Review: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is nostalgia in its best form ever.
- Worth The Time?Yes, especially if you played it on the first Xbox
- Things LovedThe story and campaign are still extremely enjoyable, the updated visuals are a fantastic upgrade, the remastered soundtrack is incredible, added skulls, terminals and achievements, full multiplayer component, easy to switch from remastered to classic visuals, new Firefight map, cheaper asking price, great value, 3D option.
- Things HatedVisuals aren't as great as Reach, Kinect voice commands are non-essential, only a handful of multiplayer maps, occasionally dumb A.I.
- RecommendationIf you haven't yet played the first ever Halo, or if you are just looking for an excuse to jump back into the best Halo experience ever created, then there is really no reason why this game should not already be on your shelf. With a lower asking price and a lot of content, there really is no reason to miss out on the second coming of one of the best First-Person shooters ever created
- Name: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Players: 1-4
- Multiplayer: Online Multiplayer, Splitscreen and Co-Op
- Platforms: Xbox 360
- Developer: 343 Industries
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios
- Price: R369.90
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Ten years is a long time. A very, very long time. If I think back to my life ten years ago, I mainly see a kid who had not even a hundredth of the worries I have now, nearly no commitments and only a Xbox to keep myself entertained. The first Xbox was also my first console that I had ever owned, and it moulded me into the gaming machine that I am today. Although, there was one game in particular that changed my entire perspective on gaming. A game that finally flipped a switch in my brain, turning me from the occasional gamer into a person that could not think of a world without a controller in my hands and a headset around my neck. That game was Halo: Combat Evolved, and it blew my mind.
Halo: Combat Evolved not only changed me as a gamer, but also ushered the world into a new era. A strong, story driven campaign was at the helm, which introduced us to iconic characters such as Master Chief 117, a sassy and sarcastic A.I known as Cortana, a highly intelligent alien race known as The Covenant, and a homicidal robot known as 343 Guilty Spark (Yes, before the homicidal robot know as GLaDOS). Halo: CE also showed the world that consoles were now a force to be reckoned with, and that the platform could compete with PC’s when it came to one fundamental principle: Online Gaming. Halo: CE was one of the first titles to truly showcase how a console could be used for competitive online gaming, and paved the way online console era. So how exactly can a title, released 10 years later, successfully showcase what made Halo: CE so groundbreaking all those years ago? Simply put, Halo: CE Anniversary once again shows the world why Halo: CE was and still is one of the best first-person shooter titles ever created.
The story puts you in control of an iconic soldier, namely Master Chief 117, who is awoken from cryo-sleep on a ship named The Pillar of Autumn. Shortly after, you meet the A.I Cortana, the ship is attacked by aliens known as The Covenant, and you’re all forced to crash land on a mysterious space installation known as Halo. This massive installation is the first of its kind discovered by humans, so it becomes your mission to find out what it’s purpose is. It doesn’t take long before you realise that the installation is holding a vicious alien race known as The Flood, and after it has been released it is your job to save the universe from certain doom. Yes, not the most original story ever created, yet it somehow still manages to captivate and grab you, introducing you once again to the expansive world that Halo takes place in.
On top of that, new terminals have been added in for you to find, which fill in some interesting back-story and prospects for future titles through highly entertaining animated shorts. The dialogue that takes place between Master Chief and Cortana also helps kick off the relationship that will eventually form through the series, and it is interesting to see just how their relationship develops during the dangerous encounters they endure. Additionally, you are still able to experience the entire campaign with a friend via split-screen or online. However, there is not drop-in/drop-out support, and there is no matchmaking system for finding a partner online.
Visually, Halo: CE Anniversary might not be the most beautiful game on the market, but 343 have really worked hard to give it one of the best HD treatments possible. In all honesty, Halo: Reach still has a better visual experience, but the look and feel of the traditional Halo universe is expertly brought forward. The most noticeable improvement has to be the lighting, with corridors lighting up in an ambient purple shade, and the sun beating down on the lush Halo installation. Character details have been beefed up considerably, with the interior of Covenant ships undergoing nearly a complete transformation. Animations can still feel stiff and a bit awkward though, and the lip-sync is a bit distracting at most times.
A nice touch is the ability to change from the remastered visuals to the classic, 2001 visuals with the simply hit of the back button. Just don’t do it while in a firefight, as the transition may take a second or two, which could mean having plasma grenade thrown at your forehead without you being able to react. It is often nice to play with the classic visuals, and reflect on how far the gaming industry has come in only ten years. It is also interesting to see how well the classic visuals hold up today, which is mostly due to the fantastic art design at the time. The original, brilliant Halo soundtrack is also present, and is available in its original flavour, or the new, remastered version. Either way, your ears are going to thank you.
Apart from the visual overhaul, nothing else has actually changed, with 343 leaving everything else that made Halo: CE such a memorable experience intact. While this will please most fans (as we hate having our memories messed with), it also highlights a few issues that plagued the title then, and make a more profound impact this time around. Firstly is the A.I. Occasionally, the A.I is downright daft, standing still and not reacting to your approach, and often just soaking up your bullets like sunshine. Granted, this is more of a rare occurrence, though it is very noticeable. Thankfully, Elites and Jackals still make formidable foes, and a large number of Grunts can still be a force to be reckoned with, especially with a Plasma Grenade in the mix. Hunters are a lot less deadly than in later Halo entries, and are more of a pest than a challenge.
Another issue is level design in certain sections of the game. Finding your way around indoor bunkers and corridors can sometimes become increasingly frustrating, especially when there is back tracking involved. This is partly due to the fact that there is often no variation to the corridors that follow on from each other, which can cause some confusion when you are forced to find your way out of a building. These issues highlight how game and level design has progressed over the years, but the fact that they only cause minor hindrances and small frustrations shows just how well Halo: CE was initially designed. Oh, and if you’re hoping that 343 overlooked the infamously overpowered pistol, then you can jump for joy, as the original pistol is represented in all its overpowered glory, allowing you to take down hordes of enemies and feel like a badass while doing so.
Now before you think 343 just overhauled the visual aspects of the game and shipped it, there are a few things that make this Anniversary addition more than a minor improvement. Skulls have been added, giving you more ways to tweak your Halo experience. From less ammo drops to exploding confetti Grunt heads, all the classics are there, and buried within Halo for you to find. Achievements are also present, much to the delight of achievement whores around the world (Like Cavie). These small changes are sure to please Halo fans, but the real changes come in the form of Kinect support and Stereoscopic 3D.
Kinect integration only goes as far as voice commands, allowing you to reload, toss grenades, edit settings and switch visual modes all with your voice. It certainly becomes handy when you want to change the brightness of the game without pausing, but beyond that it falls short or anything significant. Commands to reload or throw grenades are met with slight delays in game, meaning that you’ll never get a pinpoint grenade toss by just shouting at your TV. However, you are able to activate a very interesting feature call Analyze, which will turn your entire view into a blue blur, allowing you to highlight and analyze any item in the game, unlocking it’s entry in the encyclopaedia. Those without a Kinect will have to find their Halo information fix elsewhere, however. 3D is also an added novelty, and after playing a good portion of the campaign in 3D I can honestly say that it truly transforms Halo into a gorgeous experience. It won’t convince you to buy a brand new 3D TV, but if you are lucky enough to own one, you are in for a visual treat.
Halo: CE Anniversary also sports a competitive multiplayer mode, however you may be disappointed to find that this is not the multiplayer suite that shipped with Combat Evolved. The multiplayer suite is integrated with the Halo: Reach architecture, and doesn’t allow classic visuals to accompany the frantic fun that many remember. Having the multiplayer integrated with Reach means that you can play online with other Reach players, provided they have the Anniversary map pack. This map pack is available for download off the Xbox Live market, and people who buy Anniversary will receive a code to redeem the maps for their Reach copy, creating a perfectly seamless experience. Anniversary only has six maps however, taking five from the original thirteen from Combat Evolved, as well as one PC exclusive map. Each map has been given a bit of a face lift, with some maps now sporting expansive outside views as opposed to opaque glass. The engine here is the same as Reach, so your multiplayer experience should feel extremely familiar. Match types are exactly the same, and classes and abilities all make their appearances. However, there is an Anniversary match modifier, which will take things back to the good old days, meaning no jet packs, enhanced sprint or armour locks. Retro weapons will also replace all of Reach’s upgraded gear.
Firefight also creeps in, though there is only one map to take your stand in. The map takes its cues from the second level in the campaign, and also features some A.I. controlled ODST troopers that will do their best to help you. Forge and Theatre mode also manage to find some space in the package, bringing all the map editing fun you know and love from previous titles. Theatre mode allows you to capture any and every moment of your multiplayer experiences, from epic kills to downright hilarious deaths. It’s nothing really to brag about, but there is no doubt that many are happy for the inclusion of these community favourite features.
With a lower price than most games on the market, and a truly expert remastering, there is really no reason to miss out on the best Halo experience you could possibly have the second time around. If you own an Xbox 360, you should own Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Just like the original before it, Halo explodes onto Microsoft’s console, delivering one of the most engrossing shooter experiences to date, and telling a story that will go down in gaming folklore. Halo: CE Anniversary is an ode to one of the greatest games ever made, and it really deserves your attention.