Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

To be sure, the superficial differences abound. The game caches levels to the hard drive, for example, reducing load times if and when you die. This process takes about a minute before the start of a play session — not long by any means, but just long enough to make you feel a little impatient. Whether you save any net time depends, shall we say, on your skillz.

Once you’re actually playing the game, the visual changes are everywhere. The new textures give sci-fi, technological life to flat surfaces. Human beings look more, well, human. Weapons, a constant presence in the center of the screen, appear sharp and detailed.

Halo veterans will want to comb the levels for Skulls, which once collected can be used to apply gameplay modifiers. Hidden terminals provide short cutscenes, which flesh out the Halo lore and pave the way for Halo 4. Today’s technology is also applied in the form of online campaign co-op. This is a nice addition for people who wouldn’t be interested in playing the Campaign alone, but who want to relive their Halo glory days on Xbox LIVE, while chatting with their former brothers-in-arms. This addition comes at the expense of couch co-op, however — you’ll need two TV’s, two 360′s, and two game discs to team up with a friend and take on the Covenant. Rounding out their modern feature-set, HCEA provides 3D support and Kinect functionality; the latter enables players to throw grenades, reload weapons, and collect even more backstory using their voices and bodies.

There are also lots of visual touches that simply wouldn’t have been possible in 2001. Distant horizons are now populated with majestic, painterly terrain. Grassy areas have sprouted thousands of individual tufts. Particle effects abound, visible in the dust kicked up by a hovering drop-ship, the explosion of blue blood left by a dying Grunt, and the improved rain of vomit-colored confetti that ensues while shooting up a swarm of scuttling Flood parasites.

The things that make Halo dated, however, have nothing to do with graphics. The level design, in particular, shows its 2001 roots through the wanton reuse of environments. This was clearly necessary in the game’s original iteration, in order to save disc space, but it seems incongruous now. The entire middle third of the game, indeed, is really pretty tedious, as I pointed out in a retro review of the original game published earlier this year.

While no one is suggesting that 343 should have radically redesigned the game they were intending to celebrate, Halo: Combat Evolved’s flabby midsection raises questions about the nature of remakes. How do you decide which things to change, and which things to leave alone? 343, for the most part, drew the line at a visual overhaul and a remastered soundtrack, but what prevented them from re-balancing wonky encounters, or streamlining gameplay? By focusing on new graphical bells and whistles, the studio passed on an opportunity to actually address the real problems in the original. Doing so would have provided players with a new gameplay experience, instead of an expensive, HD version of Halo that feels and plays exactly the same as it did 10 years ago.

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19 Comments on Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

bias filefront

On November 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm

You give MW3, a game that is nothing more than an expansion pack for a 5 year old game, a higher score and then say this is “too expensive”? At least 343 had the decency to LOWER the price at all! especially for a game that arguably still has more original stuff in it than MW3.

Blade Runner

On November 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I could not agree more bias. He scores MW3 higher yet scores Halo CEAR lower. What gives?

Phil Owen

On November 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm

You know not every critic here is the same guy, right?


On November 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm



On November 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm

sounds unfortunate :(
i find it still worth it to buy… or at least torrent ;)


On November 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

i thought the written review itself was pretty fair, stop ing about the final number at the bottom.


On November 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm

They seriously expect a company to remake a game and charge less than $40?
I was actually surprised when the game was announced to be less than the standard $60, The map pack alone is $10. So basically the game is $30 while the original new in stores is $20 and they actually think that’s overpriced? Lmao.


On November 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Hahaha, this guy is a joke. The fact that the campaign wasn’t changed is the best thing about this game, I would have been pissed if I couldn’t say every quote at the same time, one-shot hunters in the back, and get hidden banshees on AOTCR. If they changed ANYTHING about the core plot and level design it would have been upsetting.

As for multiplayer, anyone who has played Reach and is actually good at the game knows that the settings created by Bungie were awful, and the new gameplay settings in the anniversary playlists might actually make Reach’s multiplayer salvagable.

Awesome first release for 343 Industries, and it shows great promise for Halo 4 and keeping the classic halo experience alive.

Garyn Dakari

On November 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Uh…You know that having the gameplay and level design remain -exactly- the same was one of their main goals, right?

Besides, how else would you able to switch between modes with a button? You couldn’t if the levels had changed.


On November 16, 2011 at 7:59 am


Agreed. If they’d changed anything at all about the mechanincs or plot it would have been heresy and beyond. A graphic overhaul is all I ever wanted from Halo CE.


On November 16, 2011 at 9:55 am

I think he, the reviewer, has missed the point of the game. It is definitly a fresh face version of the original. It does however, let my son experience the game better than I could have ever imagined. The additional content more than makes it a deal or a valuable game experience. And, you seem to have forgotted…show a little respect… This is the Master Chief you are talking about…it’s more than a game,its a connection!!


On November 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm

clearly a casual review from a casual gamer
1. remaining the exact ce singleplayer (with updated graphics, new skulls and terminals that do not change the core singleplayer) was 343s intention. you would have known that with a bit of research
2. the changes made by 343 actually improve gameplay. they also stated that they will be emulating ce multiplayer with the reach engine multiple times which means they would not redo ce’s multiplayer simply because they have a contract to fulfill (time issue)
3. the price is actually pretty fair if you consider that MICROSOFT owns the franchise (although its still too high)
4. you were considering a REMAKE as an actual new game.


On November 17, 2011 at 4:39 am

seriously this guy gives this game too much credit!! halo reach and CE are seriously the worse multiplayer games i have ever played.. Why ruin a good thing? i was highly dissappointed

The truth

On November 17, 2011 at 11:26 am

This reviewer is wrong 343i said that the point of the game is to be retro gameplay with nice graphics.Get your facts straight before making a review


On November 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm


Why ruin a good thing? They didn’t ruin anything, they just changed a good thing into what some people would argue isn’t as good as some of the original Halo games. If you are resistant to change and having game developers actually use a little creativity and take risks in their gameplay design there is a very clear solution. Play CoD and pay $60 every year to buy the same exact game.

Maxwell Dwyer

On November 18, 2011 at 12:01 am

I think you missed the point of the game. The only reason they released and remastered this game was to make the best game of the series updated so it can be played without shame today.

Elite Troll

On November 21, 2011 at 2:22 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this little expansion or so as it were and I think they should update Halo 2 just so the whole of Halo is updated for achievments and the sort as well as graphic wise. I would be disgusted if they didn’t but anyways, the reviewer is a stupid ignorant person who obviously did not play much of the original or did not like it.

Dave Moss

On December 8, 2011 at 12:59 am

After reading the comments, i’m convinced you are all retarded fan boys. You really want to pay $40 dollars to replay the original Halo with SLIGHTLY better graphics? Are you serious? This game doesn’t even offer you the ability to play the original multiplayer for the nostalgia trip. Seriously, these cannot be the same people on Gamefront who trash the new Mass Effect because it has a multiplayer mode. You’re going to tell me that adding a multiplayer to ME is a waste of developer time, but creating this Halo remake monstrosity is a good idea when they should be devoting all their resources to making a brand new game that doesn’t suck? Either these comments were written by the 343 dev team or you’ve all been eating paint chips.

thaddeus lorenz

On March 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Halo annaversary was good exept two really big factors, they didnt keep the original music and why the would you change master chiefs helmet to the standard his armor was supose to be unque seriuosly why!?!