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.

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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.
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.
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.

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