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Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

Russ Pitts | 17 Nov 2011 17:00
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You've done it all before. Chasing the Covenant around the Halo. Throwing sticky plasma grenades. Bouncing over sand dunes in the Warthog. You've done this before. This exact thing.

You rushed to escape the Pillar of Autumn. Infiltrated the Truth and Reconciliation. Escaped from Truth and Reconciliation (twice) and the re-infiltrated Pillar of Autmn. You traversed acres of identical corridors, unlocked Halo's secrets and then recoiled in horror as the game switched from "action" to "survival horror" at mid-point.

You've been here and you've done this. Right down to the frenetic vehicle escape at the very end. So why does it all feel brand new?

What you will (re)discover when you play Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary is the joy of playing a perfectly polished and painstakingly designed shooter imbued with just the right amounts of self-seriousness and whimsy. The Covenant grunts will make you laugh as you pummel them into blue paste. Your weapons (although you can only carry two of them - a gift Halo gave the world) are satisfying and awesome. When you hit something, you know it. When you are in danger, you know that too, thanks to your motion detector (another first) and the bleeping of your shield. Your movement through the world feels fluid and precise. Every control functions perfectly. Every aspect of the game has been tested and tweaked and tested again so that, when you grab the controls, you needn't worry about fighting the game - you can just fight your enemy. This is what sucked millions of players into the Halo universe and simultaneously transformed online gaming from the hardcore, members-only competitive shooting of the Doom era to the no-holds-barred, party pool atmosphere in which we play today.

For better or worse, Halo is the progenitor of everything you know about videogames in the 21st Century, and Halo CE Anniversary is a living, breathing testament to that. This is the game that rewrote the rules of shooter design. This game, right here, is the game that changed the way videogames were made and played forever, spawned a franchise of game sequels, expanded universe novels, graphic novels and (some day) a feature film. This is the game that made Xbox a household name and proved that a perfect marriage of narrative, technology and game design was possible. This is the game every other game has wanted to be for 10 years, and thanks to the reconstruction efforts, it looks and sounds better than ever.

For its 10th anniversary, the seminal modern shooter has been treated to a massive graphical and effects overhaul and been given a few back-end tweaks - and that's it. The original physics engine remains intact. The models and levels remain the same. Nothing added, nothing taken away and suddenly Halo CE stands toe-to-toe with any game released this year - or any year. Give this game to someone who's never heard of Halo (if you can find one) and he'd never know it was 10 years old. That, in itself, is an impressive feat.

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