Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a spectacular remastered version of the original game, created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the most beloved first-person shooters in gaming history. Bundled with seven of the most popular multiplayer maps in Halo history ready for Xbox Live, Halo: Anniversary includes a bounty of new features including cooperative play over Xbox Live, Achievements, new challenges, and new fiction to uncover.
Reviews View More
It definitely hasn't aged the best but playing this game for the first time all the way actually makes me see what makes this genre so great in the first place, Halo Combat Evolved is a pretty fun time especially with the multiplayer component
Let's start by saying this, the remaster isn't great, the atmosphere is kinda lost at certain points, making everything look to bright, plus the music and sound effects sound slightly worse compared to the original which are still good but pale in comparison to the original and while some Character models like Chief himself and the humans look a lot better than the original but others like Cortana and the flood just look off to me and from what I've heard Cortana's model is imported from Halo 3 and it kinda shows, even then i feel the colours look kinda saturated and cheap in my opinion, still the fact you can change graphics on the fly is great since in my opinion the original 2001/2003 presentation still holds up today now with a higher framerate and resolution so it makes my complaints a bit obsolete, now onto the game.
First things first, the Multiplayer, it's great probably one of the fun multiplayer experiences I've had right up there with Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Maker 2 , it's a bit unbalanced with the Pistol weapon but i had a great time with it mainly due to the map design, each of them feel unique and overall pretty different from your average fps game, there's a lot of variety too while i mostly played Slayer due to being the most simplistic and fun one to me others like Capture the Flag, Big Team Battle and Race are also pretty good so overall Halo 1's multiplayer is really great.
But i'm rating the while game as a package, not just one part and the campaign while enjoyable certainly takes the package down a lot. The story in this game while simple is decent due to strong character writing and vocal performances, you play as the strongest solider Earth has, Master Chief as you journey through this uncharted alien planet, Halo, while fighting thousands of the alien race, the covenant. There's a lot unexplained but you can at least make out the simple goal and narrative, plus the characters are well written such as Sergeant Johnson and Cortana give some well-needed comic relief in the game while not being intrusive , Keyes and Chief are badasses that will do whatever to protect humanity no matter the cost, and the twists in the 2nd Act of the game are pretty well-executed all things considered one gripe i have is that i wish the villain was better developed but overall in terms of story, Halo Combat Evolved is pretty solid as this.
However in terms of gameplay, this is where CE while fun definitely shows it's age here, the controls feel really smooth to use and the weapons here aren't overpowered or underpowered as each Weapon aside maybe the Assault Rifle have a clear use and weakness in each situation you face plus the Health system (which allows you to give a second chance if you're bombarded with enemies) 2 Weapon limit and the 2 types of Grenades (Frags, which are more powerful and Plasma which can stick to enemies) also add good level of strategy to the Weapon Sandbox, the enemy AI is (mostly) and AI as a whole is good as each of them have a predictable and readable pattern they follow in each battle you but each enemy encounter feels unique.
However where this game's age can be easily showcased is the latter half of the game. First the vehicle physics while fun to mess around with feel janky but i guess that's part of the charm but more importantly the 2nd Act, The first 5 levels in this game are a dream though can a bit confusing at times especially in silent cartographer and Halo, but even then it's very isolated in terms of it being bad a solid 8-9/10 due to the fun, challenging yet fair enemy encounters and strategic Weapon sandbox, then the Flood come in, i do think the level they're introduced in, 343 Guilty Spark is decent especially with the narrative it tells but whenever they peep their ugly heads in, the game turns from a challenging yet fair game into a pretty frustrating one, some encounters are fine but others are hell, mainly in Two Betrayals, oh man Two Betrayals, it, Keyes and maybe the Maw though the Warthog chase is pretty epic it's just the bit where Guilty Spark is floating around and thousands of Flood and Sentinels (oh yeah those exist too) just spawn around you all the time but these levels have an insane amount of trial and error even with any weapon i used i had to get insanely lucky, spamming any Grenades i have to even kill them, whenever the AI duke it out i just let them to their own devices and pray the flood get perished, i feel as if the AI is too good for them since they are completely unpredictable yet still unfeasibly challenging too face and that's my biggest issue with the game, the flood they aren't fun to face and i don't know if i'm bad at the game or the AI but i played on Normal so i don't know if Easy fixes this, there is another issue and that is the repeated level layouts but i wouldn't really mind since the enemy layouts and aesthetics are different along with 3 factions duking it out but again the Flood and sometimes the Sentinels kinda damper the theme they were going with the repeated stages.
So overall Halo 1 is game that is dated but i still have some fun with, the multiplayer is basically a 9/10 though the campaign while still enjoyable, the 2nd Act feels rushed (though considering how this game was basically a RTS turned into a revolutionary FPS i can see why) i can see what makes the fps genre so great in the first place and not all fps games are as boring or as vapid as Call of Duty or the Far Cry Games after 3 so i do hope Halo 2 does improve from the campaigns issues (probably not due to the troubled development but that's for next time).
I was playing a bit of goldeneye today to test n64 emulation on my recently-purchased xbox one s (spoiler: looks like I'm back to playing on pc), and it was good to get a reminder of why halo was revolutionary. the dual-analog control style that dominates every console shooter today had not yet caught on even though it makes so much sense in retrospect: move your feet with the left stick, move your head with the right stick. most fps titles outside of pc up to now were dominated by tank controls with strafing on the shoulders, and goldeneye follows the same pattern, with strafing on the left/right c buttons and vertical look on the up/down c buttons. workable? yes. comfortable? eh. I'm 23, not 43, so I wasn't exactly playing this shit in my dorm room.
halo in comparison is remarkably intuitive. while not the first to implement proper dual-analog control (alien: resurrection predates it, and one of the rare shooters has a double-controller mode to get dual sticks working), it feels smooth on the xbox gamepad. master chief strafes easily, locks on with subtle (for the time) auto-aim, and glides across terrain without issue. even the vehicle control, while plodding and challenging to master, still gets the job done not only on the ground but in flight as well. each gun is unique and simple to understand from the standard human weapons to the more experimental covenant ones, which keeps the two-weapon limit and the constant scavenging for fresh weapons from feeling like a downer whenever you aren't playing with the assault rifle.
what makes halo ce somewhat disappointing to return to is instead the level design. sure, both silent cartographer and the titular halo still hit hard. the rest of the game unfortunately delves into reams of copy-pasted rooms and confusing backtracking. none of this is surprising given the game's protracted and crunch-heavy development, but it still reflects poorly to those playing the campaign today expecting more variety.
the pillar of autumn: somewhat confusing with its labryinthian structure but for what is functionally a tutorial it does its job. sets up the covenant well and establishes the stakes for master chief.
halo: this is a showpiece level right here. that opening crash leading to you scaling the hill over a gorgeous waterfall while covenant dropships scour the landscape for stragglers. defending the outpost with your fellow marines. receiving your first warthog and storming the bridge within the underground base. and finally, that open area with three different groups of marines to recover... man this is still such a showstopper. exactly paced like an old-school fps should be.
the truth and reconciliation: this hit harder for me the first time I played it a couple years back, and on this replay the section where you're actually on the ship seems dominated by hallways to a deleterious extent. the opening cliffside sneak to the entrance point, still has some neat sniper moments, and the hangar where you first fight the hunters sticks out in my head.
the silent cartographer: another total classic, with the entire level taking place on a small island. there are two outposts you must hit, the first of which having been locked by a separate control center in the middle of the island. there's multiple ways to get around, and the level also features the first appearance of an elite with a terrifying energy sword. conceptually much richer than most of its contemporaries. the story justification and rich sense of connected locality do wonders here.
assault on the control room: first level that really begins to drag. the standard internal room is repeated ad nauseum to the point of feeling almost like you're incorrectly backtracking. occasional outdoor areas break things up nicely, but eventually the vehicles feel mandatory rather than useful tools.
343 guilty spark: what should be the tense reveal of the flood ends up being a confusing mess of near-identical two-story rooms and connective hallways that loops back in on itself. very disorienting.
the library: this level is infamous for being a slow burn, and I can't really disagree. more copy-paste hallways while following guilty spark around. this one also leans heavily on "hold your position" scenarios. probably too much reliance on waiting for guilty spark overall... halo benefits a lot from letting the player set their own pace, and this level fails on that count.
two betrayals: somehow this level is literally assault on the control room in reverse, like one for one identical. to spice it up you have a couple spots where you must fly a banshee up to a room to deactivate some device with your shield, but navigating upwards tends to be trivial so I can't say the level benefits much from it.
keyes: another reused level, but instead mainly from the truth and reconciliation once you're out of the swamp area. that first area is pretty fine, but the second half feels rather stale and relatively lifeless with its dull "get to keyes and then escape" objective.
the maw: much of this level is more hallway battles, but the stakes feel higher from a plot perspective, and the final two setpieces resonate. the engineering bay slowly being overtaken while you methodically destroy the open reactor vents with rockets is a lot of fun to navigate, and the resulting system countdown as you flee in a warthog legitimately stretched my nerves as the numbers ticked down, both from getting immersed in the moment and also the stubborn vehicle physics lol.
there's plenty of good throughout each chapter, but much of the second half melds into sort of a "kill the same enemies over and over again" goo fermented by the rote and perfunctory room-by-room design. without the phenomenal gamefeel this game possesses it would be a launch title curio, and instead it managed to hold up the entire xbox brand for over a decade. a feat no one can take away from bungie without a doubt.
my personal note: lost my save data on my actual anniversary disc, specifically my co-op save. xbox cloud sync sucks. ended up beating it on the master chief collection... wish I didn't have to shell out the money (I bought both from my local mom-and-pop shop at least) but it ran much better in MCC. co-op frankly made me motion sick in the actual 360 version of halo cea.