It's been ten years since Bungie gave Xbox gamers the first Halo game, a console first-person shooter that didn't feel like the weak sister to the genre's PC alpha dogs. From that single title grew blossomed one of video game's most successful franchises, one which reshaped what it meant to play video games with other people. Now, Microsoft's commemorating a decade of Halo by issuing an upgraded remake of the series' first game. Is this trip down memory lane worth your money? Let's take a gut check.
Evan Narcisse, who counts the last Warthog escape in the 2001 Combat Evolved as one of the most thrilling—and frustrating—experiences on the original Xbox: You've played this game before, even if you haven't played Combat Evolved. While the game that started it all is an artifact of the last console cycle, the Halo DNA lived on and evolved into two direct sequels, one spin-off and a prequel. That means that you already know what this experience feels like. Yes, 343 Industries' remastering of the game that made Microsoft's first game console a success is a shiny and well-tempered love letter to Bungie's original code. But, as much nostalgia as I have at revisiting the deadly ringworld and as much as I marvel at the visual upgrades given to the game's sturdy mechanics, there's not enough new here to interest anyone other than Halo super-fans. The memories and nostalgia are powerful, but not so much that I can recommend shelling out $40 for Anniversary. No.
Once you get past the rough edges, which are to be expected in something ten years old, you quickly find that the meat and potatoes of Halo, both in singleplayer and multiplayer, are as enjoyable now as they were in 2001. Well, except for The Library. That sucks as much as ever, but not enough to stop this being a Yes.
I am terrified of sullying that pure memory with a gussied up version of the game that started it all. I suppose that's a concern with any HD remake, but for this one in particular, having made such an impact, it's quite a profound feeling.
If you've never played Halo: Combat Evolved before I can see picking up a copy of Anniversary just to fill in the missing chapter. As one of the millions of players that played and loved the original game, I'd prefer to keep my memories as they are and let 343 Industries get on with the business of showing us what they can do in Halo 4. No.