When Halo: Combat Evolved debuted on the Xbox, it continued the work arguably started by the Nintendo 64's GoldenEye. By bringing workable first-person controls to the - previously thought to be unusable - console controller for the first time, the FPS was a huge hit for then small-time developer Bungie. Sure, their well-realized Science Fiction universe and creative setting helped a great deal, but we're in no doubt that the most significant factor in the game's outrageous success was its accessibility.
Time marches on, however, and these days everyone has amazing controls - even if they are remarkably similar to those first seen in Bungie's title. How much time? It's been ten years, believe it or not, since we first got lost in the corridors of Halo's Library level. How better to celebrate, then, than by releasing a remastered version that takes advantage of the far more capable Xbox 360?
We were keen to find out if this was going to be a strictly retro rush or a game worthy of attention in its own right, a decade after our first play-through. While it's still too early to know either way, our hands on has given us a pretty good idea as to what the answer to that question might well prove to be...
To find out, we sat down to play a lengthy session of multiplayer on Battle Canyon, a classic Halo map that's been brought up to date for the new gameplay engine of Halo CEA. Set mostly outdoors, with a little indoors action too, the map is a classic and will be instantly recognizable to veteran Halo fans.
Now, of course, it not only looks the part but it also sports Halo Reach style gameplay, complete with jetpacks, character classes, perks and so on. The Jetpacks in particular have a big impact on the way this level plays out, helping to make it feel simultaneously fresh and yet familiar at the same time.
Not familiar with the map? It's roughly rectangular in shape, with a big rock arch in the center and a building down one end. The building, the arch, and the cliffs beside that arch are a good place to explain the impact adding jetpacks as to the proceedings; suddenly they're hotly contested and readily available as a location to shoot from (or to...). The separation is distinct, too, with gamers in these locations facing their most significant threats from other players up their with them - while combat on the ground goes on largely unnoticed (if you pay too much attention up or down, you'll find your face full of projectiles from someone on your level).
The matches were a lot of fun, and we were gutted when the session ended. We can tell already the remake is gonna be a lot of fun - with the game itself budget priced, there's no reason not to get excited about 343 Industries' debut Halo game.
It's headed to Xbox 360 in New Zealand around the 17th of November - based on what we've seen, we reckon you should put that in your calendar. Look for our full review closer to that date!
The Good: It looks, sounds, and plays better
The Bad: Might get overlooked in the Christmas hubbub
The Ugly: Flicking back to the way it used to look