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The ugly truth about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
by Andrew Whipple III

Halo is a legendary series. An important game. A trusted name. And, undoubtedly, a consistent cash source. Its legacy will continue on regardless of what you might think, and that's why we're getting Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition this autumn. It's an important release, not only because it symbolises the tenth year of Halo's creation, but because it also presents questions about future re-releases in the same vein. Isn't it time that these remake games offered more of what we loved in the original, instead of 'balancing' our vintage gameplay?

Halo: Combat Evolved was the seminal title that started it all. You've heard this line a myriad of times, but it doesn't change the facts. Halo is an important game because of what it brought to the console market; first-person shooters were never as solid, didn't run nearly run as smoothly, and definitely didn't have the addictive gameplay or - most importantly - multiplayer functionality that the original Halo did. The closest title I can think of is GoldenEye 007, released during the Nintendo 64 era, but let's be honest: that game doesn't come anywhere close to what Halo has become.

Saying all that, it's been ten years since Halo: Combat Evolved pleasantly surprised the console world, and now - surprising us again - is a re-release, or a 're-imagining', of the original game. Set to release on the 15th of November, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is the complete original Halo game with new, additional high-definition visuals and other unique features. Just some of these features include the ability to swap old graphics with the new on-the-fly, online co-op, and remastered versions of old maps available for multiplayer (as if that wasn't already guaranteed).

Forgive my satire, but this 'new' Halo game is a bastard child. It's another short-lived, uninspired way to cash in the Halo name for something that really doesn't have to be remade at this very moment. Unfortunately, this game has no place in the library of titles out there and will do nothing but augment the apprehension we'll all feel when more of these 'remakes' hit store shelves. Regardless, the first game was pretty grand; yes, it had its flaws such as awful level design later on, but it was a solid title that left quite a bit to build on. A remake sounds great on paper, but in reality it's nothing more than a retail, super-expensive expansion pack for Reach.

The best part about this game is that 343 Industries are remaining true to the original campaign and leaving it relatively unscathed and unmodified. The pistol is still going to be an insanely powerful side-arm, vehicles won't explode and the Energy Sword - or any other crazy-ass weapon, for that matter - simply won't be useable or might not even exist. Yes, I'll admit, The Library is a horrible part of the original's campaign, which I'm sure many would like to see changed in this re-release, but that brings me right onto my next question: should a remake change the original source due to its infamy? My answer is a resounding "no".

If your game is getting the remake treatment, it's almost certainly because someone upstairs believes that there's a fanbase for it, one that will snatch up your remade product and make you some nice, easy money in the process. But these fans want to see the game they loved, the one tucked away in their memory alongside a big serving of nostalgia, not some abomination that's been tweaked to make the game play 'better'. It may sound contradictory, but the game actually plays 'better' when it's true to the original source and, whilst I hate to say it, The Library is something that defined the original Halo. It wasn't good level design, and it wasn't fun to play through, but it served as an integral part of the game that has become nothing short of a legend. I wouldn't be opposed to having the option to play through a modified or uncut version of a game (like the way some movies present you with a similar option), but the original basis for the remake must still be present.

This is something 343 understands, but still ignores.

Announcing the fourth, fifth and sixth Halo iterations at once at this year's E3, 343 decided it was a good idea to throw some canon into the anniversary game, as a prelude to the release of Halo 4 next year. That means we'll get to access terminals akin to the ones found in Halo 3 for Halo 4... in the original game. It's as stupid as it sounds. Certain changes are needed, I agree, like the implementation of Xbox Live to make co-op play possible over the internet. Modifications like that are fine as they aren't making any tangible changes to the core gameplay. Adding terminals that cater for future Halo games is, however. And that's worthless.

Speaking of modification and change, the multiplayer in this game is already laughable. One could make the argument that the game is simply devoid of multiplayer altogether. You'd think, would you not, that if you're making a stand-alone remake of the original Halo, you'd have to throw the multiplayer in there as well right? Apparently not, because the Combat Evolved play-style is not coming to consoles this November. Instead, seven maps from the original Halo are going to be ported to Reach.

I just can't understand why a company would attempt to remake a classic game, but orchestrate such alien devices on one of its most beloved assets. People want to play online multiplayer Combat Evolved-style: they want to use the pistol to destroy you repeatedly, but it's just not going to happen. It's akin to putting cover-based shooter Gears of War up for a remake in a few years, but deciding to make its online component Blitzball. Who the hell wants to play Blitzball?

Halo Anniversary is a remake, and I remind you that the original game is already available to download from Xbox Live. Come November, you're essentially spending upwards of forty dollars on merely a graphical update and seven new, old maps for Reach. Whilst the terminal thing can easily be overlooked, the absence of Combat Evolved's original multiplayer component cannot be. This is unacceptable, especially since future remakes of other games will likely follow in this game's footsteps. Never should there be a game of this calibre being remade with a key, core component omitted. If HD remakes like Sly Cooper and God of War can get it all right, Halo should have no problems rivalling them.

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- Andrew Whipple III

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