November 27, 2011

Review: Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary

       Ten years. Ten years since we first laid eyes on a vast alien ringworld, and we knew. We knew this was to be the start of somthing big. We stepped into the boots of Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, and onto the dirt of Halo, even though we knew nothing about it. But we were going to change that. We fought off the Covenant, found the Silent Cartographer, breached the Control Room, discovered the Flood, stopped Halo from firing, and ultimately destroyed the Flood. We spent thousands of hours slaying Spartans, activating bombs, and capturing flags. And now, here we are. Ten years later, and Halo is still going strong. To celebrate Halo's Tenth Anniversary, 343 Industries released Halo: Combat Evolved - Anniversary. Here's my review.

       I suppose the first thing to talk about is the graphics. Simply put, they're stunning. One neat feature is that you can switch back and forth between the old and new graphics with a push of a button. Before CEA was released, 343i described the feature as "seamlessly". I was dissappointed to find that it is'nt. You push the button, and yeah, there may not be any load times, but the screen goes black for about 1-3 seconds. Not bad, but I'd like it better if it was instant, so you can notice how massive of a change the graphics went through. Sound/audio effects are great, with noticable difference. In the cutscenes, the graphics are great, but the animation is still the same. For example, not much mouth movement during someone talking. While playing, you forget it's a decade-old game, but during the cutscenes, you are reminded of that fact.

       The actual gameplay has held up well. It's still fun, but it really does still feel like you're playing the original Halo. The addition of skulls, easter eggs, achievments, and terminals help add more to the game, and keep it fresh. I like the way the Terminals are creatively placed. The Terminal on the bridge of the Pillar of Autumn has a message from 343 Guilty Spark to the humans, and the Terminal inside the Truth and Reconciliation has a message from 343 GS to the Covenant. There are thirteen Gold skulls (14 including Grunt Funeral) in all, 10 Gold, and 3 Silver. There are ten campaign Terminals, as well as one Terminal that can only be accessed via a secret function in Halo Waypoint. I'll have an article on it later this week. There are 37 campaign achievments, three Terminal achievments, and four Skull achievments, totaling 44 achievments in all, and earning the standard 1000 G.

       And now, on to the maps. There are six in total, with two
variants each.

First, there's Battle Canyon/Beaver Creek. It is a remake of Halo CE's Battle Creek, and Halo 2's Beaver Creek, located on Installation 04. As you can see, it's quite symetrical, which is good for team games. There are two bases, with a large rock formation in the middle. On top of the rock is a Rocket Launcher, and to the side is a Sniper's Roost and an SRS99-AM. It's a moderately small map, good for 2-6 players, I'd say.

Then you have Breakneck/Headlong, my personal favorite. It's a remake of Halo 2's Headlong, located in New Mombassa. It's a pretty large map, with several vehicles, including a Banshee, Ghosts, and others. Weapons include Rocket Launcher, SRS99-AM, DMR, Magnum, MA5B, Shotgun, Plasma Launcher, Energy Sword, Needler, Plasma Rifle, and Needle Rifle. There are probably a couple others I forgot about. There are several sniper spots, the best in my opinion being on the top floor of either building, on the "balcony" looking out over the map. There's plenty of room for vehicular warfare, but I dont think they should've included the Banshee, as there is barely enough room to maneuver it. Even though it's such a big map, I had tons of fun on it just me and one friend. I think it's good for 2-12 players.

Then comes High Noon/Hang 'Em High. High Noon is a remake of Hang 'Em High from Halo CE. I didnt really care for this one, because is was basically one level. The highest point was maybe 20 feet, and the lowest was about -15 feet. There are plenty of cover-spots, but no good sniping point. There was a sniper rifle, though, and this confused me. There arent any vehicles, or aircraft. There's one Rocket Launcher, and plenty of DMRs to go around. This map was obviously built for large Free-for-all, on-foot games. There's also tons of grenades, and many other weapons. It doesnt look that good for any team matches, because there isnt any definite base. I think it would be good for 4-16 players.

Now we move on to Penance, a remake of Damnation from Halo CE. Penance has good depth to it. It's devided up into a lot of rooms, with a couple good sniper spots. Weapons include Energy Sword, DMR, Shotgun, Needler, Needle Rifle, MA5B, SRS99-AM, and others. There are no vehicles. The map could support CTF and Assault Matches, although it wouldnt be ideal. Recommended for small to medium Team or FFA matches, 2-8 players.

Which brings us to Ridgeline. Being a remake of the Halo PC's Timberland, not many Halo fans know about it. It's really a pretty good map. It has two definite well-protected bases, with a creek/brook in between. Each base has a main building, with an area above for "sniping" even though there are no Sniper Rifles on the map. A few feet in front of the base is a Machine Gun Turret, and to the side is another "sniper" spot. But with the presence of Mongeese, Warthogs, and especially Ghosts, the Turret is basically moot. This is a great map for CTF and Assault, and even Free-for-All matches. 4-12 players.

And finally, we have Solitary. A remake of Halo CE's Prisoner, Solitary is one of my favorite Anniversary maps, and the first Anniversary map I played on. It has good depth/hight, and has a good sniper spot. The map is semi-symetrical. Weapons include Shotgun, Rocket Launcher (in the very middle), Sniper Rifle, DMR, Pistol, Needle Rifle, Energy Sword (I think), Needler, and Plasma Pistol. Even though the map is symetrical, it's not a good map for CTF or Assault, as there is no definite Red or Blue base. I'd say the map is good for 2-8 players.

       I, and many other Halo fans were disappointed that there was no Blood Gulch remake. This is arguably one of the best Halo maps. Ever. I was also disappointed that there was only one Firefight map, Installation-04, and that the game didnt come with all the Reach maps, like 3: ODST. That would have been awesome.      

       But, all in all, Halo Anniversary is a great game, and the skulls, easter eggs, achievments, Terminals, maps, and of course, updated graphics/sound make it well worth the $40. 5 out of 5, 9 out of 10.

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