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Review: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

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Developer: Bungie (original game), Saber Interactive (Xbox 360 port), 343 Industries (Xbox 360 port), Certain Affinity (Anniversary Map Pack)

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed)

It’s so common to see old games get remakes and ports on to newer consoles these days – like older Sonic games or old Megaman games. Halo: Combat Evolved is different though, because unlike these other games, for once Halo: Combat Evolved is a game that I actually grew up with – it’s weird having a game that you grew up with to be considered “old”, and even weirder to see all of those “old” levels get a complete visual revamp thanks to the increased capabilities of todays hardware.

Halo fans have been asking for this since Halo 3 was released, and people became a lot more interested in the idea of a HD re-release of Halo 1 closer to the release of Halo: Reach. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary manages to make Halo look beautiful again, but retains the exact same gameplay that made the original game so fun in the first place. Yes, I said exactly.

Halo: CEA actually runs portions of two game engines at the same time – the gameplay is running on the same code that powered the original game, and the updated graphics are handled by much newer tech – though if you like you can hit the back button to revert the graphics back to how they were in the days of yesteryear – it’s staggering to see how much extra detail has been added in to the game, as you can see in the screenshot above.

But as I say – the game plays exactly the same as it did way back in 2001 – for both better and worse. Parts of the original Halo have aged well, others haven’t aged quite so gracefully. The core, on foot infantry combat feels as solid and as fun as ever – the original Halo pistol is way more fun to use than I remembered it to be, and the revamped sound effects help to bring the classic weapons up to par. Plasma Grenades in particular look and sound much more lethal than they used to – in fact, I would say that the sound design is stronger than what’s in Halo: Reach at the moment.

Yup, this still works.

The vehicles haven’t aged very well though – the lack of a brake on the Warthog makes it feel slippery to control, the Banshee feels clunky and stiff to fly, and the Scorpion tank can only drive forwards, it can’t “strafe” like its modern counterparts. Consequently the more vehicle focussed levels in the game suffer for it.

Running Halo 1 exactly the way it used to is certainly a double-edged sword – on the one hand the game plays exactly how it used to, but on the other hand, the game plays exactly as it used to. Wort Wort Worts and all. When I think about it, I think I would have preferred it if a few issues from the original game were fixed here, and it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to spruce the game up a little.

I also found it jarring at how repetitive some of the environments still are – you’ll find yourself getting deja vu as you walk through what feels like the same corridor again and again – it would have been better if some visual variety was added in when remaking the campaign – and the samey hallways and rooms could cause some confusion for newer players who didn’t play the original.

The remastered Halo 1 goodness only applies to the campaign though – there’s no real multiplayer aspect to Anniversary other than the fact that co-operative campaign over Xbox Live has been added. Halo 1’s multiplayer hasn’t been remade here, but a selection of classic maps have been released for Halo: Reach – and a code for these maps is included with the game (which I shall review at a later date).

Ultimately this is just Halo 1 with a prettier paint job, online co-op and some new maps for Halo: Reach. It’s a great opportunity for newer fans of the series to see where everything kicked off – though I am somewhat disappointed that Halo 1’s multiplayer wasn’t properly remade. Nevertheless, I’d like to see Halo 2 get a similar update at some point in the future.

What the game looks like

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary in action

The verdict

Good: Faithful recreation of Halo 1’s campaign, bundled multiplayer maps for Reach, overhauled music and sound effects, addition of co-op over Xbox Live

Bad: Arguably too faithful to the original game, Halo 1’s multiplayer not remade, The Library still sucks

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Written by Pokeh

January 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm