Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

A triumphant return to 2001's other space odyssey

I've got a confession to make. Despite having played every Halo game since, I never got around to playing the original. Rather than beating me to death for my overwhelming insolence, the team decided to take advantage of it. With the element of nostalgia erased, can the decade-old shooter that launched Xbox still hold its own?

The results of the experiment are spectacular. I expected this remake to be a commemorative curio. But much to the credit of everyone involved, Halo CE: Anniversary Edition is a testament to just how good the original was. The fact that ten years have passed is irrelevant: this is still one of the best shooters out this year.

Click to view larger image
Flipping between the shiny new version and the dim and dull visuals of the original is easy - tapping the Back button at any point triggers an alternate-reality style shift, letting you see how much the game has changed since it first arrived in 2001. Crucially, the differences are purely aesthetic. Take away the roughness of the badly-aged visuals, and it's still just as brilliant as everyone said it was back then. If you've never understood why people love Halo, this is the time to see beyond the hype.

Free from the bombastic set-pieces most modern shooters embrace, the focus is on you. Storming around slaying the Covenant, it's clear that you're the most dangerous character in the galaxy. It's all tied together with an amazing sense of place - much of which is owed to the excellent orchestral re-recording of Marty O'Donnell's stunning soundtrack. Sadly the multiplayer aspects haven't been perfectly recreated.

Only six original maps have made the jump across, and the multiplayer runs through the Halo: Reach engine. On the plus side this means you can also port the game's maps straight over to your copy of Reach, giving you an extra slice of free DLC as part of the package.

The love that's gone into this HD remake makes it more than worth its budget price. If you've never checked out this series, don't get bogged down by details: Halo is about a big bloke shooting cool guns at cool aliens in cool places. Ten years later, that's still enough.

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The OXM verdict

  • It's barely aged at all
  • Visual update is lovely
  • The Assault Rifle. Oh boy
  • The soundtrack is fantastic
  • Original MP isn't ported
The score

Great revamp of a timeless classic

9
Format
Xbox 360
Developer
Saber Interactive
Publisher
Microsoft
Genre
First Person Shooter

Comments

24 comments so far...

  1. I can't wait for my copy to drop through the letter box tomorrow. Feel like a little kid again. A friend got his at the weekend so just waiting for mine to do legendary coop. :D

  2. Oh! Good to hear.

  3. So a game that was made ten years ago and was judged excellent then is still excellent now, is it? Well that's good to know. I'll be sure to boot up my original copy of HALO:CE if I ever feel the need to play it.

  4. I can't wait to play this splitscreen. It's just a shame Assassins Creed is out at the same time. Oh well, I'm an Assassin's Creed fanboy first, and a Halo fanboy a close second :lol:

  5. How could you honestly rate this game lower based on the fact that the Multiplayer isn't exactly the same? It's not the same due to a variety of bad glitches and mechanics. Before this article was written, you should've chosen between writing this as a comparison review or a completely new game review. If you're writing it as a comparison, PLAY THE ORIGINAL. If you're writing it as a brand new game, DON'T COMPARE THE ORIGINAL!

  6. How could you honestly rate this game lower based on the fact that the Multiplayer isn't exactly the same? It's not the same due to a variety of bad glitches and mechanics. Before this article was written, you should've chosen between writing this as a comparison review or a completely new game review. If you're writing it as a comparison, PLAY THE ORIGINAL. If you're writing it as a brand new game, DON'T COMPARE THE ORIGINAL!

    It's not the same because it uses an entirely different engine, and doesn't come with all of the maps that were available in the original game. You don't have to have played the original to appreciate the fact that their omission makes the package somewhat incomplete. 343 have completely admitted that the only reason it isn't included is because it would be way too much work to set up online matchmaking with the original Halo engine. It's understandable, but still.

    As for the final comment - come on now, the world isn't black and white.

  7. Ok, so I just registered in order to say one thing.
    But, before I do, I'll add that I'm a long time reader of OXM. I used to buy it every month before my internet connection got better, and I started reading more online, but I still buy the mag occasionally.

    But what on Earth is happening? Do you guys need to go and BEG for more cash for some hardware from those who would hold you back?? Even then, that wouldn't account for the notion that you can't mention the impact of technological advances on a game and it's subsequent review. I know you're writing for the web AND the magazine, and thus have some word limits, but seriously...?

    3D is here to stay. Fact. It may change from active shutter glasses at some point in the future, but it's not going away. Some games have made a real effort to embrace this technology, and you guys can't even find the space to say "it's got 3D support, but we haven't got a 3dTV to be able to say whether it's any good or not"?

    It's not just this one review, either. 3D in Black Ops was passable IMO, Gears is incredible (read oxmonline.COM's review - it's a small paragraph on 3D, but it packs a punch), Arkham City's pace seems to mess up the 3D effect for me, making it blurry, and Halo Anniversary looks better than I was expecting. Oh, and the Kinect integration in Anniverary that also doesn't get a mention here - pretty nice idea, but every time my wife calls out for my son to get back to bed, it throws a grenade for me. Hmmm. Had to turn it off.

    Common thread in these games... none of it gets a mention.
    C'mon oxm - it's about time you stepped up the pace before you get too far left behind.

  8. People who have 3d are in the minority, everyone knows this as the tech is very expensive. As a result, it is not understandable that oxm skim over a feature that less than 10% (probably 1% realistically) of its readership have?

    But I hope 3d isn't here to stay, it is certainly not a fact due to the problems people get when using it - check nintendos health warning on the 3ds. It's just a gimmick to make more money at the cinemas, in games the tech isn't anywhere near good enough to support it, especially on consoles.

  9. At under �450 for a 42" 3D ready plasma, the tech is no longer 'very expensive' (ok not cheap, but not 'very expensive' either), and certainly becoming more mainstream; though I accept there will be a certain number of people who get headaches from 3D or are unable to utillise it for other reasons, it is starting to take off far more than its detractors would care to admit. However, comparing the 3DS to active-shutter technology on 3DTVs is nonsensical, and the health warnings surrounding the 3DS have no place in this arguement.

    As proven (IMO) with Gears, the tech clearly is more than capable of supporting 3D on consoles. Have you seen it? It truely makes the whole thing more immersive. Utterly brilliant. Doesn't help anything in MP, but the campaign is, well, even more Epic.
    On the other hand, Batman:AC using active-shutter is a no-go for me, because the thing moves too fast and the shutters can't work quick enough (at least not on my TV). Haven't tried other modes because I don't have the TriOvis glasses for use on non-3DTV.

    But regardless, surely something that the devs work hard on deserves recognition in any review worth its salt. Hell, Batman:AC came in a lenticular case to advertise that it was 3D clearly and stand out from anything else - surely that deserves some analysis? Or at least a mention as per my previous post - "it's got 3D support, but we haven't got a 3dTV to be able to say whether it's any good or not"?

    Games have always been on the cutting edge of technology. PS2 helped sell the DVD format; PS3 won the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD war pretty much single-handed. And now the games industry is going to put 3D on the map. Ok, I'll accept that it is not a 'fact' that 3DTV is here to stay, but it's a damned sight better than 50/50. You don't like it? Fair enough. Many of us do. The fact that it's there as an option warrants a mention as much as the compare old-to-new graphics engine and the redone audio, and it's about time reviews started taking it into account. OXM hasn't skimmed over it - they've ignored it. And as this post is starting to get too long, I won't mention again the neglected integration of the fastest selling consumer electronic device of all time into Anniversary.

  10. Its great to see that they finally got round to redoing the graphics, but why did they not redo multiplayer graphics as well. So instead we get shitty reach engine graphics.(2 games in 1) It would be like buying modern warfare 3 and playing the campaign in up to date and graphics, but multiplayer in call of duty 1. A pointless and lazy re - release :twisted: :twisted: :evil: :?:

  11. Kinect wasn't reviewed because the capability was released in a patch not available at the time of reviewing.

    I don't think you read my post though, I'll summarise; there isn't enough interest in 3d for dedicated sections in a review when only a minority own it, due to expense or - if like me - you don't think the tech is up to scratch and the 3d degrades the quality of picture.

  12. Fair enough about Kinect, though again, to not even mention it is poor imo.

    But I definitely did read your post, Bezza, and thought I responded to it adequately. You said the tech was 'very expensive'; I said I didn't feel �450 was in that kind of bracket. You said the tech wasn't up to it; I said Gears was the perfect rebuttal to those who think that way, if they'd care to try it out before saying 3D was rubbish.

    And I'm not asking for a section on 3D - I'm asking for the reviewer to acknowledge the time the devs have spent incorporating 3D, and mention that the game has it, if you so choose to use it. And preferably an opinion as to whether this game's 3D is better or worse than others on the market. I don't think two sentences is too much to ask. And I submit oxmonline.com's review of Gears as evidence of the perfect way to appease us both.

  13. I wasn't getting at you about the reading thing, it's just hard to get stuff across on the internet so I reiterated my points. If you think GoW is great in 3d that's cool, but the crysis, batman and blops 3d I've seen is dull and kind of weirdly pixellated. I still think it's expensive though, I can only think the TV you are talking about isn't fully 1080p HD, if so; why downgrade?

    This is all besides the point though, Halo is brilliant.

    PS Welcome to oxm forums!

  14. 3d computer games have been out for 20+ years. pc games offer superior resolutions to consoles. and is blu ray needed for this nope:)

    As for 3d support for x360 all it is, is a firmware update to make it compatible with 3d tvs for those few people with more money than sence. Especially as their is limited support for 3d any way.

  15. Thanks, Bezza - you're making my point for me perfectly. I haven't seen Crysis is 3D, but Batman doesn't work imo, and blops was underwhelming, but Gears is absolutely spot on. Hence it would be really useful if reviewers could have an opinion on the quality of the 3D, since it varies so much.
    Haven't looked back at the TV I was referring to, I just went to currys website, went to 3D and picked the cheapest set. It could well be 720p, though I don't know why anyone would make a 3D set in that res, because it doesn't make any sense to me.

    And yes, Halo is brilliant :D

    Jimbosolo... not sure where to start... I don't know what you're telling me with that first sentence. 3D games have been around for some time, but not in the quality available with current technology. Yes, PCs will always offer superior resolution to consoles, but the blu-ray reference escapes me - it's not necessary for PC 3D games, and it's not necessary for 360 3D games...? What's your point?
    Thank you for pointing out I have more money than sense, but the rest of your thinly-veiled attack makes even less sense than I do. I really do hate to become a grammar-nazi, but please get someone to proof-read your posts. Thanks.

    And now it would be nice if a staff member could resond with a reason 3D support is never mentioned in any review by OXM, and advise whether or not this will change in the future.

  16. Having waited some time for a mod to approve my last post, I'm going to resubmit, with (hopefully) any possible reasons for mod-approval to be required edited out...
    ______________________________________________________________

    Thanks, Bezza - and I agree it's difficult getting some things across on the internet. I trust I'm not coming across as to be getting at you, either.
    But you're making my point for me perfectly :D . I haven't seen Crysis in 3D, but Batman doesn't work imo, and blops was underwhelming, but Gears is absolutely spot on. Hence it would be really useful if reviewers could have an opinion on the quality of the 3D, since it varies so much.
    Haven't looked back at the TV I was referring to; I just went to currys website, went to 3D and picked the cheapest set. It could well be 720p, though I don't know why anyone would make a 3D set in that res, because it doesn't make any sense to me.

    And yes, Halo is brilliant :D

    @Jimbosolo... not sure where to start... I don't know what you're telling me with that first sentence. Or the second one, actually. 3D games have been around for some time, but not in the quality available with current technology; yes, of course PCs will always offer superior resolution to consoles; and the blu-ray reference escapes me - it's not necessary for PC 3D games, and it's not necessary for 360 3D games...? What's your point?
    Thank you for pointing out I have more money than sense (which my bank manager would disagree with, I might add), but the rest of your thinly-veiled attack makes even less sense than I do. I really don't wish to become a grammar-, but please get someone to read your posts before hitting submit. Thanks.

    And now it would be appreciated if a staff member could respond with a reason 3D support is never mentioned in any review by OXM, and advise whether or not this will change in the future.

    I'm sorry if I'm starting to sound cross now, but with (in my opinion) glaring omissions in reviews, no staff member willing to comment on it, no mods around (for 14hrs+, if public stats are to be believed) to approve my previous post, and being insulted for no good reason... I'm just getting a little tetchy. Sorry about that.
    Here's hoping this one passes the auto-censor.

  17. For whatever reason, my replies here are being pushed to the moderating team, so I've started a new topic on 3D - viewtopic.php?f=46&t=14038

  18. Please accept my sincere apologies for not approving your posts sooner. I phoned my boss this morning to see if I could take the afternoon off so I could come home and sort my forum duties out but he rejected my request........ :wink:

  19. Wasn't getting at you.

    It would, however, appear to me that a business who chooses to have an online presence that includes a forum with an auto-censor needs more than one active moderator, simply because you can't be on here 24/7.

    Solutions (should someone from Future read this) include
    1. Losing the auto-censor (especially since I'm not sure what was in my second post to require mod approval) and rely on the report button instead
    2. Ask for volunteers for additional moderating positions
    3. Drop the forums completely, as they appear to be dying out.

    Thanks for approving my posts KernowDevil, and know that my post wasn't to do with the fact that you hadn't been online for what turned out to be 24hrs, but that there had not been any mod online in that time.

    Still wondering what caused my second post to hit the auto-censor... Any clues?

  20. My offers still on the table Kernow :lol:

    I've also got a 3d tv and i have to say this works great (i personally didn't try the 3d functionality w/ GOW3) especially with the added bonus of the kinect scanner etc.... its the best �27.99 i've spent on a game in a long time.... I do however find myself flicking to the old res and just being amazed at the sheer beauty of the updated visuals.

    Anywho.... Its a crying shame that i'm rather sucked into the world of skyrim atm, so this will have to wait to be completed.

    So many great games, so little time.


  21. Still wondering what caused my second post to hit the auto-censor... Any clues?

    My guess is someone manually reported the post, just next to the quote icon. But if you couldn't post at all, perhaps you had swearing in... though reading them now they seem fine.

    I think it's 720p so that it can be cheaper than the good 3d TVs. I love 3d when done well, Toy Story 3's pre-film sequence was brilliant, night and day I think. Avatar was the catalyst for stereoscopic 3d and I thought it was brilliant, but I did notice a headache after getting out, it's a three hour film. I read a report on BBC about how a majority of people surveyed would rather watch films in 2d, but would rather watch films in no-glasses 3d if available. I'm in that court I reckon, as I like to play for probably 3 hour periods myself... don't even think about skyrim, and I know my head would explode. This is what I mean about the tech. It aint there yet.

  22. Thanks for approving my posts KernowDevil, and know that my post wasn't to do with the fact that you hadn't been online for what turned out to be 24hrs, but that there had not been any mod online in that time.

    Still wondering what caused my second post to hit the auto-censor... Any clues?


    From my recollection, every new user has to reach a certain number of posts (5 I think) before they are able to post freely. This is to stop idiots signing up purely to post abuse and troll the forums.

    I am on here as much as my free time allows me to be and to be honest, until your little moan, all has been going swimmingly well if I do say so myself.

    There is no need at this point for further moderation because the forum activity just isn't enough to justify another "chef in the kitchen". Also, I doubt very much that either Future Publishing nor the OXM team will drop the forums based purely on your impatience...... :lol: (I jest!)

  23. Fair enough - if it's a rare occurance, then you're probably right.
    For the record, my first three posts went through without question, numbers four and five were sent for moderator approval as soon as I hit submit, and I subsequently posted my new topic and a link to it that were not sent for mod approval, so I clearly hit an auto-censor, but for what I don't know. Ok, in post four I used the 'N' word (no, not that one, the one that comes after grammar-) so I edited it out when I resubmitted, but can see nothing wrong in that one.

    Anyway... not getting an answer, so I guess the topics are dead. Guess I'll just read the US official mag site. Would prefer that my few 'hits' remained faithful to the UK mag but what can you do?

  24. I for one think Kernow and the OXM team (who have impressive presence around here considering they actually have 'proper' work to do on the magazine, rather than appease us free-loaders*) have been doing a great job with the site, as I said to whoever it was that was getting bent out of shape the other day. Unfortunately with the economy how it is, magazines is one of the things people decide they should maybe deal without, and it's the magazine which draws people here, I would say. Certainly right in my case anyway.


    *other than Mr ET, the online king and ruler of all, whom we should bow down and worship like the mere mortals we are.