on November 15, 2011
It seems these days we gamers get inundated with HD remakes and remasters all the time, most of which amount to nothing more than bare-boned ports slapped with some up-rez paint and stretched to widescreen and, most importantly, the price of a brand new game. Until now, those seemed like adequate, maybe even "good" efforts. Not anymore. Developers of the world, start taking notes; THIS is how you do a truly awesome, worthwhile remake. 343 Industries was not content to lazily shove a ten-year-old game into your face with no substantial updates and call it a remake, using manipulative, fancy terms like "HD" and "remastered." No, instead they opted for something much more grand, and much more glorious. There's a lot to cover here about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, so I'll get right to the campaign. If you don't like long reviews, tough, don't read this one. Halo CE is too great to be confined to a short, anemic review, and this version deserves a lot of detail. I make no apologies for that. I'll tell you right now, this is an absolutely incredible deal at $40 (it would be a great deal at $60!). Halo fans rejoice, the developers have heard your cries and answered them in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary!
Full disclosure: I am a single-player campaign first, co-op second, competitive multiplayer third/last, kind of guy. Halo is about the only series I've ever actually cared playing competitive multiplayer for. I've sunk countless hours into all iterations of Halo multiplayer, including the original. That been said, I play video games almost exclusively for the immersion and story, and this game was a revelation for me ten years ago. Halo: CE's campaign is legendary, second to none in terms of sci-fi epics, and it is what I will give the most attention to in this review. However, for you multiplayer enthusiasts, I will try to be as detailed there for you too. Here we go...
I never thought I'd finding myself saying this, but Halo: Combat Evolved now has graphics and art design that at least matches, and in some areas surpasses, Halo's best past efforts. Well, sort of. You see, there are two engines ever present while you play. The new anniversary engine that 343i and their partner developers created adds a whole new layer of delicious, high fidelity visual goodness that, surprisingly, surpasses even Halo Reach's phenomenal graphics engine at times. The original Halo had ground breaking visuals at the time of its release, and really gave the epic story a feeling of grandeur and scope rarely seen before or since in a sci fi video game. Now, once again, I'm finding myself in absolute awe at the scope and sheer beauty in this game. This is true when looking at the broad picture down to the tiniest details. From the incredibly striking, sexy Mjolnir Mk. V armor that has a pristine green sheen, to the glowing projectiles (which are independent light sources and look really dynamic lighting up the world as they fly), to the way grenades dynamically shower the scene with glowing cinders, to the barrage of sparks when bullets ricochet, to the updated enemies (covenant and flood both look awesome!), to the updated marines, to the Halo ring itself in all its majesty (jaw-droppingly gorgeous sky-boxes and environmental vistas included), Halo Anniversary truly exceeds all possible expectations graphically. It does an awesome job staying true to the spirit and philosophy of the original's art design, while maintaining coherency with Halo's later sequels, while still making it all feel so new and fresh again. The art design in this game was always top-tier and spectacular and now, finally, it has the console power it needs to really shine through, and boy does it ever!
The new visuals here, from the graphical quality to the astounding art design, all add up to make that feeling of discovery and awe more strong than ever. I don't want to give away how they brought Halo's iconic levels into the year 2011, because you're in for a treat when you discover it all for yourself (again). In every conceivable way, each level in the campaign was recreated with a clear reverence for the source material, while greatly improving levels that generally weren't very beloved by the fanbase (I'm looking directly at you Library!). I played the original Halo more times than I care to count, but this feels like I'm playing it for the first time. It's like falling in love all over again. Hit "back" on your controller and "classic mode" activates, transporting you back in time to the original engine entirely, graphics and all, and it is very striking to see how far technology has come in a mere ten years. It's also amazing to see that pretty much the only thing "dated" about the original Halo: CE is its graphics. "Classic mode" is a great feature.
It is also worth noting that in "Anniversary mode," they redid the cutscenes to make the shots more effective, the animations more refined, and to enhance the overall story telling. Don't worry though, there's no changes to the story like stupid "Greedo shooting first" moments injected in. We all know Master Chief shoots first. >:D They DID add really cool motion comic terminals (ala Halo 3) that connect all of the existing (but mainly Combat Evolved) Halo games into the upcoming new Reclaimer trilogy, as well as really tell 343 Guilty Spark's own sad, poignant tale. These terminals are really well done, the way this new story is conveyed is awesome, and the story itself is, no surprise, extremely deep and well-written.
Some of the audio has also been redone for this release. The voice acting is the exact same as before, with the original recordings used and not even put through any processing or remixing, but everything else has been enhanced. Weapons retain the feel pretty much the same as they did way back when, but they also now sound a lot more powerful and have way more oomph to them. It's an amazing feat to retain the same spirit of a ten-year-old masterpiece, while actually improving on those old aspects and making them feel brand new again (a theme I have stressed throughout this review. It really is amazing how well they did this). My hats off to the audio director, who clearly poured his soul into this project. The musical score was also rerecorded with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, and it sounds spectacular. Again, it only enhances the original, but changes nothing. It's very respectful, and as a diehard Halo fan, I was most pleased playing this. If you don't like the new musical recording, there's a place in the main menu where you can activate the old soundtrack files. Yet another nice feature, no? The music and sound effects mesh beautifully well. The glee I feel listening to high fidelity 7.1 surround sound with my white Astro A40 Audio System with this game is unmatched. Amazing sound design for sure, but I expected no less from Halo. Even ten years ago, Martin O'Donnell's work in this particular aspect of the game was revolutionary and it still holds up masterfully, even today.
Well, those are the biggest changes to this version of Halo: CE's campaign. As I said earlier, the game has two engines. One is for visuals, and then there's the *always* present original engine dictating every sort of under-the-hood, coding related aspect of the game, with its entire gameplay glory still intact, warts and all. This can be both a great thing and a bad thing, depending on your perspective. The physics, the AI, the weapon values, the level design coding, and anything else related to gameplay is the exact same as you remember it, pixel for pixel. This includes glitches like freakishly deformed dead character models and jerky motions at times (I found these more humorous than detracting from quality). All the great/dumb tricks you could do in the original, you can do here. The ridiculous mini-mortar cannon pistol? It's here in all its glory. The levels are all exactly the same with the same layout you remember. The Assault Rifle has 60 rounds and is a beast; by far its most powerful iteration of all the Halo series. Grunts flee in terror when their leader is taken out.
I could go on and on, but the point I'm trying to make is that Halo CE pretty much defined how a FPS should play on a console, rivaling even a PC's place as the go-to location for FPS gameplay. 343i respects that, and so changed nothing about the gameplay; it is FPS perfection for console. The amazing thing is that when combined with the new visuals and audio, it feels like a brand-spankin-new game, and even today could be a game-of-the-year champion, EVEN among all the heavy hitters that this year boasts. New additions like never-before-seen skulls and co-op over Xbox live are just cherries on top of this awesomesauce-drenched sci-fi cobbler.
I personally do not have a Kinect or 3-D capable television, so I cannot speak as to the quality of those features in this review. However, if as much work was put into implementing those things as there was put into literally everything else in this game, well, I think you Kinect/3-D enthusiasts will more than likely have a lot to enjoy here.
The multiplayer also got a lot of love. There are six multiplayer maps remade beautifully from Halo CE, Halo PC, and even one classic from Halo 2. There's also one firefight map added from the campaign (along with a brand new chance to play firefight with friendly AI-controlled ODSTs). These are all played in Reach's engine, and you can download them onto your system to play from Reach directly, or you can just play these maps from the menu on the screen. The thing is, the developers really worked hard so that from the menu, you can select playlists that perfectly emulate the classic Halo CE multiplayer from the old days, played on the classic maps you remember. When playing in these classic playlists, I feel like a 13/14-year-old again, at the good ol' LAN parties, with big, clunky SD televisions, playing Halo CE multiplayer all night long with my friends and their friends. It's awesome! They also made one variant to each of these maps so that, if you want, you can play them utilizing Reach's style of multiplayer, armor abilities and all. So technically, there are TWELVE maps here and again, these maps are great whether playing in "classic" playlists or ordinary "Reach" playlists. With such drastic differences in gameplay possibilities between those two, this equality in greatness is no small feat. Great job 343! I honestly wish more developers cared about their fans so much.
I could really go on forever about this version of what is easily one of my favorite games of all time. I was very skeptical when I heard they were developing a remake of this game, but Anniversary does not disappoint one tiny bit. I really didn't think they could refine such a classic masterpiece, but by god, 343 Industries, as well as Saber Infinity and Certain Affinity, did what I honestly felt impossible and actually made this classic feel new again! Let me be clear here; the developers were clearly cogniscant of Halo's massive shoes, and so respectfully recreated the experience perfectly while refining all aspects that had aged, namely visuals and audio, while adding some supplementary story (terminals) and gameplay (skulls) elements. They did a fantastic job. Even if you don't like the changes, classic mode essentially wipes them all away and you can enjoy Halo in all its original glory, now in widescreen and HD resolution. My golden standard for faithful, enhanced remakes are The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D,Star Fox 64 3D,Final Fantasy IV (DS),Klonoa, and now Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. I challenge any and all developers to top these games in terms of remake greatness, but I know most will fail. This is magic in electronic form. Buy this game! Better yet, buy it NEW and *reward/encourage* 343 Industries for actually improving on perfection! Buy it, devour it, and once again, LOVE IT!
My feelings on 343 Industries taking over Halo: "I think we're just getting started..."
Update 12/12/11, I would like to take this opportunity to present my own opinions on the pricing and multiplayer issue people seem to be having:
Historically, for the typical price of $10, you can have access to three-four new maps for Reach. Three multiplayer matchmaking maps, maybe one firefight map, and no new playlists. That's it.
Halo 3: ODST, was originally $60 for essentially a 4-6 hour expansion campaign, firefight, and three exclusive new multiplayer matchmaking maps for Halo 3, as well as the entirety of Halo 3's multiplayer suite (all of which most people had shelled out tons of money for already). Bungie themselves stated it was only worth the price of an expansion, the publishers thought differently. Sixty bucks...
Halo Anniversary's entire multiplayer can be bought by itself and played entirely through Reach for $15 off of the Xbox Live Marketplace... Let's see here, if you buy Halo Anniversary in its entirety for $40, that means you're essentially paying $15 of that for a new firefight map with exclusive new friendly AI capability (which is basically like having AI buddies in campaign who will use turrets effectively, and are great to have if you strategically play with them in mind). You also get *SIX* classic maps beautifully recreated for matchmaking. You could say TWELVE since each map was tweaked (new pathways, ramps, paths, etc) to compliment the type of gameplay Reach's multiplayer offers. They also offered certain gametypes and playlists that do very closely emulate the classic multiplayer gameplay of the original (if not perfectly). Some of the "classic gameplay" ones show up as vote options mixed with Reach gameplay. So really, is $15 for the multiplayer so outrageous?
That means, if my first-grade math serves me correctly, the campaign is $25. Yes, $25 for one of the most influential, highly praised video game campaigns of all time (and one that is easily 8 or 9 hours long if you rush, 10-12+ if you take your time. I've probably sunk at least 25-30 hours into this version alone because of its high replayability factor), with major visual and audio overhauls, as well as widescreen for the original, many new control options, much better cinematics, 3-D capabilities, pretty substantial additions with Kinect, achievements, co-op over Xbox Live (It works FINE, I've played many times over Live, sometimes as host, sometimes not, it never stuttered for me once), really cool side-story via stylish motion comic terminals (that gives hints for Halo 4, another plus), inventive and fun new skulls, classic mode itself, and a slew of other features... Is $25 so unfathomable for something that had so much work put into it?
And for that matter, is it so offensive and outrageous for this package to garner high-praise? I'm seeing *very* snobbish reviews and comments all over the place, by people that are offended that others would rate this package so highly... I mean, really?! C'mon people... do I really need to reiterate the fact that here, a 5-star is defined by the phrase "I love it?" The 5-star reviews here are by people who loved this game, why hate on them and put them down for that fact? I just don't understand people who want to dictate to others what they can and cannot like/love simply because the product didn't fulfill their every wish and whim. That in itself is absurd. Reviews are subjective to the reviewers' opinion, it's a very simple fact.
Honestly, I think the campaign is worth $40 by itself, but no, it's $25 (and as of June 6th, 2012, it's a mere $15!), along with a $15 multiplayer, which, by the way, is a steal of a deal at $15 if you compare its value to Halo's history of map pack content and prices. So please, stop with the complaining, and show a little reason. All of this about multiplayer was clearly explained beforehand. The outrage and snobbish cynicism is getting more than a little old.
on November 17, 2011
Usually I don't get excited for remakes. This one, in fact, I ordered simply so I could run the original Halo on a 360 without emulation. I honestly wasn't expecting a lot--but I sure got it!
The campaign is, simply put, awesome. It looks SO much better than the original, but at the same time it plays just the same. This isn't just some half-baked 'slap some new paint on it' project--it feels like a brand new game. In addition to the makeover, Halo CE now includes skulls, which I like--especially the infinite ammo skull for those times when you just want to shoot stuff without worrying about conserving ammunition.
Multiplayer was a little bit of a disappointment for me, mostly for two reasons: my favorite multiplayer maps didn't make the cut, and I was hoping for the original Halo multiplayer experience instead of just Reach multiplayer on remastered CE maps. But that's not enough to dampen the experience. As I said, the multiplayer is with the Reach engine (you can download the Anniversary maps to play them within Reach, as a matter of fact), so if you get this game, don't get it just for the multiplayer--stick with Reach. If you get this, get it for the campaign--although the new Firefight map is also really cool.
on November 19, 2011
I've not written a game review before, but I felt I had to this time because I really think this game is not only being underrated because of the multiplayer uproar, but a major factor for it being released in the first place is being completely overlooked. More on that below. I am a software engineer who has been playing computer/video games for 40+ years now (Pong, anyone?), and yes, I am that old. Of the hundreds of games I have played, the Halo series, and Halo CE in particular, easily ranks in my Top 10, probably Top 5. The reason? Its campaign gameplay is virtually unmatched for depth of play, difficulty adjustment, engaging storyline, audio/visual presentation, and on and on. It's just plain fun! I've played Halo CE numerous times over the years, either the full campaign or individual levels. I like Halo multiplayer as well and have spent much time online, but that's not the reason I buy the Halo games. I don't want to repeat what other 5-star reviewers have said about this game (I found the reviews by Relytia and Pyanfar Chanur to be particularly good), but I would like to make some additional comments that will hopefully tie things together for potential buyers wanting to know what to expect from this game.
First, the Anniversary campaign uses the same gameplay software as the original game - a huge money & time saver for developer 343 Industries. In consequence, the levels play exactly as before, with the same enemies in the same locations, and even the same checkpointing system. This latter may be a shock to those who have never played the original since you cannot save whenever you want, but I actually approve of it since it forces you to be a little less cavalier about dying. Since I consider Halo CE to be the best of the Halo games, I am very happy with the decision NOT to try to remake the game as some sort of Halo Reach clone. Note that this does not mean that 343i could not tweak the gameplay, because a lot of game mechanics are buried in easily accessible external data tables and hence are not updates to the software itself (this does not include the new skulls or terminals, which require some software support). I have played 3 levels at different difficulty settings and though it might be my imagination, I cannot shake the feeling that gameplay has been tightened up a bit - for example, I get the impression that the assault rifle does more, and the needler less, damage than the original game. If so, kudos to 343i for taking the time to tune parameters that most players will never notice.
Second, the Anniversary campaign uses the Saber3D display engine, which not only renders game objects in 3D space (which all game rendering systems must do) but can also output them for use with a 3D display system. And this it does...Halo CE Anniversary in 3D is AWESOME! I play using a 60" plasma 3D TV, and playing in 3D ups the fun factor by orders of magnitude. I cannot adequately describe just how much more immersive the game feels in 3D. The 3D renditions of weapon, effect and character models merit particular applause. Now, for the first time, I can easily visually discern exactly when to use the assault rifle to melee a pesky Elite - the 3D effect is that good and the animations can be distracting just watching them. Not to mention that the gore splatters are splattier and the explosions, uh, explodier. 3D has been largely overlooked or trivialized by most, if not all, reviewers here. Even the professional reviewers are guilty of this, and they do so at their peril. People resist change, but 3D is simply far too intuitive and far more natural to our stereoscopic-wired brains to be ignored.
Third, the 3D goodness extends to the sound domain as well. The remastered sound effects add considerably to the gameplay experience, for example the reverberating echo of the sniper rifle adds significantly to the illusion of a large-caliber, high-powered weapon. Best of all, in my opinion, is the increased localization in the surround sound stage of the voices. By and large the Covenant foes are a vocal lot, and the game makes especially good use of this in alerting you to the presence of enemies that are out of your line-of-sight, just before they open up on you. This 3D spatialization is so good, in fact, that it prompted me to replay the first couple of levels without referring to the motion tracker (consciously, at least), using only audio cues to react to the unseen. Not only was it surprisingly effective, it ratcheted up the tension level and gave game play a more realistic atmosphere. I can hardly wait to find the skull that disables the motion tracker completely! I highly recommend this experiment to all who play using surround sound systems.
So, put it all together and what do you get? 3D or no 3D, you get beautifully rendered characters and vehicles, light reflecting from overcharged plasma pistols and grenades, energy halos that expand out from Elites when their shields fail, sparkling richochets from missed assault rifle rounds, plasma grenades that audibly hiss through the air as they arc toward you, trees with bark and moss, rocks with granulated faces, waterfalls with spray/spume, snowflakes you think you can grab, dust clouds forming behind your racing Warthog, just to name a few. True, the passage of time has not been particularly kind to the unchanged AI, and there are other 10 year old idiosyncracies as noted in other reviews, but you are still (re)playing what I think is one of the best FPS campaigns ever committed to DVD.
And oh yes, IMO the 3D implementation contained herein is a major reason, if not the major reason, why this game was given the green light in the first place. Think about it, a major game title just begging for a facelift, practically free gameplay software, a 10 year anniversary marketing opportunity, and the next iteration of a huge franchise looming on the horizon. Talk about serendipity. I suspect this game is the proof-of-concept of next-gen graphics for Halo 4 and beyond, and a good indication why the Halo series will continue to be console-centric. Console developers are well aware that one of their biggest advantages over the PC is the immersion factor of their games, and a 3D game played on a big-screen TV with a home theater 5.1 surround system simply cannot be matched by a PC. Further, I predict that this game will prove to be the 3D benchmark by which other 3D-aspiring console games will be measured, in much the same way that the original Halo CE became the benchmark for console FPS games. I've played Crysis 2 and GoW3 in 3D and they are simply not in the same league. Ironically, one of the main reasons for this is the relative simplicity of the Halo CE game world as a consequence of using the original game's software, ie. scenes with relativly fewer and/or well-spaced objects tend to project a much better defined 3D depth that heavily cluttered scenes. Games such as Halo Reach, which is both much more cluttered and is heavy on textures, bump-mapping and the like, provide a much busier looking and more realistic-seeming environment, but one which is much more problematic for a 3D display engine. There are solutions, but they require more horsepower than the current generation consoles can provide. Does this mean we can look forward to a next-generation Xbox console timed to the release of Halo 4? Talk about deja vu! And if so, you heard it here first.
As I was saying, this 'cleaner' game world lends itself to 3D on current-gen hardware - a big bonus to 343i no doubt, and the 3D imaging itself has other consequences. For one, some reviewers have commented (positively or negatively) on the brighter, more varied color palette and increased color saturation as compared to the original game, these are all requirements for good 3D presentation. Crysis 2 and GoW3 both suffer in this regard, and though GoW3 is noticeably brighter, it's not enough. For another, dynamic lighting (ie. reflections and shadows) is key to good 3D when there is motion involved, again, other reviewers have commented on how much improved the lighting and shadow effects are. An example of this concession to 3D is the outdoor portion of the Truth And Reconciliation level, which is far brighter than the original, to the point that the 'flashlight illumination' of the sniper rifle in no longer really necessary. Darkness absolutely kills 3D - depth perception is still the single biggest problem with military night vision equipment - so I predict the other 'dark' levels will also be brighter. In the 3D FPS gaming future, I expect that dark/night environments will be handled differently than daytime, perhaps using something akin to the Halo 3:ODST VISR mode.
Finally, to those reviewers who have dissed the release of Halo CE Anniversary for its multiplayer component, I feel your pain, but unlike the game software, the original multiplayer code would have to be essentially rewritten in order to take advantage of the current (Bungie) network architecture. The additional time and cost are significant, and from the 343i point of view there would be nothing to be gained, future-wise. As other reviewers have noted, 343i made no bones about the fact that a full re-imagining of the multiplayer component of Halo CE was not on the table, hence the next-best-thing-to-free port of the Halo Reach multiplayer component into Halo CE Anniversary. I know it's not much consolation now, but after all, you didn't have to shell out 60 bucks, and if I'm right about this game being a preview of what's to come, then the future of Halo is looking pretty bright, multiplayer included :)
on November 19, 2011
If you are a Halo fan - you have to have this game. If you are not, it will make you one. This is the game that did it all. It is here in updated glory with additions that old fans will appreciate. To keep it short and sweet, no one in this family was disappointed.
on November 15, 2011
I bought the original Xbox in order to play Halo as I'd heard nothing but good things about it. I spent a decent amount of time in college screwing around in the split screen multiplayer, that's for sure.
Let me just say that this is a completely faithful rendition. The gameplay is exactly the same, the checkpoints are exactly where they were, it's pretty neat. It's a little strange though to take a step back in terms of control. I had to retrain my brain to the older style of Halo gameplay. Not that there's anything wrong with it, it's just different.
I'd say that Halo: Reach still looks a bit crisper and graphically entertaining, but, this gives Halo 3 and ODST a run for their money. It's also fun to switch the graphics between classic and redone with the push of a button. It's funny thinking back and saying "oh man this looks so awesome!" and then seeing how gorgeous things look time. Progress marches on I suppose.
So is it worth it? Kinda.
If you've never played Halo and want an introduction to the series it's perfect. If you're a huge Halo fan and want to experience the magic all over again, also perfect. If you kind of like Halo and want to check this out, maybe wait for a price reduction or rent it.
on November 21, 2011
Please, PLEASE, do not base your decision or review on this game on the negative reviews that complain it doesn't have classic multi-player. These people do not know how to write a negative review on a product. They give it one star, because they did not take the time to read what was on the box, and what features it has (or doesn't, in there case) so when they got they game, expecting something that was NEVER, EVER, advertised to begin with. Did they review the campaign? No. Did they review the maps for Reach that were included? No. They pop it in, load multi-player, see that its maps for reach, and freak out. This is not CoD, where you pay $60 every year for the same game, and even same maps.
When you write a negative review, write what the flaws in the product were, and how it can be improved. Do not write a negative review about something the product never said it was going to do. That's like me writing a review about say, a shoe, and giving it one star because I didn't like the color of it when the construction and quality was fine. Common sense, kids.
* * * * * *
This is a great game. It was 10 years ago, it is now. You are paying $40 for the re-mastered campaign, and some Multi-player maps from the old days to play in Halo: Reach. You CAN play two player co-op on system link, split screen, and now XBL.
THERE IS NO CLASSIC, REMASTERED MULTI-PLAYER.
THERE NEVER WAS.
THEY NEVER SAID THERE WOULD BE.
The DLC on XBL is $15. So, the game Retails at $40 (MSRP). You are paying $25 for the Campaign (with some new content like Skulls and terminals) and $15 for the DLC for Reach. The game comes with a code for the new maps so that you can save them to your xbox and play them with the Reach disk in, so you can play all the maps you have. You can only play the new maps off the disk.
I would imagine that most people buying this have played the original Halo:Combat Evolved and probably played it to death and want to relive one the finer moments in gaming history. If you're one of the few who have never played it then here's your chance to experience it too.
Remastered in both resolution and texture/polygons you can enjoy the original XBox game in HD 16:9 with remastered sound too. Plus at any point you can literally switch between the new graphics and the old with a click of the back button. It's quite remarkable to see how it looked originally though. For some reason the remastered version is how I remembered H:CE and so when I switched back it genuinely looked like someone was playing a prank on me simply because it just looks so... old!
I applaud the designers in their execution of the revamp. It must have been difficult marrying new graphics with old code especially in the cut scenes. Of course the visuals aren't up to today's games and I wouldn't expect them to be. The devs would have been hampered by their inability to insert architecture not originally there. For example, I'm sure they would have loved to populate areas with many more trees than were in the original but of course that would remove the purity of the game play and the ability to play it exactly as it did ten years ago. So expect an upgrade in the graphics but don't expect COD:MW3 levels of visual bliss.
If you have a 3D TV then the remastered graphic mode can be switched to true 3D and wow is it good (the original graphic mode is in 2D only). My only caveat is the text messages when in 3D mode are wildly too big for the screen but it doesn't remove from the amazing experience of setting foot on Halo in awesome stereoscopic dimensions. Nice touch.
I haven't tried multiplayer, and I didn't play it originally so despite reading that it's basically Halo:Reach with tweaked H:CE maps the game loses no points from me on that front. If you're buying this just for MP then you may or may not be disappointed.
The single player game itself is just a joy even though you can see the limitations of the original hardware still showing through in this version due to the repetitive levels and quite sparse landscapes. But nothing takes away from the nostalgia of playing this game again and MS and 343 should be thanked for a great adaptation of a great game. Good price point too!
343 Industries has done an absolutely amazing job of redoing Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. However, there's been some confusion about the purpose of the remake. Because we're still talking about a ten-year-old code base being brought forward into new hardware, a new engine, and having a lot of new technology rolled in, the people involved in putting together this game could not make it all things to all people. They had to pick and choose.
So here then is what Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is:
- A complete end-to-end remake of the Single Player campaign, with an added side-story and a few discoveries that lead to that
- cooperative single-player Campaign play over XBox Live
- A new set of multiplayer maps designed to give those more familiar with Halo: Reach a chance to play the original game through the newer Reach engine. Not everybody has played the original Halo: Combat Evolved. There are some people who still think the original Halo won't play on an XBox 360--it didn't at the 360's launch, but that issue has long been fixed and yes, it does run...this Anniversary edition is just a tremendous overhaul.
- The addition of Trophies and Skulls for XBox Live achievements and added gameplay depth on multiplayer
And here is what Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is NOT:
- A perfect conversion of multiplayer over to XBox Live. While there are a ton of customization options for your multiplayer fun, it's still all driven by the Halo: Reach engine and thus behaves like another flavor of Reach's multiplayer features.
- The full feel of the original Halo: Combat Evolved multiplayer over Live
If it were a full conversion, then 5 stars would easily be the best rating. As it is, this game is 5 stars of fun and almost 5 for the features it *does* carry over. When I installed the game, I got a code to download 1.2GB of multiplayer maps *in addition to* the few that came with the game. I also got some tinier perks, like downloading male or female Master Chief suits for my XBox Live Avatar.
Here on CE: Anniversary, multiplayer is Reach-driven, and so that means jet packs, power shields, etc.--just with the addition of CE's remastered maps plus a few newer maps. You DO NOT have to own Halo: Reach to play the multiplayer in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.
None of the goodies really compare though to the original intent that shines through in this game: a complete, end-to-end remake of the Single Player Campaign.
The bad news is, in order to help you understand what you get, I have to give you a few spoilers.
The good news is, I'll keep them to a minimum, and only talk about the opening level, in which you have to escape the Pillar of Autumn.
I've recently replayed Halo for the PC, overriding the game's settings to crank it as far as today's gaming PC hardware can go. It's awesome to play, but it can still only get so good. When you see how stiffly people move and how simple their textures are, you're reminded that gaming has come a long way in the past decade. Popping in the Combat Evolved Aniversary was exactly what I'd wished my PC could do (and boy do I wish they'd make this for the PC!).
- Everybody has entirely new "everything": newer face models, more polygons, and they all move a lot more naturally because they've got more 'bones'. When the sirens go off in the original Halo, you see stiff-legged jogging. In CE Anniversary, ONI's bridge crew lean forward, bend their knees, and break into a real run.
- Levels don't just have a lot more color: the 'set' has been completely re-dressed. The same objects have more color, walls and bulkheads have more definition and lighting, and the overall lighting is not only more natural, it shows how much shadow had to be crammed into the indoor sets in the original game to keep things running smoothly. The shadows are lifted and there is a lot more to see now.
- The Environment has been given an overhaul: when explosions rock the Pillar of Autumn, your camera gets jostled and you feel like the Master Chief shifted his feet to steady himself. Bodies lying on the deck will go flying if a grenade goes off. Your enemies will get knocked over or tumble forwards just like in the original game, but now their arms are pinwheeling and their limbs are flailing. Explosions knock objects around, and just like Halo 3 and Reach, you can get splash damage a bit easier because the physics is real.
- Visual Effects get an upgrade: flames look much better, Covenant grenades give off blue flashes, and volumetric lighting effects like explosions, fog, and neon glows look more realistic to the eyes.
- There's a broader sound palette. Best example: the smaller race of Covenant (Grunts) wear breathers that feed them the gas of their home planet's atmosphere. If I'm sneaking around, I can actually hear their respirators purring their air supply to them.
So then there are the story extras. I'll give you just one example here--the moment you finish talking to Keyes and he hands you your first weapon, there's a console right next to you that says, 'Press 'X' to activate terminal'...and when you do, you get to see that the Halo is communicating with your ship. It's a very interesting embedded cinematic that adds depth to the story and helps explain the whole idea that humans are the chosen descendents of the Forerunner race. The ring's keeper (Guilty Spark) discovers you and your cyborg armor and uses that knowledge to decide that humanity is ready to be allowed aboard and discover the technology of the Forerunners. It's an interesting aside, and right in those two minutes is a nice level of extra detail to the story.
My only real quibble with the new look is that Captain Keyes is very different looking. He appears younger to me, and his face is more like that of an aging combat soldier than it is a space-naval officer. I believe they did this to bring him inline with the Halo novels, though: Keyes is supposed to be relatively young for a ship's captain.
Despite the fact that newer code is running, the enemy aren't capable of some of the things you see in the other Halo installments. For example, even though the Elites (taller Covenant) can still leap very high in the air, I haven't seen Covenant climb over anything to get at me, or leap onto or off of a platform--they still seem to be stuck to ramps and a bit limited in their movement. Since Halo 1 did not contain the big gorilla-like Brutes, you won't find anybody picking up huge objects and throwing them at you. You also won't have the larger set pieces get scattered everywhere like they do in Halo 3 and beyond. Still, there are times the enemy makes up for their movement limitations by being much more clever: I've been flanked a bit more in CE: Anniversary, and if they see me, enemies are also quicker to pick up on me trying to come around behind them.
If you're a fan of the original Halo: Combat Evolved single player campaign, you will very much enjoy this remake. It is money well spent. If you are a fan of the multiplayer element to the original Halo: Combat Evolved, this is not the same animal, but if you can forgive the differences, you will still be rewarded with some new maps, your favorite maps in the Reach engine, and a slew of customization options that should offer you hours of gameplay. If you're new to the Halo series and would like to see what the original story was about, you won't find a Lucas-style rewrite of key story elements: you'll instead find an original story, with some added detail. Multiplayer is not a perfect XBox Live matchup system and it's not a detailed recreation of the original, but I believe that, given what they had to work with, 343 Industries has done a great job here.
on February 23, 2016
To prove just how good this game is. I have been playing video games for over 20 years and I have not finished a single one. I have severe ADHD. I will jump from game to game to game and then go back to a game but by the time I do I have forgotten it and need to start over. BUT I FINISHED HALO! Yes. I finally beat a game. My first time ever. And it was Halo. And I did it in about a week and a half. And I am still playing this game. That is how good this game is. I am not even sure what it is about the game. I have played other FPS games but none of them are Halo. The story is great. And I love Cortana - well I live to make sarcastic comments at her but still. She does add to the game. I mean really - she tells me to head to that building there but hey Cortana there is an army between me and there. A literal army. :-D
There are a few areas where things do start to get a bit repetitive. And I am so disappointed I didn't get to shoot Guilty Spark myself. Bit I enjoyed the game so much I was able to overlook all of this easily.
8 am surprised the game is rated M. I do remember hearing about it when it came put though I never played it myself. All that big deal about how violent Halo is. Yes there is violence but in some ways almost comical. The grunts are hilarious! They actually can be found napping on duty. They bleed blue. There are T rated games worse than this.
on January 3, 2013
I'm a huge Halo fan, but this game was probably unnecessary. Probably no one will read my review, but whatever. Gameplay levels look amazing, the terminal videos are very enlightening, and the 100,000 Reach cR you get from finding all the terminals is awesome. But the cutscenes are murdered.
Keyes and Cortana both looked perfect in Reach. But they look terrible in CEA. Keyes has duck lips, and Cortana is her Halo 3 self slapped on the original animations. Keyes and Johnson are both missing their iconic tobacco products that added personality to them, and everything is too colorful to take seriously. The opening shot is a major disappointment to those who know the original, and it's only the same opening if you do it on legendary.
There's achievements, though, making all the Halo games now have achievements (If you include Halo 2 PC). Gameplay levels look awesome, and it's nice to have updated graphics, but I often find myself switching to retro graphics right before a cutscene starts.
The anniversary map pack is cool, too, if you care to sit through the 30-second intro every time you want to play. The maps are great remakes of the originals, but it would be nice if they'd have made a more faithful remake of blood gulch than Reach's Forge World. It's nice to have maps that don't appear in the Reach campaign, though.
Get it if you want the Reach map pack or the 100,000 cR from getting all the terminals, or if you don't have a hard drive and can't play the original Halo 1. If you don't care about Reach, get the original and save yourself $35.