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360 of 401 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, the Halo series has come full circle., November 15, 2011
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This review is from: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (Video Game)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 98 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 15, 2011 1:00:09 PM PST
Now that's a review.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2011 1:32:38 PM PST
Relytia says:
lol thanks. Tried going the "be as informative as possible, while still writing a Halo fan love letter" route. I hope it was helpful.

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 1:40:43 PM PST
Karen M. says:
so... you'd recommend it?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2011 1:50:00 PM PST
Relytia says:
Yes...

...emphatically.

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 2:52:28 PM PST
MK37 says:
Good Review. i am pretty sure you like Halo. So graphics better then Reach... I will have to see that..... and I would put the RE remake on the gamecube up there too.

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 3:17:16 PM PST
Quincy Zhang says:
Awesome that you chose Klonoa as a great remake. I agree.

Posted on Nov 15, 2011 6:25:10 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 15, 2011 6:25:41 PM PST
zbruggs4 says:
I was already eagerly awaiting this to come in the mail, but you have pretty much heightened me to a frenzy. It looks like you loved all of the things that I loved, and I am damn excited. I had no idea the sound track was re-recorded -can't wait to hear it! think one small thing I would add to your review is the fact that finalllllyyyyy after so long of wishing it were so, we can finally co-op over live. I too played the campaign nonstop when I was 14-17, and had a best friend to share the love. Now we will be able to hop back into the Pillar of Autumn and blaze through to the Maw. and then repeat. and then repeat. etc. etc.

Thanks again!

Posted on Nov 16, 2011 2:02:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2011 2:04:37 AM PST
Relytia says:
Well MK37, I'd say the technical aspects are at least on par with Reach. I find the iconic imagery and design of Halo itself really ups the anty in the visuals. Reach was great too, don't get me wrong, but... the first Halo had such iconic art design. 2011 graphical standards really does it justice. I never played any RE games myself (as shocking as it sounds), but I've heard nothing but praise for that remake you speak of.

Mr. Zhang, not only is your name awesome, so is your taste in video games. I never would have guessed getting a Klonoa nod so quickly, it seems to be the definition of cult classic. The original was one of my all-time favorite PSX games. The remake is awesome. :D

zbruggs4, good call. I edited my review to mention the co-op. It's pretty cool, how everyone has stories like that with the co-op aspect. I would always play it with my best friend who was like an older-brother to me (now he IS my brother, in-law, after we married two sisters from the same family :D). Anyway, it was the first game that started our co-op gaming hobby. I too am thrilled about it being so amped up here. I'm glad I could get you even more excited about the game. That was my goal. :D

Posted on Nov 16, 2011 1:28:16 PM PST
Joel McGee says:
Thanks for the info regarding how the map packs were handled. I was planning on buying the maps seperatley because I thought they were going to be done like ODST. You saved me $15.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2011 1:41:08 PM PST
Relytia says:
No problem Joel. I personally am a #1 Single-player, #2 multiplayer kind of guy, but I knew many would be more interested in the multiplayer, so I tried to be as detailed there as possible. Glad I could help you out.

I saw the map pack, it's $15 for 6 maps, 12 if you include the "Reach" Variants. I remember Defiant and Noble were both 10$ each for 3 maps. It seems kind of weird. Three bucks and thirty cents a map on those two, and this one is around $2.50 per map. Pretty decent deal, I think.
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