It seems odd to think of it now, especially when looking at the relatively drab colours and rudimentary geometry in Classic mode, but this alien ringworld was a strikingly beautiful place to explore in 2001 - and it's still worth a good rummage ten years later. You'll never be able to experience it afresh, though, as now the player is clouded by knowing retrospect, one where unearthing those mysterious Forerunner structures and discovering Installation 04's apocalyptic purpose can never be the blissful surprises they were a decade ago.
In short: you know exactly when the Flood is coming. Cracks do start to appear once you creep deep into Forerunner territory, and while I've spent years attributing this to The Library it wasn't until playing Anniversary did I realise the problem is actually a few levels earlier in Assault on the Control Room - you have to trek through it, blast through the Library, and then slog your way back afterwards. While I can respect the decision to keep Anniversary's content a like-for-like reproduction of the original, it doesn't make this part of the game any less wearisome.
There is charm in Halo: Combat Evolved's simplicity, however; while the series would later perfect the balance of ammunition and necessity to naturally encouraging users to switch weapons, the original game made the M6D magnum and MA5B assault rifle so magnificently powerful there was absolutely no need to consider an alternative at any point in the game. Halo's original quirks, such as how you could dispatch a Hunter with a single magnum shot to the back - matador style - is incredibly satisfying, and it's never been as fun since.
Elsewhere there's the addition (provided you're not in Classic mode) of ten terminals and skulls hidden in each one of the campaign levels, the former bringing in the vocal talents of Tim Dadabo and recounting the backstory of 343 Guilty Spark and the history of the Halo installations. I only found a handful of each during one playthrough, and with no ability to load from mid-mission checkpoints only the most dedicated of fans will find them all - while the Terminal videos are fantastic, then, most people will simply experience them via YouTube.
Also guaranteed to leave a bitter taste in the mouth is the Kinect-only database, with over 40 entries earned by shouting analyse and scan at your television when the reticule is hovering over items. This could have been an absolutely splendid addition accessed easily with your controller, packed with interesting information that long-time fans would have found interesting - the story behind our beloved Crewman #1, for instance. Instead we've got a basic list of uninteresting statistics that most Halo fans will already know, locked behind a poorly implemented device that most of Halo's audience will have absolutely no interest in. There's also an entirely superfluous set of voice commands, four of which include raising and lowering the game's brightness and contrast settings.
Anniversary also remakes six classic and varied Halo maps - Beaver Creek, Headlong, Hang 'Em High, Damnation, Timberland, and Prisoner - as new entities in the competent Halo: Reach engine, as well as providing a new Firefight map with Installation 04. Each of the tried-and-tested maps is supplied with retro and modern variants; the latter makes various changes to the original layouts in order to competently handle Reach's conceits, such as sprinting and jetpacks.
The octet of levels has been purposely chosen to create a varied mix of corridors and open spaces, and the appropriation of Halo's classic magnum into Reach creates a gameplay rhythm that feels like it's straight out of 2001.
Bungie's iconic title was clearly an ambitious project, and this modern remastering sufficiently highlights what it was that made the original Halo: Combat Evolved such a landmark gaming moment to begin with. With Halo 4 perched on the horizon, now is a perfect time to look back before the series heads forwards.
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- A loving update of a classic
- Excellent multiplayer maps
- The Library still sucks
- Kinect features are abysmal