Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Release Date: 11/11/2013 (X360), 11/14/2014 (XONE)
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Oh Halo, I have a love-hate relationship with you. Back when Halo was released I didn’t really think much of it. I saw the box in-game stores, but I never actually heard much about it. It wasn’t until Halo 2 that the series really took off and was talked about by everyone who loved it and hated it. I just so happened to be someone who hated it even though I didn’t play it. It looked like a generic sci-fi shooter with boring guns and boring enemies. For years I refused to even accept Halo as a good game series. I finally sat down with the first game on PC back in 2007 and felt it was like a chore. The game was overly difficult, and ugly, and I didn’t get the game at all. I washed my hands of it and was done.
Later that year I borrowed an Xbox from a cousin (the original) and rented Halo 2 from the video store (back when that was still a thing) and actually started to like it. The game felt more balanced, more cohesive, and had a more interesting story. However, I still hadn’t even touched the multiplayer as I didn’t have Xbox LIVE. I later wouldn’t experience Halo multiplayer until Halo 3. After playing through every Halo game since I started to feel fatigued by the series. ODST and Reach were extremely boring and didn’t do much outside of the story and presentation. However, I still would go back to playing Halo 2 and 3, but swore never to touch Halo 1 again. Now, 8 years later, I’ve played through Halo 1 and like it a little more, however, it still feels like a chore.
You play as Master Chief, a Spartan in the Earth Defense Corps who just so happens to get stuck as being the savior of Earth. You fight some Covenant, an alien race hellbent on capturing Halo, and then some Flood, a super weapon species designed to wipe out all life in the galaxy. You spend almost the entire game on the Halo ring which is a giant ring-shaped artificial planet that looks like Earth. Later you run into an AI called The Librarian whose function is to destroy all life in the galaxy to wipe out The Flood so they starve to death. Of course, Master Chief and his AI partner Cortana must not have that. The story is quite interesting however, it doesn’t really explore much of the Halo universe and I wanted more.
Halo’s famous for it’s balanced gun play and enemy AI. While there are only about 10 different enemy types in the game, Halo was one of the only FPS games at the time to force you to change up your tactics, weapons you use, and how you approach each fire fight. Despite popular belief, Halo is not a run-and-gun type of game at all. If you run out into the open you will die almost immediately. Halo is also the father of the regenerating shield which is a core gameplay element of the game. Without it, the number of enemies you have to kill and scenarios would not be possible as you would die and never make it through the game. Despite the shield recharging so slowly, it makes you stop and think before you step out again and lose your health.
The guns are also very memorable and iconic in Halo. The Needler is a weapon that fires pink shards at the enemy and they home-in. After a few seconds, the shards explode causing damage. The assault rifle is probably the most iconic weapon as it’s the standard and most basic weapon in the game. Aside from the plasma and standard weapons, you can also drive vehicles. This is actually where I had a huge issue and still do, the vehicles control like garbage. The Ghost, Banshee, and Warthog are floaty, not very responsive, and counter-intuitive to what the game wants these vehicles to do. I also don’t like how you can’t drive and shoot the Warthog at the same time, it makes you too vulnerable.
The one thing Halo has always had a problem with is the repetitive hallways and the extreme linearity. Nearly every level had you backtrack back to the beginning once you got all the way through and this got frustrating and tiresome toward the end of the game. The core game is also just repetition, but that’s expected in any shooter. Shooting the same enemies over and over in different variations just gets old and some people may not be able to tolerate it. Despite this, and like I mentioned earlier, Halo combats this by making you think before you run out into the open.
Outside of the shooting the game just feels strange as a whole. It feels dated still despite the update, however, it does help tremendously and makes the game more enjoyable. The new graphical update is more than an update. It’s completely redone, switching from remastered to classic graphics on the fly makes you realize just how old this game is. We’re talking Quake 3/Source Engine graphics here. After playing the updated version I could never go back. The game just looks way too ugly compared and makes the game much less enjoyable. In fact, the updated graphics actually help make the game easier to play with better lighting and more detailed environments. I found the original Halo way too dark in most areas and it was always hard to see.
When it comes to multiplayer, it also suffers from feeling aged. While the maps are remastered the gameplay just feels a little old and not as fast or deep as the newer games, however, there is a charm to the age. The game is very simple and there’s not much to the multiplayer and the maps are also not as complicated as newer ones. Fans of the original game will love being able to finally play the original online like it was intended to be.
Overall, Halo: CE Anniversary is a fantastic update and probably about as good as the original game can get without changing any major gameplay elements. On the Xbox One, the game runs at 1080p and 60 FPS which looks fantastic, and also has the menus of The Master Chief Collections which is an upgrade over the Xbox 360 version. If anyone couldn’t stand the original, they may find it more appealing now, but expect the gameplay overall all design of the game to not have changed.