E3 2011: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Preview

We get our first look at the shiny new graphics and revamped multiplayer of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

From MacWorld 1999 to E3 2011, Halo: Combat Evolved has a long and influential history. As the game that inspired a generation of shooter fans and proved once and for all that first-person shooters have a home on consoles, it has rightly garnered the adoration of many. The much-clamored-for HD remake of the seminal shooter has finally been revealed, and we spent some quality time checking out the visual upgrades, the revamped multiplayer, and the new content that 343 Industries is carefully applying to this venerable title.

Our demo began with a scene that anyone familiar with the Xbox original will remember. At the beginning of the level titled "The Silent Cartographer," Master Chief is inserted onto a beach alongside a squad of UNSC marines. Though he immediately comes under fire from a Covenant fire team, you can't help but notice the distant arc of the titular halo sweeping skyward in the distance. It looked appropriately distant yet surprisingly crisp. The nearby scenery has a similar aesthetic. Islands, boulders, plants, and grass all had a sharpness that looked quite vivid. This visual liveliness gave the action a feeling of immediacy, yet it also felt a bit odd when compared to more recent entries in the Halo series. Our demoers pointed out that this was still an early build of the game, and we were ready to attribute the strange sensation to the game's unfinished state. That is, until 343 Industries unveiled one of the coolest features of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

With the press of a button, our demoer turned back the clock. Almost instantly, the landscape was transformed. Water that rippled with the passage of waves and sparkled in the sunlight became a flat, blue sheen. Grass and rocks that caught our eye with rich textures and careful shadowing became dull and stolid. And even our allies, whose detailed armor glinted during their battlefield maneuvers, became polygonal and boxy. As it turns out, the strange sensation we'd felt earlier was the contrast between the natural upscaling of our memory and the actual upscaling undertaken by 343 Industries. The ability to switch the visuals on the fly was something 343 Industries merely experimented with until it became clear that it was one of the team's favorite features. It was certainly one of the most intriguing parts of our demo; one that will serve as a nostalgic pleasure for some and a history lesson for others.

Of course, our demoer couldn't spend all his time observing the scenery, and once he started disposing of the Covenant, things proceeded apace. Grunts, Jackals, and Elites all appeared to boast improved textures over their original looks--no imports from later designs were in evidence. Another Pelican soon delivered a Warthog for our driving pleasure, which once again afforded a vivid contrast in texture and modeling. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary may not reach the visual heights of recent Halo games, but it definitely appears to belong in the current generation.

In addition to graphical upgrades, 343 Industries is adding terminals to this Halo experience. Originally introduced in Halo 3, these hidden stations conveyed backstory and history that filled out the Halo universe in interesting ways. The terminals added to Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will be less out of the way, we were told, to better allow players to learn about the history of the first Halo ever encountered. Though we couldn't see an actual terminal sequence, we were told that these glimpses into the past wouldn't be merely written history. Instead, they apparently involve artistic and auditory elements. The one we saw was merely a prototype, but it featured the unmistakable voice-over of 343 Guilty Spark, the floating AI construct who addresses Master Chief as "The Reclaimer" and provides incongruously chipper (and frustratingly vague) exposition about the true function of Halo. The one we saw merely served as foreshadowing for events we already knew came later in the adventure, but 343 Industries alluded to the fact that accessing all the terminals might reveal hints about the freshly announced Halo 4.

And though Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary features two-player campaign cooperative play either via split-screen or over Xbox Live, it couldn't show its face without competitive multiplayer. Seven remastered maps will be making an appearance in a multiplayer mode that runs on the Halo: Reach engine. (As a technical side note, the campaign runs with two game engines simultaneously: the original Halo: CE engine with a remastered graphics engine layered on top). The ramifications of running on the Reach engine aren't merely aesthetic (though the revamped Damnation map looked significantly better): The multiplayer will feature the armor abilities that debuted in Halo: Reach. 343 Industries is working with Certain Affinity on the multiplayer mode, the developer who collaborated on the Defiant Map Pack for Halo: Reach. Furthermore, players who own Halo: Reach will be able to install the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary maps from the disc to their hard drives and access them directly from the Halo: Reach menu, which is indicative of 343 Industries' goal to satisfy both current and old-school Halo fans.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary certainly piqued our nostalgic interest, yet it looked to deliver an eminently playable experience. There was a lot more we wanted to ask, but 343 Industries played it coy with details about extensive tie-ins to Halo: Waypoint, changes to the campaign that allow you to play levels as originally delivered or as "remastered versions" (did someone say Library?), and ways to tweak the difficulty of the campaign levels (if you're thinking skulls, you're on the right track). Be sure to watch the interview above for more on the game and check our E3 2011 live stage demo for a look at the game in action. A little shindig called HaloFest promises to deliver more information later this year as the November 15 release date approaches. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will retail for $39.99.

Written By

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Y

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Discussion

66 comments
Pumpkinhead3
Pumpkinhead3

I can imagine playing big team battles on sidewinder.

Wensea10
Wensea10

hopefully there will be new weapons

Cortana101
Cortana101

Maps from all the games and the return of all Halo 1 maps is necessary. Why did they not add other cool features like the awesome original zoom in pistol?

u6demi9
u6demi9

...read post below this first, because i ran out of room. Because at that time games that did that were pc only. If you can name ANY, I will be surprised. Now that I'm done with fact, I will state my opinion. The origional halo was an amazing game for a console, it was the reason i bought an xbox. It will stand as ONE of the greatest games of all time, because of everything it did for console games and it was the first to do it all well. I am in no way saying it is better than games made now adays because honestly it can't compare. To play it now, it is bland, empty, and lacking everything people have grown accustomed to over the last few years. But at it's time of release, there was nothing even close to it. So looking at it that way, yes One of the best games ever, because without it and the things it did that were never done on a CONSOLE before it, you might not have the games everyone loves today. The origional halo set the bar and the direction console games went.

u6demi9
u6demi9

Alright people, enough with all the arguing back and forth. To you pc gamers complaining you must remember back when halo ce origionally came out it was monumental for console gamers. Up until that point there had been nothing to even compare to it on consoles. It did things never seen on a console before and set the bar for all games after. You also have to remember back at the time it released games were geared to pc users. You always got the better graphics, more content, more interactiveness, and all the best games released were for pc only. Also halo ce was origionally a xbox only title, so it fits if the release the hd one the same way. Now, for all you console people having issues about it being empty and such, you have to remember when this was origionally released. It was a launch game for the origional xbox. You can't compare it to games now a days. Hardware, game engines, everything has changed drastically. If you want to compare it to something, go out and get the other games on any console the came out any time around when the origionally halo released. They can't even come close to comparing to this. What other games at the time the origional realeased had a great multiplayer, you could play through the campaign with 2 people, had graphics anywhere close to it, had npcs running around with you, interacting and fighting along side you, on a CONSOLE. Ran out of room, to be continued...

SpunkyB0B
SpunkyB0B

Halo1 was the best game.... a remake is all that was needed :)

McGregor
McGregor

@foojam You do realize that this is a game set in the future right? There is a chance that health regeneration would be possible at that point in time...Just saying. I do get that the health regeneration makes it a bit "easier" but in comparison to the PC, you have to give some sort of handicap due to the lack of precision controls on the xbox in comparison the PC. I will more than likely purchase this game for the revamped multi-player maps, but I don't really see myself replaying the campaign...although the terminals are tempting :D @vicsrealms I would have a huge problem paying $150 to fix a problem on my computer, however, I wouldn't have a problem spending $150 to upgrade parts on my computer. Repairs are repairs, no matter what format (car, pc, xbox, playstation, wife, etc...) and I hate paying for something, multiple times, that should continue to work for a reasonable amount of time.

scratchisme
scratchisme

Now they just need to remake Halo 3. :P

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

I recently bought Halo 3 since i got my 360 just a few months ago and was wishing for a way to better understand the story, thank you 343.

pisoni94
pisoni94

this is definitely gonna be on my wish list

reavin81
reavin81

hay they did what monkey island did the abillitie to cross between old and new that is mad, i hope they bring beaver creek to multiplater that will be sweet

xboxcat22
xboxcat22

Great news, the first one had a real feeling of open space, bringing it up to date graphically is a sure winner and money maker. Like so many other people will be, I am looking forward to playing it.

Gunathar
Gunathar

Halo was the first Xbox game I ever finished. It was great fun. I really like the story and the intuitive controls, but I don't know if I want to go through it again, even with better graphics. Give me something more than new graphics and gammicks and I'll buy Halo CE. Again.

JazzFromHell
JazzFromHell

the multiplayer from halo combat evolved for pc was the best halo multiplayer ever, epic ctf battles, true headshots skills, people dont hide and suddenly appear like in halo 3.

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

I was completely uninterested with the terminals in Halo 3, but in the remake of CE, I am willing to do almost anything for more information on the story of Halo 4, and how it's gonna play. I hope it will be just as epic as Halo 3 and 2 and so on. They were amazing, and Halo Reach didn't get up to that epicness. I bet Halo 4 will.

smwat
smwat

@Newbie4lyfe If I rember right Fable and Halo 2 were part of the First HD games on the original Xbox. But I think they could only reach 480

smwat
smwat

as a good game, hope the remake is good. Sadly I had a falling out with the Halo games with Halo 3 Though seeing a remake of the best of the 3 will be nice. To me the games were time killers and a so so story that was only fun when you read the books. It will be nice to play Multiplayer Haven't done that on a Halo game sence 2 was at its hype.

Phil_Maholynn
Phil_Maholynn

Now they need to remake a 360 version of Halo 2 (my favorite of the series) for the hiatus between halo 4 and halo 5. I will most likely add this to my halo collection come November.

AceCometh
AceCometh

Maybe not the absolute best game of all time, but it's damn well one of my FAVORITE games of all time. Getting a revamped edition will be the perfect game to hold me over until Halo 4 is finally released.

foojam
foojam

@ ace070590 "one of the best games of all time" you claim. Well, definitely not but enjoy it as much as you like.

ace070590
ace070590

@foojam All I can say is that Halo is not for everyone, but for it's fans this is big news and very exciting. So please, save the bashing for later and let us enjoy a remake of one of the best games of all time :)

Bog101
Bog101

Big news for an awesome game

mdchapel9
mdchapel9

Hopefully they will show us how Sgt Johnson survive. (I dont care if its confidential)

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

My only problem with this is the armor abilities. Unless there is a classic playlist that people will actually play, I will have a major problem dealing with armor lock and sprint when I'm trying to relive the original Halo Combat Evolved feeling. But everything else looks amazing, and I hope they do the same with Halo 2.

S-181
S-181

this game looks epic. i'm almost more excited about this than halo 4.

buttison
buttison

This is definitly going to be a hit!!!!

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Yep, theres a difference between the PC and the 360. My PC still works after three years and I can upgrade the silly thing if it goes obsolete. Plus, I have no problem laying down a $150 dollars if it will correct a problem with my PC. I'm not putting down $150 dollars on a console that is barely used and didn't last 3 years (poor Lost Odyssey!!).

drswank
drswank

No split screen coop? SHAAAAAME.

megamaster32
megamaster32

sounds great hopefully they could make a few arrangements and such graphics looks alittle weird

Barighm
Barighm

Hmm...I don't like the sound of a few things. Sounds like you will need to use Waypoint to access some of the game's features. It's cool I can download this game's maps and play them in Reach though. [quote]there is already few exclusives on 360[/quote] People always forget the 360's Arcade titles when they talk exclusives. Yes, they count. No, you can't pretend they're not "real" games.

VampNeko
VampNeko

If we don't have indestructible warthogs... someone at 343 is going to pay ¬.¬

chyng85
chyng85

A solid and colorful shooting gem~

foojam
foojam

@ Sigil-otaku Well, i don't want to spend too much of my time about a game i don't like, so this childish thing you say doesn't apply here. Because a game sells like crazy doesn't mean we all jump to the wagon and have the same opinion, right? I tried Halo and i found the levels to be empty, the whole planet just empty, no variety of anything that would fill the levels and make them immersing. Simple textures, guns that offer no satisfaction when you fire, AI that lacks challenge, very easy to be killed while driving, in fact, easier than when being on foot, a not likeable character and two important things: Halo started the most annoying mechanics that plague like cancer the FPS genre ever since, the health regeneration and the checkpoint system. I am a pc user, i want to save my damn game whenever i want, i don't want the game to decides when it will save for me and being forced to repeat a whole new section from scratch (i hated CoD 2 for this). About the health regeneration, it lacks realism, makes the game more simple (console fanboys love this simplicity) and ruin the whole experience. If you played these legend games as you claim, you should at least be annoyed by the last two factors of my post. So, you see, i have my reasons for not liking this overhyped game which was mainly loved by gamers with no experience in real good FPS of the past. Unreal, Half-Life, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Undying, Far Cry, Quake 4 are so much better than Halo.

Sigil-otaku
Sigil-otaku

@Pakundo Well that's nice to know but it depends on how aware of that others were. Try and look at it from a 360 gamers perspective though, there is already few exclusives on 360 and if they were to go on PC too I'd wonder what the point in a 360 would be. I've bought a PC too (gtx 460 and i5 760) but I'd rather my xbox have some exclusives, my PS3 have some, my 3DS have some and my PC have some rather than them all sharing and wondering what the point in any of them is. Personally I see Halo as an Xbox exclusive, it's been like that for the past 4 games and it's been on xbox before PC for at least a year both times it went to PC. I don't think MS has much left for Xbox users and I'd rather they keep the exclusives they have. I bought my 360 with 3 main exclusives (from the original Xbox) in mind, those were Kingdom under fire (seems to have gone PC and PS3), Ninja Gaiden (better on PS3 thanks to sigma 2) and Halo so last thing I want is my 3 fave exclusives to no longer be exclusive and have no proper replacements.

jumpy46
jumpy46

I hope they add one little change to the original game and make campaign co-op online.

Pakundo
Pakundo

@Sigil-otaku technically you can run Halo 2 Vista on windows XP, with a slight modification ,as well as Windows 7. But regardless, the only reason Microsoft won't let us PC players the physical ability to play the recent Halo games is Xbox 360 exclusivity. And not everyone can buy an Xbox 360...

Sigil-otaku
Sigil-otaku

@foojam Yes I did find it to be the best because I found Halo to have the most fun mechanics (it was somewhere between the overly fast twitch shooting of unreal / quake and the more realistic but less fun slow shooters like Doom and Killzone or Deus ex). Because of that along with the well balanced weapons, good variety in combat (vehicles, grenades, alien weapons, human weapons and since Halo 3 equipment or armour abilities). You say it's bland but a lot of the shooters I mentioned were far more bland as at least Halo was colourful, fit somewhere between the mould without faltering by going too far either way and it's generally considered a good game hence why it was a success on both Xbox and PC even though it came out late, barely advertised and with Halo 2 only for a single (failed) OS. I'm sorry you don't like Halo but your remarks sound far more childish than mine because I'm willing to explain why it's good whereas you just use simple cover words like bland and mediocre when the vast majority disagree with that. Come on and back it up with some proper incite. Halo is quite well done, for example it has various smart game mechanics like well balanced weapons, only able to carry 2 weapons (strategy), the shield which any smart player would use strategically and with the addition of armour abilities I believe it's set itself apart. Halo also always has tons MP modes along with quite decent single players.

foojam
foojam

@ Sigil-otaku You mean you played all these great games (you should play Unreal too) and you find the bland Halo to be the best? Omg, your message is so amusing, haha! You should consult the younger generations about good games, you have THE taste.

Sigil-otaku
Sigil-otaku

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Sigil-otaku
Sigil-otaku

@Pakundo They didn't forget about PC fans, they just didn't chuck xbox exclusives at PC gamers. There's a difference between the xbox and PC so why would you expect them to make there no differences? It's ridiculous. Just buy an Xbox if you want halo as it's an exclusive and surely you've noticed that by now.

foojam
foojam

@ Pakundo You are right about disrespect to pc gamers but there are so many great shooters out there, Halo is mediocre, so no worries.

Warshock
Warshock

Wait... no split screen? That's what MADE the co-op experience for this game, especially for me. It's probably in there, just forgot to mention it.

Pakundo
Pakundo

I know Microsoft really loves the Halo franchise as an Xbox 360 exclusive, but that means they completely forgot about us PC fans. Yes, us, who got Halo PC on 2003, which is until now one of the most played online shooters that are over 5 years old. Us, who got Halo 2 Vista only on May 2007, without support at all. Us, PC fans of the series, who never got Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, or Halo: Reach. I won't mention Halo: Wars, because it is outside of the main franchise in my opinion, but you get my point. I still want to finish the fight, and it's not 2007 anymore. It's 2011.

siamo
siamo

@vicsrealms SERIOUSLY. And does the PC having Combat Evolved mean we get the Anniversary addition? Doesn't look like it! uMad? I'm SO MAD.

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Hmm, here's hoping they will bring them all to the PC at least some point. Just having the first two on the PC seems kind of pointless.

d4v1dbow13
d4v1dbow13

hopefully this game will hold more than nostalgia for me and other fans.

AncientDozer
AncientDozer

Oh, it will be $40 (technically $39.99). Hah hah. Just got to the bottom. I think it's good. It essentially includes a map pack which are typically 10-15 anyway. Not only can you play the classic maps in Halo anniversary but also in reach? Interesting.

AncientDozer
AncientDozer

@foojam I'd be more generous and say "under 40". 20-40 is a reasonable range. I wouldn't be surprised if they did 50-60 but I hope not. It'd be a masterful PR stroke if they nailed much lower.