Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review
Ten years ago a little games studio called Bungie released a first person shooter called Halo: Combat Evolved for the Xbox.
As you may have noticed, Halo has become something of a cultural and entertainment phenomenon in that decade, arguably being the sole reason that the Xbox was a success and in turn the reason (if not one of the biggest reasons) that there even is an Xbox 360 today.
With seven games in the franchise (including Anniversary) Halo has spawned Anime, comics, novels, conventions, charities and countless fan communities across the world, grossing over €2 Billion overall.
With that in mind, 343 Industries (The new owners of the franchise) and Saber Interactive decided to release a re-mastered HD version of the game that started it all.
Saber Interactive were chosen to help with Anniversary due to their own game engine that allows the player to switch between the ten-year-old original graphics and the new, re-mastered graphics with the touch of a button or voice commands through Kinect (more on that later).
This is perhaps the biggest talking point of Anniversary and is a really interesting feature, if at least just to compare the two and marvel at how far along game development and graphic prowess has come in the last ten years.
The process is handled with a fade in and out and for the most part it’s fairly instantaneous but you wouldn’t want to do it during combat as the game keeps on going while the switch is happening, leaving you vulnerable to attack during the transition.
It works at any time during play except during cinematic cut-scenes and although we do love the inclusion of such a unique feature, we can’t help shake the feeling that it’s something most will use a few times, show friends and then just keep with the re-mastered. That’s not to say it’s a useless feature, just that we suspect the majority of players won’t use it as much as 343 Industries maybe hope.
Although if you’re a die-hard Halo fan since the original, you might enjoy playing through the campaign in the original graphics for nostalgia, one thing that sticks in our mind is Halo was a lot darker ten years ago, so good thing Master Chief has a flashlight.
Overall though the environments and textures look stunning re-mastered and could easily fool someone that never played the original that this was a brand new game.
Perhaps the biggest surprise upon re-living Halo’s classic campaign is one of two things: Halo was a tough game ten years ago or modern-day shooters are a lot more forgiving.
We consider ourselves pretty adept with first and third person shooters these days but lord is Halo Anniversary tough. More times than we’d like we found ourselves cursing the game (Cough, mostly the Flood) and having to respawn at the last checkpoint multiple times, which by the way are quite far between – not like most modern-day shooters.
The biggest problem with Anniversary and indeed any re-make of an old game is while the graphics and detail can be improved greatly, the gameplay is still the same.
The feel of Halo hasn’t changed too drastically in the intervening years and games; there are certain aspects that have been improved throughout the series. Things such as being able to swap weapons with Marines, a more diverse range of enemies and even things like manning the gun of a Warthog and having your fellow Marines drive – no matter how hard we tried the Marines simply wouldn’t drive, forcing us to drive while they used the gun.
They’re just some of the design and gameplay changes that have been implemented over the years that are missing here, we understand that Anniversary’s content is ten years old and are not saying these are flaws but it would have been nice if 343 Industries and Saber Interactive went a bit deeper than graphics and re-worked more than just the game’s looks.
Included on the disc are seven multiplayer maps, six of them from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, each with two modes – classic and remastered.
The seventh map is a Firefight map and is set on Installation 04, pulled from just after the Chief crash-lands on Halo and features friendly AI controlled Marines and ODST’s to help out.
The multiplayer maps are all rebuilt using the same engine as Halo: Reach and each map as a classic and remastered mode – classic having no armour abilities (Sprint, evade, etc.) and powerups such as overshields strewn about and remastered being the same Halo: Reach multiplayer you know and love.
The inclusion of Kinect support with Anniversary was one that had Halo fans worried when announced by Microsoft months ago, many hoping it wouldn’t be forced on them but the good news is that if you don’t like or have Kinect, you won’t miss out on the fun. If you do however, you’ll benefit from voice commands and a sort of gallery section called The Library (Not the infamously annoying level, The Library) where you scan the environment in-game and can then view detailed character models using motion controls or a standard controller.
The voice commands are an interesting touch, you can say things like reload, change weapon and classic or remastered to switch between the two but it’s nothing you can’t do faster with a controller. Many times when Cortona was talking during play, our Kinect bizarrely paused the game thinking that we had said Pause.
Halo: Anniversary is a great addition to the series and for long time Halo fans it’s really a must-have.
We still would have liked to see more attention payed to more than just the audio/video and if you’re not a Halo player already this definitely won’t change your mind.
The campaign that started it all looks and sounds amazing remastered and the added multiplayer maps are great and would even be well suited as standalone DLC for Halo: Reach.
Add in Kinect support, achievements and online campaign co-op and it really is worth the purchase.
You can contact the author of this post, Luke Hoare Greene at Luke@TechTV101.com or follow him on Twitter.