PAX 2011: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Hands-On Preview

Maxwell McGee and Marko Djordjevic crash Halo Fest and get some hands-on time with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary's new maps and modes.

The Penny Arcade Expo is starting early this year. On the eve of the convention's opening, developer 343 Industries kicked off its Halo Fest celebration to commemorate 10 years of Halo goodness. The party focused primarily on Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, the upcoming remake of the classic first-person shooter. Some of the announcements we already knew, such as having the ability to swap between the old and new graphical settings with the press of a button.

Chief among the new items were a set of new multiplayer maps. These included the vehicle-friendly Timberland map and the claustrophobic Prisoner map. In addition, the brand-new Installation 04 Firefight map was on display. We got the chance to team up with fellow editor Marko Djordjevic to revisit some of these iconic locales while trying not to get shot along the way.

Each multiplayer map has two versions: classic and enhanced.

Maxwell: Between all the figurines, artwork, and one massive replica of a Warthog, there was a lot to see here at Halo Fest. However, the most important thing was getting some hands-on time with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. And since you got a head start on me, Marko, why don't you lead us off.

Marko: Sure thing. While you were touring the show floor, I got to spend some time with Firefight mode. Actually, both Tom Magrino and I jumped onto two of the free stations and worked together to complete the mode's objective. I think anyone who has played Firefight before will feel right at home. Installation 04 wasn't too large in size--or at least it didn't feel that large since we stayed pretty close to the large placement that we needed to protect.

Maxwell: While that's all well and good, please tell me you did GameSpot proud and racked up a few kills during your time in Firefight.

Marko: At first, the opposition was pretty easy to get rid of, especially with the two of us. But as the match went on, I think I died twice, and I'm not sure if Magrino died at all. At one point we got a little cocky and took control of a Warthog--Magrino was in the driver's seat and I was on the turret--and we went buck-wild on those pesky Covenant forces. Eventually they shot us off the hog, but we did plenty of damage in the process.

Surprisingly, though, we did manage to complete the five-minute objective. It was an interesting way of finishing; it was either survive the time frame of five minutes or kill off the last wave of enemies. We were pretty close, but when the timer ran out, we still had two more grunts on the map. I think if we had one more person with us or another 30 seconds, Magrino and I would have taken care of business.

Maxwell: It warms my heart to hear that you blasted a few alien faces and kept the galaxy safe a while longer. I got to play around on the Prisoner and Beaver Creek multiplayer maps. True to form, Prisoner was a tight fit for our group with all its narrow hallways and tight corridors. Of course, all these tiny spaces made grenades that much more useful for clearing out pockets of resistance as we jogged from one floor to the next. And unlike with the campaign, 343i isn't afraid to tweak these maps and add in a few extra bridges and walkways to keep things feeling fresh.

As for Beaver Creek, I'll let you take that one, Marko. What did you think?

Marko: Considering these maps were never really playable with 16 characters, it was quite interesting to see how different they felt. Right off the bat, you can see the amount of detail that was put into the multiplayer--these maps were really nice to look at. The only downside I noticed is that these maps might not be as big as they should be. When they were full, it was too easy to get killed or to kill foes. In fact, I remember one situation where a number of us managed to kill each other in such a small space; it was pretty bloody.

343i was happy to confirm that Anniversary will support achievements.

Now while these updated maps are all good, 343i knows some fans will want to stick with the originals. Therefore, each map will include two different modes: the updated version or the true-to-the-original version. You can also further enhance your experience by playing in 3D, though the developers did confirm that this was a purely cosmetic feature. However you want to play, you can get your hands on Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on November 15--the day of the original Halo's 10th anniversary.

Written By

Former GameSpot Associate Editor, current Content Manager for EA SPORTS.

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Discussion

51 comments
deffbyjeff
deffbyjeff

Also, for all of you talking about Halo 3, it should be noted that this game will use the Reach online engine, so it will be like playing Halo Reach, only classic maps.

deffbyjeff
deffbyjeff

I really think 343i is trying too hard. I know the Halo games haven't changed much over the years, aside from a few extra weapons and armor abilities, but it seems to me that a lot of these additions are very unnecessary. I do appreciate the ability to switch between updated and original graphics on the fly, but other things I'm not so sure about. Another article talks about adding kinect functions including voice commands and a "scan" feature. I'm sorry, this is not Metroid, and there's nothing a voice command can do that a controller can't do faster in Halo: CE. And 3D? 3D is a gimmick, and I hope the fad passes soon. I'm tired of layered, fuzzy looking images that claim to be HD. I will buy this, as Halo: CE is my favorite of the series, but I can't help but be skeptical of 343i controlling Halo.

MVan86
MVan86

Really hope this lives up to what I've experienced of Halo 3.

Arianno
Arianno

I love Halo, and wish I could drive Halo vehicles in 1:st person. Imagine to be able to see through the windshield of a Warthog, to see the speedometer (mph-, kph-choice), to feel the "weight" as it bounces through the landscape, to hear and see the stresses on the car's mechanics, to feel like you really were there. Ahh, sweet dreams… But today, we only have Halo vehicles as remote controlled RC toys, without good immersion -- pathetic!

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

I hate Xbox 360. But this game looks ok. Is it any good?

crazydavey
crazydavey

halo 3 was a great game. halo reach is the best value for money game ive ever had, had the game since the day it came out and me and me lad still play the multiplayer online on a daily basis. anniversary looks great from the videos, if it has the same playability as the rest then i will happy for the next year, only worry is that that reach might get forgotten about, nah, that will never happen. forget modern warefare and your battle field games, halo's the king baby, yea!

djpetitte
djpetitte

this is a definite buy for me. @mrfidget I miss the Halo 3 days too.

LoveSack
LoveSack

an original halo remake is any halo fans wet dream

Rovelius
Rovelius

@100proofsoco What the hell are you on about? This "remake" is using the Reach engine for multiplayer - in fact, Reach and Anniversary players will be able to play together thanks to a CE Map Pack that will be released for them. What I'm talking about... what I've been wondering about all along... is if there will be a PLAYLIST that disables armor abilities for the CE maps. Seriously, are you trolling? I played CE and Custom Edition for over 800 hours so I would know.

100proofsoco
100proofsoco

@Rovelius There were no armor abilities in CE. Not in campaign, not in MP. Not anywhere.

Scalds
Scalds

Halo CE in HD on 63 inch 3d plasma! Finally with this and espn 3d that feature is getting more useful.

ReaversRevenge
ReaversRevenge

relive the reason i bought xbox1 and with updated graphics?....... Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary here we come!

IceJester45
IceJester45

@NeonNinja, I totally agree. I am a huge Halo fan. I played CE recently and was surprised by how well it has aged. That said, it's still a game I played a decade ago, and it's multiplayer is basically Reach with new maps. I fully intend to support the Halo franchise post-Bungie, but I want something more than a remake.

NeonNinja
NeonNinja

@IceJester45 Honestly, I really don't want Anniversary. I have Halo: CE, 2, 3, ODST and Reach. They're all great. But honestly, simply releasing Halo 4 would have been sufficient enough. CE holds up really well by today's standards, the fact that they're re-releasing it without altering the gameplay is proof of that. But then, what's the point? I have that campaign and the best feature they can come up with is a button to give you the original graphics. Uh, HELLO! CE's campaign is fantastic, I've beaten probably over 20 times. I love it, but why buy it again when I have it? Honestly, if they were going to do this they should have just included the campaign with Halo 4 or something. That would have been an awesome bonus. I figure Halo 4 has been in development for years. The quality of the game isn't something I'm worried about, but like you, I am worried about annual releases. Halo is a great franchise but they need to lay off of it a bit and give the series room to breathe.

razorfett147
razorfett147

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

razorfett147
razorfett147

I'm probably gonna pick this up anyways (CE's campaign is still the best IMO), but I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed that all we're getting is a graphical update for the campaign. I was hoping for the original CE campaign boosted up with the Reach engine and gameplay mechanics. THAT would have rocked. I never had any respect for the Elites as opponents until I played Reach's campaign.

IceJester45
IceJester45

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

kiramasaki
kiramasaki

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

IceJester45
IceJester45

I'm still not excited for this. I will probably pick up the new Reach maps if/when they hit Xbox LIVE as DLC. I have absolutely no desire to replay a 10-year-old campaign that I have already beaten. If we have to get a Halo game every year, I'd at least like something new. I want a spin-off (like a space sim or another RTS), not a CE rehash.

grim0187
grim0187

PC did not make Halo. If anything, the PC version of Halo was severly crippled compared to consoles. Halo revolutionized console FPS gaming, much in the same way as Doom did before it. My MAIN concern with this, especially with the two different versions of every multiplayer map is this. Will I have to PAY for the enhanced version? And can I play all the new maps in Halo Reach with the Halo Reach daily/weekly challenges? Or is it exclusive to Halo: CEA?

mikeymike869
mikeymike869

This may be because my all my friends play COD like it's the only video game in current existence, but Halo just feels kind of dated now. It was a really, really good era. I had so many good memories playing Blood Gulch with seven other friends and two linked Xboxes, but Reach really just seemed to be missing the magic.

Lotus-Edge
Lotus-Edge

Needs to hurry up and arrive....

Rovelius
Rovelius

@100proofsoco The CAMPAIGN has no armor abilities. The multiplayer does. That's what I was talking about. I hope there will be a playlist for CEA/Reach players just like Reach's Classic playlist where everyone spawns with just Sprint and all the physics,animations and guns are like the original CE.

lock445
lock445

I purchased Gamestop's online-only $99 refurbished Xbox 360 deal JUST for this game which I pre-ordered already and for Halo 4.

xSpcManSpiffx
xSpcManSpiffx

Since Halo:CE is nearly 10 yrs old, I se this as a good way for 343 to show the younger generations what it was all about in a format they want to see. I was in 6th grade when it came out and have played ever since. Huge fan. Cannot wait to play the solo campaign.

thekey
thekey

@backcue I agree with you 200% this great new rerelease is a fail.

thekey
thekey

No PC Love no sale for me.

jmace1
jmace1

@nemesis4x All this "Fail" terminology has become so overdone. Microsoft and the Xbox made Halo what it is today not the PC. While the game was originally intended to be initially released on PC, Halo blew up because it was phenomenal launch title for the original Xbox. When Halo was released for PC, it was poorly optimized for the platform.

nemesis4x
nemesis4x

@backcue You forgot to add one more thing. Not releasing it for PC and thus mocking the PC community who made the game what it is today, EPIC Fail!!

shadow580
shadow580

@backcue It's a remake with better graphics so it will affect the campaign in that way. Besides, purists would hate if some non canon element would be added. We wouldn't want to invoke the Twin Snake rage again. I'm gonna get flamed for this but Halo's story and campaign has always been meh for me. I played the multiplayer quite a lot back in the day with Combat Evolved, but M$ screwed me over when the stopped making a PC version for the series.

backcue
backcue

No additions to the campaign? FAIL! Only catering to multiplayers? FAIL! Re making a great game just to make money? FAIL! Microsoft and 343? You guessed it, FAIL!

Stevo_the_gamer
Stevo_the_gamer moderator

Man, that sounds awesome! Don't care for the 3D though, kind of sounds like a gimmick. >.>

hesel
hesel

Looking forward to this :)

Rovelius
Rovelius

Can you disable armor abilities? That is the question.

avannn
avannn

psychotic_pig you dont have to buy it if you dont want it, i would cuz that was without a doubt the best halo ever, and im feeling nostalgic to play it again with enhanced graphics & achievements :)

psychotic_pig
psychotic_pig

what they should do is let you have the option to have combat like it was in the first game. I always loved having a one on one in halo 1, but we only have 1 xbox so there's to much accidental and purposely screen watching. I'd only by this game to play vs online Halo 1 style, if they don't have that I'll just stick with Reach and not buy another Halo 1. If the single player is the same, and the online is just like Reach, why would I pay 40 bucks for nothing new besides better graphics? 343 Industries, if you ever read this, you need to give Halo 1 an online multiplayer that's exactly the same. I'd pay 60 bucks for just that.