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Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

by William Schwartz

2011 marks the ten year anniversary of the Xbox console, and the franchise that kicked off its wild popularity. Halo: Combat Evolved helped launch the Xbox, but it also helped launch the first person shooter genre to where it is today. Halo: CE changed console gamer opinions on first person shooters, which had primarily been reserved for PC players in the past. The wide open playing field, tight controls, and a mysterious storyline helped make the single player one of the most revered in the history of gaming. After the single player action was done, many delved even deeper into the world of Halo and its LAN capabilities that gave us our first glimpse of where gaming would head over the next decade.

Microsoft owes alot of its success with the Xbox and the Xbox 360 to the Halo franchise, with the game being a major exclusive draw for players that flocked to the console. The game’s creator, Bungie, has since moved on to things outside of the constraints of the Halo universe. With the Halo franchise’s new studio at the helm, the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition sees the single player campaign re-made with a high definition gloss, and some new added bonuses for the fans. Shipping with six classic multiplayer maps that run off of the 2010 Halo: Reach multiplayer engine, it’s safe to say that Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition packs quite a punch for its $39.99 price tag.

Everything has a layer of gloss that wasn’t possible ten years ago

The big draw for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is the complete overhaul aesthetically for the game in its single player campaign. Environments, backgrounds, character skins, and countless other features have been completely redone to give the impression that this is a current generation title. Everything has a layer of gloss to it that just wasn’t possible ten years ago. The single player portion gives you the choice to play it as it was released in 2001, or in the remastered version, and will even allow you to change on the fly to examine just how much was added to the game. That’s where you’ll really be able to see the serious changes. Skyboxes and backgrounds are extremely well done, trees and structures have far more detail, and the character models in both the enemy and friendly models have loads of new high definition gloss.

It is definitely an eye opener when playing Halo: Combat Evolved again. The first person shooter’s unique style of play is still fun, and enemy intelligence is impressive for how old the core engine behind the game is. It’s still a load of fun to mow down grunts as they retreat when their fearless Elite leaders have been slain. And the game, even now, separates itself from current competition in allowing players to harness the power of Master Chief, with his super-jumps and melee kills in what is usually a wide open battlefield with endless possibilities. In short, the campaign holds up well, even by today’s standards which is an absolute testament to Bungie’s legion of Halo faithful.
It’s not all just fresh paint that differentiates The Anniversary Edition from the original. 343 has incorporated Kinect functionality that allows you to utilize the motion controller to examine a library of Halo artifacts, and while it’s a luxury that won’t have you rushing out to nab the peripheral if you don’t already own one, it’s a nice touch for those that do. You’ll also find that the classic terminals and skulls from the previous games have returned. And while they are both still hidden throughout the world for you to find on your playthrough’s, the Terminal’s also unlock some pretty impressive videos that delve deeper into the story behind the game.

The campaign holds up well, even by today’s standards

One big drawing point for the multiplayer crowd is the inclusion of remastered multiplayer maps from the original. Working off of the Reach Engine, the new maps have seen similar visual upgrades to them as the single player. The Halo Anniversay standalone multiplayer component offers an Anniversary playlist that includes Squad, Big Team Battle, Free for All, Firefight, and Classic settings depending on what your preference is. Though you are automatically starting out from the same place as you left off with Halo: Reach, so all commendations and experience earned in that game carry over to extend the experience. That being said, the multiplayer feels more like an expanded map pack than anything else. With new copies of the game, 343 has included a downloadable code that will allow you to save the maps to your hard drive and use them with your Halo Reach disc, but if you don’t have Reach, you can play the anniversary playlist directly from the Halo: CEA disc. Why they didn’t just include the entire Reach suite of modes on the disc like they did with ODST was a weird move, but then again, this isn’t Bungie, and it kind of doubles as an online pass of sorts.

The Verdict

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition is a great trip down memory lane if you’ve ever been a fan of the franchise. For newcomers, you might not get the same effect, but you will get a lesson on how the first person shooter surge of popularity came to be.

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Halo: CE Anniversary

  • Available On: Xbox 360
  • Published By: Microsoft Studios
  • Developed By: Saber Interactive
  • Genre: First person shooter
  • US Release Date: November 15, 2011
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition is a great trip down memory lane if you’ve ever been a fan of the franchise. For newcomers, you might not get the same effect, but you will get a lesson on how the first person shooter surge of popularity came to be."
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