Halo's box art

Halo: Combat Evolved, also known as Halo 1, is the first installment of the Halo game series. It was created by Bungie and initially released on the original Xbox in 2001 by publisher/owner Microsoft. In 2003, the game was released for Windows PC and Mac via different studios.

Halo 1 uses Bungie's proprietary Blam! engine, which also formed the basis of later games in the series. PC versions of the game support a variety of command line/shortcut arguments to configure and toggle features.

Editions and versions

Evolution of the Halo 1 editions and versions, colour-coded by platform or major revision

Xbox (Bungie, 2001)

Sometimes called h1x or OG Xbox, this is the classic first release of Halo 1 for the original Xbox. It supports LAN multiplayer and spawned a competitive community which is still active. While original Xbox consoles are hard to come by, emulation is an emerging alternative. Though it is a more involved process, custom maps created with the HEK can be ported back to Xbox.

Xbox has a rich history of modding, notably:

  • Halo 1.5, which adds new competitive maps. Custom edition ports of these maps are also available
  • Halo 1 Final, and its Neutral Host Edition (NHE), is a newer competitive mod with modified sounds, time callouts, and a selection of stock and H1.5 2v2-oriented maps
  • Patch Edition (PE) is a modified version of NHE with map adjustments by Patch and hirsute.

Halo PC (Gearbox Software, 2003)

Often called retail or PC, this edition is the classic port of Halo 1 to Windows PC by developer Gearbox Software and publisher Microsoft Game Studios. Compared to the Xbox version, the PC port included a number of changes (for better and worse):

  • Modification of some multiplayer maps' level geometry
  • Addition of server browser and online play
  • Addition of Banshees to multiplayer
  • Addition of the flame thrower, fuel rod gun, and rocket warthog
  • Addition of the multiplayer maps Death Island, Ice Fields, Gephyrophobia, Infinity, Timberland, and Danger Canyon
  • Addition of a dedicated server, haloceded.exe
  • The model tag was modified into gbxmodel
  • A new "jet" particle creation physics type was added to the particle_system tag
  • Regressions in visuals and assets due to platform differences and the port being based on a pre-release version of Xbox Halo 1

The game received several patches since its release to address remote exploits, remove the CD requirement, replace the GameSpy Arcade lobby, and other minor improvements. Its current version is 1.0.10 (2014).

Several beta versions of Halo PC can also be found online. Beta 1.5 has unfinished versions of PC-exclusive content and weapon tuning similar to pre-release Xbox versions. Marketing beta 1.8 features doppler and a model detail option.

Custom Edition (PC, Gearbox Software, 2004)

Custom edition, often called Halo CE or CE is a standalone version of Halo PC which supports custom maps created by the HEK, released in 2004. Like Halo PC it features a server browser and its own haloceded.exe dedicated server, but lacks the campaign. Maps are incompatible between the editions.

CE has many more differences from PC. To name a few:

  • Some tags were modified, such as stun effects, possibly as a workaround for netcode desyncs
  • Regression in rendering of certain objects through fog
  • Addition of the the gamemode info menu (F2)
  • Addition of the teammate names toggle (F3)
  • Addition of new server-related console commands like sv_say

Custom Edition has become the de facto standard PC title due to its support of custom maps, actively maintained client and server mods, and campaign ports. Like retail, its current version is 1.0.10 (2014).

Mac (Westlake Interactive, 2003)

The Gearbox PC port (retail) was itself ported to Mac by Westlake Interactive and published by MacSoft. No significant changes were made aside from platform compatibility, and maps are byte-for-byte identical to retail's. With MacSoft's shutdown in 2011, this version has not been receiving the latest patches. Nil's fix enables its continued use with intel GPUs on OSX Mavericks and the post-Gamespy lobby master server.

The Mac edition has a mod called Halo Mini Demo, or HaloMD, which allows it to be played on modern systems. The plugin Halo+ by Samuco can be used to enhance to experience, and a netcode translator can be used to connect to Custom Editions servers.

Demo (PC and Mac)

The free demo versions of Halo 1 on Mac and PC include just the multiplayer map Blood Gulch and the campaign mission The Silent Cartographer (b30). Upon closing the demo, players are presented with the iconic Sergeant Johnson advertisement (demo.bik).

Anniversary (Xbox 360, 343 Industries, 2011)

In 2011, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was released for Xbox 360. Often called CEA by the community. It was developed by 343 Industries and Saber Interactive as a remaster of the original Halo: Combat Evolved, and is derived from the Gearbox PC port. This edition contains the secondary Saber3D engine for its remastered graphics mode.

MCC (PC and Xbox One, 343 Industries, 2014-2021)

Halo: The Master Chief collection (MCC) is actively maintained by 343 Industries for both PC and Xbox One. It brings the Halo series under a single Game as a Service, including unified matchmaking and progression experiences. The PC port uses Unreal Engine as a menu and input layer over the respective engines of each included Halo game.

Custom maps can be created for MCC PC using the official H1A Editing kit. The community tool Invader also supports building H1A caches. The SeT supports modifying S3D content (this is not supported by the offical tools).


Thanks to the following individuals for their research or contributions to this topic:

  • gbMichelle (H1A/MCC lineage information)
  • Hasuku (Xbox modding lineage)
  • Kavawuvi (Engine versions)
  • Neo (Providing the marketing beta)
  • Vaporeon (Analyzing marketing beta)