Lately I’ve been thinking about games which had HD updates, because let’s face it there have been a lot lately and I was wondering if the magic of the past does actually transfer into the HD version. So let’s take a look at one of my favourite games of all time; Halo: Combat Evolved. I’m only going to compare the campaign though because the multiplayer in Anniversary is basically map packs for Halo: Reach and new game modes.
So Anniversary is basically Halo: Combat evolved with a skin over the top to make it look like a 360 game rather than an original Xbox one. 343 Industries kept the engine from Bungies classic, so the enemies, weapons, grenades and scenery all act the same. Throw a grenade at an Elite in Anniversary; it’ll act like it did over 10 years ago. Shoot an Elite three times in the head from any distance with the pistol and it results in death. It’s great that they wanted to keep the old feel to playing (and the infamous three shot pistol), but it does feel really outdated and could have done with some polish.
What 343 have done with the look of the game is amazing though. Everything looks astonishingly pretty, it still looks like Halo, but it’s a hundred times prettier. All the textures have been replaced and updated and the structures have been worked on to cater to the new style. Something else that was added was that the surface you’re moving on reacts to movement, shoot at the sand and it sprays up. It may only be a small difference, but you really notice it when all they all come together.
To see the difference in real time, 343 have been really clever and have given you the option to switch between the old and new graphics at the touch of a button. One press and you’ll magically be transported in time. You can really appreciate how much work has gone in to making this game look the part this way. Even the cut-scenes can be viewed in both old and new, so you can have it the way you like.
However, if you do play with the new graphics, you’ll sometimes have a clear shot at a Jackal, fire and nothing happens. Confused? Try switching to the old graphics; see that branch in the way which wasn’t there before the switch? Yep, that stopped your shot. It’s a rare occurrence, but nevertheless annoying.
The campaign is as solid as always – a nostalgia trip through an epic adventure against evil. Though if you haven’t played the original, then it’ll probably get very repetitive, especially for example when on Assault on the Control Room where you will find yourself running down similar corridors, over and over again. However for those of us who loved it, it’ll feel just like it did back then, though somewhat prettier.
Other than the skin, 343 added in Skulls once again. Collect them once and they become unlocked for you to use whenever you want. They are hidden very well this time, making finding them without a guide quite difficult for the most part. The exception to this is if you pre-ordered you got a special skull which causes Grunts to explode when they are killed. Useful for taking on huge groups of enemies, not so useful for when you get a little too close. They are a nice addition and give you a chance to experiment with different strategies, or just to ramp up the difficulty.
Of course, with Anniversary being an Xbox 360 game, 343 had to add in achievements and these are pretty standard stuff, requiring you to do things in a certain time or a certain way. Sometimes the odd skull can give you a huge advantage and sometimes it’s just easier to go for it. It extends the amount of time you can spend on the game as with most achievements and it’s nice to finally get some Gamerscore on a game I adore.
At the time, Combat Evolved was revolutionary, whereas Anniversary feels a bit too old and is only exciting for the many of us who crave that feeling of nostalgia. Good work by 343 for improving upon the graphics and adding some extras and thanks for the memories.