declining online population (consistently 20 players or fewer) 343 Industries announced that online multiplayer for Halo 2 Vista would be discontinued February 15, 2013. Although players will still be able to play custom LAN multiplayer matches, network services will cease to operate, ending online matchmaking However, it was later announced that the multiplayer would be extended to June 2013. As of February 2015, Halo 2 Vista servers are still up and running.
The minimum system requirements to run Halo 2 on Windows Vista is a Windows Experience Index of 3.0. The recommended system requirements is a WEI of 5.0. Users can play the game with a rating of less than 3.0 but they will have to reduce graphics quality in order to run the game smoothly. The game can be set on different levels of detail (low, medium, or high) to change performance and appearance. Anti-aliasing and the game's resolution can be changed, as well.
Halo 2 Vista is limited to three installations per copy. Although there is no mechanism to deactivate an installation, Microsoft will typically activate additional installations via the 'telephone activation' system, providing the user explains their situation and has a legitimate serial number.
Halo 2 Vista was considerably less popular than the Xbox version of the game. Besides selling incredibly low due to the negative reception of Windows Vista, it also was far less highly rated than the Xbox version. The game netted a mere 72% from Metacritic, a site which regulates and moderates reviews from other websites. Game Informer cited the outdated graphics and lack of innovation, which they said made the game feel "too outdated for a next-generation PC game, especially compared with how stunning Halo 2 had been on Xbox".
Halo 2 Vista was made to be even more unpopular, when it lacked basic features like online cooperative gameplay or other game modes, which were to be included in Halo 3 for Xbox 360. Halo 2 Vista's dedicated server had been severely stripped of its important features which were part of Halo: Combat Evolved's dedicated server commands.