Review by smiledk

"Still a decent campaign 10 years later, multiplayer suffers."

Before I fire off into the review, it is worthwhile to mention that the 6/10 score attributed to the game isn't based on the averaging of arbitrary numbers. It is based off the GameFAQs definition of what a 6/10 is. "Fair - game is okay, but there are many better."

The game has received a graphical overhaul over its original release. You can switch between the new and old graphics at any time with the "Back" button on the controller. It's a neat addition that allows you to see how they've spruced up the levels, or if you want to play with the classic graphics for a nostalgia trip. The game also runs all of the original game's animations and models, just with a fancy skin put on them. Overall the graphics are nice, but with a few noteworthy exceptions.

First off, the frame rate dips a bit every now and again, especially in split screen co-op. This may or may not be an issue to you, but I personally detest it when a game doesn't run at 60 frames per second, and I feel that the graphics should be scaled back to accommodate the hardware. But that is personal taste. The game is FAR from the worst offender in the framerate category.

Secondly, during cutscenes, rarely do the spoken words match up with the movement of mouths. It's pretty bad, and it makes the developer look pretty lazy. It doesn't destroy the experience by any means, but it shows a lack of polish.

Finally, they took some creative liberties in changing the graphical styles of various characters. This again is personal preference, but most of the changes bug me to some degree. Practically nobody featured in the game looks like they did in the original; Cortana looks as she did in Halo 2 & 3 and not Halo: Combat Evolved, the combat armor on the marines is different, Sergeant Johnson looks markedly different and his mustache looks off to me, all the humans look like they've gained 20 or 30 pounds in the last 10 years, there is something strange going on with Captain Keyes' upper lip, and Elites have adorned some silly new hats.

All the sound effects are basically intact from the original game, with no complaints that can be levied. Some of the various gun sound effects have been spruced up a little bit, such as the sniper rifle's shooting sound effect having a lot more "oomph" to it.

The music has been remastered and changed a little bit. It's all still great, but I prefer the original musical score. You can toggle between the old and new music in the options so you can pick whichever you prefer.

The control scheme is about the same as it was originally, with some minor differences due to the Xbox and Xbox 360 controllers being different. The default control scheme works well enough, and the inherit awkwardness of first person shooters being played on a controller is present as always, but is very manageable.

Crouching in the game is still handled in a way that doesn't feel natural. You can choose to either hold down the left stick (or whatever else it may be bound to in order control schemes, I only used the default) to crouch, or you can choose to have the left stick click toggle between crouching and not crouching. The issue is that running at full speed (ie: left control stick push all the way in any direction) cancels the crouch. This has issues depending on the control scheme you pick. If you chose to have to hold the stick down to crouch, then you need to be pushing the stick down, while also pushing the stick forward, but not pushing it too far because then it will cancel the crouch, which can be awkward to do with the fairly small degree of movement of the control sticks on the Xbox 360 controller. If you choose to have left click toggle between crouching and not crouching, then it doesn't cancel if you start running at full speed, and if you travel some distance you can easily forget that you still have crouch toggled on and when you stop running it'll throw you back into a crouch, which is annoying. This doesn't end up being a huge issue though, as crouching isn't often needed. It doesn't increase accuracy, and cover is usually tall enough to accommodate your height.

The story is completely intact from the original game. The flood of shooters that have come since Halo: Combat Evolved has made some elements of the story a bit tiring, but it's overall still great. Odds are you already know the story going in, so there will be no surprises.

Campaign Gameplay
The campaign is nearly 100% intact. All the objectives are the same, all the levels are the same, all the guns function identically as they used to, etc. There are some hidden skulls sprinkled throughout the levels that when activated at the main menu alter gameplay, and there are "terminals" that can be accessed and give weird cutscenes that attempt to add a little more story to the game. This works for better or worse depending on the situation.

The first area where the campaign being kept nearly 100% intact is most damaging is in the level design. While most of the levels are varied enough that they don't get too dull, the level entitled "The Library," is still just as tedious and monotonous as it was originally. The environment is completely bland and unchanging, and the enemies encountered within the level have too little variance to be interesting. Aside from this turd of a level though it's overall fairly decent. Each level has parts where the environments start to get old, but then gets changed up right before it begins to annoy.

The second area where the integrity to the original game hurts the remake is in the NPC AI. While it's by no means the worst ever, it definitely shows age. The enemy AI could definitely use a tune up, and the friendly AI cannot drive vehicles, meaning you never get to be the gunner unless you play co-op. This feature was in Halo games released previously, and to me feels like laziness dressed up as being faithful to the original game.

In the campaign, the weapons are identical to how they functioned in the original game. This works out well in most cases, but it also leaves the assault rifle being fairly underpowered still, and the needler only being useful is extremely specific scenarios. The list of weapons is pretty short, but not quite short enough that you feel like you're always using the same guns. Features like dual wielding are not added into the game, nor are any weapons from games that came after the original game. This would have helped with the lean number of weapons.

Multiplayer Gameplay
This is probably the most disappointing area of the game. The multiplayer is essentially just a map pack for Halo: Reach, that is tacked into the game, with some elements from the original game thrown in. The map selection is pretty poor, and it doesn't exclusively feature redone Halo: Combat Evolved maps, so the classic maps you hoped to replay are largely absent. Staples like Sidewinder and Blood Gulch are nowhere to be seen.

When you go to play multiplayer, you are taken to a trimmed down Halo: Reach multiplayer copy+pasted into the game. This was done supposedly to not "fracture" the online community between Halo: Reach and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary(since Reach players can get the map pack and play alongside Anniversary players), but why this is a concern now is anyone's guess. The online player base is "fractured" any time anyone releases a new game in a series that features online multiplayer. It seems the developer was being lazy and just made a Halo: Reach map pack and threw it into the game as a complete multiplayer experience, which it is not.

Replay Value
There is little incentive to play through the campaign multiple times. You can try it on a tougher difficulty, and you can enable come skulls to alter the gameplay if you'd like. One of the more fun skulls causes grunt to explode whenever they die, but if you didn't pre-order the game from GameStop then the developer gives you a big middle finger because you can't get it otherwise. There are also some achievements to get if that suits your fancy.

The online multiplayer is just a map pack, and it mostly uses Halo: Reach mechanics, so your mileage will vary depending on how you like those mechanics. I mostly liked the original Halo: Combat Evolved mechanics, and I really didn't like the Reach mechanics.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary suffers from two distinct problems. The first problem is that the campaign sticks too closely to the original incarnation. If someone wanted to play the game EXACTLY how it was then they would have already gone back and bought the original game on Xbox, PC or Mac. While it's by no means a terrible campaign, it could definitely have used some flair from the newer Halo games to spice it up, and it isn't really worth the asking price when they want you to pay literally 20 times the current price of the original game.

The online multiplayer has the exact opposite problem of the campaign. It's too radical a departure from the original game's multiplayer, and it's more or less a completely different game (that game being Halo: Reach). If you want to play Halo: Reach multiplayer then you can just buy Halo: Reach (which is currently about half the price of Anniversary) and have the full featured Reach multiplayer experience, and if you buy the Anniversary map pack it is about the same price as Anniversary. If you want the original multiplayer experience with some added spice then you can get Halo: Custom Edition on PC, which allows for user created mods.

Both problems paint 343 Industries in a negative (lazy) light, and it makes me fear for the future of the Halo franchise if they're just looked for quick cash-in games. Both aspects of the game (campaign and online multiplayer) can better/more cheaply handled with other Halo games.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 11/21/11

Game Release: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (US, 11/15/11)

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