Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

It’s hard to believe it’s already been ten years since Halo: Combat Evolved was released for the original Xbox. Nowadays it’s one of the most recognisable franchises in gaming, expanding into  books, comics, animation and even Lego, but it wasn’t always plain sailing for the Master Chief. Back when Halo was released, the Xbox was on shaky ground and its future as one of the main operators in the videogame market was far from certain.  It was Halo that became the format’s killer app, redefining the console shooter and making an icon of Spartan John-117 in the process.  As such, its importance can never be overestimated.

So it seems fitting that 343 Industries, the development team splintered from Bungie when it was snapped up by Activision, has returned to where it all began for its first solo release. But is this remastered version worthy of celebrating Halo’s tenth anniversary, or just a shameless attempt at raking in cash from the Halo faithful?

We can most definitively say the former is true. You’re taken back to the glory days of the Xbox before you’ve even traversed the first menu screen thanks to that music and the redone opening sequence will immediately transport you back to when you first played the original.  The first noticeable thing about Anniversary is just how well the graphics have been improved. You’ll be taken aback the first time you see Captain Keyes and Cortana in their redesigned forms: rather than the flat, blocky, emotionless visages they sported in the original, here they look human, with much more expressive features than before. This visual enhancement is placed upon every object in the game, be it characters, background objects, landscapes and guns.

Oh, those guns. They were damn fun to play with then and they’re damn fun to play with now. The rapid-fire Assault Rifle with massive clips; the super-accurate semi-automatic Pistol with scope; the Sniper Rifle with no recoil capable of taking down an Elite with one shot. All are fun to use and you’ll find yourself swapping between them on a regular basis. Hell, even the Needler has a funky visual effect added to it. The best thing about them is the noise they make: the sound is glorious. Each packs a satisfying wallop, their bangs reverberating around the level. They’re some of the greatest weapons to shoot in any video game and you’ll be happy making sparks fly off the walls as you let loose with them.

The music has also been remastered, making an already great soundtrack even better.

Take note, though: the gameplay elements of the original adventure have been left untouched, so those hoping to sprint over to a Grunt, snap his neck and then plunge an Energy Sword into an Elite’s chest will be sorely disappointed. What you remember about Combat Evolved is what you get.

But that’s Anniversary’s greatest selling point: the nostalgia and reminiscence it conjures within the player. Yes, all the annoying things – the frequently frustrating checkpointing, the consistently confusing map layouts, the epic load time before levels – return, but so do all the things you haven’t seen in the series for years, such as Jackals with yellow shields, Covenant chattering away in English and the spooky introduction of the parasitic Flood. You won’t fail to have a smile on your face as you bask in warm remembrance.

It’s all change on the multiplayer front, however. Rather than use the same mechanics as the single player portion, 343 has instead implemented the Halo: Reach multiplayer into the online section of Anniversary. It’s a good idea in that you only have one Spartan across both titles, meaning that you can complete challenges and continue levelling up no matter which version you’re playing.  It’s hard to shake the feeling that a great opportunity has been missed here, though: imagine how fun it would be to relive the joy you had all those years ago with the original multiplayer.

It’s also a rather bizarre decision: Anniversary’s multiplayer contains only seven maps, whereas Reach contains many more. These maps are also included as downloads for the latter, so what’s to keep from playing that instead? It’s not like it does what Halo: ODST did with Halo 3 and bundle the entirety of the Reach multiplayer into the package.







One response to “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary”

  1. […] Originally published on Ready Up on 15th November 2011. […]

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