Halo CE Anniversary Review
Go back to where it all began.
The year was 2001, and Microsoft had just released a new gaming console called Xbox. The first game I put in was this sci-fi shooter called Halo, and my life was changed forever. I can remember playing 4 player split screen multiplayer with Scott and some of our friends all night long, eating Timbits (mini-donuts) and having the most fun we had ever had with a video game. Fast forward to 2011 and 343 Industries are taking over from the creator of Halo, Bungie Studios, and have released Halo CE Anniversary on the 10 year anniversary of the original game. Do they give it the makeover it deserves without messing anything up? Yes, and no.
343i have been faithful to the single player campaign and left it mostly untouched, except for the major graphics overhaul thanks to a new engine by Saber Interactive. The rest of the game including the story, gameplay, and features remains the same. The new graphics are great, and while they may not beat out other new games this year, they sure are the best we’ve seen in a remake. Since we are back in the original Halo CE story, that means we are Master Chief again, and it’s been far too long since we killed some grunts with him. With ODST and Reach, we played as new characters so it’s nice to hang out with the Chief again. You just can’t beat the old crew of Chief, Johnson and Cortana.
Since the gameplay is the same as it was 10 years ago, a few things don’t seem quite as good as they used to. For instance, it’s quite noticeable the first time you get behind the wheel that the Warthog has been tweaked and refined quite a bit over the years, and the handling was pretty bad 10 years ago. There are also a few things like campaign scoring and medals (Double kill, Headshot, etc) that have made the game better over the years, that going back to a time without them, just isn’t as fun. I get that they wanted to stay true to the original game, and I don’t want them go crazy and remake everything, but they could have added in a few of these features from more recent Halo games to bring Halo CE up to the current standards. You can add the right things to a remake not ruin it.
Halo CE Anniversary also comes equipped with a set of optional voice commands delivered via Kinect. They mostly consist of being able to yell at your Xbox to change options like subtitles and brightness, and there are a few in-game commands such as “Grenade”, “Reload” or “Flashlight, if you’re too lazy to hit those buttons. The main Kinect feature is the Library. During play, you can say “Analyze” and the game will go into a detective type mode that reminds me of the Batman Arkham series. When you see a weapon, vehicle or downed enemy you can say “Scan” and this will add the object to the Library. You can then go into the library and read all about the objects you have scanned and even rotate them using Kinect gestures. The scanning and library functions are a cool addition for those who are really into the lore and back story of the Halo universe. The only drawback is that you have to have a Kinect sensor to access this feature. That seems a little unfair to me, and they could have let you use the controller to navigate the library as well.
The last thing to note is the inclusion of hidden skulls and terminals, that weren’t in the original game. The hidden skulls can be found on each level, and can be quite hard to find. Once you find them you can activate them to change different variables of the game, such as Fog which causes you to lose your Hud, or Iron which restarts the level if you die in solo or the last checkpoint in co-op. There are also some fun ones like the classic Grunt Birthday Party and new ones such as Bandanna that gives you infinite ammo. The terminals they added are also found hidden in each level, and when activated play a cryptic cut scene, from what we can tell, to lead up to Halo 4. Some of them give obvious references to Halo 4 and some are so cryptic we have no idea what they are about. Still, it’s fun to find them and soak up any info we can to tease Halo 4.
The campaign is still fun, and it’s great to be able to replay it in HD, even if it feels like going backwards with a few features from newer Halo games not present. If you are like us, the real reason you are here lies in the co-op and multiplayer.
Halo CE Anniversary supports up to 16 player online multiplayer via the Reach interface and engine. It wouldn’t be Halo without multiplayer and since the original Halo only included split screen and system link multiplayer, it’s great to be able to jump online and stick people in the face on some classic maps from both Halo and Halo 2.
There are 6 multiplayer and 1 firefight map that have been redone graphically with some slight layout/object changes as well. The maps still feel as good as they did before and I am having a blast reliving the old split screen days on some of my favorite maps such as Beaver Creek and Hang’Em High. Since the multiplayer runs on the Reach Engine, your rank and stats are carried over directly from your time playing Reach, and vice versa if you go back to Reach multiplayer. This is good and bad. I like that regardless which game I’m playing I still work towards the same rank, but I also think it could have been fun to start over from scratch and do it all over again. I guess this is going to differ between gamers and will probably have people prefer both sides. I don’t really hold it against them, but it’s worth noting. It’s also worth noting that included with each copy of the Halo Anniversary is a redeemable code for the Anniversary Map pack which lets you download all the maps to play when using the Halo Reach disc, so you don’t have to swap back and forth.
The original Halo only supported split-screen campaign co-op, but now you can grab a friend and jump online in the campaign together. It’s great to add this online co-op, but every Halo game since Halo 2 has included 4 player co-op campaign, so this also feels like going backwards in a bad way, and I really wish they had updated it to include 4 player. Sure this would have taken more time, but it’s something we have grown to love about Halo, and rely on for always supporting 4 player co-op. It just feels wrong to not have 4 player co-op in a Halo game.
Even with the flaws I feel it has, the multiplayer is great and the co-op (even as 2 player only) is still fun.
The achievements are pretty standard for a Halo game with ones for completing each level, beating the game on the different difficulties, which is quite hard on legendary, even with 2 players. Then there are a few for doing specific tasks on certain levels, and then some for finding the new hidden skulls and terminals they added. The thing to note is that since the multiplayer runs on Halo Reach, there are no extra multiplayer achievements. When you play multiplayer, the achievements switch over to Halo Reach so you can earn them for that game instead.
The Halo series is one my favorites and the original Halo was one of the games that really sucked me into video games on a console, so this trip down memory lane was fun, but bumpy at times. Personally, I wish there were a few gameplay features added to bring it up to par with current Halo games, and the 2 player only co-op leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Still, Halo CE Anniversary is a must have for any hardcore Halo fan and should help extend the life of playing Halo online until Halo 4 comes out.
Final Score: 8.5/10