Halo is one of Microsoftâ€™s biggest franchises on the Xbox, with more than five titles with the brand name, tons of Master Chief merchandise, and multiple novels and comics expanding on the world. So naturally, returning to the seriesâ€™ roots with Halo Anniversary was only a matter of time. We got a chance to play the game with Chad Armstrong from 343 industries and Frank O'Connor at Microsoft at the recent Tokyo Game Show.
Halo Anniversary, as you should know, is an HD remake of the original Halo story, adding new graphics, new features and online play. The demo starts off in the familiar opening section on the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, entering the range of the ring planet called "Halo". It actually seemed to look pretty much the same as the original Halo on Xbox but in widescreen. Textures have no normal mapping, lighting is a bit flat â€” pretty much what you would expect of a direct port of a classic game.
But then it all changed. Chad pressed the Back button on the 360 controller, the screen faded to black for a very short period, then my eyes were treated to Halo like I had never seen it before. In real time the game swaps out all the textures and lighting effects for hi-resolution texture maps. It was phenomenal to see it happen, and without any performance hindrance at all. You can do this at any time, even mid-combat.
Not only does it look more impressive, but the guys at 343 have added some really nice additions to Halo. One was in the form of a brand new terminal on the bridge of the Autumn. Switching from Classic mode to Anniversary mode revealed a new terminal which, while nothing special in the original, contained a new FMV cutscene: a communication signal from Guilty Spark, the AI construct which protects Halo from any outsiders from exploring its secrets. This kind of thing has allowed 343 to add more narrative content to the original plot, plugging up some of the holes in the story players may have experienced back in the day.
There is also an option to play Halo in full 3D. All 3D methods are supported, depending on what 3D your TV uses. Visually the effect is pretty good, and while Iâ€™m not a huge 3D fan myself, itâ€™s not an unwelcome addition for those who will be able to take advantage of it.
But now, letâ€™s talk about the multiplayer. If you already own Halo: Reach and love the multiplayer as it is, donâ€™t fret. The Halo Anniversary disc will run Reachâ€™s multiplayer from its main menu, giving you all the same content as Reach plus the maps you already have. Another bonus is Classic multiplayer. If the host so desires, they can set this mode which will play the original Halo CE multiplayer. Naturally, the three-shot pistol makes its return, so awfully unbalanced but still so enjoyable to play with. The Firefight mode has also been included here, with four players battling alongside AI ODST support against increasingly aggressive Covenant forces.
Reach players will be treated to an update to prep for Anniversary on September 21st, while a beta for Halo Anniversary will be beginning in October. And the final product is due out shortly thereafter in November â€” see you guys online then!
The Good: New, retro, awesome
The Bad: The original Library level
The Ugly: 3D. I just don't get it.