Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary | Zombiegamer Review

Ten years on from its original release, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary takes us back to where it all started – replete with a new skin but the same old Master Chief.  But that’s not necessarily a good thing…

Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft
For fans of: Master Chief.
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: Xbox 360 Exclusive
If we had to give it a numerical score: 7.5 out of 10

What I liked

  • Seeing where it all began – in HD.
  • The soundtrack is still epic.
  • Pistol still the best weapon in the world.  Ever.
  • Old skin… new skin… old skin… new skin…

Not so much

  • Still looks dated.
  • Vehicle controls (still) suck.
  • Can’t we rather have Halo 4 already?


Almost without so much as an in-game introduction, jump into the shoes of one John-117 – or Master Chief as his friends call him – one of the only genetically enhanced Spartans left to save the human race from itself the Covenant.  These alien crazies are a bunch of religious fanatics, but all you need to know is that you need kill anything that isn’t human.  Pretty much exactly what you did ten years ago if you played the game when it released on the original Xbox.

Gameplay, Visuals and Sound

Let’s cut to the chase.  I hated Halo: CE when I first tried it (a little late) in 2003.  I thought it was an utter load of toss.  There… I said it.  I mean really, this was the game that made First Person Shooters work on the console?!  Never.  Ever.  Give me a mouse and keyboard thank-you-very-much.  However, a few years later I bought an Xbox 360 – PC upgrades were starting to cost an arm and a leg – and pre-ordered Halo 3.  I didn’t fall in love, but my less cynical side swallowed its pride and admitted Halo: CE had a very important role in shaping the console First Person Shooter.

Generally, the issue with “classic” games is the attached nostalgia that is likely to cloud one’s judgement.  To a large degree that was not the case when I sat down to play Halo: CE Anniversary.  At its heart is a ten year old First Person Shooter that shows its age even with its new skin.  One of the best features of the update is the ability to switch between the ‘classic’ graphics and the new look in-game.  While this is wonderful for reviewers and those suffering with pangs of nostalgia, most will simply leave the game in the new look after their first curious look just to see “how far graphics have come.”  I found myself mesmerised by the feature however – much to my own demise as the switch is not completely instantaneous and caused momentary disorientation leaving me firing my still beautifully overpowered pistol into the air.

While it’s clear that 343 Industries tried to lovingly bring the game up-to-date, I still found myself thinking that while the old skin made it look like a ten year old game, the new skin made it look slightly newer… but at least three years old.

The soundtrack remains epic, and I can almost appreciate the slightly soulless acting in the cutscenes as that has been one of the true developments to have occurred in gaming over the last ten years.  The weapons – and as I’ve mentioned before, specifically the pistol – feel better than in any other iteration of Halo.  They’re unfussy, but absolutely satisfying to fire.  A feature that latter day Halo’s brought to the party is the ability to swop weapons with comrades-in-arms.  This was not added to Anniversary, and while I respect the developers for wanting to retain the core mechanic of the game, it really is one of the features I feel would’ve helped the game feel less dated – along with better vehicle controls.

The oddity of it all is that the campaign remains completely true to the original’s roots (except for the updated skin, the addition of online co-op and the addition of skulls and obligatory Kinect features which we will try to review elsewhere), but the multiplayer is set up to run on the Halo: Reach engine.  Both multiplayer and Firefight opens the Halo: Reach menu interface and runs all the updated maps in the Halo: Reach engine.  No need for disc swops thankfully, but it does make one wonder why the campaign wasn’t simply run using the Halo: Reach engine rather than the Saber3d engine.

The multiplayer modes are very much – as always – love it or hate it.  I have never really put much time into Halo’s multiplayer, but I have a real soft spot for Firefight.  Both these modes remain largely unchanged from Halo: Reach’s versions, so if you’re a fan of either mode, you will find plenty to satisfy you.

Final thoughts

Strangely, even through what some might perceive as a fair amount of negativity, I still enjoyed my revisit and my 2003 reaction has been largely reversed.  My main concern with Halo: CE Anniversary is who will want to buy and play the game.  Halo fans should be satisfied with their purchase, but I do think most others should steer clear of this game as you may not really ‘get it’.  Rather pick up Halo 3 if you want to meet Master Chief for the first time or Halo: Reach if you just want to see what the Halo world is about without John-117.

For now, this is the closest we will get to Halo 4 which will probably set the next standard for Sci-Fi First Person Shooters featuring fanatical aliens hell-bent on the destruction of humankind.  Again.

Zombiegamer rating:

About Zombie Dredd

Wannabe gaming journalist. Wannabe zombie. And sometimes clan leader of OAP. Clint O'Shea when in his human disguise.