Review by DaruniaTheGoron
"Deserved a better celebration for its Anniversary"
I'll start here and go in depth, because this is the main reason the game exists. Halo has received a an update in the visuals department from the original 2001 release. Before I even start, I want to comment that the feature that allows you to switch back to "Classic" graphics is a fantastic addition that allows you to see what the game was originally like, and you can see Bungie's original vision of the game.
Let me start with the good. There is a lot more detail. The game looks a lot more realistic. It's a lot less "boxy" than the original. The original is rife with sharp edges, and the grass just looks like a carpet or something. Also, the extra details and lighting in levels such as The Library, Truth and Reconciliation, and Assault on the Control Room make those levels a lot less bland and monotonous. The HD and widescreen support is also very nice and makes the game look a lot crisper.
However, technical details aren't everything. The original game has fantastic atmosphere due in large part to the aesthetics. The updated visuals just look much too bright. Case in point, Truth and Reconciliation. It's a night mission, yet it's bright enough that you can see everything just fine. In the original, you have to use this cool night vision mode with your sniper rifle. If you try that in the remake, it's too bright. You can't see where you're aiming.
It's also a problem in the more "horrific" levels such as 343 Guilty Spark, which is one of the creepiest levels in FPS gaming history. The last portion of the level is bathed in this bright blue light which completely changes the atmosphere. The new graphics just feel a lot less gritty and less creepy to me.
One other small point, texture pop-in. I'm sure most of you are familiar with this term, but for those of you who aren't, I'll explain. Sometimes you will move to a new area, the wall will look like a blank blob of colour, then details will finally pop-in. Or you will look away from an area, then look back, and again, pop-in occurs. The original Halo never had this, and in my opinion it's crucial for that immersive experience that Halo was so famous for.
There is also a problem with some of the character models. Could just be personal preference, but Captain Keyes' face just looks... weird. I also don't like that he's wearing this crisp, clean white uniform. He doesn't look dirtied up at all like you'd expect during such an ordeal. The original game, he wears a grey uniform. I also wish they'd have left Cortana alone, but they updated her to her newer look. Again, preference, but it's all about respecting the original.
The Marines look fat. Period. And the combat Flood that originated from Marines... no longer look human at all. They just look like big brown blobs (maybe due to their sudden weight gain in the remake). This is a big problem because they just don't look scary anymore. They don't look like your disfigured comrades. They're just blobs. The Elite forms also suffer from this. I loved in the original how you were already terrified of them, but now they're even more gruesome in Flood form. But now you can no longer tell what a combat Flood used to be. However, the infection Flood and carrier Flood do look great.
Lastly, the cutscenes. There are a few instances where they chose to completely change camera angles. I have no idea why they made these decisions. It just takes you out of the experience, in my opinion. If you've never played the original before, this probably won't be a problem. However, everyone will notice how bad the lip syncing is. It looks like a dubbed Godzilla movie. One last thing that really bothered me is how animated Master Chief is. I've never heard a single person complain that he doesn't move his arms enough when he talks. But in this game, he's swinging his arms everywhere, making exaggerated gestures. Does 343i not know that Master Chief is supposed to be kind of... robotic? Part of his character is in how he doesn't really have that much personality.
Phew, on to the rest.
The gameplay is almost completely the same as the original. They didn't change any of the core tenets that made this a classic. It's just such a fun game. People claim there is little variety and that there's not enough guns, but the beauty is in the simplicity of it all. If you just want to sit back and take out waves of enemies, this game has pretty much perfected that. The AI was so ahead of its time that it still feels like a modern game. Covenant troops will flank your position and force you out of hiding spots by throwing grenades.
The guns all have this great punch to them. You truly feel like a God among mortals in this game, mowing down enemies with powerful guns. The pistol is one of the greatest weapons in any game ever. The shotgun has a real "oomph" to it. It has far more range than in most games and lets you feel like you're in a zombie game in the latter levels as you take out waves of Flood with it. Also, one of the biggest reasons I love this game is that they're not stingy with the ammo at all. If you want to use a shotgun or pistol, they'll give you the ammo for it. A lot of other games (Halo 2 through Reach included) give you limited ammo and it's a cheap way to force players to use less satisfying weaponry. Halo just makes certain guns useful for certain situations. The plasma pistol is great early on because it can take out Elites much easier, but later on you have to make the strategic decision to drop either it or your pistol in favour of a shotgun for Flood. You won't be penalized for dropping something for a power weapon either, as once you're done with the power weapon, you can usually find the previous weapon you dropped on a dead enemy.
Giving you one touch access to grenades and melee is also fantastic. In close quarters with an Elite, but you've run out of ammo? Punch him in the face. Huge group of Flood caught you off guard? No problem, just press the left trigger and take them out with a grenade. There's no fumbling to switch to it. This might not feel like a big deal if you're used to modern games, but Halo deserves credit for introducing this revolution.
Vehicle gameplay also shines here. Again, you just feel like a God driving around in Scorpion tanks or dealing death from above in Banshees. The original Warthog is back too, with it's loose handling. Some might complain about this, but it truly allows you to do more once you get used to it. It's a lot better for swinging around and running over enemies for easy kills.
The original Halo engine with it's unique physics is back as well. The physics feel great in this game, even if they're a bit unrealistic. You're a lot lighter and floatier, and your Warthog can make huge bouncing jumps. They sacrifice realism for fun and it pays off.
There are skulls and achievements added in, adding some replay value to the campaign. There are a few neat things you can do with skulls, and the achievements are realistically obtainable without being too easy.
There are a few gripes I have with the remake, however. For one, bodies and grenades will disappear after a few seconds because there's too much going on for the new engine to handle. This is kind of important, as you often backtrack a bit to pick up more grenades. You can't do this anymore. Also, Elite's shields no longer flare up as prominently like they used to when you shoot them. It's hard to tell if you've dropped an Elite's shields. This is big because then you know to start shooting for the head to finish him in one shot. Plasma grenades used to be really bright and you could see exactly where you threw it. It's a lot harder to see them now. Lastly, the framerate will still drop from time to time as well, affecting your experience.
Nothing is different here. It's still a great story with a lot of mystery surrounding it. One addition which is great are the terminals which you can find hidden in levels. It gives a lot more insight into 343 Guilty Spark's motives.
The audio is still fantastic. Most of the guns have new sounds, but I don't much of a problem with that. The voice acting is all intact as well.
The music sounds a lot cleaner now, but I do wish they'd just re-record the tracks exactly as they were composed. The music is just slightly off, and it suffers from the "uncanny valley" problem. It's just different enough to really take you out of it if you were used to the original music. It's almost tainted now. The music will also blare at times as well, when before it was just a subtle, creepy tone being played. Other than that, the music is of a lot higher technical quality now.
There is a firefight mode using the Halo level from the campaign, which is a nice addition.
However, the rest is not so nice. Let's start with co-op mode. It's very laggy, even on LAN. Almost unplayable to some people who don't have really amazing connections. To me, this was a big selling point, so it's very disappointing that 343i didn't test this out enough.
Also, the lack of the original multiplayer is heinous. The very least they could have done is include it for offline play, but they chose not to. Why? It almost seems like they are trying to get people to avoid playing the original multiplayer completely. It's already bad enough that there is no original online multiplayer over Xbox Live, which is really what every Halo fan was pining for all these years if there was going to be a remake.
They did include six remade "classic" maps that can be played with Halo: Reach's engine. There is a classic playlist for this game which includes the original pistol (with a reduced clip size) as well as some characteristics which are closer to the original game. However, it just isn't enough. It just reeks of laziness to me and is a slap in the face to all of the old fans. I could go on for a long time about this, but I'll just state that I'm really disappointed with their decision, and move on.
Overall Value and Recommendation
To me, there is very little value to this game. You are basically paying for a lackluster texture mod. The original game is on Xbox Live Arcade for $10 and includes all of the original multiplayer maps as well. The only advantages Anniversary has over that is better graphics with HD support (but, in my opinion, poorer aesthetics); a Firefight mode (but do we really need that when 95% of the game is walking around shooting at enemies?); poorly implemented online co-op; terminals (but you can view them online); skulls; and six remade multiplayer maps with a classic playlist mode that really doesn't feel like the original game at all. They are really fun if you enjoy Reach... but you can just buy the remade maps on Xbox Live if you already own Reach.
Overall, I will give this game a score of 6/10 for its inclusion of a great campaign and a few extras, detracting points for no original multiplayer and other lazy design flaws. I would recommend buying the original game if you haven't played it before, but if you really don't want to play on older graphics from 2001, I would recommend you rent Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 01/04/12
Game Release: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (US, 11/15/11)
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