Monday, January 30, 2012

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary


Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary


Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Product Details

  • Shipping: This item is also available for shipping to select countries outside the U.S.
  • ASIN: B0050SYY5E
  • Item Weight: 4.3 ounces
  • Media: Video Game
  • Release Date: November 15, 2011

By : Microsoft
List Price : $39.99
Price : $32.99
You Save : $7.00 (18%)
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Product Description

From the Manufacturer

Product FeaturesCombat Evolved Anniversary is a spectacularly remastered version of the original “Halo” campaign, created in celebration of the 10th anniversary of one of the most beloved franchises in gaming history. With a bounty of new features including cooperative play over Xbox LIVE, a bundle of some of the most beloved multiplayer maps in “Halo” history reimagined for Xbox LIVE, new challenges and a new story to uncover, Halo: Anniversary is a must-have experience, coming exclusively to Xbox 360 on Nov. 15, 2011.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a spectacularly remastered version of the original campaign, created in celebration of the 10th anniversary of one of the most beloved franchises in gaming history. With a bounty of new features including cooperative play over Xbox LIVE, a bundle of some of the most beloved multi player maps in history re-imagined for Xbox LIVE, new challenges and a new story to uncover. Anniversary is a must-have experience.

Product Features

  • Bundled with seven of the most popular multiplayer maps.
  • Include a bounty of new features including cooperative play over Xbox LIVE.
  • Achievements
  • New challenges
  • New fiction to uncover.

Customer Reviews

It seems these days we gamers get inundated with HD remakes and remasters all the time, most of which amount to nothing more than bare-boned ports slapped with some up-rez paint and stretched to widescreen and, most importantly, the price of a brand new game. Until now, those seemed like adequate, maybe even "good" efforts. Not anymore. Developers of the world, start taking notes; THIS is how you do a truly awesome, worthwhile remake. 343 Industries was not content to lazily shove a ten-year-old game into your face with no substantial updates and call it a remake, using manipulative, fancy terms like "HD" and "remastered." No, instead they opted for something much more grand, and much more glorious. There's a lot to cover here about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, so I'll get right to the campaign. If you don't like long reviews, tough, don't read this one. Halo CE is too great to be confined to a short, anemic review, and this version deserves a lot of detail. I make no apologies for that. I'll tell you right now, this is an absolutely incredible deal at $40 (it would be a great deal at $60!). Halo fans rejoice, the developers have heard your cries and answered them in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary!

Full disclosure: I am a single-player campaign first, co-op second, competitive multiplayer third/last, kind of guy. Halo is about the only series I've ever actually cared playing competitive multiplayer for. I've sunk countless hours into all iterations of Halo multiplayer, including the original. That been said, I play video games almost exclusively for the immersion and story, and this game was a revelation for me ten years ago. Halo: CE's campaign is legendary, second to none in terms of sci-fi epics, and it is what I will give the most attention to in this review. However, for you multiplayer enthusiasts, I will try to be as detailed there for you too. Here we go...

I never thought I'd finding myself saying this, but Halo: Combat Evolved now has graphics and art design that at least matches, and in some areas surpasses, Halo's best past efforts. Well, sort of. You see, there are two engines ever present while you play. The new anniversary engine that 343i and their partner developers created adds a whole new layer of delicious, high fidelity visual goodness that, surprisingly, surpasses even Halo Reach's phenomenal graphics engine at times. The original Halo had ground breaking visuals at the time of its release, and really gave the epic story a feeling of grandeur and scope rarely seen before or since in a sci fi video game. Now, once again, I'm finding myself in absolute awe at the scope and sheer beauty in this game. This is true when looking at the broad picture down to the tiniest details. From the incredibly striking, sexy Mjolnir Mk. V armor that has a pristine green sheen, to the glowing projectiles (which are independent light sources and look really dynamic lighting up the world as they fly), to the way grenades dynamically shower the scene with glowing cinders, to the barrage of sparks when bullets ricochet, to the updated enemies (covenant and flood both look awesome!), to the updated marines, to the Halo ring itself in all its majesty (jaw-droppingly gorgeous sky-boxes and environmental vistas included), Halo Anniversary truly exceeds all possible expectations graphically. It does an awesome job staying true to the spirit and philosophy of the original's art design, while maintaining coherency with Halo's later sequels, while still making it all feel so new and fresh again. The art design in this game was always top-tier and spectacular and now, finally, it has the console power it needs to really shine through, and boy does it ever!

The new visuals here, from the graphical quality to the astounding art design, all add up to make that feeling of discovery and awe more strong than ever. I don't want to give away how they brought Halo's iconic levels into the year 2011, because you're in for a treat when you discover it all for yourself (again). In every conceivable way, each level in the campaign was recreated with a clear reverence for the source material, while greatly improving levels that generally weren't very beloved by the fanbase (I'm looking directly at you Library!). I played the original Halo more times than I care to count, but this feels like I'm playing it for the first time. It's like falling in love all over again. Hit "back" on your controller and "classic mode" activates, transporting you back in time to the original engine entirely, graphics and all, and it is very striking to see how far technology has come in a mere ten years. It's also amazing to see that pretty much the only thing "dated" about the original Halo: CE is its graphics. "Classic mode" is a great feature.

It is also worth noting that in "Anniversary mode," they redid the cutscenes to make the shots more effective, the animations more refined, and to enhance the overall story telling. Don't worry though, there's no changes to the story like stupid "Greedo shooting first" moments injected in. We all know Master Chief shoots first. :D They DID add really cool motion comic terminals (ala Halo 3) that connect all of the existing (but mainly Combat Evolved) Halo games into the upcoming new Reclaimer trilogy, as well as really tell 343 Guilty Spark's own sad, poignant tale. These terminals are really well done, the way this new story is conveyed is awesome, and the story itself is, no surprise, extremely deep and well-written.

Some of the audio has also been redone for this release. The voice acting is the exact same as before, with the original recordings used and not even put through any processing or remixing, but everything else has been enhanced. Weapons retain the feel pretty much the same as they did way back when, but they also now sound a lot more powerful and have way more oomph to them. It's an amazing feat to retain the same spirit of a ten-year-old masterpiece, while actually improving on those old aspects and making them feel brand new again (a theme I have stressed throughout this review. It really is amazing how well they did this). My hats off to the audio director, who clearly poured his soul into this project. The musical score was also rerecorded with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra, and it sounds spectacular. Again, it only enhances the original, but changes nothing. It's very respectful, and as a diehard Halo fan, I was most pleased playing this. If you don't like the new musical recording, there's a place in the main menu where you can activate the old soundtrack files. Yet another nice feature, no? The music and sound effects mesh beautifully well. The glee I feel listening to high fidelity 7.1 surround sound with my white Astro A40 Audio System with this game is unmatched. Amazing sound design for sure, but I expected no less from Halo. Even ten years ago, Martin O'Donnell's work in this particular aspect of the game was revolutionary and it still holds up masterfully, even today.

Well, those are the biggest changes to this version of Halo: CE's campaign. As I said earlier, the game has two engines. One is for visuals, and then there's the always present original engine dictating every sort of under-the-hood, coding related aspect of the game, with its entire gameplay glory still intact, warts and all. This can be both a great thing and a bad thing, depending on your perspective. The physics, the AI, the weapon values, the level design coding, and anything else related to gameplay is the exact same as you remember it, pixel for pixel. This includes glitches like freakishly deformed dead character models and jerky motions at times (I found these more humorous than detracting from quality). All the great/dumb tricks you could do in the original, you can do here. The ridiculous mini-mortar cannon pistol? It's here in all its glory. The levels are all exactly the same with the same layout you remember. The Assault Rifle has 60 rounds and is a beast; by far its most powerful iteration of all the Halo series. Grunts flee in terror when their leader is taken out.

I could go on and on, but the point I'm trying to make is that Halo CE pretty much defined how a FPS should play on a console, rivaling even a PC's place as the go-to location for FPS gameplay. 343i respects that, and so changed nothing about the gameplay; it is FPS perfection for console. The amazing thing is that when combined with the new visuals and audio, it feels like a brand-spankin-new game, and even today could be a game-of-the-year champion, EVEN among all the heavy hitters that this year boasts. New additions like never-before-seen skulls and co-op over Xbox live are just cherries on top of this awesomesauce-drenched sci-fi cobbler.

I personally do not have a Kinect or 3-D capable television, so I cannot speak as to the quality of those features in this review. However, if as much work was put into implementing those things as there was put into literally everything else in this game, well, I think you Kinect/3-D enthusiasts will more than likely have a lot to enjoy here.

The multiplayer also got a lot of love. There are six multiplayer maps remade beautifully from Halo CE, Halo PC, and even one classic from Halo 2. There's also one firefight map added from the campaign (along with a brand new chance to play firefight with friendly AI-controlled... Read more›

I've not written a game review before, but I felt I had to this time because I really think this game is not only being underrated because of the multiplayer uproar, but a major factor for it being released in the first place is being completely overlooked. More on that below. I am a software engineer who has been playing computer/video games for 40+ years now (Pong, anyone?), and yes, I am that old. Of the hundreds of games I have played, the Halo series, and Halo CE in particular, easily ranks in my Top 10, probably Top 5. The reason? Its campaign gameplay is virtually unmatched for depth of play, difficulty adjustment, engaging storyline, audio/visual presentation, and on and on. It's just plain fun! I've played Halo CE numerous times over the years, either the full campaign or individual levels. I like Halo multiplayer as well and have spent much time online, but that's not the reason I buy the Halo games. I don't want to repeat what other 5-star reviewers have said about this game (I found the reviews by Relytia and Pyanfar Chanur to be particularly good), but I would like to make some additional comments that will hopefully tie things together for potential buyers wanting to know what to expect from this game.

First, the Anniversary campaign uses the same gameplay software as the original game - a huge money ; time saver for developer 343 Industries. In consequence, the levels play exactly as before, with the same enemies in the same locations, and even the same checkpointing system. This latter may be a shock to those who have never played the original since you cannot save whenever you want, but I actually approve of it since it forces you to be a little less cavalier about dying. Since I consider Halo CE to be the best of the Halo games, I am very happy with the decision NOT to try to remake the game as some sort of Halo Reach clone. Note that this does not mean that 343i could not tweak the gameplay, because a lot of game mechanics are buried in easily accessible external data tables and hence are not updates to the software itself (this does not include the new skulls or terminals, which require some software support). I have played 3 levels at different difficulty settings and though it might be my imagination, I cannot shake the feeling that gameplay has been tightened up a bit - for example, I get the impression that the assault rifle does more, and the needler less, damage than the original game. If so, kudos to 343i for taking the time to tune parameters that most players will never notice.

Second, the Anniversary campaign uses the Saber3D display engine, which not only renders game objects in 3D space (which all game rendering systems must do) but can also output them for use with a 3D display system. And this it does...Halo CE Anniversary in 3D is AWESOME! I play using a 60" plasma 3D TV, and playing in 3D ups the fun factor by orders of magnitude. I cannot adequately describe just how much more immersive the game feels in 3D. The 3D renditions of weapon, effect and character models merit particular applause. Now, for the first time, I can easily visually discern exactly when to use the assault rifle to melee a pesky Elite - the 3D effect is that good and the animations can be distracting just watching them. Not to mention that the gore splatters are splattier and the explosions, uh, explodier. 3D has been largely overlooked or trivialized by most, if not all, reviewers here. Even the professional reviewers are guilty of this, and they do so at their peril. People resist change, but 3D is simply far too intuitive and far more natural to our stereoscopic-wired brains to be ignored.

Third, the 3D goodness extends to the sound domain as well. The remastered sound effects add considerably to the gameplay experience, for example the reverberating echo of the sniper rifle adds significantly to the illusion of a large-caliber, high-powered weapon. Best of all, in my opinion, is the increased localization in the surround sound stage of the voices. By and large the Covenant foes are a vocal lot, and the game makes especially good use of this in alerting you to the presence of enemies that are out of your line-of-sight, just before they open up on you. This 3D spatialization is so good, in fact, that it prompted me to replay the first couple of levels without referring to the motion tracker (consciously, at least), using only audio cues to react to the unseen. Not only was it surprisingly effective, it ratcheted up the tension level and gave game play a more realistic atmosphere. I can hardly wait to find the skull that disables the motion tracker completely! I highly recommend this experiment to all who play using surround sound systems.

So, put it all together and what do you get? 3D or no 3D, you get beautifully rendered characters and vehicles, light reflecting from overcharged plasma pistols and grenades, energy halos that expand out from Elites when their shields fail, sparkling richochets from missed assault rifle rounds, plasma grenades that audibly hiss through the air as they arc toward you, trees with bark and moss, rocks with granulated faces, waterfalls with spray/spume, snowflakes you think you can grab, dust clouds forming behind your racing Warthog, just to name a few. True, the passage of time has not been particularly kind to the unchanged AI, and there are other 10 year old idiosyncracies as noted in other reviews, but you are still (re)playing what I think is one of the best FPS campaigns ever committed to DVD.

And oh yes, IMO the 3D implementation contained herein is a major reason, if not the major reason, why this game was given the green light in the first place. Think about it, a major game title just begging for a facelift, practically free gameplay software, a 10 year anniversary marketing opportunity, and the next iteration of a huge franchise looming on the horizon. Talk about serendipity. I suspect this game is the proof-of-concept of next-gen graphics for Halo 4 and beyond, and a good indication why the Halo series will continue to be console-centric. Console developers are well aware that one of their biggest advantages over the PC is the immersion factor of their games, and a 3D game played on a big-screen TV with a home theater 5.1 surround system simply cannot be matched by a PC. Further, I predict that this game will prove to be the 3D benchmark by which other 3D-aspiring console games will be measured, in much the same way that the original Halo CE became the benchmark for console FPS games. I've played Crysis 2 and GoW3 in 3D and they are simply not in the same league. Ironically, one of the main reasons for this is the relative simplicity of the Halo CE game world as a consequence of using the original game's software, ie. scenes with relativly fewer and/or well-spaced objects tend to project a much better defined 3D depth that heavily cluttered scenes. Games such as Halo Reach, which is both much more cluttered and is heavy on textures, bump-mapping and the like, provide a much busier looking and more realistic-seeming environment, but one which is much more problematic for a 3D display engine. There are solutions, but they require more horsepower than the current generation consoles can provide. Does this mean we can look forward to a next-generation Xbox console timed to the release of Halo 4? Talk about deja vu! And if so, you heard it here first.

As I was saying, this 'cleaner' game world lends itself to 3D on current-gen hardware - a big bonus to 343i no doubt, and the 3D imaging itself has other consequences. For one, some reviewers have commented (positively or negatively) on the brighter, more varied color palette and increased color saturation as compared to the original game, these are all requirements for good 3D presentation. Crysis 2 and GoW3 both suffer in this regard, and though GoW3 is noticeably brighter, it's not enough. For another, dynamic lighting (ie. reflections and shadows) is key to good 3D when there is motion involved, again, other reviewers have commented on how much improved the lighting and shadow effects are. An example of this concession to 3D is the outdoor portion of the Truth And Reconciliation level, which is far brighter than the original, to the point that the 'flashlight illumination' of the sniper rifle in no longer really necessary. Darkness absolutely kills 3D - depth perception is still the single biggest problem with military night vision equipment - so I predict the other 'dark' levels will also be brighter. In the 3D FPS gaming future, I expect that dark/night environments will be handled differently than daytime, perhaps using something akin to the Halo 3:ODST VISR mode.

Finally, to those reviewers who have dissed the release of Halo CE Anniversary for its multiplayer component, I feel your pain, but unlike the game software, the original multiplayer code would have to be essentially rewritten in order to take advantage of the current (Bungie) network architecture. The additional time and cost are significant, and from the 343i point of view there would be nothing to be gained, future-wise. As other reviewers have noted, 343i made no bones about the fact that a full re-imagining of the multiplayer component of Halo CE was not on the table, hence the next-best-thing-to-free port of the Halo Reach multiplayer component into Halo CE Anniversary. I know it's not much consolation now, but after all, you didn't have to shell out 60 bucks, and if I'm right about this game being a preview of what's to come, then the future of Halo is looking pretty bright, multiplayer included :)

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

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