Combat Evolved, Evolved
When Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was first announced, many of us assumed it was going to be the same as every other HD remake out there. In short, we expected it to look a little better than the original, but not much. The textures would be upgrades, the models would be smoothed, and, in the end, the primary motivation for purchasing the remake would be having this classic available on a current system rather than actually playing the original Halo in HD.
Well, we were wrong. Halo 10th Anniversary Edition is one of the most thorough remakes we’ve ever seen. In some ways, it feels like playing a whole new game. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. It actually looks like a whole new game. In terms of gameplay, the remake is exactly the same as the original. You’ll wander through the same level layouts, fight the same enemies, and pick up the same guns. Everything down to enemy and item placement is exactly the same as it was in the original Xbox version.
But don’t take my word for it. The development team put the entire original game into the remake, so you can play it for yourself to see for yourself. And I don’t mean that the original is some sort of extra game mode or anything; I mean it’s literally built right into the core gameplay. You can press the back button on your Xbox controller to change the graphics from the new remade version to the classic Xbox version any time you wish. You can toggle the graphics while walking down the hallway, or even in the middle of a firefight. In the official panel demonstration, we were told that you can throw a grenade in 2011 and have it land back in 2001.
As minor as this functionality is, it does a lot to let players appreciate how far graphics technology has come. As I said before, this is way more than a simple re-texturing of the original game. Everything has been graphically overhauled, from lighting to basic models. The sparse metal walls of the original Xbox version are replaced with reflective steel textures, yellow borders, and high-tech flashing computer gadgetry. Simple grey corridors that looked only a step beyond the technology of Quake and Doom now look as if they were designed for a game of the current generation. In fact, I’d say that the new graphics job actually lets you appreciate Halo far more now than you were able to then. Halo, in the original Xbox days, was just an excuse to shoot my friends in the face, but seeing this new graphical overhaul, I’ve come to realize that Halo actually has a story worth paying attention to.
Now, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the improved graphics, but this isn’t the only area that’s seen an overhaul. The sound has been completely re-recorded. While the original score from the game is present and accounted for, a brand new remade and remixed score is also available to listen to, and, once again, it holds up to current-gen audio. Sound effects have also been totally redone, with explosions resounding with that visceral bass that you are used to from modern day sci-fi games such as Gears of War and Resistance. You can alter your sound preferences in the menu and you can use either sound set with either graphics set, which is a nice touch. Who knows? Some of us out there might want to play with updated sound and classic graphics or vice versa. Unfortunately, they haven’t updated any of the voice acting, but I don’t think anyone really wanted to change the grunt’s death squeals anyway.
The 10th Anniversary edition of Halo will come with a full suite of achievements for people who really want to increase their Gamerscore, new skulls that either increase or decrease the challenge (by say, giving you unlimited ammo or making each shot take two bullets), and even new terminals that have recorded logs that expand on Halo’s story in new ways. In fact, some of these terminals will even give some hints on the story for Halo 4, so that might be more than enough reason to buy the game if you like to speculate about future plot threads.
Of course, then there’s multiplayer. The multiplayer includes maps from Halo 1, Halo 2, and even brand new maps designed just for this edition. The graphics, of course, have been updated, but otherwise the multiplayer is the exact same multiplayer you remember, right down to the weapon spawn locations.
The Halo 10th Anniversary Edition will come out November 15th, ten years to the day of the original release of Halo. If you are a die-hard Halo fan, even if you have already played the game before, this is probably one remake worth getting.
Ten years ago, the first game in what is now known as a juggernaut was released under what many considered to be less-than-favorable circumstances. Some couldn’t understand the concept, and many believed it couldn’t be done. Gamers themselves were skeptical.
That game was Halo: Combat Evolved.
First-person shooters on consoles had had a mixed reception at that point. GoldenEye 007 was excellently received while Perfect Dark from the same developer got some mixed reviews. Halo: CE, however, would use a completely new control scheme: dual analog. Both console gamers and PC gamers alike were a bit skeptical as to whether it would actually work or not. Fast forward ten years and a few million copies sold—not to mention the many billions of hours spent in online multiplayer—and it’s difficult to even identify the reason behind some of those concerns.
Fans of shooters have reason to rejoice this year, as during E3 2011 Microsoft announced that a remake of the classic shooter was being remade and will be released this fall. While most are excited about this announcement, some have given way to skepticism, and it’s not without cause. This is, after all, one of the most beloved franchises in the history of gaming. So how is the effort by 343 Industries shaping up? In a word: Brilliantly.
We sat down with Dan Ayoub, Executive Producer of 343 Industries, and Dennis Reese, the Producer of Halo Anniversary, to find out what the team has been up to. They started the session by showing us what they’d been doing with Campaign, the game’s main single-player career mode. Dan was quick to note that the game is undergoing a complete graphics overhaul. This means that, in every way, the game will look like a current-generation title.
The result is stunning. The lighting is crisp and dynamic, and the particle effects are impressive. All of the sound effects are being handled by Skywalker Sound, and it shows. From what we heard, the sound design was very good. This was all running on the Reach engine. Sort of.
More important than the graphics, especially in a remake of a classic, is the gameplay. If it doesn’t play similarly or identically to the game it’s based on, most of the levels just won’t work. The fans are justified in their desire that the remake be as close to the original as possible, and Dan and Reese agree with them. Thankfully, the development team set as a core development principle that the remake needed to play exactly as it did ten years ago. The way they are able to achieve this is by running two game engines simultaneously.
As a base, they laid down the original Halo code to ensure that the game felt and played like the original. In partnership with development studio Saber, they’ve laid down a second engine to make it look and sound like a current generation title. “It’s the best of both worlds,” says Dan. “You’ve got a title that looks and sounds like a current generation title that plays just like Halo did ten years ago.”
Another addition that will keep the player experience in line with the original is “Classic Mode.” At any point in the game, you can press a button that will strip off the fresh and clean current generation graphics engine to reveal what the game was like visually when it was first released. We were shown that this could be done on the fly. There appeared to be a slight delay between the button press and the result (it looked like it would freeze for a few frames) but overall, the effects were stunning. You could, according to Dan, play the whole game in this mode.
They’re also adding terminals, a popular feature from Halo 3, that will tell the story in a way that is a bit more fleshed-out than the original. Instead of using text, though, they’ll be using voiceovers to tell the story. They’re also looking to plant the seeds for the story behind Halo 4 via these terminals, so those willing to explore will be rewarded for their efforts.
Achievements will be added to the original experience, and multiplayer will also be enhanced. Since the Reach engine is being used to power the multiplayer, some tweaks to the maps have been made. All in all, you can expect the same maps found in the original Halo, as well as some additional maps they haven’t discussed yet.
There are a great many features that they weren’t ready to announce yet and we can look forward to more later in the year. Stay tuned to Cheat Code Central as we continue to dig up the details on this remade masterpiece.