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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

Written by Pokeh

January 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

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  • Developer: Infinity Ward (campaign), Sledgehammer Games (multiplayer)
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC, Wii, DS

There’s not a single franchise in the entire gaming industry that invokes such intense Internet debate. Originally starting out as a World War 2 shooter, the Call of Duty series branched out in to the modern era with Call of Duty 4 – this is where the Call of Duty series really started to kick off, with each new entry in to the franchise breaking sales records each year.  Some think that over the years the Call of Duty series has gotten stale, and that Activision has simply gotten lazy and is just milking the franchise for all its worth. Does Modern Warfare 3 manage to make things fresh again?

The short answer to that question is a rather abrupt “no”. Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t re-invent the wheel, and it doesn’t really try to either. If you’ve liked the last 5 years of Call of Duty games then you’ll like Modern Warfare 3 – but if you think the series has been getting old then no, Modern Warfare 3 won’t change that.

The campaign is the shortest in the series – I beat it, according to the in-game timer, in 4 hours and 49 minutes (and 13 seconds!) to which I expect that most people reading this let out an audible sigh but to be completely honest with you I thought that Modern Warfare 3 has the funnest campaign in the series to date. Each level is short (as you’d expect), but they keep the action interesting, and you’re never stuck in one place fighting enemies for too long – which I thought was a problem with a lot of the older games. Modern Warfare 3 keeps things at a brisk pace, constantly moving forward and keeping gameplay interesting, moving from infantry combat to vehicle combat to break things up a bit.

As you may expect, Modern Warfare 3 is a heavily scripted game, going from one set piece to the next with little to no deviation from the main path, and it can hold the players hand a little too much times with a lot of “Yeah I get it” moments. There’s not a whole lot of player freedom in Modern Warfare 3, and some gamers may not like being confined to the small combat spaces and scripted vehicle sections. In short: Modern Warfare 3 is the complete opposite of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – it’s short, to the point, and very much a “do as you’re told” game. Oh, and there’s no Dragons in this either.

"Yeah I get it"

For what it’s worth I actually enjoyed the entirety of the games campaign – the brevity of it works in the games favour – Call of Duty is just a game that doesn’t work well with a long campaign, and shouldn’t be stretched out to try  and fill some kind of pre-determined quota. The clear focus of Call of Duty is with the games multiplayer any way.

Not that I’m dismissing that the games campaign is important, or should be tossed aside because it doesn’t matter, I’m simply saying that the campaign should only be as long as it is enjoyable, and for me Modern Warfare 3 got things just right.

As for the multiplayer, I didn’t care for it, and I didn’t care for the multiplayer in Battlefield 3 for the same reason: weapon and perk unlocks.

I’m tired of it.

It was a novel idea at first – a compelling way to get people to keep playing your game so they can unlock a certain weapon or a certain perk, but after five years of games copying this formula I’m getting a little tired of it, and in Modern Warfare 3 going through all the trouble to unlock even the most basic weapons and perks feels, well – boring.

As I was playing through the multiplayer I was wondering to myself “What’s the point in playing this?” when I could just put in my copy of Modern Warfare 2, or Black Ops and get the same gameplay experience, only I don’t have to worry about being at the bottom of the food chain. For these reasons I guess I can’t really offer a very insightful opinion in to the multiplayer here, and I dare say that those who aren’t tired of this formula are enjoying the game just fine, though I’m struggling to see the value for money here when you could just buy a map pack for Black Ops and be done with it.

Is Modern Warfare 3 worth your time? I’d have to answer that question with a no. The campaign is fun, yes, but absolutely not worth the £40 entry fee and it’s certainly not game of the year material. That is, unless you’re addicted to Call of Dutys multiplayer, in which you probably already own the game at this point any way.

What the game looks like:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in action:

The verdict:

Good: Engrossing campaign doesn’t outstay its welcome

Bad: Formula for Call of Duty (and other modern military FPS’) getting old now, multiplayer too similar to that of the other Call of Duty games