Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Preview

It’s hard to think that the original Halo: Combat Evolved has been out for ten years. A decade ago I was getting ready to enter high school, and here I am now, an “adult” ready to “take on the real world.” I could find some solace in replaying the original Halo–a nice way to recapture naive youth in these scary times of being a grown-up.

Microsoft and Halo-development studio 343 Industries must feel similarly, having announced Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary at their E3 keynote address. With a fresh new graphical overlay, coupled with the Halo: Reach multiplayer, new levels, and some new features, this will be the definitive version of Halo: Combat Evolved.

The biggest draw here is the brand new HD for the game. The original Halo hasn’t held up well over the last few years, and the team at 343 have done a fantastic job of making sure Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary looks its best. New textures, new models, new water effects–everything here has been greatly improved. No, it doesn’t look as good as Halo: Reach, as the team is working within the constraints of the original engine, but the changes are impressive all the same. Players can switch back and forth between the original and the improved visuals, and the jump in quality is easily noticeable.

More important is how the game is actually built on top of the original Halo engine. All of those graphical effects are just sitting on top of the game, meaning everything that was possible in the original is still possible here. All the guns work exactly the same, and so do the bugs and glitches and all the levels. For good or bad, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is completely as you remember it, even down to the crappy Library level. The team wanted the game to be the same true experience for fans of the original.

If that sounds bad, don’t be too alarmed. While 343 wants players to be able to play through the game as purely as possible, the Halo franchise has come a long way since the first title. The skill modifiers, for example. While 343 wouldn’t go on the record about how players can change the game, a special feature will modify certain aspects to make the game easier or more enjoyable for players.

Other improvements include a completely rescored soundtrack and terminals now placed in the game to show off videos. These are important, as hints are going to be made into these segments. Two-player online co-op is available, as well. Interestingly, it has been reported that Kinect features will be incorporated into the game.

The multiplayer is…special. For those who think they will be getting an online version of Halo’s original multiplayer mode, you have it all wrong. What 343 have done is replaced the Halo multiplayer options with Halo: Reach’s multiplayer game. Before you get too upset, the game will come with the “best of” levels from Halo 1, 2, and 3 and will be backwards compatible with Reach players. It seems the implication is that these stages will be DLC optional for Reach players who don’t want to spend the $39.99 that Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will cost. While some of the levels from Halo 1 have been completely rebuilt with new graphical effects, players will not be able switch back to the original graphics at will, as this uses the Reach engine, not the Halo: Combat Evolved engine.

Coming out November 15, exactly ten years after the game’s original debut, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will be one of the bigger releases for Halo fans. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will be shown off later this year at a Halo convention, so those looking forward to this retro goodie would best get themselves there!