Written by Ryan Johnson (RyanDJ) Tuesday, 29 November 2011 12:00
I feel I am in a very good position to review Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. I liken it to my 5-year old son, who I have been writing about in my Evolution of a Gamer articles. For him, the age of the game means nothing. He wants to play, "The Mario where you jump into paintings" or "the blocky Mario," when I remember the years between the releases of Mario 1 and Mario 64. For him, they're two different Wii channels. This is what I get with Halo: I paid no attention to Halo through the years, and now through GoozerNation or promotions, I currently own a copy of Halo 1 and Halo Reach.
Mario breaches the two categories I have put forth, worthy of both "remastering" and "remaking." He has evolved through the years, from basic stomping to flipping, punching, squirting, and defying gravity. Yet there is still a magic to his old style: there are almost two different series of Mario games now: 2D and 3D. I look forward to trying Super Mario Bros 3D Land, as reviewers say it is the best mix to date, but if you were to take an original Mario 1 buff and jump them straight to Galaxy, they would probably say they aren't the same series, even though we have seen the progression through the years. Mario has been "remade" through his constant evolution, yet "remastered" in new games like Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Meanwhile, GoldenEye recently received a remake. While many (myself included) would have LOVED an HD remaster of the original, the developers knew that a modern feel would resonate more with the masses, changing it from a downloadable title that may not get as much play (like my download of Perfect Dark) to an intruiging disc-based title people would want to play through to see what is different, and a multiplayer model they would hope lasts longer than the nostalgia factor would allow.
Then there is the much demanded Final Fantasy 7 remake/remaster: too big a project to upgrade, so the best we may get is an official FFVII-2. No matter what, a re-do of any sort would take too long and disappoint, much like Duke Nukem Forever.
Remastery is better for side scrolling Mario: building a new engine to run a rehash of Mario 1 would be foolish, yet simply new paint on Goldeneye could have made people see how outdated it really is. Then there are games best left alone: the magic of FFVII will always remain best in its natural form.
Halo seemed to get both: the main campaign is so untouched that you can literally change between original and remastered graphics on the fly, while multiplayer was brought to modern times via what amounts to a Reach map pack. This works because those wanting the original want THE ORIGINAL. If they added, say, Gears of War cover play, it wouldn't be Halo. It would be a Halo mod for Gears of War. If you truly wish to experience this game like you did 10 years ago, it needs to play the same. It also had to feel the same in the rich story people remembered, as fans have certain things ingrained. Having Master Chief's introduction changed, or any other part of the story for that manner, would cause a fan outcry on the level of making Greedo shoot first. While I can't place my thumb on it directly, I notice differences in playing Halo and Reach back to back. Perhaps it is enemy AI, or the more campy attitude the enemy has in the first in my opinion, or the AI of your teammates. While the upgrades have gradually been added, it would seem odd to have them in the original, like if Mario had the bee outfit in the very first game in a remake.
Then, you have multi. While a solo experience, my friend summed it up playing Arkham City. He went back to the first game after beating Arkham City to 100% Asylum. He got mad and gave up because Batman was missing so many "upgrades" found in the sequel. Online games tweak in each sequel, so backtracking wouldn't keep attention like adding to the superior sequel. People would always want the new abilities that would seem lost going in reverse. Halo fans have gotten used to the loadouts, emblems, and customizable armors found in the later games, and losing them for "nostalgia" would be detrimental to the series.
The team behind the Halo remake gave fans exactly what they needed: a carbon-copy update of the original story, and a fresh MP experience that allows gamers to re-live classic firefights with new gameplay styles. This combo of remaster and remake is the perfect package: a welcome intro to new fans of the series, an homage to a classic tale, and a new "classic" sheen on a pristine multiplayer experience. Pick it up today!