Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary Edition
Unbelievably it was now over a decade since our humble original Xbox first saw Bungie’s Halo, and now 343 Industries has given us just what we craved – no, not a new title in the Halo franchise, but an old one, lovingly remastered, in both video and sound, and ready to absorb us all for a second time. Halo without a doubt changed the FPS genre when it first graced our screens, so it really is wonderful to see it follow in the footsteps of Perfect Dark and Golden Eye (review coming soon) with a well-deserved re-release.
What do you mean, “What’s Halo?”!
In case anyone has discovered video-games yesterday, Halo is a first person shooter that sees you playing Master Chief, an enhanced soldier. Having made an emergency landing on a ring shaped planet during an intergalactic firefight, you and your troops find yourself in a race to discover how the ring can be used as a weapon but the Covenant aren’t going to make it easy on you… and there may be a few other surprises as well.
When Halo was first released the graphics were captivating. With the graphics brought up to today’s standard it feels like someone has polished up some well-loved childhood toy caked in mud and made it look brand new again. The backgrounds are lavish and beautifully crisp, the enemies more detailed than ever and the music just as emotive. From the moment the infamous Halo theme starts you’ll find yourself immersed in the game, and surrounded by fond memories.
The Test of Time
The campaign has had some minor tweaks added to it in the form of skulls (collectibles that change aspects… for better or worse), and terminals. Terminals are additional pieces of story from 343 Guilty Spark’s point of view, which fill in some of the gaps for those of us who have followed the series (N.B. For first time players, play through without the terminals for a truly authentic first time experience). There’s now also an option for online co-op as well as local. But despite these changes the campaign itself remains untouched and untouchable. The story is so intriguing, the gameplay so enjoyable that it is amazing to think of this as an old game. There really is nothing that dates it, and the whole experience is still just as enjoyable as it was the first time round. Memories often put a rose coloured tint on games, but in this case, it really just that damn good!
No, I did not say “Grenade”!
Among the handful of new features added in is the ability to switch from classic graphics to remastered. The changes are just incredible and you won’t believe the original ever looked so different. This is well worth playing with if only to further appreciate the overhaul. This can be a pain to switch back and forth in the menus but Kinect capability has been included. Simply saying the words can give you a flashback to the past without breaking the flow of the game. Of course, Kinect isn’t just for this one feature, and you’ll find yourself able to scan objects into a library, change weapons, and reload with simple voice commands. Unfortunately, the Kinect does come unstuck with grenades – problems are being reported by gamers including myself, who have been sitting in a silent room only to have Master Chief grenade himself to an untimely death. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and it spoils what was potentially a wonderful extra feature. Obviously, this deadly glitch will hopefully be patched, but in the mean time it is a flaw in an otherwise wonderful game.
What about online?
Followers of the series will be pleased to know that the online aspects of Halo have been put together using the Halo: Reach engine. Six multiplayer maps from Halo and Halo 2 have been given a complete overhaul in order to make them more complete, and are again available in classic graphics too. Along with the remastered features, you’ll also find these classic maps altered to accommodate jet packs and to provide plenty of new routes. Due to the Reach engine, you’ll find customisation options from the newer franchise titles still available, whilst the anniversary pistol gives you back that edge you only had a decade ago. Also, in the package is a new firefight level set on the second campaign level, in which you hold off waves of Covenant with either your online buddies or AI accomplices found around the map.
The bottom line
Halo was a perfect gaming experience the first time round. It started a new era of shooters, and still outshines them all. If you didn’t play it this is a perfect way to experience it, and if you did then it’s like you never left. In my opinion, none of the other titles in the franchise could touch the high bench mark created by the original, and they still can’t. The gameplay has not dated a day, it looks and sounds sumptuous, and the replay value of it is just amazing. This is still the best FPS out there, and I thank Microsoft whole-heartedly for allowing a remake of this classic piece of gaming history.