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12/11/2011

REVIEW: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (Xbox 360)



It’s been close to ten years since the original Xbox came out with the first entry to the Halo franchise. At the time, the entire industry stood in awe at how a relatively unknown development team called Bungie managed to perfectly create FPS controls for a console, amazing graphics, story, soundtrack, gameplay and one of the best competitive multiplayer modes ever created even now.

That first game spammed a series of sequels, prequels and spin-offs in the game industry (without counting the books, comics and animated series) that marked the correct way to make console FPS. Ten years after the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, Bungie passes the torch to the newly created 343 Industries to remake the game with full HD graphics for the Xbox 360.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is just the campaign of the first game. You’ll be able to play again the story of how the Master Chief and Cortana crash-land on the alien artificial world “Halo” when attempting an escape from the Covenant, an alliance of alien races determined to extinct mankind. The story is perfectly recreated, having the same dialogs, weapons, locations and even the exact same gameplay, with bugs included, like the “double melee”.

The graphics are amazing, comparable to the last Bungie game, Halo Reach. 343 managed to bring the original Halo to the Xbox 360 in an excellent way. The textures are excellent and the game’s animations run perfectly. It is possible to notice a lot of improvements on the lighting, especially when you turn the flashlight on inside a dark tunnel or cave. The Forerunners buildings are no longer made of grey walls, floors and ceilings. They now look much better and give a real “ancient alien” feel to them.

The textures on the Master Chief’s armor are excellent. They even reflect light in an amazing way. But the most noticeable changes are within the marines, who now look much more imposing and carry different equipment on their backs and the Covenant races. Just like in Halo Reach, the Grunts, Jackals and Elites have different models. Sometimes the Grunts will wear glasses or different backpacks while the Elites carry the armor and helmets available in Reach’s multiplayer modes.

The soundtrack has been remade completely. It has the same songs from the original game but now they’re orchestrated in different ways and the results are incredible. Like in all Halo games, the music is awesome and becomes perfect to listen even when you’re not playing them. Some of the songs have different singing, piano notes and violin. It’s amazing.

In the sound effects department, they were also improved by a lot. Now the explosions, gunshots, plasma beams and the yells and screams from the Covenant warriors sound much better. Fortunately, the Grunts still speak in English and their lines are still funny as hell, just like the Elites roars. If you play the game with a good-quality set of speakers, you’ll be able to notice the improvements on the sound effects even more.

Gameplay-wise, it is exactly the same game. You run, aim, throw grenades, shoot, reload and melee attack just like in the original version. A few control schemes were added but it’s just a matter of which one you feel more comfortable with. The weapons still have the same performance so, if you became used to the Needler’s power in Halo 3, ODST and Reach, you’ll be disappointed to know that the weapon sucks in Anniversary, just like it did in the original Halo 1. On the other hand, the plasma pistol and rifle are much better than the versions from the modern games. There’s no dual-wielding and none of the newer weapons like the Energy Sword, SMG or Spartan Laser are available.

Sadly, none of the newer Covenant races are around. It’d have been great to encounter Brutes and Drones in the remake but they kept the entire thing faithful to Halo 1, meaning that you’ll only fight against Grunts, Jackals, Elites and Hunters, besides the Flood, of course which also didn’t get any of the newer versions you fight in Halo 3. Still, the variety of enemies in the game is excellent and it proves that for a 10-year-old game, Halo 1 still stands its ground against more modern shooter franchises.

Hidden around in several locations throughout the campaign, you’ll be able to find terminals like the ones in Halo 3. Each one allows you to watch a movie explaining different things from the Halo world, usually expanding our knowledge of the Forerunners and their technology. There’s one of these in each mission in the campaign and some of them are very hard to find.

Besides the Campaign, it’s disappointing that the Multiplayer is not in the game. Instead, you’ll get a map pack for Halo Reach. It includes six maps for the competitive modes inspired by Halo 1 like remakes of famous ones like Prisoner, Battle Creek and Hang ‘Em High which are all more than welcome to Reach’s already awesome multiplayer mode. Besides that, a new Firefight map is added called “Installation 04”, which is the Forerunners’ name for the original Halo world. This new map is located in one of the alien structures from the second mission in the campaign, it’s vastly open and has a few vehicles available, and it’s also one of the hardest due to the Covenant dropships landing in several different places at once.

All that means that if you don’t own Halo Reach, you’ll be left with just a remake of the campaign which you more than likely already played several times by now. But, if you do have a copy of Reach and enjoy its multiplayer, the new maps will be a welcome addition and will provide countless hours of shooting your competition and endless hordes of Covenant reinforcements. The game also comes with a few pretty extras like Master Chief armor for the Xbox Live avatars.

For closing comments, Halo Anniversary is an excellent remake of the first campaign in the franchise. While it plays exactly the same and stays faithful in many aspects, the upgrades are more than enough to make the game worthwhile. Besides, the price tag for it is only 40 dollars instead of the usual 60 of a new game. If you have Halo Reach and like it, you’ll be rewarded with six excellent multiplayer maps and a new Firefight mission. Games like these are always welcome in the industry because they provide top quality in all the characteristics vital to a video game: graphics, gameplay, sound and replay value. So no need to panic at Bungie’s absence, the Halo franchise is in good hands with 343 Industries.

Pros:

-          Excellent graphics and environments recreate the Halo 1 world perfectly.
-          Variety of enemies is awesome in both the Covenant and the Flood.
-          Tons of weapons to choose from.
-          One of the best soundtracks in the entire industry.
-          Great map-pack for Halo Reach.

Cons:

-          Brutes, Drones, Engineers and Prophets are nowhere to be found.
-          The original multiplayer mode is not available.



-          Graphics and Visuals………...9
-          Music and Sound Effects….....9
-          Gameplay……………………8
-          Replay Value…………….…..8

-          Overall Score……………….. 8.5 / 10

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