The vast majority of games won’t mean much 10 years after they’ve been released. Sure, you can conjure up little used memories for a chuckle. Chances are, though, you won’t remember much. But then there are those games that are forever burned into your gaming memories. The first time you were Mario. Your first Doom kill. In this case, the time you spent blasting Covenant in Halo. Of course, Halo still resonates today because the game turned into an insanely successful franchise.
What Is It?
Halo CE Anniversary is still the same game that single-handedly propped Microsoft into the gaming world and helped usher in a new era of shooters. Behind the scenes, 343 Industries stepped in to remaster the game, which they’ve done a solid job with.
Halo introduced Master Chief, a 26th century super soldier for the United Nations Space Command. Humanity is at war with the alien Covenant. A giant ring world called Halo is discovered when running from the Covenant and is quickly believed to be a weapon. As Master Chief, your main goal is to keep the Covenant from using it to control the universe.
Story-wise, there’s almost no change. The quirky dialogue and weapons placement; it’s all still there. The main changes are the updated graphics, background videos implanted in levels and online capabilities. That’s more or less for the best, considering any changes to the story would have likely not gone over very well. So don’t worry, there’s no George Lucasing going on here.
Why Should I Care?
There was no doubt Halo was one of the games to have in 2001. It packaged solid writing, fantastic action, giant (for a linear shooter) level design and addicting multiplayer. Many pounds were gained the more LAN parties sprung up. But, that was 10 years ago. The state of video games was severely different and Halo’s mechanics… still actually hold up pretty well.
Regardless of whether you played the original or not, you'll feel perfectly comfortable jumping into Anniversary. It seems the difficulty slider has been increased for normal difficulties and above though. Covenant and Flood take more hits and swarm in larger numbers. This is actually welcomed- if you have to play through what you’re already used to, you might as well be given a harder time.
Anniversary looks absolutely fantastic for a remaster. You can’t compare this too much against newly developed games, but compared to the original, it’s amazing. The detail is severe and you’ll be able to easily compare the two versions by clicking the back button on your controller. A long blink in the action will give you original graphics. The remastered version will give you better lighting, detailed elements and smoother graphical transitions. Perfect example: your assault rifle has a small compass by the clip read-out. It moves in a clicking fashion with original graphics; remastered will show smoother transitions. The attention to detail for this remastering should be applauded. But, hold the applause.
The worst part of the update is the massive overhaul to the main characters’ faces. Chief is saved because he inherently wears a helmet. But Sgt. Johnson, Captain Keyes? They look nearly nothing like their original forms. Johnson is closer but Keyes had about 20 years taken off his age. Since Keyes is shown at the start, it’s an immediate drawback in the situation. It’s not heinous but it still wasn’t necessary.
The nicest addition to campaign are the terminals scattered throughout each level. Terminals have been seen in other Halo games but Anniversary’s are by far the best. They explain some history of the Halo rings, 343 Guilty Spark’s insanity and even drop some vague hints about what we might expect from Halo 4. Even better, finding them doesn’t feel like a menial task. They’re hidden out in the open- just look for a bright flashing light and chances are you’ve found a terminal.
Anniversary’s multiplayer is where 343 Industries strays away from the original. Halo’s original multiplayer setup can’t really exists alongside today’s games, so 343 remastered several of the original maps and set them up on Halo Reach’s engine. An original-themed Firefight map is also included. It will play out like Halo, but feels a little more like Reach implanted into Halo maps. Purists may see issues, but it simply works better this way. There’s no negative effect on the feel and it will at least allow you to continue your work from Reach rather than having to restart your stats.
As far as co-op is concerned, you’ll have your original options of split-screen or linked systems with the online addition to support a friend. Keyword there: friend. Co-op matchmaking isn’t supported and so you’ll be forced to play with a friend. Not the biggest letdown in the world, but matchmaking would have been a solid option for those whose friends aren’t Halo players or aren’t interested in this. And likely due to its limited use, co-op doesn’t support Kinect functionality.
The Kinect hasn’t yet proved if it can even work in a true shooter. Halo Anniversary isn’t looking to change that just yet. The game uses Kinect’s voice controls during anniversary mode, allowing you to reload, throw grenades, pause and use your flashlight, among other simple actions. It’s main function will be to analyze your surroundings and scan characters and weapons to add intel into your Library. Does it add much? Not really. It’s a slight gimmick that will give you recognition issues. Voicing “Analyze” generally brought up the feature on the first try, but reload attempts would sometimes take several requests before it would actually happen. Thankfully, the only Kinect-required action is “Analyze” so you can go about your business normally.
What Makes It Worth My Time & Money?
It may seem a little odd to want to go out and drop $40 for a game you may have played enough to warp the disc. 343 Studios mostly updated the graphics and reformed some of the original multiplayer maps into Reach content. From an outside perspective that doesn't sound like much, but it is.
Playing through the game brings back great memories of storming through the first time. The gameplay was great; the story was good. For a shooter, it was deep, exciting and lengthy. That’s a lot more than what can be said about most games out today. Not that it’s time to get up on the soapbox and clamor for a time when games were games and men were men. There’s obviously plenty of fantastic games still coming out. Halo simply provided a quality product that holds its own against today’s modern games.
Halo Anniversary stays true to what made Halo great in the first place… even if they kind of screwed the pooch with the faces. The main campaign remains a joy to play and the original maps translate well into Reach’s gameplay. Halo Anniversary proves to be a solid addition to the Halo collection and certainly worthy of your time and money.