Theres something seriously wrong when sixty dollars for ODST seem
It'a been while since I've played and I alread typed up a blog about this and had it eaten up by Gamespot so forgive me if this one feel a little half assed, it's hard to care as much the second time around.
With the tenth anniversarry one of modern gaming's most important franchises it's no surprise that Microsoft would try to capitalise on it with a new Halo game release. While there's some obvious ways this Anniversary could have come to fruition it instead explores multiple directions and ultimately the game doesn't commit enough to any of them to be a truly great celebreation of the franchise.
When Anniversarry was announced Frankie of 343 Industries made it clear that preserving the original Combat Evolved gameplay expierience was important. The actual campaign for Anniversary is precisely the same as it was in 2001 in many ways. The level design, physics, gameplay and dialouge are exactly as you remember. The game is in fact the same, with the press of the back button you can return to the original graphics.
Anniversarry is running the original game underneath a more modern graphics engine. More modern being the key words. While the game appears more modern with this new graphics layer is still doesn't quite match up with with even the top of the line games from 2007. What you have is a decen't looking game with some good art direction and some antiquated animation during gameplay. It's an uneven quality, a theme that echoes across the entire game.
Cut scenes have been redone with motion capturing in an attempt to try to bring the game up to speed with the standard. It's hit or miss, awkward and goofy or just acceptable. Some times the Master Chief looks like a quy moving around in a suit he's uncomfotable in and Cpt. Keyes motions feels at odds with the expression on his face. And Cortana's animations look worse than they did in the original.
Over all the game looks just acceptable for a modern shooter but it's a big step down from Halo: Reach. I have to admit though, switching between classic and modern graphics is (sadly) probably the game's coolest feature letting you sort of see how far graphics have come. Even as a passable game by today's standards there's a pretty big gap between anniversarry and classic's graphics.
While the game playing the same is sorta nice considering you can still perform some of the same tricks from the original like warthog jumping it also means the negatives return such as the Library. In light of more stiff competition the repetitive level design for certain segments just isn't as forgivable, especially since we have other Halo games on 360 with better level design.
With the advent of xbox live one of the no brainer features in this returning classic is online co-op. The ability to play the first Halo in online co-op with my friends is why I bought Anniversarry... And the game disapoints here. I have never played the co-op in Anniversary without someone experiencing at least a little bit of lag. The player who isn't hosting, to my experience, WILL experience lag. It's all just a matter of will the non hosting player experience just a little lag or so much lag that the game becomes uplayable and even the host may experience lag.
While the original voice work still remains the score has been beautifully reorchestrated by skywalker ranch, it's about the only aspect of the game I can whole heartedly say actually improved. Unfortunately if you want to hear the original soundtrack as it was in 2001 that'll take some tweaking in the menus instead of the simple button press like the graphics. The sound effect have been remastered to sound a bit more punchy, it sounds great but you can't toggle back to the classic sound effects at all.
The campaign's biggest flaw is the frame rate. Despite the game not looking especially impressive it can't even maintain a consistent thirty frames per second. While it usually doesn't get in the way on more than one occasion it will get in the way and in co-op the lag issues compound it and some times the game is reduced to essentially a slide show.
With the commitment to delivering the authentic Combat Evolved gameplay experience for the campaign it may surprised you that the multiplayer does pretty much the opposite.
Anniversary's multiplary is litterally Reach's. So the game looks, moves and plays quite differently from the original Halo in every regard. While there are playlists that have game types that mimic some aspects of classic Halo, it's just not the same. Zero bloom for guns that clearly weren't made for it, a different firing rate for the pistol, hijacking, ect. If you want the classic Halo Multiplayer experience you came to the wrong place. Truly a wasted opprotunity.
Anniversary including Reach's multiplayer might give you the impression that this makes Anniversary a similar sort of deal to ODST, but you'd be wrong. Where as ODST included the complete Halo 3 multiplayer experience Anniversary merely include 7 new Halo Reach maps and that's it. This severely limits your playlist options for Reach.
Seven maps isn't a whole lot and one of those maps is a fire fight map so you really only have six for competitive play here. The Noble and Defiant map packs aren't compatible with Anniversarry either, so there's another missed opprotunity. The game doesn't even include the Forge World map so you can't even play on Blood Gulch in this so called Anniversary.
Sufficed to say, if you want to play the Halo: Reach multiplayer then you should get Halo: Reach.
What we end up with is two very conflicted visions for the Anniversary with varying qualities. A Frankenstien monster of a Halo game.
The campaign feels rough around the edges and hastily thrown together. If you're here for campaign I'd actually encourage you to instead buy the original, it runs better and theres a good reason why it doesn't look as good as more recent games.
The multiplayer is great and is as good as you'd expect a modern shooter would be, and one of the best looking ones, but it's merely a cut out portion of a bigger game.
If 343 wanted a game that preserved the classic Halo experience they should have included the original Halo multiplayer. It should have been an HD collection. If they wanted a more modern take of the classic they should have remade it from the ground up. Heck if they wanted a ODST esque deal they should have included the full Halo: Reach multiplayer.
The game isn't bad, in fact I'd actually say it's decent, the problem is it just theres no reason to get it. Anniversary comes up too short in every aspect to be reccomendable to anyone.
Someone just getting started with Halo would be better served picking up any other Halo shooter on the 360. Halo vets would be better off just revisting their original copy rather than tarnishing it's memories with lag and frame rate issues. If you're in it for the multiplayer just pick up Reach and buy the map packs on xbox live. There's litterally no reason to buy this.
Theres something seriously wrong when sixty dollars for ODST seems like a better deal in hind sight versus fourty dollars for this. At least ODST provided an entirely new campaign that ran well, an entirely new co-op survival mode and the complete Halo 3 multiplayer.