19th November 2011 - I've been a fan of the Halo series since I played the first game as a kid, in a living room, surrounded by pizza boxes, empty Coke bottles and friends. To me, there's never been anything quite like the Halo series when it comes to fun with mates, and Anniversary is no exception – in fact, it defines this.
There isn't too much to be said here, being comprised of two older games. But unlike say, the Call of Duty series, Anniversary's multiplayer is meant to play exactly like Halo: CE did in the campaign, and it does. All the tricks you used to pull in the original will work, and all the original difficulty is maintained. Including the stupidly bad handling retro Warthog.
As indicated by that last line, it's not all smooth sailing – there are some problems in the campaign. Some moments are a lot tougher than player who came late to the party with the likes of Halo 3 and Reach would expect, and the co-op respawn system is as buggy as a Kings Street stripper. On more occasions than I could count, my identical Spartan co-op partner was unable to respawn in a completely empty field, even when passing a checkpoint – forcing us to go back two or three checkpoints (or about half the damn level) because of this infuriating bug.
When it comes to multiplayer, it's also pretty familiar, but with a twist – it has modes that play and feel like Halo: CE's multiplayer modes, but now with Xbox Live support, and that makes a world of difference.
Its fast paced, its varied, and it true to what Halo is meant to be about; going around a map, picking up more powerful weapons and blowing the s#!t out of everything that looks at you funny. It's a retro slap in the face to modern gaming greyness, weapons unlocks and hatred of balance.
This is where Halo: Anniversary really soars – it's hard to think of any game that looks better. And I do mean any game. The art style is spot on for the series, continuing from the beautiful Halo 3's style as opposed to the grainy and dull Reach, with lighting that puts even giants like Crysis and Battlefield 3 to shame.
Although the levels themselves aren't re-imagined, the feel is what's been upgraded here. Levels that were confusing and irritating to navigate are now not only easier to navigate and more pleasant places to be, but there's a huge amount of attention to detail to be found in little things like floor grates, screens, holograms, walls and pipes – it's something you just don't find in the majority of games today, and it really does bring the game to life, even with the old levels from all the way back in the past.
As hard as it was for me to believe my eyes at first, the multiplayer maps are even more beautiful. Hang 'Em High has a breathtaking, huge backdrop, a really unique feel compared to other maps in the series (visually), and enormous attention to detail – there are little trails of sand trickling from ledges, scratches on the metal surfaces and shadows to set different areas apart.
On Prisoner, the most beautiful part is definitely the sun streaming through an icy opening in a high wall, but there are lovely little lights dotted all about, with icicles dangling on ledges and bridges, light twinkling all over them – really something special. You can't find anything that looks this good in Halo Reach, as Anniversary makes use of the original bright art direction the series was once known for. The graphics and art style really are my favorite parts of this game – they really fill a void for me that the majority of games today just don't satisfy.
Once again, there isn't all too much to say here, with the audio just coming from two older games – although the campaign's audio is remastered (and in some areas completely redone), and in most of it I actually thought it sounded better than the Halo Reach audio in the Multiplayer, with melee especially sounding particularly bone-crunching.
At $68AUD RRP ($55AUD in some stores), we're on the money here, so to speak. This is pricing done right, and at about half the price of most games released today and at arguably a higher quality and quantity rate, it is true value for money.
There's a lot of replayable campaign time, a fair bit to find (skulls, terminals and the like), great multiplayer (despite a somewhat low population) and plenty of local co-op & multiplayer fun to be had.
The original Halo: CE gave the FPS genre the kickstart it needed on consoles ten years ago, and Halo: Anniversary gives modern FPS genre the shot in the arm that it needs today.
It's a reminder that not everything has to be about terrorists, Arabs and Russians against the U.S. It's a reminder that there are colours other than grey and brown. And it's a reminder of what started us on this journey of bang, bang explode fun on consoles and above all it’s a reminder of what is still possible in games; fun.
One of my personal favorites of all time.
+ Beautiful visual and art style
+ Great remastered Campaign audio
+ Chance for series newcomers to see where it all started
+ Fantastic multiplayer (Reach Engine)
+ Low price – true value for money
- Campaign has some frustrating moments
- Can be crushingly hard for those used to Halo 3 and Reach
- Dated physics show their age
Reviewed and Written By Frankie Main