Review

Halo CE Anniversary review: a great classic, rejuvinated

Returning to the original Halo: Combat Evolved game felt a little strange, it was one of those games that was a masterpiece at the time but you worry that the gameplay won’t have aged well or that it was never as good as you originally thought it was.

Halo: CE changed how first person shooters were viewed on consoles. It managed to get the controls spot on, had some of the best graphics seen at the time and more importantly for Microsoft, was a day-1 launch title that went on to sell millions over the course of time spawning a number of sequels.

Developer 343 Industries promised fans that the main core of the game would not be altered and they have kept their word. The gameplay is just the same as the original, there have been no additional gameplay features added to the single player mode and it still manages to play just as well as it originally did, even outshining some more recent first person shooter games in the process.

One new minor feature integrated in the single player campaign which doesn’t effect gameplay is what I call “Terminal Videos”: you come across some small terminals that can be interacted with during the game, where once you select it you will be shown a new backstory video

We also have the addition of an online campaign co-op mode, which was limited during my brief play through to the few people who were online during the review period. It played well and added something different to the game without messing with the main single player mode.

A few Kinect features have been added to the game too with the option of voice controls to shout out “grenade” or “reload”, though I have to say I find it quicker and easier to use the game pad here each and every time.

The main multiplayer side of the game adds six new remakes of some favourite Halo maps while also adding a new Firefight map. This time round the Halo: Reach engine gets used, so if you have been playing that you will know what to expect here. The new maps seem very good from my short play with them and help add to the overall package.

There is also an “Analyse mode” integrated into the game with help from the Kinect; this feature lets gamers scan items during the game to fill out the Library, which is an interactive encyclopaedia of Halo “Lore”. It works well and helps to add a bit more to the experience, but once again doesn’t have to be used if you don’t want to.

The work that that the developers have done on the graphics side is excellent: no it isn’t as spectacular as some of the more recent first person shooters on the market, but it manages to retain the look and feel of the original game while ramping up the textures, adding some great shadowing and improved animation. Graphically I’d probably say that this is now the best in the Halo series, just topping Halo Reach thanks to what I feel is better art design.

The option to switch between classic mode and the updated engine helps show off the huge improvements that have been made to the game thanks to the addition of more foliage and loads of particle effects. What I noticed even more is how the company has retained the great art design feel from the original team, something I was worried may change so it leaves me with high hopes for Halo 4.

Things are not perfect though as the game seems to struggle with texture pop-in a lot, something I noticed which stood out even more towards the end of the game. This also happened when the game installed to the hard drive too. There are also a number of times when the frame rate takes a hit at strange times, so it feels as if the smooth cutscene can become a little juddery, but none of these problems will affect you enjoying the game.

343 Industries and Saber Interactive have also brought 3D to the Halo universe, though I wasn’t that impressed by it I have to say. It is only available in the enhanced graphic mode, though it can be turned on and off via an in-game menu. The resolution seems to drop quite considerably and I had an issue where the text looked huge on the screen for some reason. It also seemed to suffer from a lot of crosstalk, though your experience may vary depending on your 3D TV.

The depth was decent, but it didn’t seem to add anything to the experience and seemed more like a novelty rather than anything else. It certainly wasn’t worth the drop in resolution when compared to the non-3D version.

Sound has been remastered from top to bottom, from Martin O’Donnell’s original soundtrack to the reworked speech and weapon effects. While I am a big fan of the new weapon sounds, especially the machine gun, I wasn’t so taken with the speech that seems to have been re-recorded. It sounds clearer but doesn’t sound as well read as in the original or other recent Halo titles.

The good news is that you can switch between the original and the remastered audio if you want, though only via the main menu and not during gameplay unlike the classic graphics mode.

343 Industries have done a great job with this remastered version of a game that still ranks in many peoples all time top ten lists. By not interfering in the gameplay and just sprucing up the graphics and adding features that you don’t have to make use of they have managed to keep fans like myself very happy. What will really be interesting is if the company can take on board what makes Halo the best game of the series and transfer that to Halo 4. I for one hope they do.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

How the Windows XP "Bliss" background came to be

Next Story

AMD launches first 16-core processor for servers

29 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

The PC gaming platform is dead, which is very unfortunate because I myself prefer mouse and keyboard. I hate those damn PS3 and Xbox controllers.

Scorbing said,
The PC gaming platform is dead, which is very unfortunate because I myself prefer mouse and keyboard. I hate those damn PS3 and Xbox controllers.

BF3 disagrees with you. So does the rapidly expanding indie scene. So do MMO's and RTS's. Oh, and so does Valve.
It's not dead, it's just not the platform of choice for most big triple A titles these days, the scene has changed but it's still very much alive and kicking.

MFH said,
Am I the only one that was never impressed by Halo?

I can understand why you and others wouldn't be. For me, my appreciation is two-fold. First of all, it really brought online console gaming to the forefront of the public's eye and made it what it is today.

More importantly, I love the Halo story. I've read every single Halo book and it's the only science fiction I ever got into and enjoyed, so I'm a bit of a sucker for it.

Still holds up today, definitely my favourite campaign . In some ways it really shows how backwards and basic FPS have become since it's release.

Pity they shoehorned Kinect into this even though the devs said, we wanted to do it, yeah right, MS had a say in that one. Optional of course but takes the shine off.

oceanmotion said,

Pity they shoehorned Kinect into this even though the devs said, we wanted to do it, yeah right, MS had a say in that one. Optional of course but takes the shine off.

I thought the same thing, but the Kinect integration is surprisingly good and definitely adds to the experience

Microsoft suck. They release Gears of War 1 but not 2/3 on PC. They release Viva Pinata 1 but not the sequel on PC.
And to top it all off, they release Halo 1 and 2 but nothing else after! What gives I would buy all of these.

AFineFrenzy said,
Microsoft suck. They release Gears of War 1 but not 2/3 on PC. They release Viva Pinata 1 but not the sequel on PC.
And to top it all off, they release Halo 1 and 2 but nothing else after! What gives I would buy all of these.

Have a feeling they didn't sell that well on PC despite lots of promotion. Though it is certainly a disappointment that they haven't released every release in both series of games.

Halo 1 played like absolute crap on PC. When compared to other FPS games for PC at the time that Halo 1 came out for PC, it was pretty obvious that Microsoft dropped the ball. Not sure about Halo 2.

I've had a review copy for a couple of days now and have been slightly disappointed by the number of bugs i've seen. Quite a lot of frame-rate drops and, especially after the latest update, a tendency to register commands when the buttons haven't been pressed (walking down a corridor and all of a sudden it decides to launch a grenade for no apparent reason) and one instance of it completely crashing the xbox. Hopefully all of this will be fixed (I haven't had time to play it today, hopefully there's been another update) but it does make me worry that Halo 4 won't be as polished under 343 as it would have been under Bungie.

Pygmy_Hippo said,
I've had a review copy for a couple of days now and have been slightly disappointed by the number of bugs i've seen. Quite a lot of frame-rate drops and, especially after the latest update, a tendency to register commands when the buttons haven't been pressed (walking down a corridor and all of a sudden it decides to launch a grenade for no apparent reason) and one instance of it completely crashing the xbox. Hopefully all of this will be fixed (I haven't had time to play it today, hopefully there's been another update) but it does make me worry that Halo 4 won't be as polished under 343 as it would have been under Bungie.

Haven't had those issues at all personally. Last update was to add kinect functions on Friday

Byron_Hinson said,

Haven't had those issues at all personally. Last update was to add kinect functions on Friday

Is that the 1.1 version? Mine certainly seemed a lot worse after that, especially with the phantom keypresses - i've not noticed anything in any other games so I don't think it's the pad i'm using. I've installed it to the HDD on a 360 slim and am in the dashboard beta, maybe it's to do with my particular setup. Apart from these issues I think they've done a lovely job

Pygmy_Hippo said,

Is that the 1.1 version? Mine certainly seemed a lot worse after that, especially with the phantom keypresses - i've not noticed anything in any other games so I don't think it's the pad i'm using. I've installed it to the HDD on a 360 slim and am in the dashboard beta, maybe it's to do with my particular setup. Apart from these issues I think they've done a lovely job

Yeah it is the 1.1 version and I've had it installed exactly the same as you. I played it for around 8/9 hours on version 1.1 to complete single player and didn't come across that issue. Seems a weird one

Byron_Hinson said,

Yeah it is the 1.1 version and I've had it installed exactly the same as you. I played it for around 8/9 hours on version 1.1 to complete single player and didn't come across that issue. Seems a weird one

I'll wipe everything and start again from scratch - might do the trick and gives me an excuse to play some more Halo!!

Pygmy_Hippo said,
Quite a lot of frame-rate drops and, especially after the latest update, a tendency to register commands when the buttons haven't been pressed (walking down a corridor and all of a sudden it decides to launch a grenade for no apparent reason) and one instance of it completely crashing the xbox. .

Ur not referring to the load scenes are you? It annoyed me when everyone kept branding them as "Frame Rate Drops" in every early Halo game

I wouldn't be too concerned about bugs and quality in Halo 4. It's pretty clear that they've needed to do some pretty heavy modifications to get the old Halo CE engine up to speed to support modern graphics and Xbox Live co-op on an engine that's probably chock right full of crufty code. Anything new will probably be an evolution of the Halo 3/Reach engine which has been well proven.

If anything, I'd be concerned that too little will be changed in Halo 4. I'll bet that the pressure from the game's history might end up restricting 343's creativity, and that might be a big part of the reason Bungie is doing something new now.

Pygmy_Hippo said,
I've had a review copy for a couple of days now and have been slightly disappointed by the number of bugs i've seen. Quite a lot of frame-rate drops and, especially after the latest update, a tendency to register commands when the buttons haven't been pressed (walking down a corridor and all of a sudden it decides to launch a grenade for no apparent reason)

Unplug your Kinect sensor.

Funnily enough, after coming on here to moan about it the majority of problems seem to have gone away - probably just my 360 wanting me to look a berk in public! Still have the occasional frame-drops (I'm currently near the end of Assault On The Control Room), no probs on the loading screens though! I'm really impressed with the Kinect integration - so it would have to be a real game breaker to get me to unplug it!
Like you say random, I think it must have been a heck of lot of work getting the old/new elements in the game to play nice with each other.I hope Halo 4 is alright in 343's hands- I think i'd still rather it was a launch game for the new xbox though, something that will really sell the next (next-next?) generation hardware.

We also have the addition of an online campaign co-op mode, which was limited during my brief play through to the few people who were online during the review period.

Halo:CE had local co-op mode but not online so it's kind of not new. XBL didn't exist when it shipped.

Muhammad Farrukh said,
I hate console exclusive games. Makes me sad.

Can't trust PC gamers these days, we're all apparently dirty thieves.

Joseph B said,

Can't trust PC gamers these days, we're all apparently dirty thieves.

Remember that next time you see people boasting how they torrent new games or delight in some game being hacked into even before release. Piracy has pretty much destroyed the PC as a gaming platform.

PeterTHX said,

Remember that next time you see people boasting how they torrent new games or delight in some game being hacked into even before release. Piracy has pretty much destroyed the PC as a gaming platform.

I didn't realise how bad it was on the PC until I saw Skyrim's figures on Steam. 300,000 active players. I was expecting in the millions atleast... A quick look at BF3 on VGCharts shows,
360 - 3 million
PS3 - 2 million
PC - 650,000 - Edit: hmm, this might not include digital sales though.

I think perhaps its time for us PC gamers to accept we're not important any more. :\

Pc_Madness said,

I didn't realise how bad it was on the PC until I saw Skyrim's figures on Steam. 300,000 active players. I was expecting in the millions atleast... A quick look at BF3 on VGCharts shows,
360 - 3 million
PS3 - 2 million
PC - 650,000 - Edit: hmm, this might not include digital sales though.

I think perhaps its time for us PC gamers to accept we're not important any more. :\

Pc_Madness said,

I didn't realise how bad it was on the PC until I saw Skyrim's figures on Steam. 300,000 active players. I was expecting in the millions atleast... A quick look at BF3 on VGCharts shows,
360 - 3 million
PS3 - 2 million
PC - 650,000 - Edit: hmm, this might not include digital sales though.

I think perhaps its time for us PC gamers to accept we're not important any more. :\

Those sales don't include digital downloads on PC and as the game is Steamworks I know alot of people would have bought it straight from steam.

Pc_Madness said,

360 - 3 million
PS3 - 2 million
PC - 650,000 - Edit: hmm, this might not include digital sales though.

I think perhaps its time for us PC gamers to accept we're not important any more. :\


Yeah, untill someone gets a hold of the digital charts its going to be hard to calculate true PC sales...

Olemus said,

Those sales don't include digital downloads on PC and as the game is Steamworks I know alot of people would have bought it straight from steam.

BF3 is an origin exclusive, not steamworks. Probably still not counted into the sales for PC though.