The year is 2001 and a new home console is released to the world. That console is the Xbox and with it on launch day comes a game that would change the face of console shooters forever. The game is none other than Halo. Fast forward 10 years and five games in the series, and 343 industries have revisited the original and given it a face lift to celebrate the series’ 10th anniversary. So please join us here at GGUK as we suit up and prepare to drop with our review of Halo Anniversary and see if the past 10 years has changed how we feel about it and if its gameplay has stood the test of time.
Halo starts with the Pillar Of Autumn being chased by the Covenant, having been forced to Slip space jump because of their attack on Reach. What the Covenant doesn’t know is that in the depths of the Autumn is the last surviving Spartan Master Chief Petty Officer John – 117, or just Chief to his friends, or The Demon if you’re the covenant.
Soon after dropping out of Slip Space the Autumn is faced with a huge ring world (Halo) of which there are no records. But more worrying is that on the far side of the planet is a Covenant armada who were there before the ship arrived. There’s no time to question why as soon the Covenant have found the Autumn and the firefight starts all over again.
The Autumn is still battle damaged from the first fight so is no match of the Covenant as they start to board the ship. Captain Keyes has to wake the Chief to ensure that the ships AI Cortana does not fall into the Covenant’s hands. Chief is then partnered up with Cortana and they have to fight their way off the ship. You make it to a drop pod with a squad of marines and escape, heading to the Halo. As you escape the Autumn, Captain Keyes isn’t going to let the Covenant have his ship so he sends it rocketing to the Halo hoping to either destroy it or crash it so no one can use it again.
After crashing onto Halo, the campaign really kicks off clocking in at about 8 to 9 hours to get though if you have never played. It will let you see where the series started and if you have played before it’s a great story to revisit from start to finish. But you will never forget that first time you leave the pod and look out at Halo to see it curving up on the horizons. A truly great moment in gaming.
The game has been given the HD make over treatment and it shows. The game is stunning at times. Halo’s opening level is a great example of this because when you crash land on Halo and leave the escape pod to find a vast vista of the valley and the Halo climbing up the horizon in the distance. It just looks so good and on top of this you can hit the back button at any time to go back to the original graphics, which is a really nice touch as you can see how the game has changed. Then there’s the legend Martin O’Donnell’s original score for the game. These large orchestral scores set the mood and the feel of the level and are a real stand out feature for the game.
Halo, as the first game in the series, is where the core controls come from so if you’ve played Reach or any of the other Halos you feel at home in Anniversary. But there are no power ups like that seen in Reach. So no jet packs or armour locks, it’s back to basics. Plus the game has the classic arsenal of guns and vehicles with fan favourites like the AR and the almighty pistol, along with the classic Warthog in the garage.
The game also makes great use of Kinect in that not only can you use it to throw grenades and reload as well as around another 20 different actions from just speaking to it, which makes for a great mix of pad/Kinect gameplay, but there is also a mode that lets you scan the world and build up a real time encyclopedia of weapons, characters, vehicles and enemies just to name a few things. This is a great use of Kinect and a first for the Halo series.
Also new to Anniversary are a whole new set of skulls, which have been hidden throughout the levels. A total of 13 have to be found and these unlock bonus goodies like infinite ammo and double explosions, adding an extra layer for fans to hunt out. 343 have added a new set of terminals to the game. Again like the skulls they are hidden away but hold a surprise once you find them, as there are a series of beautifully animated short movies giving more info on the world of Halo and they also give you a secret bonus that can be unlocked through Halo Waypoint once you have them all.
A big part of Halo has always been the multiplayer and Anniversary continues this with 6 classic maps from both Halo and Halo 2 remade for Reach’s multiplayer engine. The new maps come pre-loaded on the Anniversary disc but you also get a code to unlock the new maps on Reach so you can play them from that disc instead of having to switch discs around. This is a nice touch for the game as with this Reach is now the one stop shop for all the multiplayer maps from both games.
Halo also supports split screen, system link and of course Live, and for the first time you can play co-op over live with a friend which is great fun and adds hours of play to the game. After you are done with the campaign, the multiplayer will be the thing which brings you back to the game again and again, just like all the Halo games.
Also returning in Halo is FireFight mode, though played through Reach. FireFight adds a great Co-Op mode to the game seeing 4 Spartans fight it out as rounds of enemies try to stop them which is fun, fast and frantic.
Halo Anniversary is a must for fans and for anyone who missed it back in the day, or was too young to have played it. It truly is a lesson on how to do an HD remake and is a great game to boot. With its new Kinect features and the new maps for Reach, there’s something here for everyone to try. A true highlight of this year’s gaming calendar.
Happy 10th Birthday Chief!