Xbox 360 Review: Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary

Master Chief takes a step back in time, but should you join him for the ride?

Halo: Combat Evolved is 10 years old, can you believe that? It suddenly makes me feel really old, I remember when it first came out and everyone was raving over it, but at the time I was a solid Nintendo fanboy and waited till the Xbox dropped its price before finding out what all the fuss was about. I’m glad I did, because it opened my eyes to the potential of something other than Ninty. Master Chief’s first campaign remains the most memorable, even now and with Anniversary it’s given a fresh coat of paint and new features, but is it a worthwhile purchase?

For those unfamiliar to Master Chief’s first game, Halo: Combat Evolved begins on a ship called the Pillar of Autumn and it’s under attack from the Covenant. Captain Keyes lands the ship on the ring-world known as Halo and it’s not long before Master Chief finds out the world’s true purpose. It remains a memorable story, despite being over a decade old. It has some truly great moments like storming the beach in The Silent Cartographer or the endless corridors of The Library against hundreds of Flood, it all remains intact and is just as fun to play as it did back in 2001.

Combat Evolved stood out because of its level structure, but also because of its weapons like the over-powering pistol, the melee attack, sticky grenades and so on. They all return in Anniversary and are as powerful as ever, but there is a change to the difficulty…or at least I felt so. I went through the game on Normal and found it a real struggle compared to when I played it last, it was odd. Luckily though, the new version has Skulls that mostly hinder you, but some can help by giving you Infinite Ammo and making grenades have a larger blast radius, while there’s another that will make any Grunts explode after dying, which can be great during a narrow hallway with tons of Covenant, making a nice domino effect of death.

Also added are Terminals which show insights into 343 Guilty Spark’s years alone waiting for something to do since the rings were last activated, you get a good idea of why he went a bit peculiar and there’s a treat for those who enter in the 5 symbols of each Terminal into Halo Waypoint, you get 100,000 CR to use in Halo Reach and are treated to an 11th Terminal which bridges the gap between Halo CE and Halo 2.

There’s also Kinect support in the form of voice commands which can do anything from throwing grenades to a new feature that allows you to scan enemies and equipment to add to a database in the main menu. It’s a nice addition, although I did notice that sometimes I threw grenades without saying anything and other times it just wouldn’t work. You can also switch between the new and old visuals with a tap of the back button, it takes a few seconds but you can see the difference and it’s very impressive. You can play the campaign co-operatively locally or online with another player, which makes the daunting Legendary achievements more bearable, with the exception of getting through The Library in 30 minutes or not dying once in the same level on Hardcore. It’s brutal to try, so only try it if you feel you can handle the stress!

The campaign is the same length as the original obviously, so it’s pretty short and it’s over before you know it, but you can play some of the classic maps in Reach’s multiplayer, which also have their own new achievements. I like them, but I do wish there were more than what was included, despite that I’m pleased with the overall package here.

The visuals have improved beyond what the original Xbox could dream of and it feels just like a current gen title, although the framerate can dip at times and there is a bit of lag over Live. The music is great as always and the voice-acting is decent, as a whole it’s hard to fault.

The Verdict

Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary is a great way to celebrate 10 years of Halo. It’s a game that changed a generation back 10 years ago and although it doesn’t have the same impact now, it’s great to see the attention given to this remake, one that is worthy to have the name Halo stamped on it.