Bungie and Microsoft didn’t know at the time but Halo: Combat Evolved was the first in a string of best selling games for the next ten years. Halo: Combat Evolved was one of the launch titles for the original Xbox console.
The highly anticipated follow up Halo 2 was a major success and set the standards for how everyone plays multi-player games. Halo 3 was the first game in the series to be released on the Xbox 360. It was followed up by the prequel to the original game, Halo Reach. A new trilogy of Halo games is on the way but Microsoft wanted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first game with a special treat for the fans. So the new internal development team 343 Industries was put in charge of developing an anniversary edition for the first Halo.
What makes Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary so special is the fact that it’s not just the original game with some extras. The team at 343 Industries instead wanted it to be a remarkable re-imagining of the original game. But at the same time it was necessary to also consider fans of the original. The development team was able to consolidate both by adding the ability to switch between original legacy and modern visuals. This alone made it worth making this edition of the game a retail release, since the original version can be purchased from Xbox 360 Marketplace.
The modern version of the game is almost like a new game. All the visuals have been vastly improved so that the game could go up against some of the current games in the market. Each cut-scene was retouched and motion capturing was added to improve the quality of the character animations. It’s extremely easy to swap between both visual styles by pressing the “back” button on the Xbox 360 controller.
It only takes a couple of seconds for the change to take effect and it seems to pause the game so that the player isn’t penalised, if being attacked by Covenant enemies. Due to the nature of the cut-scenes it is not possible to change styles when they are being viewed. It’s not a problem though as players will most likely not be switching between visual styles throughout campaign.
The level design in Halo: Combat Evolved has survived the passage of time. Players new to the game are in for a treat when playing through the story campaign. The game starts off on board the Pillar of Autumn spaceship which is under attack. The tutorial guides players through the game controls while the player explore the spaceship. The game opens up after crashing down on the Halo Ring, where there is a wider area to explore.
Fortunately the game provides a vehicle which is a standard feature of the Halo games. It must be said that controlling the vehicle isn’t as easy as on other Halo games. Attempting to move the vehicle was difficult at moments where it was necessary to suddenly change direction. But it can’t be denied that it was exciting to explore the game for the first time. Another new feature in the game is being able to play through campaign with other players online.
The cooperative system is exactly the same as the one in all Halo games. So it’s possible to revive players when in safe areas and it also makes it easier to play through harder difficulty levels with another player. The game works like a charm when playing with others and it’s possible to divide tasks between players, like one manning the turret and another driving the vehicle. It was also possible to play for both players to have different visual styles on their respective TV sets when playing a cooperative game session.
Arguably multi-player isn’t a new feature in the first Halo but it’s finally possible to play it the proper way. The Xbox version only allowed for up to sixteen players to play together in local system-link. The anniversary edition makes it possible to play online by using the online multi-player system found in Halo Reach. It includes everything that made the online multi-player component of Halo Reach such an incredible experience. But there’s new maps based on locations from Halo : Combat Evolved to make it relevant to this edition.
It was possible to try the High Noon map in a game session of Slayers; which is a re-imagined version of the Hang ‘em High multi-player map from Halo: Combat Evolved. This map consists of a wide open middle area where players tend to end up fighting each other. It’s also possible to take out others by using the higher platforms that provide a view of the whole battlefield. Experienced players can easily come up with strategies such as throwing grenades from high above and effectively defeating other players busy fighting each other. The fact that there aren’t a lot of places to take cover in the middle area is fitting as it feels similar to a wild west showdown.
It was also possible to play firefight in a map based on the Halo : Combat Evolved Installation 04 location. This map has a central base where players can easily take out enemies from above. The fact that the playing area was small meant that it was easy to find enemies.
The inclusion of maps and locations from Halo : Combat Evolved makes it worth buying the game alone. It’s a standard feature of all Xbox 360 games but the achievements were created based at how the game was originally played. It’s just one of the many reasons why this edition of the original game doesn’t seem like an easy attempt at getting more money out of the fans.
It wasn’t possible to try other new features such as the use of Kinect but it involves analysing items and giving commands like reloading a weapon. An interesting detail is that new features such as the use of Kinect won’t be implemented when the game is played with original legacy visuals. The reason for this was that the technology wasn’t available at the time and so it would make the experience less authentic.
The anniversary edition of Halo : Combat Evolved is definitely an interesting new experience to someone who never experience the original. It wouldn’t be surprising to find players who begun playing Halo from the second game; to find themselves enjoying this game with the modern visuals. Those who were fortunate enough to play the original can play it all over again and try the new features. The inclusion of maps from Halo : Combat Evolved in the multi-player is also something that should get fans excited.
It might have been ten years but it seems like the first Halo game could still be able to get the attention of a whole new generation with this Anniversary edition.