Adam Guetti
22 Nov, 2011

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

360 Review | Ten years on, we put Master Chief through his paces all over again.
While the first person shooter landscape of today is dominated by money generating cash cows like Battlefield and the Call of Duty juggernaut, ten years ago one shooter helped define the genre whilst simultaneously creating one of the most popular sci-fi franchises in gaming history; spawning books, anime, and even its very own toy range. Yes, we are talking about the one and only, Halo. While purists will understandably argue that classics like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark helped put the console FPS on the map, it was Master Chief that solidified it all, combining enjoyable adult gameplay and smart, reactive AI alongside a wealth of multiplayer options that many developers began aspiring to match.

Now with a decade past and HD remakes being all the rage, we have been presented with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, a revival of the famed Spartan’s original outing, with a fresh coat of paint and a bunch of new maps to deal some damage on.

For those not well versed in Halo lore, Combat Evolved weaves the story of solitary ‘Spartan’ super soldier Master Chief, who after being awoken from a cryogenic sleep, is forced to defend humanity from an invading alien race known as the Covenant. It’s when Master Chief and the crew of the ‘Pillar of Autumn’ crash land on the mysterious ring shaped space station known as ‘Halo’ that the one man army must wipe out Covenant forces while discovering the secret and deadly origins behind the mysterious location.

Why won't this work? Xbox... ON!

Why won't this work? Xbox... ON!
To help satisfy both long term fans and newcomers alike, Anniversary simultaneously runs two engines, both the classic Xbox engine as well the revamped, remastered version. At the press of a button, you will be launched between decades and their respective engines on the fly. What were once dull, green, flat mountain lands will become lush and clear, with bright skies and an abundance of more detailed fauna. While some models are still a little rough and not as sharp as Halo Reach or some the series’ competitors, you will still be amazed the vast differences between the two. It’s a not only a fantastic feat, but a true testament to how far the videogame industry has evolved in such a short amount of time, and a single generation. However, while it’s a neat party trick, it's doubtful that many will choose to play through the entirety of the campaign in the original state, especially after seeing how much work has been done to improve on the old environments. Sadly though it’s also this function that (at least during the time of this review), appeared to cause a few hefty glitches, the most major of which caused a couple of complete freezes; forcing a reboot of the system and restarting one of the game’s early levels time and time again.

Upgrade or no upgrade though, Combat Evolved's gameplay remains as tight as ever, with rock solid control and fluidity the order of the day. It won’t take long for you to be once again pummeling grunts, lobbing grenades with brutal precision and taking part in deadly dances with hunters in order to deftly take them down. All your favourite weapons like the classic Assault Rifle, Needler and the gloriously overpowered pistol are back in action and it’s almost refreshing not having to look down their sights every time you need to take an enemy down. Instead you can merely focusing on filling them with a magazine worth of lead as you smile while watching them fall.

Yep, it really can look pretty.

Yep, it really can look pretty.
It's not all happy memories and fond giggles though, as the trip down memory lane also highlights some of the title's original misgivings, primarily some poor level design decisions. With no map or compass in sight, it will be a common occurrence to be wandering around some of Anniversary’s levels at a loss of where exactly you’re meant to traverse to next. It happens more often than you would like, and coupled with some fairly repetitive environments it can all get rather frustrating when all you want to do is crack some skulls. Checkpoints can also be a mixed bag, sometimes occurring rather frequently, while others will have you fighting through waves of enemies only for you to die and be forced to do it all again.

While the single player campaign has received its fair share of love, the same sentiment can not entirely be shared for the game’s multiplayer component, which although remaining as a top tier avenue for multiplayer gaming, acts like more of a map pack for last year’s Halo Reach than a remastering of the modes you fell in love with all those years ago. It’s a feeling that is only bolstered by the fact that owners of Reach can bypass the retail campaign entirely and obtain the maps via the 360 marketplace for 1200 Microsoft points.

Explosions: the solution to all of life's problems.

Explosions: the solution to all of life's problems.
Despite all this though, six classic Halo maps have still been re-imagined, utilising Reach’s foundations and graphics engine including ‘Damnation,’ ‘Beaver Creek’ and ‘Prisoner’ along with a brand new Firefight map ‘Installation 04.’ They are all still a blast to play, but those hoping to relieve classic LAN memories on stages like Blood Gulch will be sorely disappointed. Fan favourite competitive modes like the traditional Slayer, Team Slayer and newcomer Headhunter also return and it’s all backed by what is still some of the best matchmaking around. It may not be the complete rehaul of Combat Evolved’s multiplayer like many hardcore fans were hoping for, but it’s hard to stay angry for long when what you do have to play with is as polished as it is.

As an overall package, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is exactly what Halo fans have been craving for years, with 343 Industries presenting not only a stellar upgrade, but one of the best HD remakes on the market at a budget price. The main campaign will keep your nostalgia firmly in place, playing just as you remember it while multiplayer, despite its rather minor upgrade, remains rock solid experience and one of the best competitive console experiences for gamers. With a few technical hitches and the return of some poor level design choices it’s not perfect, but if you’re a hardcore Halo lover biding time for the looming round four, or wondering what on earth all this Master Chief business is all about, you would be doing yourself a major disservice if you didn’t pick this bad boy up.
The Score
It might not deal with terrorists or modern combat, but Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary remains a downright enjoyable experience from start to finish that most gamers should experience. Plus, it has Master Chief, and let’s face it - he's all kinds of bad arse. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
No mention of the stereoscopic 3D support?

One of the cooler features of the remake, imo.
2 years ago
No blood gulch. Almost immediately drops a point for me.
2 years ago
The way that multiplayer was delivered disappointed me quite a bit. I would have really preferred that multiplayer receive the exact same treatment that the campaign received. Seriously, when the game was announced, I was beyond excited for the opportunity to have 3v3 warthog battles on Sidewinder again, with updated graphics and the original gameplay engine. Instead, we got a Halo Reach map pack with only 4/6 maps from the original Halo CE disc (not counting Timberland).
2 years ago
"It might not deal with terrorists or modern combat" and thank f#$k for that, I play games to escape not be constantly reminded what a screwed & sorry state the human race finds itself in todays 'real' world.

Looking forward to opening this pressie on xmas day, hopefully the freezing glitch you mentioned in the review is patched by then!! Now back to Skyrim...
2 years ago
First paragraph is hilarious. Having a go about Battlefield and Call of Duty's (deserved) cash cow status, then lauding a RE-RELEASE that has spawned an endless supply of mostly mediocre money-grubbing tie-ins.

I'm hoping you were being ironic.

Having said that, really enjoying playing this again in split screen.
2 years ago
mrpookles wrote
First paragraph is hilarious. Having a go about Battlefield and Call of Duty's (deserved) cash cow status, then lauding a RE-RELEASE that has spawned an endless supply of mostly mediocre money-grubbing tie-ins.

I'm hoping you were being ironic.

Having said that, really enjoying playing this again in split screen.
He was comparing the current landscape with the one ten years ago, noting that it was Halo that truly popularised First-Person Shooters on consoles.
2 years ago
Adam Guetti wrote
With no map or compass in sight, it will be a common occurrence to be wandering around some of Anniversary’s levels at a loss of where exactly you’re meant to traverse to next.
It's probably too late now but there is a compass on the assault rifle. It's the little moving arrow on the ammo left counter, according to the original manual (paraphrasing of course), "While there's no north or south on Halo, the Assault Rifle's compass will always point to the strong magnetic field of the gas giant".

Kids these days are used to having everything handed to them... I thought that feature back in the day (I was what, 13?) was pretty clever. I kept the assault rifle on me the entire way through the game just to use the compass. I call that great game design rather than hand holding these "modern" games do, can't wait for another WW2 game where a "massive" feature is that you get to stop in lulls in combat and consult your paper map with a compass and actually have to use your brain to work out where you are with landmarks.
2 years ago
Yeah, every time I finish a fight I keep expecting a big marker to pop up saying "GO HERE!", but then it doesn't, and I'm happy. Sure, it's still linear, but at least you have to actually look around a bit and use environmental clues, rather than it completely hand holding you through every level.

Loving the nostalgia of this though, going through about a level a day and it is so much fun. So many memories from this game, and I still remember every level almost perfectly.
2 years ago
They are all still a blast to play, but those hoping to relieve classic LAN memories on stages like Blood Gulch will be sorely disappointed.
The updated version of Blood Gulch was released last year in Halo: Reach.

Anyway, I'm happy but not overly pleased that the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary multiplayer maps were included on both the retail disc and via an Xbox LIVE download code.

I believe that 343 Industries should have developed the game using a two disc system as seen in Halo 3: ODST. One disc for the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary campaign while the second disc contains all of the multiplayer maps for Halo: Reach.

Sure, I had purchased half of the Halo 3 multiplayer maps way before Halo 3: ODST was released, but having all the multiplayer maps on that second Halo 3: ODST disc removed all the confusion. I didn't have to worry about if I had this map or that map. I knew I had everything, I had the complete Halo 3 multiplayer experience.

Due to the manufacturing of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, I believe there is going to users out there who will get confused.
2 years ago
I loved playing through it again, the animations were fantastic too.

But yeah very sad about the lack of the true original multiplayer... as someone mentioned above, I totally wanted more stupid gravity-defying warthog battles.
2 years ago
Loving this - seriously brings back memories.. Was the first game I had played in Australia ... after buying the Halo themed XBOX...

Love the 3d support - and the kinect voice support - cant stop saying classic and remastered when playing ....
2 years ago
@ Bronze: I didn't have access to a 3D capable TV for the review, therefore I was unable to test that particular feature out. So with that said I didn't feel right bringing it up or giving a broad opinion with no proof to back myself up with.

@ mrpookles:
fupoisme has nailed it, more a reflective comment than anything else.

@ Jellyfish:
Well done, I cant say I ever noticed that, so thanks! And while I agree with on unnecessary hand-holding being a negative, if you were to drop the rifle for another preference, you would be lost, as many of the levels (especially the alien interiors, are identical room after room. To me that's just poor level design choices. Players don't need to be funneled down a location in the most linear fashion, but by the same token, they shouldn't be wandering around in circles either, because for 90% of gamers, that's not fun.
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