Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary review

When I first played and completed Halo I was about to get married. Tony Blair was the UK Prime Minster, George Bush was in the White House and the Apple iPod had just been announced. The Xbox 360 wasn’t even a twinkle in Microsoft’s eye not coming for another four years.

So it is a strange nostalgia trip 10 years later to be playing the same levels once again, albeit on a new console, a much bigger TV, married, with the kids tucked up in bed. Gosh, a lot has happened since then.

That lot has seen a number of changes to the Halo game, and a number of features remain the same. Think of this as a Redux version if you will.

For all intents and purposes the game is identical. The storyline, the voices, the poor game physics and the rather stupid Covenant are all still present. What’s different is that you can play it on the Xbox 360 for the first time, it has had a massive graphics overhaul, and that you even get a 3D mode thrown in even though the Xbox 360 still isn’t officially supporting 3D - we suppose it is now.

Nostaliga time

10 minutes in and we are already feeling a sense of déjà vu. We’ve been here before, on the same sofa sitting next to the same Mrs Pocket-lint dodging through dark service corridors to flank the invading aliens, on a spaceship that is in trouble. The only difference is that our trouser size is beer belly has grown.

The new graphics, it has to be said are a vast improvement. The walls have texture, the explosions and fire more explosive.

The controls are the same though, and it is fascinating how the moves come flooding back. X to reload, hold down the fire to get the secondary fire on the alien weapons. We love it.

Halo - Before and After

15 minutes in and we’ve started to mess around with the Nostalgia button as we are calling it.

So keen to show you how the developers, 343 Industries, have worked to improve the graphics to 2011 levels (it’s more 2009 to be honest) you can switch between what it looked like on the Xbox and the remastered version today all at the press of a button.

You can dash between the two modes at any time by pressing the select button and waiting a couple of seconds for the code to switch over.

Yep it’s something that you are unlikely to use in the thick of battle (you’ll end up dead), but at the same time it’s going to be incredibly handy justifying to Mrs Pocket-lint - that’s exactly what we did - why you’ve just spent another £35 ($39.99) on a game you’ve previously owned and previously completed.

An hour in and you’re racing around a now far more impressive looking beach on the Warthog sliding as you do as if you are half eaten hamburger being slid across an ice rink. Yes the warthog is still a dog to drive.

Two hours in, and the boring repetitiveness of the game that was so cutting edge starts to take sink in. The nostalgia, like thinking it is a good idea to download the original Sonic on your phone, sets in and you realise that videogames have moved on, moved on a lot. Unless you really have the horn for Master Chief there are better things to be doing with your life and your cash.

Kinect support

Trying to deviate from that notion that it is all a waste of time Microsoft have added Kinect support into the mix. Those who own the Xbox 360 accessory will be able to use the sensor to throw grenades, switch between classic and modern graphics, activate Analyze Mode (for the final scenes inside the Halo), and more.

Sadly we’ve as yet been able to try out Kinect integration, as the feature isn’t being added by Microsoft until after launch, but Microsoft tell us that gamers will be able to reload weapons or throw grenades using their voice. We will update this part of the review shortly.

Single player done and dusted – you’ll know all the shortcuts so it won’t take you long you get to venture into new ground – you’ll move on to Multiplayer maps.

Multiplayer

While the succeeding Halo titles added multiplayer support, the 2001 original on the Xbox didn’t (it was pre-Xbox Live). That’s all changed however with multiplayer support added.

For starters you can relive the nostalgia with a mate via Co-op mode fighting against the Covenant as if it was Halo 2.

But thankfully that’s not all. You also get six detailed remakes of the most loved Halo multiplayer maps, plus a new map thrown in for good measure.

The maps are remastered in the Halo: Reach engine and inspired by maps from Halo and Halo 2.

For those foaming at the mouth, the maps are Damination, Beaver Creek, Prisoner, Timerbland, Headlong, Hang ‘Em High, and Installation 04.

If you’ve played Halo: Reach and wee suspect you will have, you’ll know what to expect.

 

Verdict

10 years is a long time, especially for the world of gaming and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary shows that.

Re-releasing a Hollywood classic is okay because the basic premise of making movies hasn’t changed. Blade Runner in the cinema today is still as good as Blade runner in the cinema almost 30 years ago.

However with games, the industry is so fast paced, the technology so fast moving, that Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary comes across as a nostalgia trip and not much more.

The addition of the new graphics and multiplayer support go some way to glossing over that fact that this a 10 year old game coming back for seconds. The storyline is still strong. Halo fans will will still see this as the most exciting thing to hit the console this Christmas, however for the rest of us, fond memories are meant, sometimes, to be just that.