Last year I hinted that I believed that the Halo franchise would die with Bungie and Reach, and that even though 343 was taking it over, I didn’t at the time have faith in them. Well keeping up with the yearly releases of the Xbox’s flagship I.P., 343 has brought Halo: Combat Evolved to the 360 to celebrate its 10 year anniversary and while the company hasn’t completely restored my faith in the series, I am inclined to give them a shot at it. With this release we get an HD graphics overhaul with a few additions here and there that actually add a lot to what made the Xbox brand what it is today.
Right off the bat, the most noticeable and obvious change to the classic game is the upgraded visuals. Halo Anniversary uses the Saber3d engine for the campaign, but the multiplayer portion utilizes the same engine used by Halo Reach. The graphics take a significant step forward with higher quality textures, shadow effects and brighter lighting. But while the graphics are clearly better than they existed 10 years ago, they still aren’t as good as Reach’s visuals. Why the developers decided to use two graphics engines is beyond me. The Sabre3d engine has texture popping issues and sometimes graphical stutters during the cut scenes. And like lots of these HD remakes, pressing the select button reverts the game back to the classic graphics.
Popping the disc in the drive instantly brought me back to the days of my old college roommates and I sitting on our couches, drinking beers and kicking each others asses in split-screen multiplayer, but it’s the music that really brought back the memories. The classic and remastered versions of the soundtrack are absolutely beautiful. If you thought the music was good 10 years ago, you should hear it now.
While this is obviously a remake of the original game, it felt weird at times to play the game as it existed 10 years ago. Health Packs are required to refill your health bar and it felt like the shields recharged slower than they do in new Halo games. There are also no armor abilities, dual wielding or cool weapons like the energy sword. Keep in mind though that none of this is true for Multiplayer, as that uses Reach’s engine and rules. The campaign on the normal difficulty setting took me about 10 hours to complete and overall I found it to be a lot more challenging than I remember it being. Also I found the final level to be less intense than it used to be, perhaps because Halo 3 did it so much better.
But while I enjoy playing old games remade, I really enjoyed the addition of some neat new features. A terminal was added to each mission, which unlocks an animated cut-scene describing much of the back-story and usage of the Halo Rings. I think out of everything, this was my favorite feature of Anniversary. Skulls were added to unlock some interesting effects that are not always negative for the player, once they’re located of course. There is also Kinect Voice Integration that was really cool for analyzing and scanning data entries into a library that you could view outside of the game. There were a slew of other things the voice integration could be used for like switching between the classic and remastered versions of the game and throwing grenades, but those really weren’t all that useful considering button presses were much more efficient.
The multiplayer component is interesting. With the remake of Combat Evolved comes a series of classic and memorable multiplayer maps from Halo 1 and 2, remade with the Reach graphics engine. Loading the multiplayer through the Anniversary disc will take you to a Reach playlist that will contain only game types for the new maps. Included with new copies of the game is a code to download the Anniversary map pack for Reach, so you can load Reach and have all of its game types in addition to the Anniversary map pack. Also, if Reach owners are not interested in buying Anniversary, they may simply purchase the map pack for $15.
So in the end, is Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary worth your money? For the gamers solely interested in the multiplayer aspect of Halo, I’d probably just pick up the map pack for Reach and save yourself 25 bucks. If you’ve never played Combat Evolved and want to see how it all got started, or if you simply want to see the original with a fresh coat of paint, I’d say absolutely. It is still, as it was when originally released, a great game.
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Commentated Game-play: http://www.youtube.com/ZGRWhyUDead
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