Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary (Xbox 360) is both old and new. It keeps the story, gameplay and controls perfectly intact from the original while shrouding the whole affair in the graphical goodness of Halo Reach.
I enjoyed revisiting Zelda Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64 on the 3DS a few months back and I’m looking forward to having what will be my third visit to GoldenEye (after the original and the Wii remake) on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
But nothing quite compares the majesty of the original Halo (Xbox 360) for me. It was renting this that I discovered a single player game that had computer controlled opponents every bit as convincing as my usual human adversaries in multiplayer matches.
My love affair with the series continued with Halo 2’s ground-breaking multiplayer and Halo 3’s further enhancement of AI, weapons and visuals. With Halo Reach completing Bungie’s excellent work, and Microsoft crafting a team for Halo 4 (Xbox 360), the re-release of Halo Combat Evolved is a chance to draw breath and see the old game in a new light.
While the levels, plot and enemies are the same, and controlled by the same artificial intelligence, the game has had a Halo Reach style makeover. It’s a little like renovating an old painting although here it looks better than the original ever did.
The increased draw distance, higher resolution and general all round tidy up not only make the game look better but give it a greater sense of grandeur. If you aren’t convinced how much better it looks you can tap the Back button to switch back to the original look and feel — and it’s shockingly different. Along with all this, if you have a 3D capable screen you can play the whole game in stereoscopic 3D.
If you haven’t rented the original Xbox game, for whatever reason, the story starts with Master Chief waking from cryogenic storage on the spaceship Pillar of Autumn, and finding himself under attack by the Covenant. After crash-landing on the surface Master Chief sets about finding survivors and rescuing Captain Keyes from the Covenant spaceship.
Although the narrative and cut scenes may creak a little from their age, this only goes to underline how ahead of its time the Halo gameplay was — it still controls wonderfully. The meatier single player also shows how much more focus these modes had on the original Xbox, what with broadband and XBox live not existing in common parlance.
Here we find the biggest revelation of the re-release — the ability to play Halo Combat Evolved via Xbox Live online. The developers have taken Halo Reach’s superb online multiplayer engine and backed it into the old game. It’s rather special to see all the new Jetpack, sprint and stealth features play out on these classic maps.
As a multiplayer fanatic this was an essential purchase for me. But even if this wasn’t my favourite aspect of gaming I think I would still have wanted to grab a copy of Combat Evolved (Xbox 360) so I could keep my Halo collection complete on the bookshelf.
Score: 8/10 A solid re-rendering of a classic and important game.
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