Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

The game’s multiplayer is also imperfect. HCEA includes new versions of classic Halo 1 and Halo 2 maps, created by series collaborator Certain Affinity. Surprisingly, these renamed remakes — Prisoner becomes Solitary, Headlong becomes Breakneck, etc. — all run in the Halo: Reach engine. You won’t, however, need a copy of Halo: Reach to play them; in addition to the two single-player engines it already ships with, HCEA includes a strange, hamstrung version of Halo: Reach.

As described in my Multiplayer Preview, HCEA’s seven maps preserve the distinctive architecture of Halo’s best-known multiplayer arenas, while adding sharper visuals, slight layout changes, and current-gen physics technology. One grenade I threw bounced back at me off a tree branch so thin that Halo: Combat Evolved wouldn’t even have bothered to depict it, providing an explosive reminder of the new game’s modern collision detection. Most of the time, 343 knew better than to change a good thing, leaving almost everything in place, right down to the weapon spawns.

Nevertheless, even if you select the “Classic” playlist, you’ll be constantly reminded of the fact that you’re actually playing Halo: Reach. Halo veterans who have returned after time away from the series will have to acclimate themselves to new weapons and new gametypes. Guns, especially the distinctive pistol, sound completely different — this is more disconcerting than it might seem. You can only carry two grenades of each type. Loadouts, a crucial feature in Reach, add some fun, unexpected dimensions to old maps — the use of jetpacks on the vertically oriented Prisoner/Solitary level quickly begins to resemble the kind of mid-air kung fu popularized by The Matrix. But If you’re hoping to replicate the glory days of System Link Halo fragfests, be prepared — a lot of HCEA’s multiplayer content will feel unfamiliar and strange.

The title also includes a brand-new map for Firefight, Halo: Reach’s version of the “try to survive escalating waves of enemies” mode which is now de rigeur in all AAA shooters. Entitled “Installation 04″ — alter ego of the first game’s eponymous, ring-shaped space station — the map charges you with defending a towering Forerunner structure, set on a majestic cliffside. It’s a fun challenge, and a clever extrapolation on the site’s singleplayer roots, which were almost a proto-Firefight. Halo veterans will recognize the area from “Halo,” the original game’s second mission, in which you have to defend the structure until the trustworthy Foe Hammer swings by to pick up some stranded Marines.

Microsoft is charging $39.99 for HCEA, which puts it about halfway between a full-length boxed title and a downloadable novelty. Gamers who also own a copy of Halo: Reach, however, can download all the remastered multiplayer maps for $15. This values the new singleplayer at $25, a steep price considering the fact that the backwards-compatible Xbox original is available for $2.00 + S/H on Amazon. As a corollary, this also means that the stunted version of Halo: Reach included on the HCEA disc is also worth $15. These mathematical gymnastics expose the game for what it is: an expensive bundle, marketed as a full-fledged title.

One wonders how the developers perceive their ideal customer. Halo super-fans will be interested, certainly, but will no doubt migrate quickly back to the more robust multiplayer options and higher populations provided by the Halo: Reach core game — if they don’t just buy the map pack and skip the new singleplayer content entirely. Nostalgic gamers looking to relive the early aughts might balk at the price-point, especially if they’ve got a copy of the original kicking around somewhere. Fresh-faced initiates are probably better off buying a full-fledged, cutting-edge AAA title to satisfy their FPS jones. Presumably no one in his right mind is that interested in throwing grenades using the Kinect voice controls (although if there is such a person, imagine having to be his roommate during a hectic game of King of the Hill).

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is an impressive technical accomplishment and a fitting tribute to a once-in-a-generation game. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t offer enough value for the money: the singleplayer feels too similar to the original game, and the multiplayer feels too different. Gamers love having their past experiences commodified and sold back to them (cf. 48 million Google hits for “Mario T-shirt”), but they should approach this title with some skepticism.

Pros:

  • New campaign visuals clearly a labor of love
  • Bonuses for enthusiasts like new story content and hidden Skulls
  • Xbox LIVE support for co-op and multiplayer

Cons:

  • Too expensive
  • Short-lived appeal
  • Singleplayer hasn’t been changed enough to distinguish it from the original
  • Multiplayer has been changed too much, thanks to Halo: Reach

Final Score: 67/100

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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?

jjhj

On November 14, 2011 at 4:16 pm

IGNORANT REVIEW

Cameron

On November 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm

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

Darkraidor

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.

Zarkion

On November 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Facepalm@Cons.
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.

BenJJ

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.

Swede

On November 16, 2011 at 7:59 am

@BenJJ

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.

rgp3048

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!!

ratazonk

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.

getchabite

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

BenJJ

On November 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm

@getchabite

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!?!