Halo Anniversary Behind Closed Doors

It's good to be back, Halo.

“The reason we’re doing this,” says 343 Industry’s Dan Ayoub to TheSixthAxis behind closed doors at E3 this week, “is because the fans have been asking for it.” It’s also true that it’s the tenth anniversary of the original Xbox Halo, and we’re pretty sure that the fact that publishers Microsoft look to make a substantial amount of money out of the game has something to do with it. Regardless, Halo Anniversary is coming, this year, and from what we’ve seen it’s looking brilliant.

[drop2]As if reading our mind, Dan boots up the game and jumps straight into The Silent Cartographer. We remember showing off Halo originally using this very level – the blend of emergent AI and a real sense of scale on the sandy beaches pretty much the high point in the game’s single player campaign; a decade later and it’s still a shining example of gameplay even if there’s not nearly as many Covenant as we thought there was all those years back at the Xbox’s launch.

Nothing’s changed, of course – faded memories always make things like this seem better than they were – but it doesn’t matter: Halo Anniversary looks superb. Dan tells us that it’s the visuals and audio that have seen the changes here, the AI, mechanics, level design and physics are all absolutely identical. What this means is that the game plays exactly the same as it always did but now comes with a gorgeous fresh coat of paint – not unlike many of the other ‘HD Remakes’ that are doing the rounds.

Rather than just a simple upscale, though, 343 have redone everything. The landscapes and structures are now lush, modeled with much higher fidelity and packed with incidental details that simply weren’t there ten years ago. Working with Skywalker Sound has also meant that the effects are punchier and super crisp, the audio evidently a notch or two above the original and sure to sound just as immersive as anything more recently released, despite Halo’s first outing already running in 5.1 surround.

But it’s a few minutes in that Dan shows off Anniversary’s killer move – tapping Back, after a tiny pause, flips the game into what 343 are calling ‘Classic’ mode – stripping away the flashy upgrades and leaving you with the original visuals without taking you out of the game or having to sort through menus. It’s similar to the recent Monkey Island special editions, but naturally a little more impressive. The difference, as you’d expect, is startling, and you can make the switch at any time.

Once you see Classic mode and the new remix side by side, you can really spot the changes: animation is much improved, there’s grass everywhere, the water splashes and reflects light, and the polygon models show a gulf of quality so vast that you’ll only really want to play in Classic just to pick out the differences. Also new are Terminals (returning from Halo 3) which will fill in more of the back-story and lore, and – of course – Achievements, co-op over Live some Halo 4 teasers.

And then there’s multiplayer, Halo’s sticky feature that keeps gamers coming back day after day. Anniversary will sport seven maps (from the first three Halo games) and run on Reach’s engine (although you’ll be able to toggle Reach-specific options like backpacks) – we got a quick glimpse of Damnation and it looks superb, everything’s been re-done in multiplayer too, which is great. And all this will be just $40 when it releases later this year – for Halo fans, it’s a must have.

17 Comments

  1. I really hope the huge sequence break on Silent Cartographer still exists. I spent a good 2-3 hours trying to and succeeding at doing that way back when. Loved it :D

  2. Oh, this sounds like an excellent port. At (presumably) £30, they also aren’t asking an unreasonable amount for the game. I’ve never played the original properly, so this sounds like something I might get :D

  3. I never really see the point of having the “classic” modes in games. It is nice to switch on for a second to admire how much better the new graphics are, but other than that they seem pretty pointless.

    • With Halo, it’s because during development they used this method to check that they were getting everything spot on with the upgrades to assets and so on. It’s a nice little feature, though, because I’d quite like to play a few levels with the old engine spruced up to 720p (though 1080p would be better, naturally)

  4. I might have to borrow a 360 when this comes out. The original Halo is one of my all time favourite games. Think I may have to play it again today after reading this.

  5. It really looks like they’ve done a great job with it and my hazy memories of Halo CE on PC are probably faint enough now that running through this will be a steady stream of remembering little things. That’ll be nice :)

  6. I should get it Halo on pc….. I can’t risk having another console (T_T)

  7. “The reason we’re doing this,” says 343 Industry’s Dan Ayoub to TheSixthAxis behind closed doors at E3 this week, “is because it’s like printing money!!!!!”

    • Isn’t that why all games are made? Though it applies more so with remakes and re-releases, but even so.

      • I agree, but I’ll further it, it’s why any product is made.. Monies.
        On another note, i think this looks great, cool to see the before and after pictures, shame It’s not on PS3..

      • If there wasn’t a demand and desire for this product, it would not be being made. So many fans of the series want a remake that it has economical sense to release it and reap the rewards. It’s as simple as that.

      • My point, albeit tongue in cheek, was that MS could release rubber dog shit with Halo written on it and it would still sell millions. A re-skin of an old game is a sure fire way to make money without much effort.

        Don’t get me wrong, I lapped up the God Of War remakes – but at least they weren’t full price :)

  8. will they fix that bloody library level?
    because i don’t think i’m alone in absolutely hating that level.

    • That level and the flood levels are a bit tedious. I know its an HD remaster, rather than a remake, but this. Just a little change to spice it up.

  9. Fair play.

  10. This may be the first game I get on pre-order, assuming Amazon actually put it up.

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