Halo Combat Evolved was originally released in 2001 for the original Xbox and was developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft. It soon became known as one of the biggest video game franchises and has been the flagship series for Microsoft for some time now. It’s now had a remake of the original campaign courtesy of 343 Industries which is bundled with a small portion of the Halo Reach multiplayer in the form of remade Halo Combat Evolved maps and a single Firefight map created by Certain Affinity. All of which can be downloaded using the codes provided in the games box.
In Halo, you take the role of the Master Chief; the highest ranking Spartan Trooper created by Earths military. Humans have expanded into space and during their travels have come across a multi-species religious order of aliens named the Covenant. The Covenant declared the Humans an affront to their gods and have been at war with them ever since. The Covenant worship the Forerunners; a long dead species of alien that died out millennia ago and all that is left is their creations, most notably the Halos which the Covenant believe will lead them to their salvation.
The gameplay will immediately feel familiar to anyone who has played a First Person Shooter before will be at home as it uses the standard setup for controls as well as offering a few other variations such as southpaw. Regenerating health is close but not the system that halo uses. You have a set health which can be lost while your regenerative energy shield is down. On lower difficulties health shouldn’t play a huge amount into the gameplay as you will find that the shield will take the brunt of the damage. On the Heroic and Legendary difficulties you just cannot rely on your shield alone and will have to take breaks from the action by hiding away and waiting for your shields to recover. The difficulties are well balanced and Heroic is set as the staple difficulty for most gamers who consider FPSs their forte and Legendary will provide that added challenge; should that still be too easy then the unlockable skulls can give greater challenge still with their many weird and difficult gameplay changes.
Where it feels so different is the larger selection of enemy units in comparison to modern day shooters. The enemies are varied and interesting to combat; you have the Grunts which provide the cannon fodder and are the prolific grenade throwers, the Jackals which use shields on their arms and plasma pistols which do large amounts of damage to your shields. Elites are your most equal enemies as they have energy shields just like you and can only be killed once that shield is down. They are fast, strong and have access to some good weaponry but as they are the leaders killing them will sometimes scatter the grunts. Hunters are the biggest enemy type and wield large guns and have thick armour plating making them almost like a living tank were it not for the fact that they made up of multiple living organisms and have gaps in their armour where you can shoot to defeat them. There are a few other enemies that you’ll find later on as well which differ in strength.
Vehicles are driven by pushing forward on the analogue stick and it will drive forward towards the centre of your camera, which makes reversing and turning tight corners a breeze. You can drive the Warthog jeep and Scorpion tank from the human vehicles and the Ghost and Banshee from the Covenant. Weapons are also varied between the two factions and the plasma weapons work better against shields and vehicles while the human weapons work better against flesh.
The multiplayer uses Halo Reach and gives access only to the new map pack which includes seven maps remade for use in Reach via a code which comes in the game box. You can play these on the disc but you won’t be able to play other maps from Reach without a full copy of Reach. These maps tend to be reasonably small in scale barring Headlong which is a remake of a Halo 2 level and a remade Halo PC map which is the largest of all seven maps. There are also special gametypes for the anniversary edition that use the original Halo’s weapons and restricts the use of armour powers. This will be a great joy for some as the pistol returns in all its sniper-like glory, letting you headshot across the map in ways that have since been removed in later iterations of the series. There is only a single Firefight map which is based on Halo’s second level and while good it would have been nice for two maps at least as this will be the only Firefight map available to anyone who doesn’t own Reach. Dependant on the maps you can sometimes have all the new vehicles that Reach has into the levels.
The graphical overhaul given to Halo is surprisingly good but the instant change between the original and overhaul is quite clumsy because the game doesn’t pause whilst changing; instead the screen briefly turns black leaving you incredibly vulnerable during combat if you feel the need to change during it. That aside some things are better looking than others; human faces are still a little old and the lighting can be a little overdone at certain points, also the change gives Sergeant Johnson deracialisation surgery as he becomes much, much paler in comparison to his original self. Halo Reach on the other hand is top of the line graphics and looks incredibly good while keeping very close replicas of the remade maps.
The audio makes the game stand out in the way the atmosphere is created during some of the later levels especially where it gives a sense of being in a completely deserted place aside from enemies that lurk waiting to assault you. Halo’s theme has become one of the most iconic game themes in recent years and as with its main theme the rest of the soundtrack is nice to listen to and fits the mood just right during plot developments. The voice work still stands up and Steve Downes role of Master Chief is one of the highlights as well as David Scully as Sergeant Johnson (Who has much better dialogue in later instalments). The enemy voices are great for displaying their current thoughts as shrieks from Jackals and Grunts as a grenade bounces next to them and explodes.
The story remains one of the best stories in a first person shooter to this day. The plot and the background lore created by Bungie all those years ago still hold up today. The dialogue is great, the story is both interesting and full of surprises and the way some of the cutscenes are shot brings you that much deeper into the atmosphere the story creates.
Presentation and Audio
If you’re looking for cutting edge graphics then you need only look towards the multiplayer as it uses the same engine as Halo Reach, if you want to replay the original Halo campaign in all its glory then choose between the original graphics or play it with a new look which is very impressive but it isn’t going to wow everyone. Halos iconic theme music is known by many and it still holds up, as do the rest of the music and the voice acting.
Many say that the game changed how shooters were viewed on the console and that it started the boom for FPS games on consoles. The gameplay hasn’t changed a huge amount over the numerous Halo iterations but all the core mechanics are there and they stand as a testament to how good they were for their time. Kinect features don’t really add anything to the game but the scanning and analyse functions will help give you a good look into the Halo universe if you spend the time finding it all.
Still regarded as one of the best first person shooters made and with good reason, it was ahead of its time with regards to design and many gameplay mechanics survive throughout the Halo series and have been incorporated into many other games. If you haven’t played it before its worth buying to experience it but if you still have a copy of Halo and are stuck into Halo Reach’s multiplayer then it might be best to just buy the map pack separately.
Halo multiplayer splitscreen was the first time I had any interaction with an Xbox, until that point I only had a Gamecube and a PC that was rather limited in what it could play. A few weeks later I had the money saved up and went out and bought an Xbox. Halo was engaging, fun and splitscreen so I could play with friends even though consoles hadn’t quite got to the online component yet. Halo did sell consoles because it was a very good game and brought First Person Shooters to consoles. It still plays well to this day and is one of the best stories I’ve played in a shooter for quite a while.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.