Back when 343 announced it was going to release a new version of Halo CE for it’s 10 year anniversary, I was worried. It’s very difficult to reimagine a game without pissing off it’s old fans, and very easy to screw it up. I must admit for a while I was really against the idea.
Fast forward a few months. We’ve had a few trailers and teasers released, and my suspicion is starting to thaw. The new graphics look really nice. And then comes the day that 343 confirms the rumors that the new graphics engine is built entirely on top of the original code, and at any time in game players can toggle back and forth between old and new. That little bit of news was the last straw and suddenly November 15th couldn’t come fast enough.
I finally did get it (Delivered to my door on the 15th via Amazon, no pesky driving for me), and off the bat was semi impressed. There was no collectors edition for this game, the idea being the entire thing is a collectors edition. Doesn’t make up for no steelbook or artbook though. However, the game did come with a thick paper cover as well as pre-order bonuses of an extra in game skull and Xbox Avatar armor.
Loading up the campaign, the first thing we see is the iconic flight from the Covenent, with Key’s gravelly and pointless question of “Did we lose them?” And we all know the answer to that.
The graphics are beautiful, as was the point of the game. But I really didn’t notice them at first, I’m so used current gen graphics. It wasn’t until I was unfrozen and stepped out to walk around that I could start flipping back and forth between old and new, and then it really hit me. It takes a comparison to really notice how far we’ve come in 10 years. The environments are so much more detailed. And the Covenent models look amazing comparatively.
However, I do have to say that the new graphics, while 2011esk, felt sort of halfassed in quite a few places. Maybe it’s because Saber did the work instead of Bungie, or maybe because of the harsh time scale they were on. But a few places I’d stop and scratch my head in confusion. Example: Immediately following the controls setup in the first level, the player gets his first look at the Covenent when the into a room separated from you by windows, and kill a human NPC. The voice actor for that guy is freaking out, oh no, I’m going to die! But the actually in game character, just stands there utterly unmoving as he’s gunned down. Really Sabor?
And that sort of thing repeats semi regularly throughout the game. Not enough to really bug me, but enough to give me a sad ‘it could have been even better’ feeling. Another dislike of the game, and this one I don’t hold against them at all, is the lack of graphics toggling during cut scenes. When a cutscene begins, the game checks which graphics mode the player is in, and then plays either the original or new cutscene. The player can go back and forth before and after, but during the cutscene the video is set. That though is also probably because of time limitations, and just the in game toggling blew my mind, so this complaint is more of a wish for even more.
As for the campaign, nothing else really jumped out at me. The music of the game was rerecorded with a full orchestra to being it up to the later Halo game standards, but the voices were left alone, which is something I was glad of. The storyline is obviously the exact same, and the gameplay is really almost exact as well. They did add the Terminal system from Halo 3 into this game, and actually improved it. Now we get to watch interesting videos with backstory, instead of having to try and read super fast before a virus shuts us out.
As for the multiplayer, it’s built in the Halo Reach engine, which means no going back and forth between graphics. It’s worth it though since the maps can be added directly to Reach as free DLC, combining the entire multiplayer experience in the one game.
There were 6 new maps, or I should say old maps, most from Halo 1. My personal favorite is Hang ‘em High, which besides being a great map for playing, has gotten so graphically good that the first time I opened it up I just sat and stared for a good 30 seconds.
My one complaint, and it’s pretty extreme, is in the remake of Headlong, an invaded cityscape. My problem with this map is the new and much more restrictive killzones. Certain rooftops that were available as sniper posts are now off limits, and this just frustrates the heck out of me. If you weren’t a rooftop sniper though, you’ll have no complaints.
My overall impression is a resounding great. Not amazing, but not just good. There are quite a few places it could have been better, and I personally feel like an extra few months would have improved it. However, a task like this was monumental, because Halo’s fanbase is extremely loyal. I give 343 and Saber a lot of credit for what they managed to put out in the given timeframe.