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.
Luke Plunkett, who played so much Blood Gulch he nearly failed university: Despite having copies of Skyrim and Uncharted 3 in the house, I spent a fair bit of the weekend playing and enjoying the crap out of Halo: Anniversary. It's shocking how well this game has aged. I'm not talking about the graphics, whose update is more functional than amazing. I'm talking about the game.
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.
Mike Fahey, Whose First Co-Op Experience in Halo: Combat Evolved Sold Him on the Original Xbox: The Xbox was just a giant black box of comedy to me until a 13-year-old neighbor of my parents convinced me to play some Halo: Combat Evolved. I had run over to his house to borrow a couple of games for my newly-purchased PlayStation 2, planning to be there all of five minutes. The next thing I know hours had passed my head was filled with schemes to turn my then meager gas station manager salary into Microsoft's meaty game machine. The experience not only sold me on the Xbox, it rekindled a long dormant passion for first-person shooters that had been obscured by a puffy pink cloud of Japanese role-playing games.
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.
Gut Check is an off-the-cuff impression of what we think of a game: what we'd tell a friend; how we'd respond on Twitter or Facebook or over a beer if someone asked us "Would you buy this game?" Our lead writer, who has played a lot of the game, decides. Other writers chime in for additional points of view. Stay tuned for our full review.