Halo Anniversary Multiplayer Preview

Next on the docket was “Battle Canyon,” which had its beginnings as Battle Creek in Halo 1 and Beaver Creek in Halo 2. The map’s small size has always resulted in relentless, white-knuckled action, and the new version is no different. There were some physical changes to the layout; 343 added space by hollowing out the caves near the central bridge, and added indoor areas behind each base. This philosophy was apparent in all the new maps — main identifying features were more or less unchanged, but smaller, out of the way passages were fleshed out or re-routed.

“Solitary,” the game’s updated version of Prisoner, retains the same vertical focus as its predecessor. Playing host to a chaotic game of King of the Hill, the map is still dominated by those who can navigate efficiently between the futuristic cell block’s multiple levels. Despite the constant rain of grenades into the “hill,” I had enough time to notice the tweaked color palette and the drifts of snow that crop up in certain corners.

If you can forgive the developers for abandoning the pun that made the original “Damnation” just that much more enjoyable, there’s a lot to like about “Penance,” its new, remastered guise. The developers’ approach resembles their take on Battle Creek; the distinctive, dam-traversing areas are still there, but the stairwells and antechambers that connect them have been altered slightly to improve flow.

“Ridgeline” is the new Timberland, a sylvan outdoor level from the Halo 1 PC version. Verdant foliage and meandering streams were not exactly looking their best on 2001-era graphics cards, so the modern update provided in Halo Anniversary is refreshing — it actually manages to conjure up some natural beauty, despite all the violence going on. The map are still two bases, rolling hills, and plenty of vehicles. A slight decrease in size keeps the combat constant.

Making an exception to their retro rule, Halo Anniversary’s developers decided to create a new version of Headlong, a popular Halo 2 map. “Breakneck” is the moniker given to the map’s new incarnation, and the construction-site-themed area still has plenty of heavy machinery to operate. Ghosts, Warthogs, and Banshees are in constant use, and the combination of open space, small corridors, and an asymmetric layout lead to lots of fun and exciting showdowns.

Halo Anniversary has a seventh new map, “Installation 04,” which is available only in Firefight mode. Adapting the bizarre sci-fi architecture that made Halo 1′s single-player so distinctive, the Firefight map requires players to defend a complex of buildings against an ever-increasing onslaught. By combining the visual touchstones of the series’ first game with the gameplay innovations of its most recent incarnation, Installation 04 exemplifies the efforts of three studios to marry the old to the new. Two engines will ship within one jewel case. Players will delve into new game types like Headhunter on old maps with new faces. $40 for a classic game in a new suit and a bunch of multiplayer maps might not seem like the greatest deal, but you do get the past, present, and future in a three-for-one deal.

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