So, today saw the release of the Anniversary Edition of Halo: Combat Evolved. Oddly enough, I didn’t get to review this one in the end, which is kind of shame as I really would have wanted to. However, since I ended up doing Skyrim as well, I didn’t want to hog all of the good titles (totally doing Mass Effect 3 when it comes around, and I don’t care who I have to kill), so we ended up giving it to someone else.
It’s ok though, I’ll still pick up my pre-order today, and if I actually had a choice I think I still would have picked Skyrim as I know what to expect from Halo.
I’m glad they did this HD remake – the original game holds a very special place in heart, and is pretty integral do my development as a gamer. Unfortunately, you can’t play the original game using a HDMI cable on the Xbox 360, and whilst I could have picked it up on Games on Demand, I never got around to it. Then they announced the HD remake – the Anniversary Edition – and all was right with the world. All it is really is the original game with HD textures super-imposed over everything, along with some minor bug fixes. Everything else is pretty much the same (I hear rumours that the team – a combination of 343 Studios, Saber Interactive and someone called Certain Affinity had like no budget for this re-make, which would explain a lot of things), good and bad, but what can you do. There’s multiplayer this time, although it’s basically Reach’s multiplayer system, using re-made Halo maps.
Halo CE was instrumental into getting me into the more ‘core’ console scene. Before that came out, I basically only played strategy games (and the odd other game) on my PC, and then I had my Nintendo 64/GameCube for everything else, which was mainly Zelda and the odd other title that took my fancy. To say I was a ‘Gamer’ back then probably isn’t entirely true. Gaming for me was just a hobby equal to that of reading, watching films and listening to music, I never favoured one over the other and there are plenty of people out there who were more into it than I was. I didn’t play FPS games that much either, apart from the early Medal of Honor games (Opening level of Frontline FTW).
Then game Halo, and a lot of fond memories. To my knowledge (which is patchy because I don’t really remember a lot of how the industry was back then – didn’t really follow that closely), it was the first mainstream shooter that had a decent, story-driven campaign (Half-Life non-withstanding, although it’s debateable if that could be considered ‘mainstream’). Even if it was accidental, it was key to the initial success of the original Xbox, and it showed the potential of story driven AND action based shooters (Medal of Honor was kind of stealth based, all things considered). My fondest memory is with me and my brother in his room, the lights are off, and we are playing the level 343 Guilty Spark for the first time. (First time you meet the flood, FYI). Let me tell you, that when we saw those ghostly silhouettes and when those little leach things first attacked you, we basically shat our pants, and it was glorious.
That, and the fact that on another level prior to that, Assault the Control room, we’d painstakingly gather as many marines as we good, kept them alive, and then assaulted this particular Covenant stronghold that was up a hill. Again, glorious. There’s been many theories as to why Halo works so well – the fact that the Master Chief is a blank canvas, so it’s easier to impose yourself into the game, the mystery of Halo (so good story-writing, basically), well crafted set-pieces (Beach assault on Silent Cartographer, anyone?), whatever… the fact of the matter is that it worked fantastically well, and I’m fairly sure it helped shape the industry and the genre. If I’m being honest, Halo 2 and 3 weren’t nearly as good. Although I did rather enjoy Halo 3‘s story, and the technology behind it made it look good, not to mention the improvements to multiplayer, The Forge, and other elements to the franchise. Halo 2, if I’m being honest, was a little bit shit, although it did help put Xbox Live on the map, and helped establish it as THE service for competitive online gaming. Halo: ODST was a very interesting exploration of what other styles of gameplay the franchise could provide – I hope we see more of it, and you can read my thoughts on Halo: Reach here. None of them had quite the same impact as Halo CE though.
Some people would want more from a HD remake – and in many ways there is probably more Microsoft could have done with the Anniversary Edition, but this is one game I’d happily slap my £40 down for, regardless of what was in it, as I owe the original Halo that much. It’s just a shame Bungie haven’t worked on it, as really the money should go to them, but I’m willing to give 343 the benefit of the doubt for now (Let’s see where they go with Halo 4, although I’m not entirely sold on an entire trilogy just yet). It’s a shame my brother is in the Philippines right now, as I’d love to sit down with him with the Anniversary Edition and play through it for old times’ sake, but I’m sure I can find someone else to play it with.
Give me a few days, and I’ll write a mini review on it.