10 years, two sequels, two spinoffs, one prequel and countless companion media later, it’s remarkable how many gamers still say that the original Halo is their favorite entry in the entire franchise. Is that opinion based on objective quality or subjective nostalgia? With this anniversary edition of the classic console shooter, we have an opportunity to both relive… and reevaluate.
To start, though, let’s set one thing straight. This is more than a special edition and much, much more than an HD upgrade. Unlike recent re-releases of Ico, God of War, Resident Evil, Sly Cooper, Splinter Cell, Beyond Good & Evil and Prince of Persia, the visuals in Halo: Combat Evolved haven’t merely been cleaned and sharpened to appear presentable on a modern television monitor. They’re completely, breathtakingly new – the difference between getting your car washed and getting your car pimped by an MTV reality show. The structure of each scene and each area is intact, but the artists have not been at all shy in adding their own style and flourish. This is basically how the game would look if it were created for the first time this year.
We’ve included a few comparison examples below, but with the Xbox 360 controller’s back button, you can marvel at 2001 vs 2011 whenever and wherever in the game you choose. Though the switch is a little too sluggish, and can’t be used during cutscenes, it does provide an endlessly entertaining “wow” factor.
The main menu. The Halo ring, once a dull gray sidewalk on one side, is now mesmerizingly shiny and intricate. Space, once a flat matte, is now filled with unique stars, galaxies and asteroids.
Master Chief awakes from cryogenic slumber. Notice how 2001’s generic, copy-and-paste polygon people have been replaced by distinct characters with distinct outfits and distinct facial features. Also, the amount of light, color and atmosphere in each indoor environment has increased dramatically.
Outside, the depth – as well as the detail to that depth – is astounding when compared to what we found acceptable a decade ago. You believe you’re in a real 3D world, not a giant windowless room with fake sky painted on the walls and ceiling.
Even darkness looks better!
Flipping back and forth will also yield several new Easter eggs, of both a humorously random and lovingly fan devoted nature. If you’re enough of a Halo enthusiast to play this Anniversary edition, the developers at 343 Industries clearly want to reward you as much and as often as possible. To that end, they’ve also hidden a game-altering skull and backstory-revealing (possibly Halo 4 teasing) terminal in every mission. This is a love letter from them to you.
But how does the gameplay hold up? You may be surprised…