Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Preview (Xbox360)

No article about a Halo game - especially a remake of the original - can avoid talking about the franchises impact, both on me personally and on the industry as a whole. Whilst never originally a big thing for Microsoft, it's insane popularity early on made Halo the poster child for the Xbox, and an icon in its own right. Personally, the first Halo helped shape the gamer I am today (as well providing the few fond gaming memories I actually have), and I also think that it helped revolutionised the industry for the better.

Not on its own mind, Halo was just a really good game, not a superhero, but it worked in conjunction with other things in order to propel the industry forward. Halo 2, for example, working alongside the early version of Xbox Live, helped revolutionise online console gaming we feel, as well as making multiplayer in console game design more important than ever. The original game showed that story-driven, cinematic shooters could do fantastically well on the console space, and arguably helped pave the way for Call of Duty and other such franchises which really hit the point home.

But down to business - the anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved. As has already been wildly reported in the media several times, there are no major gameplay changes in this edition - not even the original audio has been changed. We say major, because 343 has admitted that minor technical improvements have been made for the sake of polish. No specific example was given other than that they said certain path-finding issues had been fixed.

The only thing 343 is really responsible for is the improved graphics engine, which is being implanted on top of Bungie's original engine. You can play the game using either the original graphics (which we imagine have been updated so that they can be shown in HD if needed), or the new graphics, and you can change between the two at will, even in the middle of a level. Looking at the difference is rather something - as much as it pains us to admit it - the original Halo really hasn't aged well, especially when you view it in HD. The new graphics really bring the game to life like never before.
The only comment we can make is that, despite being 2001 tech, limitations such as draw distances and the like actually helped add to the atmosphere in the game. Watching a shadowy figure (which later turned out to be a flood combat form) prowl in the distance scared the shite out of me when I first played it, but now that you can see everything in bright, vivid details, some of that faux-horror atmosphere is lost. A small sacrifice maybe, but it will be interesting playing through the game again to see if you get the same tension as you did before.

The big news recently of course was that Halo will also feature stereoscopic 3D, which you'll need glasses for. We'll admit, this isn't that exciting to us personally - and when we tried it our eyes were hurting ever so slightly. We're not really a fan of this whole 3D craze anyway, but if you've bought into that particular technology then this will probably be a welcome touch.

A couple of other 'house-keeping' notes - The anniversary edition will have co-op, both local and over Xbox Live, and they've included terminals in the game like they had in Halo 3. Instead of the rather bland text excerpts (as illuminating as they were), there'll be instead comic-strip like cinematic segments, like they had in Halo ODST just with more colour. Also, the multiplayer portion of the game uses the Halo Reach engine, and will feature six brand new maps based on the classic Halo maps, plus one firefight map.
Remember though, that only the looks have changed. Anything that was wrong with the core game will still be wrong

Love it or hate it, Halo: CE made a mark on the games industry, and made a mark in the hearts of many gamers too, including myself. HD remakes are sometimes seen as the crudest form of money-grabbing, but to be honest I can't think of a better game to get the make-over treatment, and the fact that it's on the 10th anniversary makes it even more poignant. Whether 343 can do a good job with the new trilogy remains to be seen, but it's heart-warming to see them treating the first game so well. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition is due out on November 15th.

Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing how my favourite bits feel with the new graphics.

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By James_Day (SI Newbie) on Sep 03, 2011
Really hope they address the Library level in some way.