The people who are making the 10th-anniversary Halo remake call Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary a "gift to the fans."
Players of the original Halo—players like me—might wonder if a "gift to the fans" (retail price $39.95) should include, ugh, that Library level from the first game.
That Library level was tedious. Seemingly endless shooting in a dark library. Uninteresting encounters, one after the other. The level is Halo's most notorious. So I asked one of the top guys at Microsoft's Halo division, 343 Industries, if the Library is going to be improved.
"Yes and no," was the answer I wriggled out of 343's Dan Ayoub. After demoing the game here in Los Angeles at a Microsoft E3 event, he explained with a knowing smile that, after much debate, the developers of Anniversary decided to keep the level design of the remake identical to that of the original. In fact, you can press a button at any time while playing the game and change the game's Xbox 360 graphics to the original Xbox graphics (there is a hell of a difference in detail).
But! But.... Ayoub said that "you may find ways to alter how you play a level." Hmmm. He was implying that that might make the Library level better. He wouldn't explain what the change would be. Skulls that change the behaviors of enemies? A spawnable Warthog to drive through that damn level?
He wasn't saying.
Ayoub's demo was an impressive nostalgia trip. He showed a play-through of one of the game's original areas. Switching the graphics form the 360 remake to the original Xbox's would drop the detail from beaches, remove background pipes and girders in an indoor area. It simplified the sky, made waterfalls look like abstract art. But the gameplay looked oh-so-familiar. It's not been changed. In fact, Ayoub said that the game uses the gameplay engine of the original Halo, running simultaneously with the more modern graphics engine.
Anniversary will support two-player online co-op and splitscreen multiplayer. It will come with seven multiplayer maps based on levels from Halo 1-3. One of those maps will be a Firefight level. The remake's campaign will also include new informational terminals that will spawn movies that reveal part of the history of the Halo structure on which the game is set.
Oh, and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary will have Achievements. Ayoub is keeping them secret for now.
The game is being overseen by 343, the campaign is being handled by Saber Interactive; the multiplayer by Halo map pack veterans Certain Affinity. The game will be out on November 15.
Halo came out a decade ago.
And the Library still sucks... maybe.