Halo: Anniversary is an Xbox 360 reworking of a 10-year-old Xbox game, so visual improvement is a given. But in it, you can switch between the old and new graphics on the fly, and when you see the "classic" view of the swamp-set campaign level 343 Guilty Spark flip into the new high-definition version, the contrast is astounding: rich textures pop in, shafts of light shoot in through the tree canopy, and the draw distance explodes outward. It looks like a myopic Master Chief is getting fitted for his first pair of glasses.
It's not just about upping resolutions, though. Executive producer Dan Ayoub insists they "didn't just want to take the game, make it HD, and slap it in a box." Instead, he says, the mission statement is to re-create the feeling you got the first time you played Halo. For Halo: Anniversary, that means splicing old Halo DNA into a new graphics engine and audio engine. To preserve the feel of the 2001 title, says Ayoub, chunks of the original code lurk behind the snazzy HD textures and remastered sound effects. The musical score has been rerecorded with a new orchestra and audio expertise from Skywalker Sound, for instance, but the original magnum appears unchanged. It's "still crazy and overpowered," says Ayoub.
The multiplayer similarly offers a mix of old and new. Well-trodden multiplayer maps like Beaver Creek and Damnation have been remade for Anniversary, with four more yet to be unveiled. A map designed for Firefight, the Horde-like mode in recent Halos, is also due for an unveiling (look out for news from Halo Fest at the Penny Arcade Expo at the end of the month, perhaps). You can now play the campaign cooperatively over Live instead of schlepping your machine to a friend's houses for system linking. Terminals, the backstory fillers from Halo 3, also make a kind of return; now these Forerunner items deliver video rather than text. Ayoub says these will also contain hints at what's to come in Halo 4, the full sequel announced at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Because it's the anniversary of the console release coming up, 343 Industries isn't yet talking about a PC release for Anniversary. But when the game does arrive for the Xbox 360 in November, this "love letter to fans of Halo" will come with a sub-premium price tag (around £34 or $40) for those less keen to shell out for something they already bought--even if that was 10 years ago.