I remember my first experience with Halo back in 2002. Two coworkers brought in their Xboxes and networked them together, we ordered pizza and beer, and then proceeded to blast the holy hell out of each other for the rest of the afternoon. At the time, it was the pinnacle of first person shooter gaming in the console world. I had spent the decade before attached to my pc, playing Doom, Quake, and their various sequels, then moved onto the Grand Theft Auto series (third-person, but it pulled me away from 1st person shooters for a long time). I loved it and I'm still primarily a PC gamer to this day. But Halo was my first experience in the multiplayer arena, shooting, shouting, and having a good ol' time with my fellow Spartans. And now, 10 years later, after many successful sequels, the game is back, better than ever. It's the same old game you remember (and love), but it's also very new on the surface.
I could spend a ton of time going over the stuff you already know. If you’re a Halo devotee, then you know what to expect. It’s just… better looking. The detail of the maps, while maybe not as graphically intense as many of the games we’re used to these days, is so good, it’s almost distracting as you move through them as if with new eyes. Yes, many of the flat surfaces are covered with new details are simply shrink-wrapped with that detail, but with no physical depth of texture, but they are still nice to look at. I almost didn’t want to shoot. I wanted to take a stroll and explore. It was like going home, only to find your old hometown got a makeover with shiny new lampposts and sexy new sidewalks (if sidewalks can at all be sexy).
As for gameplay, they made a conscious decision to keep the same movement and weight to the characters and foes when they made the upgrade. However, with it comes some of the bugginess, some frame-rate issues, of the old days. Again, what we get is a really sexy wrapper that 343 has put on Bungie‘s classic game; it’s not a rebuild from the ground up. It’s the original core game. To prove it, they give you the ability to jump back to the original game’s look with the push of a button, mid-game. Instant gaming time travel. Nice. But you’ll also notice that the sound effects and music that get a considerable upgrade, warranting the use of a surround sound system or at least some kickass headphones so you don’t annoy the neighbors at 3am with your all-night gaming binges.
Among the upgrades you’ll find:
- 6 classic maps remade with lush new details and a brand new Firefight map, developed in collaboration with Certain Affinity.
- All-new backstories that foreshadow mysteries from Halo 4.
- Immersive Stereoscopic 3D gaming for those of you with 3D TVs.
- Integration with Kinect lets gamers reload weapons and throw grenades using only their voices.
- “Analyze Mode” lets gamers explore the world of Halo in amazing detail by allowing them to scan items and add them to the Library.
- Unlock up to 1000 Achievement points within the campaign and battling online.
But the big question remains… Is Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary worthwhile buying AGAIN if you already owned the game 10 years ago?
The short answer is yes, especially if you grew up with and love the original Halo, even if you spent years of your life in front of your Xbox. However, if you’re looking for something on par graphically and gameplay-wise with the most recent Halo games and you’re not interested in retreading old ground, no matter how pretty it looks or sounds, then you might find yourself a little frustrated. I can’t imagine who those people might be, but I’m sure there are some out there.
At its core, no matter how you dress it up or strip it down, there’s a reason why Halo spawned (and respawned) so many imitators: it’s a helluva lotta fun to play again and again… even 10 years later. No amount of graphical upgrades can change that.