Despite only visiting it once in my adolescent years, I've never forgotten the Cradle of Aviation Museum in the suburb of Garden City. Row after row of majestic aircraft stood next to each other, shiny but defunct evidence to the pivotal role that Long Island played to the science and practice of aeronautics in the 20th Century. Even throughout the guided tour, there was a stately kind of quiet, an air of reverence that hung throughout the space. Playing through Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary reminds me of walking through the Cradle of Aviation Museum. That place isn't a world-renown venue like the Museum of Natural History or the Guggenheim, but rather it's one of those mid-tier shrines dedicated to a particular phenomenon. It's a physical space reserved for a special kind of contemplation and the 10th birthday re-master of the first Halo game strikes me as a virtual equivalent. Stretching out the metaphor a little more, it's almost like looking at carefully restored masterpiece painting—craning your eyes upwards at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, perhaps—after preservation work's been done. There's a new vividness to be found in something you might've known intimately before.
Make no mistake: Anniversary is an impressive achievement from 343 Industries—the Microsoft division that will steer the course of Halo in the post-Bungie era—and dev studio Saber Interactive. With the Classic Mode option to go back to the game's original graphics with the press of a button, you're essentially getting two flavors of the same experience running simultaneously, one on top of another. Otherwise, Anniversary doesn't make Combat Evolved feel different. Well, that's not entirely true. In terms of visuals, it brings Bungie's mega-success in line with other AAA games of today. Half the fun of playing is going back and forth and comparing how things looked then and now. Neither of these were in the original Combat Evolved. Achievements are also threaded into the game, as are Terminals, video stations hidden throughout the world that expand the series' mythos—and seed foreshadowing for Halo 4. None of the tantalizing narrative hints towards the series' future actually make the experience of playing Halo all over that divergent than the original experience was. Yes, you get all kinds of teases and hints about what might be happening when you get to play as Master Chief again. But you already need to be super-invested in the lore to make sense of these snippets. You'll also find Skulls, the power-ups that reward you with special abilities in both campaign and multiplayer, throughout the game.