HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED ANNIVERSARY - "All you greenhorns who wanted to see Covenant up close... this is your lucky day."
The original Halo has had almost as many re-releases as Gandhi from jail and for good reason – it's a classic that has spawned a huge line of sequels and fans alike, as well as arguably being heavily responsible for the First Person Shooter baby boom that appeared on consoles in the early 2000s. I'll be discussing the latest iteration of the original title: the Anniversary Edition.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary appeared late 2011, boasting a number of features and additions to the original game to entice those who couldn't bring themselves to purchase it simply for the nostalgia trip (or trapping those that just have to have every version of the same game – looking at you Josh).
Apart from the game itself, the main worm on the end of the hook is the complete visual overhaul – the entire game has been graphically remastered and on top of that, the game allows you to switch between the beautiful silky looks of today and the original graphics from all the way back in 2001. The average player probably won't make much use of the ability to switch back and forth but for those that experienced the original game, it can be an interesting feature. If you're anything like me, rose-tinted glasses will come into play and going back in time to 2001 with a simple button press will quickly strip them from you. I'm glad they put in the ability to switch back simply to be able to get across how much work they put into bringing the graphics into our day and age. It truly is impressive and they did a marvellous job.
Naturally, achievements were introduced, a modern mechanic that came well after the original Halo's time. On most occasions, I'm all for achievements in games; they can give more reason to replaying a game, or add enjoyable challenges (or annoying challenges, google: “Little Rocket Man”). Unfortunately most achievements today are those simple “Play the game” species – boring and bland. Fortunately, Halo Anniversary doesn't go down this route. While a lot of them are your run of the mill “Play the game, here's a cookie”, quite a few of them are references to the weird and wonderful feats that people managed in the original game. One example is the achievement “I'll be Taking That!” which involves piloting a banshee on the level “Assault on the Control Room”. Usually, you wouldn't be able to obtain a banshee on this level but players found that if you fired a rocket in just the right spot before hitting a checkpoint (as hitting the checkpoint would cause an enemy to spawn who then flies off in said banshee), you could cause the aircraft to fall to the floor where you could then jump in for a joyride. This was discovered in the original game, recognised by the developers and now features as an achievement, which I think is a lovely tribute, as well as making for a difficult side task. Some of the other achievements follow suit offering you “Gamerscore” to those willing to attempt speed runs or not firing bullets in certain levels.
Probably the most fun I had when playing the original game was during co-op. During my first ever playthrough, I was thrown into Legendary difficulty with a friend, given the briefest explanation of the controls and off we went. The Anniversary edition again has modernised this aspect, realising that on-the-sofa co-op is a sadly rare thing today, and brought the game up to speed, including online co-op. I'm extremely grateful for this; I mainly purchased the game to play through with a friend of mine that started the series with Halo 3. We both work, however, and he's generally quite busy on weekends - without online, we'd probably never have been able to play together. The co-op is fairly simple, standard stuff; you make a lobby and invite your friends and, all in all, it works quite well.
My friend and I experienced horrible, unplayable lag a number of times shortly after its release, so badly that we simply took a break hoping when we came back they'd have fixed it. Performing a quick search on the internet suggested this was a problem on the games’ end rather than ours - a large blemish on what was otherwise proving to be a solid experience.
Online multiplayer had also been included, updated to run on the same engine as Halo: Reach, offering a selection of improved maps from the original Halo and Halo 2. A single Firefight map has also been included (a survival mode where you fight against waves of enemies first introduced to the Halo universe with Halo 3 ODST).
Not only have the graphics and online capabilities from today's games been brought in, a lot of the smaller themes have been included as well – namely skulls and terminals. Skulls are pretty standard - fun to look for and essentially challenging to use. Terminals however offer great insight and explanation into the Halo world. They're glowing icons which, when activated, play a small cut scene which talks about aspects of the story. Personally, while I have a grip on the basic story of Halo I never really fully understood the details. The terminals do a great job at getting these details across in a simple and refined manner, as well as adding another collectible to look for or go back and discover.
Halo: Anniversary offers something for both new and old players to the series alike; there aren't many other series of FPS games that offer such a highly enjoyable co-op campaign experience as Halo, and for a game that can currently be picked up for £15, it certainly gives its money’s worth.
Overall I'd give Anniversary a juicy 4 out of 5 lemons.