Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Preview - October 27th 2011

In 2001 the world of first person shooters changed forever. Or at least that's what Bungie would have you believe. Halo: Combat Evolved did exactly what it said on the tin, and brought all new innovations and mechanics to a genre that at the time had developed a reputation for being crude and overly simplistic. It might not have been the most revolutionary FPS ever made, but it did have a hand in helping shape console shooters into what they are today.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will be the first game in the series released in the post Bungie era. Despite taking a step back from the franchise to work on other things, they have left the series in the capable but untested hands of 343 Industries, an offshoot development company comprising of many former Bungie staff members. 343 are also working on the highly anticipated Halo 4, due out late next year. So as a taste of what's to come, they've presented us with another of those HD remakes that are all the rage these days. It's coinciding with the original games 10th anniversary, and presents the newer generation of gamers who weren't able to play the first game with the chance to do so. But this game isn't just a HD spruce up though, it's a total overhaul.

You can toggle between the old and new graphics at any time.

The main bulk of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary comes in the form of its campaign. It will be running two engines simultaneously during gameplay; the original framework preserves the feel of combat, while a brand new engine, developed by Saber Interactive, will be running on top, streaming and smoothing the graphics as they go.

The gameplay is supposed to be identical to the original, but with some features added in that weren't available during the time of the game's original release. Since it's being released on the Xbox 360, a healthy set of achievements will be available, and the skull system, which is now a mainstay of this series and allows players to add extra layers of difficulty, has also been included. Another cool feature is the option to toggle the 'HD' graphics on and off at your leisure. This means that this isn't a remake of the first Halo so much as it IS the first Halo, but with new rims and a shinier hood. Not only are the graphics getting a major upgrade, but the sound effects and music are being brought up to date as well.

While the developers say they want to keep the game as faithful to the original as they can, they also want to give returning players something new and interesting to do. You can now play through the entire campaign in two player online co-op for the first time. I notice that while Halo: Reach could be played with four players in co-op, Anniversary won't be, and will instead be sticking with two.

But wait, there's more: The game is bringing something else new into the fray. Halo: Anniversary is the first Halo game to support Kinect. Now I'll be honest, I have never been a fan of Kinect, and it looks like that will continue even with the features included in this remake. While still primarily controlled with a controller, the voice recognition software within Kinect will allow players to shout things like "grenade" and "reload" to make their Spartan avatar perform said actions. It's nice that they're incorporating the features in the game, but when you have a button that will do the exact same thing, but far more reliably, mere millimetres away from your finger or thumb, it seems a little redundant. There is also an "analyze" command that scans enemies and adds their information to a virtual library. The other, and I'll be honest, more interesting feature, is that it will be the first in the series to work on 3D televisions. However, it will only work for the campaign while multiplayer, for now, remains strictly two dimensional.

Two player co-op over Xbox Live is now a reality.

The first Halo game I played properly was Halo 3, and I had no idea what was going on. I've never been a follower of the narrative within the Halo series. The only reason I enjoyed Halo: Reach so much was because it stood apart from the trilogy and just told a story, without an annoying open ending to set up potential sequels. The one thing that really kept me playing though was the online multiplayer, which is something Halo CEA also supports.

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343 / Saber / Certain Affinity