Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review
How many gamers under the age 18 do you think have played Halo: Combat Evolved? I'm talking the original Halo, big and bulky Xbox, chunky controller with the black and white buttons. Not many. A game that put Microsoft on the console gaming map, and largely changed what we expect from first-person shooters, should be a prerequisite for picking up a controller to play any other video game. Okay, so I'm exaggerating a bit, but you'd be surprised how many younger gamers (I'm talking 18 and under) haven't played the first game in the Halo trilogy. The thing is, you can't really blame them. I'm sure when they were getting into gaming, they started on the Xbox 360—if they went the Microsoft console route, that is. Sure, I get worked in Halo: Reach by these very 18 year olds, but at least I know where the series came from. The farthest they go back in Halo knowledge is Halo 3, or if they think they're retro, Halo 2.
So, that's why I'm excited that 343 Studios gave the game an HD upgrade, along with new features, for the game's 10th Anniversary. A whole other generation of gamers are going to be able to experience the Master Chief we got to—and we get to relive it with better graphics, textures, and the campaign redone for two players. Two Spartans. Two ass-kicking Spartans, looking for love... wait, wrong concept.
Let's talk about the biggest change to the game—the graphics. The graphics, as well as the audio, has been fully remastered. For those that never played the original, with a press of the back button, you can see what the game looked like back in 2001. You can switch in and out of the next-gen and last-gen graphics as you please. Everything from textures on the walls to NPC's faces looks 100 times better. Keep in mind, the old graphics wow'ed us back in 2001. The game can also be played in steroscopic 3D. I can't tell you how it looks because I don't own a 3D television., but I'd be happy to review that part if someone would like to buy me one.
It was refreshing to play through the campaign again—I forgot a lot of the small details, so it was a pleasure to play through again. What's more, I played through the campaign co-op, enjoying all of the classic goodness with a friend—after a little speed bump that is. The first thing he decided to do upon getting a pistol is shoot a crew-member on the bridge in the head. And then another. And another. Soon, a security team of soldiers came and fought us. No matter how many times I blew them up with a grenade or shot them, they wouldn't die. It was a fun little excursion in our playthrough.
What's great about playing through the campaign for veterans to the game is that now you can get achievements. One of those achievements I got from finding a console that wasn't in the original campaign. Upon activating the console, I was brought to a cut-scene video that told some backstory. This little video was a minute to two minutes long and reveal backstories that hint towards the story of Halo 4. I won't ruin what it showed, but it's an awesome feature that diehard Halo fans will love.
Now to what keeps people playing Halo games: the multiplayer. In the menu it is labeled Halo Reach Anniversary Multiplayer. At the time of this review, I wasn't able to play against opponents on Xbox Live, so you'll have to wait a little for that. I did mess around with the maps against one other opponent on splitscreen. Classic maps have been redone it perfect form. One down-side, and keep in mind I only tried to play with one other person, but it looks like there is no four-player multiplayer death match on one screen. That's very disappointing. I have some awesome memories of intense four-player action in my bedroom (get your mind out of the gutter). Online you can expect the up to 16 player matches that Halo fans have come to expect.
Besides the lack of four players on one screen, Forge and Firefight have made their way into the game, including an all-new Firefight map, Installation 04. Kinect integration is in the game, and you can use it in an “Analyze Mode” which lets players scan items in the campaign to add to your interactive encyclopedia of Halo lore. I dabbled with it, but I was having so much fun with the campaign that I decided to not use the Kinect integration at all. It's a nice little feature for those fans that are obsessed with the lore, but to the average Halo player, it can mostly go unnoticed.
The controls are classic Halo. Players now jump higher, controls have that awesome Halo feel to it (you can definitely use “Halo feel” to describe Halo, and people know what it means), and the guns play like their old selves. That's right—the classic pistol is in full glory here. I was tempted to give the game an 11 out of 10 just because the Halo pistol with the zoom is the best FPS weapon ever, but I practiced restraint (see how easy that was Uncharted 3 reviewers). Another great thing, with the addition of skulls to this game, Convenant weapons could be foreign to you if you activate that skull. That's right, no using that alien technology.
Besides the problems I have with one console multiplayer, the only other gripe I have about the game is that in order to play the multiplayer online, you'll need to download and install the map pack. It's a nice 6 GB download size. The code comes with a copy of the game, but if you don't use the code, the map pack runs for $29.99. That rubs me the wrong way, and anyone looking to buy the game used should be concerned.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is combining a new generation of Halo fans with an older one. For the awesome price of $39.99 you can experience the game that got the Master Chief ball rolling. With hints to the plot of Halo 4, co-op campaign, HD graphics, and other new features, this is a great buy with some classic Halo multiplayer action. Yes, the gameplay can feel a little dated compared to newer first-person shooters, but who wants to get this game hoping it changed the way it plays? Ultimately, when it feels like every game is getting HD remakes, Halo is a shining example of how to do it right.