Review by GotThat415Swag
"Does this remake capture the magic of the original? Not quite, but it's still fun."
Way back in 2001, Bungie released a first-person shooter for PC and the brand-new Xbox. It was named "Halo: Combat Evolved" and was wildly popular, considered by many to be the best game ever made. After several Halo sequels, the new company in charge of Halo, 343 Industries, released a remake of the series' inaugural game called "Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary". This re-issue, released to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the original Halo game, included a remastered campaign complete with state-of-the-art graphics, as well as the old "Halo: Combat Evolved" multiplayer. Sounds like a little slice of virtual heaven, right? Not quite.
The story here is the same as it was in the first Halo game. Unfortunately, the story makes absolutely no sense. Humanity is being attacked by a race of aliens named the Covenant, who are religious fanatics. Their goal is to light these enormous Halo rings, which will destroy all life in the galaxy upon being lit. They believe that if they accomplish this task or die trying, they will reach salvation. So, wait, what are these giant universe-destroying machines doing just floating around in space? Well, it turns out that they are a defense mechanism against a parasite called the Flood. The parasite feeds off of life, so, if there was no life to feed on, they would starve and die. One spore of Flood can lead to the infection of an entire species, so it's not like they can just use a can of Raid to get rid of them. If you're really into the story, you can find a better explanation elsewhere or pick up some of the Halo novels, because the story kind of seems like nonsense to me. Anyway, the only person who can save humanity from the Covenant menace is a genetically engineered soldier named Master Chief. He is seven feet tall, has superhuman fighting abilities and wears a very high-tech suit of armor. As him, you will fight to stop the Covenant from activating the Halo rings! Don't be turned off if you're the kind of person who is turned off by an overly complicated story; you still get to play as a super soldier who blows the heads of aliens with a rocket launcher.
Obviously, you play as Master Chief. The Chief is a quiet guy who mainly lets his weapon do the talking, so don't expect much in the way of character development here. The gameplay here is exactly the same as its predecessor, from weapons to enemies to environments. For those who are new to the Halo series, the game plays like any other first-person shooter; the only thing that sets it apart from other games is your high-tech armor suit. If you're an old-school gamer, you'll surely remember games like Doom and Quake where you pick up armor so you take less health damage. The same system applies here, except instead of hunting down armor vests, the Chief is equipped with a recharging protective suit. When you take damage, your shield bar lowers, but if you stay in cover for a moment your shield will quickly recharge to full strength. When your shield bar is empty, any additional damage you take will result in you losing health points. When you lose all your health you simply respawn at the last checkpoint; no manual saving is necessary.
Combat is really quite simple in this game. You are allowed to carry two weapons at any given time; you can hold one and keep another on your back. Though some of the weapons have become iconic over the years, none of them are really unique or extraordinary. Although all the weapons found in the game are actually useful, you'll probably be using a pistol and a machine gun for most of the campaign. The alien guns are plasma-based and useful for taking out shielded enemies, and rarely you'll find very powerful human weapons like the sniper rifle, shotgun and rocket launcher. You are able to pilot vehicles as well; during the campaign, you will be able to drive a jeep with a mounted turret, a tank, and an alien speeder. You can move quite a bit faster in these vehicles, as well as add a boost to your firepower. Unfortunately, the game's variety still suffers in comparison to recent Halo titles, where you're able to use dozens of different weapons and a handful of vehicles. This is one of several spots where the game shows its age.
Like most games, the difficulty here is adjustable. If you set the difficulty to Easy, you will have no trouble, whereas only seasoned gamers should attempt the Legendary difficulty level. You only fight five types of enemies in this game, and it gets old pretty quick. There are different ranks within each enemy type, but for the most part you won't notice the difference. The enemy AI is pretty good, but not brilliant; your toughest foes, Elites, will dodge grenades and take cover, but they'll never flank you or use any effective strategies. On the other hand, the friendly AI is just plain awful. Occasionally, you'll get the chance to fight alongside human Marines. You'll spend the entire time wondering how they made it through boot camp as they wander towards enemy forces, duck into grenades and generally spend the entire battle looking for ways to die. Surprisingly, they are quite adept when using the turret in the back of your jeep, but they possess no shielding so they often die very quickly. It's easy to rag on the friendly AI (or lack thereof) until you realize that even in today's high-budget games the friendly AI is still useless.
Overall, the gameplay of the remake stays true to the original. The only things added in the remake are collectibles: you can now find skulls and terminals hidden in each of the levels. The skulls are well hidden and some are just about impossible to find without a strategy guide; each skull has a different effect once activated in the pregame lobby, such as making ammunition scarce or making explosions larger. When a terminal is found, you will be treated to a cutscene that reveals a little something extra about the story.
The campaign itself in this game, though revolutionary at the time, is a bit repetitive by today's standards. You start at point A and shoot your way through aliens until you reach point B. The lack of variation in the enemies and weapons will become pretty evident halfway through. There are a few exciting portions (the ending is fantastic) but for the most part you won't be on the edge of your seat. At first, the level design seems intriguing. You fight in a variety of locations including a lush valley, an alien spaceship, and a snowy mountain. What's not to like? Well, I hope you liked those settings a lot, because the second half of the campaign requires you to backtrack through some of the exact same levels. While forgivable in 2001, this is just poor design ten years later.
The major selling point of this game was the updated graphics, and boy, do they look amazing. I'm not one who particularly cares for graphics, but these are the best I've ever seen on the 360. Also packaged with the game is the ability to enter "classic mode." Activating this mode changes the graphics of this game to those of the original Halo. This is a fun feature if you want to go on a trip down memory lane, or if you enjoy shelling out thirty bucks for a graphical masterpiece and then turning off the good graphics.
The soundtrack has been modified a bit for the reissue, but it still consists of the familiar choral menu music and driving guitar solos. You have an option to switch to the menu music included in the original Halo if you wish. You won't want to listen to your iPod while you play this game; the music is superb.
"Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary" is packaged with a multiplayer mode that mimics the original. I say "mimics", because it is simply Halo: Reach multiplayer with no armor abilities and a stronger pistol. Several classic Halo maps were remade for this mode, including favorites such as Hang 'em High, Beaver Creek and Headlong. The pistol is less accurate than it was in the original, but even in its slightly weakened state, it is still immensely powerful and there is no reason to use anything else as your primary weapon. This mode also brings back the overshield and active camouflage from the original game, which prove very useful in the online arena. It's not quite the same as the first Halo, but it's still a lot of fun.
Replay Value: 7
Not a lot of replay value here. There's not much incentive to play the campaign after you beat it, unless you want to play it again on another difficulty level. However, the multiplayer will provide hours of entertainment.
"Halo: Combat Evolved" set the standard for first -person console shooters. However, ten years later, this game is simply not as impressive. Although there are better games out there, the multiplayer is fun and the campaign, though dated, is still a classic. This game is pretty cheap now (30 dollars if you buy it off Amazon, as little as ten dollars off of eBay) and if you're a first-person shooter enthusiast or looking for a good dose of nostalgia it's still probably worth a buy.
Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 12/03/12
Game Release: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (US, 11/15/11)
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