While GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark were the "gateway drugs" that got me into first-person shooters, it was Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox that got me permanently hooked on the genre. I played the single-player campaign over 100 times -- not even exaggerating here -- and the multiplayer was a never-ending love affair for me.
Hate it or love it, you can't argue the fact that Halo stirred up a change in the FPS genre, not to mention that it also established the Xbox as a contender in the videogame market. Now here we are, coming up to the ten-year anniversary of the original Halo's release.
343 Industries is marking the title's anniversary by bringing back the classic game with a shiny new coat of paint, in order to give back to the fans and introduce a whole new generation to how we all came to know the Master Chief.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (Xbox 360)
Developer: 343 Industries / Saber Interactive Inc. / Certain Affinity Inc.
Release: November 15, 2011
By now, everyone should know the story of Halo. To catch anyone up that needs it, though, Halo begins with the starship called The Pillar of Autumn accidentally discovering the ring world known as Halo, where the game predominantly takes place. The starship made a random blind jump into space in order to escape the battle taking place on the planet Reach but their efforts were futile as the alien race known as the Covenant easily pursued the starship to the ring world.
Hope is not lost as the genetically enhanced super solider known as the Master Chief is able to turn the tide against the Covenant. The player, as Master Chief, will cause a chain of events on Halo that will eventually help humanity win the war against the Covenant.
That's the story in a very small nutshell. Trust me, it's pretty damn engaging and it's one of the bigger reasons I started getting more into science-fiction stories (sorry, Star Wars).
The core gameplay of Halo: Anniversary is exactly like you remember it, so it won't feel out of place, especially for anyone that's used to the Halos that only came out on the Xbox 360. Nothing has been changed with the enemy AI, so they're just as mean as ever. Sadly, that means that the human AI hasn't been changed either, so they're just as useless as ever.
The main difference now is the visuals, which have been beefed up to make the game look like a current-gen game. The visual fidelity of Master Chief's character model, for example, was increased by 300 percent while the campaign environments have increased by between 3,000 to 8,000 percent.
It's funny how you remember something from your childhood as something amazing but then you go back to that amazing thing as an adult and wonder what the hell was wrong with you. I remember the original Halo looking great, but seeing the old version against the new visuals is pretty much a night and day difference.
That difference is something you can experience for yourself as you can simply switch from the old visuals to the new one with a simple press of the Back button on your Xbox 360 controller. The transition effect will take you to a black screen for a moment before making the switch, so I wouldn't recommend switching during combat situations. It's a pretty mesmerizing effect seeing just how much detail has been added in comparison.
Some other changes you can expect include remastered sound effects for the weapons, a remastering of the iconic score done by Skywalker Sound, stereoscopic 3D, 1,000 Achievement points, Skulls, Kinect support, online two player co-op and the addition of Terminals in every level. Finding and activating a Terminal will initiate a cutscene that gives you some back story on the Forerunner alien race that created the Halos and have some connections to Halo 4, all of which is narrated by 343 Guilty Spark.
As far as multiplayer goes, well, it's Halo: Reach's multiplayer. There will be six remade multiplayer maps based on Halo and Halo 2 included on the disc which are Hang 'Em High, Damnation, Beaver Creek, Prisoner, Timberland and Headlong. There will also be one Firefight map called Installation 04 which, for the very first time, will see a small squad of friendly AI soldiers assisting you against the wave of Covenant forces. Note that the multiplayer maps will eventually become available to people that don't own Halo: Anniversary.
The multiplayer has been the big stink when it comes to Anniversary ever since it was announced. A lot of people wanted the original multplayer experience, including myself. After finally getting some quality time with Halo: Anniversary, though, I realized how stupid that idea was. Aside from the obvious time and, in all likelihood, the increase in price, the original multiplayer is way outdated this day in age. Sure, Halo changed multiplayer gaming, but then games like Call of Duty and Battlefield came along that further changed and redefined what we expect in online multiplayer.
As a long time Halo fan, I'm looking forward to playing Anniversary all the way through. I still consider Halo as one of my favorite games of all time so it'll be nice waxing those nostalgic feelings. In terms of multiplayer, it's great that they're remastering maps but I know my time will be largely spent online with Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 next month, personally. For those of you still obsessed with Halo: Reach's multiplayer, however, thaen you're in for a treat as some of these new old school maps are a blast to play on.