Review: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Has it really been 10 years since the Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved launched? I don’t know about you but that makes me feel really old! I think it’s safe to say that Halo is one of those games that is incredibly important to the history of gaming, not only did it help launch and sell a new console, but it proved that FPS games could work on the console platform. Every Halo gamer has a great memory and a special place for Halo CE, for me it sold me the Xbox console and introduced me to the wonderful world of LAN gaming. Halo 2 introduced me to competitive gaming over Xbox LIVE and the series certainly holds dear to my gaming history.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary has been released to celebrate 10 years of Halo and 343 Industries have done their best to produce a game for the fans – I mean why else release a game that’s practically the same? Yes, Anniversary is basically the same game from 10 years ago but with a new lick of paint. Over the years Halo has been looking better and better and with the last game (Halo: Reach) being a prequel it seems like the perfect time to follow on with the next game in the series and the game that started it all – Halo Combat Evolved.
While Halo Anniversary has seen a significant overhaul in the graphics department, the game doesn’t look quite as stunning as I would have hoped. Don’t get me wrong, it does look fantastic and 343 have done a sterling job which is particularly evident when you flip the graphics into classic mode which can be done during gameplay using the back button. I just would have liked them to of gone that one step further and produced the game using the full power of Reach’s graphic engine. Playing on Anniversary’s only firefight mission gives you a glimpse into what it could have looked like and it looks beautiful. That said the lighting effects are particularly noteworthy and look fantastic, if you view the game in classic mode and hit a cutscene you will then view said scene in the original graphics as well. It’s a great dynamic for both Halo gamers new and old. At times it’s laughable to see the bland dull textures of how Halo looked a decade ago – did games really look that bad?
Aside from the lick of paint and the ability to view the game as it once was, Anniversary also comes with a remastered soundtrack. There is nothing like the opening credits with the classic Halo theme blasting in your ears to make you sit back and reminisce, the new remastered music is sheer brilliance. Accuracy was key when remastering it, together with Skywalker Sound, the music has been tweaked ever so slightly to sound better than ever. The sounds of the weapons have also received some work and sound a lot more beefy with explosions creating that real thump as barrels and bodies fly about the screen. Watching and hearing an Elite explode as you pile in a full clip from the needler is particularly satisfying.
Anniversary may also be played in full 3D and not that side-by-side / top-bottom 3D, this is full 3D seen more recently in Batman Arkham City. While the image does ghost slightly when at full intensity, once you have adjusted the setting to suit your eyes, the 3D looks incredible and really enriches the experience, especially for gamers such as myself who played the original to death back in the day.
The final additions that 343 have implemented into the game is the integration of Kinect, the use of Skulls and Terminals. Terminals are hidden throughout the game and when accessed play a short movie about the history of Halo and the character Guilty Spark. The inclusion of these Terminals helps to bring new players up to speed with the mythology of Halo and for fans of the series, they serve as a means to tie together all the Halo stories from the games to the novels. The scenes look great and they tell a really interesting story, similar to the way that Terminals were used in Halo: ODST. Skulls have been introduced for the first time and once found (there’s one in each level) you can play the campaign with skull modifiers enabled which can make the game harder or force you to play in a different style.
Finally Kinect, the weakest member of the new features. Using voice control you can now shout at your TV “GRENADE” or “reload” as well as a few other actions. While this works ok it seems a pretty pointless tool as it’s not that difficult to press X to reload and to onlookers you sound like a right idiot shouting at the TV. What I did like about Kinect control was that you could also call out setting commands to turn on “Classic” mode to view the game in its original form or to turn on and off the 3D effects. All in all though Kinect serves as a pretty pointless tool in Anniversary and while the main draw is to use it to scan objects so you can learn more about them in a Metroid Prime kind of way, I can only see the purist Halo fans making use of this function or those gamers desperately trying to find a use for their Kinect system.
Gameplay wise this is identical to the original, bugs ‘n all, while the method of gameplay may not be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly newcomers to the series, fans of the series will instantly feel at ease with the in your face gunplay of Halo as you charge, jump and unload massive assault rifle magazines into the covenant forces. In fact I had forgotten how tricky Halo was, CoD veteran may be hard but take this bad boy for a spin on legendary to be reminded of how hard games used to be.
Multiplayer is the biggest let down. While I understand the need to use the multiplayer engine of Reach, I was saddened to only see 6 maps return from Halo CE and Halo 2. Each map does come with 2 variations, the original layout and a slightly tweaked version but I think there are far more “classic” maps that could have been selected – of course I would have also preferred more than just 6! The maps may be played via the Anniversary disc, this will then launch Reach from your disc with only the Anniversary maps available for selection. You can also use the DLC code that comes with new copies to download the map pack so that you can play the Anniversary maps from your Reach disc and make use of the other maps and gameplay modes. Anniversary does come with its own gameplay modes which have been tweaked to try to retain the original spirit of Halo multiplayer. While this does go to some lengths to do this successfully, the multiplayer is still very much a Halo Reach experience and so those nostalgic evenings of Halo multiplayer gaming are not fully realised in this version.
It’s a no brainer that fans of Halo must pick this up – it’s the beginning and one of the best games in the series, in fact many fans will agree that Bungie never could out do the gameplay of Halo CE. Newcomers may struggle with its gameplay particularly if you think every FPS needs to follow Call of Duty’s style of gameplay, for those brave enough to step outside of their samey comfort zone, Anniversary will more than challenge you on it’s harder setting and show you just how FPS were made a decade ago.
Review: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Results
What we liked:
Halo reimagined in HD and 3D
Brilliantly paced campaign
A real tribute to a game that many hold dear
What we disliked:
Would have been nice to of seen the game using Reach's graphic engine
Small selection of multiplayer maps
Poor Kinect functionality