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Released 10 years ago to the day on the 15th of November, Halo: Combat Evolved broke out into stores, vastly becoming the harbinger of Microsoft's first Xbox console and even luring away Sony's ever faithful Playstation gamers. The original, for me, was the main reason for getting an Xbox in the first place because the game looked and played far smoother than anything that was currently on offer on the PS2, fairly inexpensive and had many worthy 'Xbox Only' titles. Me and my fellow droogs enjoyed the odd System Link experience back in the day, running a large cable throughout the house, setting up numerous 4v4 battles of Slayer and Capture the Flag, with the most dedicated of us would go through the entire campaign on legendary (the most difficult setting). So although the remake initially took me by surprise being rather unnecessary considering the relatively small leap in graphical advancement, I still awaited its release with a certain level of expectation. Changing the simplistic plot, characters or even dialogue would be suicidal for hardcore veterans of the original Halo, as would including or removing weapons.. so just what is enhanced in this remake?
Thanks to a thoughtful introductory video, gamers witness a brief selection of in game footage, spanning through the 10 levels of Halo - both starting with the original appearance and then strafing to the new and improved look. Clearly there is a vast difference in graphical capabilities by the amount of additions to scenery but this lacks the stronger effort put in for new release such as Reach or at times Halo3. The dashboard is fairly similar, with a spacial background and the traditional, epic, musical score, however this time the game makes use of Halo Waypoint (a free application which charters your progress in all halo series games, as well as statistics for battles like Kill/Death Ratio). This inclusion is a mediocre decision - as Waypoint is relatively pointless, only offering insight to your capabilities (which were available online via Bungie long before) and small appearance modifiers such as new helmets for Reach. Loading time is easily bearable compared to the long winded wait of the old game.
The soundtrack to the game is slightly altered too, making better use of surround sound and just using reworked orchestral pieces, unfortunately though it seems a tad quieter and lacks the punch of 2001. Guns, armour and vehicles all get new paint jobs but remain unchanged in effectiveness, lovely. Some characters (Cortana, Johnson & Captain Keyes) are strong re-workings of what they once looked like with Cortana appearing as she did in Halo3. Enemies are smarter and make for tougher challenges. Of course the biggest difference is that the levels are not re-imagined/designer but given a new lease of life with more realistic detail and less blocky surroundings. However, despite my own extensive knowledge of the levels, the remakes model occasionally had me flustered a handful of times as to which way led to where and wondering wether the obstacle was in the original game.
Enter the Back button. Pressing 'back' switches you back and fourth from the new to the old game in the 2 second long blink of an eye. This impressed me 1. because it was a speedy way of essential playing two games at once and 2. it was a classy move, helpful to remind players of what used to be, where you are and how different the jump in technology. In this switch, practically EVERYTHING is as it was, the enemies look and behave as they did, voices are the same, glitches are there.. it is the original game thrown in. The use of skulls which varied gameplay in the 3rd installment are back but most be scouted out in game to be made use of: the likes of 'grunt birthday party' (which sees head-shots release a burst of confetti and children cheering) and 'Black Eye' are all there, mostly making things more difficult like removing the radar & HUD, making ammo scarce and enemies stronger. An interesting extra is the inclusion of terminals, scattered throughout the campaign that offer more insight into Halo's origins without going too far or ruining the atmosphere and reasoning, most using FMV's to display the history of Halo.
The 360 age also brings achievements to the party.. Now these can often be a distraction to gamers, especially as they usually detract from the games plot and point, but here they are done in style. Instead of just having level completion awards, there are custom ones per level to liven them up a bit. From avoiding medpacks and over-shields on legendary difficulty to killing a set number of Covenant and stubbornly avoiding ejection from the Warthog. Sure you can look them up first and set out to do them, but thats a legitimate way to go as it represents a new challenge for the aged gamers instead of marvelling at the new wallpaper. The multiplayer is were its let down though. Instead of making use of the fact that they had the original campaign awaiting at the push of a button, they only allowed a Halo:Reach type multiplayer. It could be that I wanted to bask in the nostalgia of the old fights (this time online) but it seemed that the old mechanic was far more addictive and to some extent smoother. Never the less, the co-operative choice is still there, allowing only 2 players to blaze their way through the game, this time with the handy choice of split screen or over xbox live.
With a sense of occasion, the game comes in its own slick embossed cardboard suave case containing the real game case as if to be a special edition. Inside you are treated with a very small manual (its all in game now - save the trees and what not) 2 xbox live redeemable cards and the disc. The two cards are of particular interest as one allows for a 2 day trial of the Xbox Live service and the inclusion of a map-pack (which includes 6 classic locations and a firefight event over 1GB in size) whilst the other is purely superficial, an unlockable skull and two sets of armour for your avatar (male & female master chief uniform). Its also displayable in full HD and even 3D (yawn).
So my only gripes with the game are the lack of original multiplayer via xbox live and some slight overlapping with voice and image synchronization. Whats more is that on release, it was a staggeringly awesome price of just £25. Whether its because its a remake with no original idea or because its the games anniversary and they just felt like being nice for once, thats a bargain compared to other games and sets a precedent as to what can be done and how to do it. I was honestly expecting more butchery from Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries, but they pulled it off and Anniversary makes for a nice present to the gamers of a only decade ago.
<<< Happy Haloversary... >>>
It's 10 years since "Halo: Combat Evolved" burst onto the scene, changing the first-person shooter (FPS) genre forever. As a launch title on Microsoft's original Xbox, Halo showed the world that it possible to produce a well-rounded, fluidly controlled FPS for a console. 10 years on, consoles have actually become the primary tool for playing this kind of game. And now the original Halo is back!
Since this is a remake, you should be able to pick it up for £30 or less - personally I believe£20 - £25 would be most suitable!
<<< R-R-R-R-Remix or Remake? >>>
After the release of Halo; Reach, the games studio Bungie announced they were leaving the hugely popular Halo franchise behind to moving n to new projects. This was closely followed by the news that 343 Studios (assembled by Micro$oft, and featuring several former senior Bungie staff) would be continuing the franchise with Halo 4, but not before releasing an HD remake of the original Halo game.
This was met by much excitement and scepticism, primarily regarding the reason for the remake (a money-spinner by Micro$oft?) and how faithful to the original any remake would be...
<<< Single Player Campaign >>>
The way games are played has changed significantly in the last 10 years. In the days when Halo was released, there was no such thing as Xbox Live, and the multiplayer online shooter genre was almost exclusively reserved for PC gamers. As a result, Halo's single player campaign was the primary focus, and was a real powerhouse.
I am pleased to say that 343 Studios have put a great deal of time and effort into crafting an almost exact replica of the original campaign, albeit with updated HD graphics and sound design. The graphics are brilliantly done, and it's surreal to play through levels which I have played so many times over the last decade, and to still look at them in a new light. For a handy comparison, at any point in the game you can press the 'back' button to the left of centre on your controller, and be transported back in time to view the original graphics. This is a real eye-opener of how far game graphics have progressed in 10 years, especially bearing in mind that the new graphics are nothing special by today's standards.
The original game's exact level layout, weapon design and physics have been retained, as has the enemy AI (artificial intelligence) which means this remake really does play exactly the same as the original. It is packed full of varied combat, exciting encounters, suspense, and all-out-action, meaning it is just as fun to play as it was 10 years ago.
There's always a tendency to look back on brilliant games like Halo with rose-tinted spectacles, and there are some unfortunate quirks and faults which are more evident now in hindsight. However, I feel many of these add to the charm of the game. The developers have not chosen to iron out issues -this is a warts-and-all remake, with warts which are ultimately insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
<<< Multiplayer >>>
As I've mentioned, when the original Halo was released, Xbox Live was a twinkle in Micro$oft's eye, and 'multiplayer' meant only one thing - LAN parties! For the youngsters or uninitiated, that means: having 4 controllers plugged into 1 Xbox, and having your TV screen divided into quarters, with one player using each quarter as their screen, then setting up a 2nd TV, getting your mate to bring his Xbox to your house with another 4 controllers, and connecting the 2 consoles with a network cable so that you and 7 friends can play against each other all day and into the night! In case you're wondering, LAN parties were awesome, and they were a key facet that made the original Halo such a famous and revered game!!! But would this magic be lost in the remake?
The answer unfortunately is 'YES'. Multiplayer gaming has moved on so significantly in 10 years, and these LAN parties are only a familiar thing to gamers in their mid 20s and above. Online multiplayer is now the staple of game franchises like Halo, and you can tell that this remake wanted to find a balance between nostalgia and modern appeal. It does not bring us back to the halcyon days, but instead serves as a 'tribute', using the newer Halo: Reach muiltiplayer engine as the basis for a series of remake of previous favourite multiplayer maps.
These maps are admittedly well made, and bring updated versions of some old fan favourites, but there is limited choice (only 7 maps) and it sits awkwardly with the single player story. There is the option to alter settings and weapons to create games which are much more similar to the original game, but this is little more than the game giving a tip of the cap to its predecessor while reminding us that things have moved on.
<<< Longevity? >>>
I've thoroughly enjoyed re-immersing myself in the original Halo story once again, but I'm not sure how long the appeal will last. I don't think I'll be getting a lot of mileage out of the multiplayer games, although they are fun. The main thing which will keep me coming back is the ability to play the campaign in co-operative mode with a friend over Xbox Live and relive my youth...
<<< Final Thoughts >>>
When I was 15-16 and living at home in Newcastle, I would go to my friend's house, we'd order a pizza and get a bottle of coke, and play Halo co-operative on 'Legendary' difficulty for hours on end, often until the early hours of the morning. Now we're 25; I live and work in Manchester, and he's down in London, but we can still relive the fun of those days and play the same game together over Xbox Live. It's not quite the same, but it's a pretty good substitute. Also - I now make my own pizzas, and I've upgraded the coke to a beer.
Lets start with the positives with this.
first off it is as stated a re-make to celebrate the 10th year of halo. as a re-make you shouldn't expect many changes in the game play or story. what you do expect is updated graphics, some new features and perhaps an online mode which has been given to use by 343 industries. it has given the new graphics which make the old look like its um well 10 years old, the online co-op that allows for two players to play over live, terminals and skulls to satisfy the need to discover something new and the added kinect support that incorporates voice activated commands such as grenade, reload etc.
it has stuck with the exact same environments from the original meaning that every leaf is in the same place as in the previous title making it fairly simple for 343 to give the ability to switch between graphics effortlessly using the back button or by saying classic to the kinect. I have found that this works well and find it amusing switching from classic to re-mastered just to see the change in detail at different points of the game.
the competitive online is based and run on the reach system in that the dashboard or friends list will say that you are on halo reach while playing the competitive on anniversary, it basically just gives a few new game types and maps that were based from the original game.
Now the bad points
the game itself is still great 10 years on but with that there are still problems that were in the original for example some enemy spawn points are in clear view of the player and you can kill them before they even move in some places.
the kinect feature just doesn't work well at all (and never will) I like to be able to tell my co-op friend to watch out for a grenade without instantly sticking him in the back because of my stupidity of shouting grenade while my kinect is working as a mic, not only that is that it has trouble understanding my Somerset accent and will not do what I say without having to speak like the queen and equally find it annoying when I sneeze and find myself in switching between graphics.
but I cant blame the game for that and they do offer to turn of the kinect features if I want but my opinion is I paid for this and I'm going to use all the features.
THE GAME IS NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO DO ON LEGENDARY ---- I've always played a game on the hardest difficulty first and I could remember the hours and hours and hours and....... I had to play the original to do it on legendary and since then they have been simple I just thought that I had become a god of gaming but clearly this is not (quite) true and that it must be that games became consumer friendly since Halo.
In all I would recommend this game if you are a die hard fan of the halo series or if you came into gaming after the original had become old (all you reach fan boys/ girls) I'm looking at you. if you aren't a Halo fan you shouldn't buy this game unless pressured by friends (it's only £30ish).