Giant Bomb Review

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Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review

4
  • X360

It's easy enough to look past the original Halo's more dated qualities given Anniversary's tasteful visual refresh and a combat formula that's still plenty exciting.

Anniversary's visuals are roughly on par with the other 360 Halo games.

Halo may have ceded the online multiplayer throne to Call of Duty in recent years, but that hasn't stopped Microsoft and 343 Industries from paying due reverence to the vaunted original game on its tenth birthday. The new Anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved slaps a nice-looking modern coat of paint onto what is basically the same campaign experience you had a decade ago, and while the game's age certainly shows in some of its more antiquated design elements, Halo's core combat remains so hard-hitting and dynamic that it's still worth going back to after all this time.

What you get in this retail disc package is squarely focused on recreating Halo's single-player campaign, to which the hallowed multiplayer experience takes a back seat. Today, that campaign feels like equal parts modern shooter and nostalgia trip. The durable "combat puzzle" aspect of Halo's gameplay hasn't fundamentally changed throughout the course of the franchise, largely because Bungie pretty much got it right the first time. Halo's diverse mix of the Master Chief's traditional human weapons and the Covenant's more exotic, energy-based arsenal gives you a great range of options for approaching different combat scenarios, and it's still a treat to change up your tactics on the higher difficulties and see a real difference in your performance, especially since you can count on the game to play out differently every time you reload a checkpoint. That unpredictable interplay of enemy behavior and strategic options is just as exciting in this remake as it ever was, especially with two players in co-op on Heroic or Legendary. The challenge at that level is no slouch.

At least, that all holds true when you're fighting the Covenant, who take cover and use other tactics to keep you guessing. They're worthy adversaries. But fighting the Flood hasn't gotten any more fun in the last 10 years, since they act with no self-preservation and just run mindlessly at you, like they're straight out of Doom. That's directly counter to what makes Halo's combat great, and it's telling that you saw less and less of the Flood in each subsequent Halo game until you saw none at all. The infamously long and drab Library level is also unchanged, and fighting hordes of Flood ganging up on me in there really tried my patience. But Anniversary isn't about making the Halo campaign better or more modern. It's almost like a museum piece, meant to preserve the original experience in as pure a form as possible.

In that sense, it's novel to play Anniversary and remember some of those specific attributes of that first game that have changed over the years in subsequent releases. Remember when you couldn't hijack vehicles or use energy swords? On the flip side, you can run around holding a full charge in your plasma pistol for as long as you want, and that beast of a default pistol is in here, ready to dispense headshots with gusto. Down to the last detail, this is the campaign you remember. The only additions are 360 achievements--some of which offer some neat level-specific challenges--and collectible terminals and campaign skulls. Both of those are well hidden; you'll have to pull off painful grenade jumps to get to some of the best skulls, and the terminals are often located off the beaten path as well. Each terminal is accompanied by a decent little motion graphic with voiceover that provides some additional backstory for the series. Some of the terminal videos are probably dropping Halo 4 hints as well, though it's impossible to say for sure what any of it means for the future just yet.

Hey, Captain Keyes! I remember that guy!

Other aspects of the campaign make Halo: CE's age glaringly apparent. Some segments of the game's level design were noticeably repetitive even when it was new, and that repetition sticks out like a sore thumb now as you fight through corridor after featureless corridor in some levels. It's a good thing the combat is generally still a lot of fun, otherwise those levels would get real boring, real fast. The game's more natural exterior areas are still striking, though, and it's a great trip down memory lane to storm the beach in The Silent Cartographer again, especially with the game's slick graphical refresh.

That overhaul brings CE's visuals more or less up to par with the other 360 Halo games, and it actually expands the color palette of a lot of those less interesting corridor sequences. In the original game, every interior had the same cold, blue-grey thing going on, but Anniversary paints different levels with different sets of colored lights and other glowing doohickeys to at least make them distinctive from one another. The Library alone uses reds and oranges on one floor, then blues and greens on another, which makes things a little more interesting visually even while you're mowing down the thousandth Flood infection critter in a row. It's also a nice touch that you can switch between new and old graphics with only a couple of seconds of downtime in between. It's a little odd that there are a few cases where the game is easier with the old style--the stealth-camo elites stand out better that way, and there's less foliage to obscure your zoomed shots in many outdoor spots--but otherwise, it's great to be able to compare the new graphics to the way Halo used to look, just to see how far we've come in 10 years.

As serviceable as the new graphics are, the game seems bound to the animation routines and pathfinding of the original game, so while the characters look better, they still move around kind of mechanically. Your AI comrades can also behave hilariously badly at times. I had an ally run up in front of me and throw a grenade directly into a wall, which bounced back and killed us both. Another time, five NPCs busied themselves by running around in circles and colliding with each other, shouting things like "I'm going after them!" from about 50 feet behind the front line while I took on like eight enemies by myself. It's been so long since I played Halo: CE in its original form that I honestly can't remember how much of this is just an echo of the way the game used to be, but whether these issues are new or old, they aren't much fun.

Rather than recreate everything about the original Halo's fondly remembered multiplayer, 343 has simply opted to offer a six-classic-map add-on (plus one new Firefight map, complete with AI buddies) for Halo: Reach. That means you're actually firing up Reach when you launch "multiplayer" from Anniversary's menu, so you're playing with the Reach matchmaking, the Reach physics, and the Reach weapons and abilities when you go online. At least there's a classic playlist that removes new-school player abilities and such for a more "pure" Halo multiplayer experience, but you still aren't going to get the exact same pistol in here, and it's a little jarring to play a bunch of the campaign and multiplayer side by side since the movement feels quite different between the two. On the upside, the new maps integrate really well with the Reach online infrastructure, and given that I haven't fired up Reach since it was new, it was heartwarming to see my custom Noble 6 pop right back up.

This is a nice way to preserve Halo: CE for posterity in HD.

Naturally, your interest in this stuff largely hinges on how much you still enjoy the way Reach plays online. While it would have been nice to see everything about the original Halo: CE multiplayer recreated here, that kind of complete overhaul is probably beyond the scope of this package, which already feels like a sensible value at its $40 price point. The classic Anniversary maps will also be on sale on Xbox Live for Reach owners, and Anniversary itself includes a voucher for those maps in case you just want to store them on your hard drive and keep your Reach disc in the drive--giving you access to every bit of Reach multiplayer content yet released, assuming you own the other map packs--after you've finished the CE campaign. It's a reasonably elegant way to handle the split between the two games.

Halo finds itself in the middle of a brief transitional period at the moment, between Bungie letting go of its sacred property and 343 kicking off its own stewardship of the franchise. It was probably a coincidence that the first game's tenth birthday fell right smack in between those two events, but regardless, Anniversary is a nicely executed, nostalgic way to keep Master Chief active in the public consciousness on an off year.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
46 Comments
Posted by Wackie

cool

Posted by Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamoto

Could've been executed a bit better... but this'll do.

Posted by Morningstar

Meh, Halo.

Posted by Clubvodka

I think I'll bite. Love Halo so I can't lose although 343 Guilty Spark to Two Betrayals (penultimate level I think - might be Keyes, I think it's Keyes) are a little bit of a drag but still it's Halo, yo.

Posted by ThePhantomnaut

Honestly, the new visuals look ugly in both technically and contextually.

Posted by Turtlemayor333

I usually don't get all "up in arms" about games but they way they handled the multiplayer on this is 100% gross. The hardcore CE fans or whatever don't like Reach, assassinations, armor abilities. Very unfortunate choice not to at least try recreating the original multiplayer.

Posted by dezvous
@ThePhantomnaut why?
Posted by Vinny_Says

Yo it's that halo from 2001? Yeah I'll buy it I know what I'm getting but I appreciate the review anyway.

Posted by CookieMonster

@ThePhantomnaut said:

Honestly, the new visuals look ugly in both technically and contextually.

I'm with you on this one. I always thought the 'graphical update' looked a bit shit.

Posted by shootermcclay

The fuck is an auto-play ad doing on this page?

Posted by Beauty

I would have bought this for one reason: team death match on Chillout. But they couldn't even do that. Halo CE was popular because of the multiplayer and that is the part they don't include?! FAIL

Posted by Redbullet685

Reach multiplayer is an absolute bummer.

Edited by ThePhantomnaut

@dezvous said:

@ThePhantomnaut why?

The over the top detail of the environments, characters, and other resources seem rather unnecessary to present. With that, the updated graphics make the dark and mysterious subtlety that Bungie visualizes in the Halo games nonexistant and replaced with a more rather unneeded colorful blob. It's like the color palette in Gears of War 2 that made it odd.

Posted by zombie2011

@Turtlemayor333 said:

I usually don't get all "up in arms" about games but they way they handled the multiplayer on this is 100% gross. The hardcore CE fans or whatever don't like Reach, assassinations, armor abilities. Very unfortunate choice not to at least try recreating the original multiplayer.

Do you know how much more work that would have been? Also why would they split the Halo user base between Reach, Halo CE and Halo 4?

They also have classic version of each map that disables all the armor abilities from Reach, you should read the review before you get all up in arms.

Posted by Slaker117

Never really understood why The Library got such a bum rap. It's a bit of a grind, but people over exaggerate it's length a lot, and as long as you keep moving, the flood isn't hard to deal with. Two Betrayals is the real bitch of a level in that game, and Keyes is pretty rough as well.

Posted by Nentisys

@Slaker117 said:

Never really understood why The Library got such a bum rap. It's a bit of a grind, but people over exaggerate it's length a lot, and as long as you keep moving, the flood isn't hard to deal with. Two Betrayals is the real bitch of a level in that game, and Keyes is pretty rough as well.

Yeah, this. While The Library is my least favorite level, its not especially hard nor long.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

Great review! 
 
I'm on the last level as of now, and it's pretty cool how well the gameplay still holds up. I'll be playing it through co-op after this, just like old times!

Posted by Turtlemayor333

@zombie2011 said:

@Turtlemayor333 said:

I usually don't get all "up in arms" about games but they way they handled the multiplayer on this is 100% gross. The hardcore CE fans or whatever don't like Reach, assassinations, armor abilities. Very unfortunate choice not to at least try recreating the original multiplayer.

Do you know how much more work that would have been? Also why would they split the Halo user base between Reach, Halo CE and Halo 4?

They also have classic version of each map that disables all the armor abilities from Reach, you should read the review before you get all up in arms.

"Splitting the userbase" is the same excuse the 343 guys used on the forums until eventually coming out and admitting that the real reason was that it was indeed too much work. I'm not sitting here throwing around blame or saying the whole product sucks - it's just unfortunate that things went down this way with the multiplayer. I'm aware that 343 has been trying to fix a lot of the community complaints Bungie ignored with Reach.

And sorry, but the classic playlist has been around for a long time and it's not fooling anyone.

Posted by Scodiac

I knew I was going to get it because I'm a big Halo fan but I didn't think I'd be as enthused by it as I am. I've played the game so many times before I was surprised by how drawn into it I was. I think 343 has done a great job with this. It's great fan service for sure.

The game looks great with so much detail and fantastic lighting. The guns(reloading & firing) sound amazing. Also, the terminals are incredibly well done and make my Halo nerdness peak like crazy.

Since I'm already a massive fan of Reach multiplayer the addition of the new maps and modes is just simply awesome. I thought this would just keep me occupied until Halo 4 but it's doing more than that. I'm really into it. I rarely S-rank games but this one is going to be fun to go for.

Posted by Winternet

They should have released this on the PC as well.

Posted by MideonNViscera

I mostly only got this cause it was cheap and came with classic maps for Reach, but I'm having a lot of fun using skulls and finding terminals. Plus, it's cool to get achievements for Halo 1.

Posted by csl316

Can't wait til my arrives.  For once, Amazon failed me and delayed my order, grr.

Posted by Pudge

I guess Brad didn't play TOO much of the anniversary multiplayer, since you DO get a version of the original 3 Shot pistol in it... It's not EXACTLY the same, but it's a big improvement over the DMR/Needle Rifle stuff in regular Reach.

Posted by Mordi

Captain Keyes got... young!

Posted by Mordi
@Turtlemayor333 said:

I usually don't get all "up in arms" about games but they way they handled the multiplayer on this is 100% gross. The hardcore CE fans or whatever don't like Reach, assassinations, armor abilities. Very unfortunate choice not to at least try recreating the original multiplayer.

I agree that it's a missed opportunity to revive the old multiplayer, but at the same time I can see why they would add to their Reach-playerbase rather than split it up further. Also, by remaking the old maps, *everyone* playing Halo these days will be able to enjoy some good old (ish) Halo - even those that were too young when the first one came out.
Posted by Fosssil

@Turtlemayor333: It's because they knew it would decimate the Reach online population. If they released Halo CE multiplayer with online matchmaking people would abandon Reach in droves. Not only that, but if the Halo 4 multiplayer turns out to be as much of a debacle as the Reach multiplayer, then that game would also lose players to Halo 1 (which would inevitably lead to less copies sold and less DLC purchased post-launch)

Edited by Afroman269

I thought the developers said that they "tweaked" the Library?

Posted by EchoEcho

@Turtlemayor333 said:

@zombie2011 said:

@Turtlemayor333 said:

I usually don't get all "up in arms" about games but they way they handled the multiplayer on this is 100% gross. The hardcore CE fans or whatever don't like Reach, assassinations, armor abilities. Very unfortunate choice not to at least try recreating the original multiplayer.

Do you know how much more work that would have been? Also why would they split the Halo user base between Reach, Halo CE and Halo 4?

They also have classic version of each map that disables all the armor abilities from Reach, you should read the review before you get all up in arms.

"Splitting the userbase" is the same excuse the 343 guys used on the forums until eventually coming out and admitting that the real reason was that it was indeed too much work. I'm not sitting here throwing around blame or saying the whole product sucks - it's just unfortunate that things went down this way with the multiplayer. I'm aware that 343 has been trying to fix a lot of the community complaints Bungie ignored with Reach.

And sorry, but the classic playlist has been around for a long time and it's not fooling anyone.

343 has said that with the release of the Anniversary maps there will be new Anniversary Classic playlists which include game types that tweak certain variables to approximate the original Halo experience. Things such as the 3-shot-kill pistol, reduced/removed reticle bloom, etc. I believe there will be more than one game type, some of which are a mix of Reach and CE, others that are as pure CE as possible. They actually released a title update that allows for more variables to be changed for Reach multiplayer, so these won't be the same as the original Classic playlists (which I believe were meant to be more like Halo 2/3 than CE anyway). Once you've played in a match using one of the new game types you can then go to your game history and save it for use in custom matches and such whenever you like.

@Fosssil said:

@Turtlemayor333: It's because they knew it would decimate the Reach online population. If they released Halo CE multiplayer with online matchmaking people would abandon Reach in droves. Not only that, but if the Halo 4 multiplayer turns out to be as much of a debacle as the Reach multiplayer, then that game would also lose players to Halo 1 (which would inevitably lead to less copies sold and less DLC purchased post-launch)

I know not everyone likes the changes made in Reach, but calling it a "debacle" and claiming that people would "abandon it in droves" for a Halo CE experience is a gross exaggeration. I've been playing Halo multiplayer since Combat Evolved with 16-player LAN parties, and have continued to play through Halo 2, Halo 3, and now Halo Reach -- and the general opinion of the people I roll with is that Reach is the best iteration on Halo multiplayer thus far, and I'm inclined to agree with that sentiment. So it seems far-fetched to claim there's some near-unanimous disgust for Reach among the hundreds of thousands of people playing the game.

Really, if Halo CE multiplayer being available for online play was going to ring the death knell for every Halo game to come after it, then Halo 3 and Halo Reach would have both been stillborn. Halo PC is still played online to this day, allows for much greater customization of the experience, and is playable on immensely outdated PCs -- and is still incredibly easy to find for purchase.

Edited by Fosssil

@EchoEcho: You and your friends are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I honestly cannot fathom how someone who has played all of the games in the Halo series could point to Reach as the best example of the franchise's multiplayer. The game is awful under vanilla settings, and not much better than Halo 3 even with the new TU since 343 is still attached to bloom for some reason. At the end of the day though, an anecdote about your friends' preferences doesn't mean much. I could give you my Halo resume (Halo 1 LANs and long hours on XBC, tournament player for 2 years in Halo 2, 50 in MLG in Halo 3, etc.) and tell you that all of my friends hate Reach, but that wouldn't mean anything either. What really matters is the opinion of the general Halo population, and you can go to any Halo-related message board (HaloGaf, MLG, 343 official boards) to get an idea about that.

My description of the game as a "debacle" was just my opinion. Reach is full of so many poor design choices that it doesn't really appeal to anyone. The terrible bloom and unbalanced AAs turn off the longtime Halo fans such as myself, yet they aren't mindless enough to attract the CoD crowd. There are very few good maps and a whole lot of poor ones, and the lack of any sort of ranking system other than the meaningless Credits has hurt the game's longevity among the competitive audience. Bungie missed the mark badly with this one, as can be seen by the amount of radical changes that 343 was forced to implement with the TU.

Saying that people will abandon Reach in droves might have been an exaggeration on my part, but only because at this point plenty of people have already abandoned the series because of Reach. It might be more accurate to say that a perfect CE multiplayer remake would actually increase the amount of people playing Halo -- fans like me who have stuck with Reach despite the flaws would switch over to CE, and disenfranchised players who quit because of Reach would return.

Posted by big_jon

Great game.

Posted by PHARAOH

@Wackie:

No real halo ce multiplayer and no real pistol online is a epic fail. Im not buying this ill just play Battlefield 3

Posted by RetroVirus

Excellent review Brad.

Posted by AgileNate

I would have already had this in my collection if it wasn't for my lack of interest in Reach. I LOVE all the other Halo games but Reach is not Halo. I think because of Reach, MS should put Halo 4 on the next console to renew the series. On the 360, it may just look like another Reach and water down the series for a long time. I am already scared because the Halo 4 trailer(only a tease in which could have no part in the actual game) shows a Jet Pack(how did Master Chief attain this?). AA's really screwed with the balance and pace that was always so great.

Posted by chrissedoff

this game rocks

Posted by EchoEcho

@Fosssil: I'm honestly not sure how much you care what I have to say in response to that, considering you prefaced your post with "You're entitled to your opinion, but I honestly cannot fathom why it isn't the same as mine," but I'll respond nonetheless.

I listed my experience with the franchise to illustrate that I'm not new to the series -- I didn't start with Halo 3 or Reach; I've played all of them. I mention my friends considering Reach their favorite Halo game as a counterpoint. You claimed that nearly everyone would drop Reach in a heartbeat to go play Halo CE, yet I don't personally know anyone who would. So there's that -- my "anecdote" was primarily to establish my knowledge of the franchise and to make the point that whether Reach or CE is better depends entirely on who you ask.

I am aware that your comment about Reach being a "debacle" was your opinion -- that's not what I was taking issue with. However you sum up what my issue was very nicely when you go on to say "Reach is full of so many poor design choices that it doesn't really appeal to anyone." That is the sort of thing I took issue with in your original post. It is one thing to state your opinion, and another to project that opinion onto the so-called majority. And no, I don't consider the super-dedicated and competitive crowd who post to Halo-centric forums to be representative of the average player. That is a very small percentage of the total people playing this game, and is a slice taken from a very specific kind of player at that.

Are there average players that likely share your opinion and those of the people on the forums you mention? Undoubtedly. Hell, there are some in this very thread -- and I'm not trying to invalidate any of their opinions, whether I agree with them or not. I just think it's possible to get across your own opinion without claiming to be the voice of the countless masses in the process. As a member of said countless mass, being a longtime Halo fan myself, I was displeased at being misrepresented.

Posted by CatalystGenome

@EchoEcho

I just made this account to say that you worded my feelings on that subject better than i could of. Keep being a gentleman with good taste in games.

Edited by Scodiac

@EchoEcho said:

@Fosssil: I'm honestly not sure how much you care what I have to say in response to that, considering you prefaced your post with "You're entitled to your opinion, but I honestly cannot fathom why it isn't the same as mine," but I'll respond nonetheless.

I listed my experience with the franchise to illustrate that I'm not new to the series -- I didn't start with Halo 3 or Reach; I've played all of them. I mention my friends considering Reach their favorite Halo game as a counterpoint. You claimed that nearly everyone would drop Reach in a heartbeat to go play Halo CE, yet I don't personally know anyone who would. So there's that -- my "anecdote" was primarily to establish my knowledge of the franchise and to make the point that whether Reach or CE is better depends entirely on who you ask.

I am aware that your comment about Reach being a "debacle" was your opinion -- that's not what I was taking issue with. However you sum up what my issue was very nicely when you go on to say "Reach is full of so many poor design choices that it doesn't really appeal to anyone." That is the sort of thing I took issue with in your original post. It is one thing to state your opinion, and another to project that opinion onto the so-called majority. And no, I don't consider the super-dedicated and competitive crowd who post to Halo-centric forums to be representative of the average player. That is a very small percentage of the total people playing this game, and is a slice taken from a very specific kind of player at that.

Are there average players that likely share your opinion and those of the people on the forums you mention? Undoubtedly. Hell, there are some in this very thread -- and I'm not trying to invalidate any of their opinions, whether I agree with them or not. I just think it's possible to get across your own opinion without claiming to be the voice of the countless masses in the process. As a member of said countless mass, being a longtime Halo fan myself, I was displeased at being misrepresented.

I totally agree with you on this. Of course, there are people who like older Halo games more then Reach and they're free to voice that but to say, "Reach is full of so many poor design choices that it doesn't really appeal to anyone.", is ridiculously ignorant and shows a lack of perspective of the Halo audience which is massive. Hundreds of thousands of people play Reach everyday and they play in different ways.

I've been a fan of Halo games from the start and I while I probably don't take the multiplayer competition as seriously as @Fosssil I've certainly spent a lot of time playing Halo games. Reach is the best all around mulitplayer experience I've ever played and my favorite in the series.

Posted by Guided_By_Tigers

Pretty surprised that Brad reviewed this.

Posted by Rekt_Hed

Think I'm good. Thanks anyways 343 for doing fan service.

Online
Posted by Eyz

Even I, absolutely not a fan of the Halo series, can see that this is how an anniversary game's done :P

Neat!

Posted by KaneRobot

Gotta say I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying the campaign on legendary with a friend playing online. I liked the original XBox game playing through it on Heroic, but the higher difficulity and partner aspects made it much more worthwhile to me this time around.

Posted by weegieanawrench

My first experience with Halo: CE was about 7 years ago on a turd of a PC that could barely maintain a steady framerate. Bought this on Tuesday and I'm loving it. Like Brad said, the combat still feels great and the addition of the terminals have me super hyped for the next game. The remastered version looks alright and it's pretty cool to switch between old and new halo graphics. Also, if you have a Kinect, it's worth trying out the voice commands. It can pick up voices in another room, so there's potential for griefing, but it can end up with some hilarious outcomes. Great package for 40 bones.

Posted by Fosssil

@EchoEcho: @Scodiac: Let me step back from the "I can't fathom how you like Reach the best" statement a bit, as now that I re-read it I can see how it seems dismissive. Here's an alternate version of the point that I was trying to make: I don't see how someone who began playing the Halo series with CE and became fond of the "Golden Triangle" gameplay style of guns-grenades-melee could find Reach to be a better game. It's such a divergent experience from all of the Halo games prior, and it does so much to marginalize elements of gameplay that were previously paramount to Halo multiplayer (map control, spawn control, weapon control, player positioning, etc.) that I don't really understand how someone who fell in love with that style of gameplay, as I did, can find the same amount of enjoyment by playing Reach. Apparently you guys have been able to get more fun out of Reach than I have, and I'm actually a bit envious of that, as whenever I play Reach I can only think about how different and frustrating it is compared to previous Halo games.

As for that omnipresent silent majority of players who don't voice their opinions online -- they're voicing their opinions with their wallets and with their time. Reach's online population is a fraction of Halo 3's. Peak hours Reach usually sees a player count in the 70-80K range; weekend Halo 3 saw that much in Team Slayer alone. Obviously popularity isn't indicative of quality (ie. CoD), but it speaks volumes in my mind to the deterioration of the Halo franchise when the sequel to Halo 3 can't put up better numbers only a year after launch.

Posted by CatalystGenome

@Fossil

I'm not going to argue all your points, but you have to factor in the fact that during Halo 3's reign, it was the "popular" game, like CoD has been doing in the more recent years. That's a whole different argument entirely though..

Player count is easily 100k on most days for me, but has decreased recently. That's to be expected when you consider how many games came out this month.

Posted by Fosssil
@CatalystGenome Halo 3 launched only a month before CoD4 (which overtook it in unique player count shortly thereafter) and also had to contend with World at War and MW2 during its popular lifetime. Granted, the CoD beast was not exactly the same then as it is now, but I think it's fair to say that the competition that Halo 3 faced is comparable to what Reach faces now and it still put up better numbers.
Posted by EchoEcho

@Fosssil: I honestly think that's less to do with the quality of Reach, and more to do with people just not wanting to play Halo anymore, period. I used to have a large and regular crew for Halo 3, but even back then there was a slow trickle of people leaving for CoD. It just took a little while for CoD to get its hooks into the Halo crowd, because Halo 3 was the first Halo this gen, and it was still very, very fresh -- people weren't going to just up and drop it only a few months in.

In the case of Reach, it's been out a year, and it's also not the first Halo this gen, so people are going to be more willing to jump ship to try something new -- and now that GoW3, BF3, and MW3 are all out, that's some serious competition to contend with. Halo 3 had to weather three CoD launches -- but where would most of the players for a new CoD game come from? Some of it would be from the competition, but the vast majority are going to come straight from the previous CoD game, so I don't think the competition Halo 3 faced is as comparable as it at first seems.

For whatever reason, some people just don't have room for more than one FPS in their lives, because they feel like they can only champion one franchise in a genre at a time instead of enjoying multiple games -- at least that's been my experience with the people I know. A fair number of them just never came back to Halo for the launch of Reach, or only stopped back briefly to get a taste and reminisce about the good ol' days before returning to CoD or Bad Company 2. There's only a small handful of us left that are capable of enjoying more than one FPS at a time, apparently.

I just think there are way more factors to consider when looking at the active player count in Reach than just the quality of the game itself. The landscape has changed, people's tastes change. Even a Halo stalwart like myself will find himself playing CoD or Battlefield more often than Reach these days, because that's what my friends want to play, and I want to play with my friends.