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.
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.