Halo Anniversary Edition Review
Master Chief rises again, sort of.
In terms of gameplay, there are two new additions that further improve upon the original campaign. Firstly we have online co-op whereby the entire campaign can be played with up to 3 more friends over Xbox Live or via System Link. Of course, split screen is also given as an option for a more ‘traditional’ cooperative experience. Secondly we have the ‘skulls’ making a debut after they were introduced for the first time in Halo 2 and have since been a traditional mutator of sorts for the campaign. As you discover more skulls, you can toggle their settings on/off as each skull makes the game more challenging. Then there’s the Firefight mode which is basically the last level in the ‘Halo’ level from the singleplayer campaign which contains vehicles as well as ODSTs to fight alongside you and your buddies.
Now let me talk a bit about the most obvious change to the singleplayer campaign which is the updated graphics engine. Basically the original Halo Combat Evolved is running on tweaked Halo Reach engine, called the Saber3d engine. What the game looks like now is a mixture of Halo 3 and Halo Reach graphics. Basically all the environment, backdrops, lighting models and ODST soldiers look like they’re from Reach, but vehicle models, guns, certain NPCs and Master Chief himself looks straight out of Halo 3.
Sometimes when I’m playing the campaign I think to myself that these graphics aren’t all that impressive considering how good Gears 3 and Skyrim look on an Xbox 360, but then I hit the ‘back’ button and see how incredibly far we have come in the last decade. Just the lighting effects alone are astonishing, breathing new life into otherwise drab (by today’s standards) looking environments.
It’s impressive how Sabre Interactive made the two engines run on top of each other, that with just a push of a button one can switch between the old (yet widescreened) graphics and the modern visual update. Perhaps this is why there’s such a huge drop in framerate during some intense firefight sessions. The other issue is that the screen goes black for 2 to 3 seconds when switching between the graphics; sadly the game doesn’t pause during this period of blindness.
Now the multiplayer maps are the other part of the equation with the Anniversary edition. First off there are only 6 maps available, and to play them you’ll have to go to the classic playlist which basically changes the gameplay mechanics from Halo Reach to Halo CE. One of the most obvious change is the pistol, which is basically 3 shots to the head. No gun in the multiplayer feels as overpowered as that. And, for the most part, small maps with Team Death Match variants usually devolves everyone into taking potshots with their pistols.
Speaking of Reach, when selecting the multiplayer option the game literally loads Halo reach’s multiplayer, with your saved character from Reach loading up. Heck, even when playing the multiplayer you’ll be able to unlock achievements for Reach’s multiplayer. This isn’t a big deal, of course, because Halo Reach brought along with it many changes from Halo 3 and the same gameplay experience shouldn’t be changed only a year after it was first introduced. Still, it’s disheartening to know that Halo Anniversary only comes with the remade 6 maps, and to play the multiplayer in all its entirety you’ll need to load the Halo Reach disc.
All said and done, the remastered anniversary edition of Halo reach is a great feat, but I cannot help but feel that this product was rushed. The singleplayer campaign, great as it looks, could have been tweaked enough to allow for certain modern FPS elements to be implemented, or at least those presented in halo Reach. The fact that all 6 remastered maps also come with a DLC code for Halo Reach makes me wish this game was a downloadable title. At $40 Halo Anniversary is barely worth it.
While Halo Anniversary will no doubt appeal to nostalgic fans of the series, the glossy finish may wrongly attract newcomers to the franchise who think this is a full package. Make no mistake, the multiplayer is extremely limited by the maps you have, and the singleplayer campaign feels archaic compared to modern games. Master Chief will have to come back to life in Halo 4; the Anniversary release is just his corpse being risen and played around with. Fans of the original will only see him in his glory days as they did 10 years ago, but modern gamers will see the rotten body for what it is and will, hopefully, stay away.