Master Chief is back and prettier than ever in a more challenging version of the same adventure we played with in 2001. The 'Anniversary Edition' brings several new features including an online multiplayer, Kinect integration and Halo Waypoint.
The familiar opening music alongside a revamped opening video really made the hair on the back of our necks stand on end. Everything looks gorgeous and felt like the Halo we all know and love, but brought into 2011... and then we saw Captain Keyes.
Despite the beautiful scenery and fantastic graphics in other areas, 343 Studios really did have a bad day when they worked on the faces of humans. They are so bad it looks like every human face has suffered severe plasma burns.
The voice acting is also questionable considering the facial expressions are as motionless as Lego men and the 'plasma burns' seem to affect mouth movement to the point of ventriloquism. Movement and other less intricate motions are very smooth, though, and the weapons look and sound great.
The guys at Microsoft advised us to play on Heroic difficulty, so we did, and despite beating the game numerous times on all difficulty settings back in the early 2000's, we found ourselves struggling to stay alive and we occasionally got lost.
The opening scene is slightly different from the 2001 original; we didn't go through the "look up, look down" tutorial and instead were thrown into the action straight away...without a gun. Yes, there we were, running around Keyes' ship, Covenant forces invading from every direction and we - the Human races' last hope - is running around being shot at with nothing to return fire with.
When we finally meet the overly flirtatious - despite the alien invasion just feet away - Cortana she looks stunning, yet she still remains unprofessional despite the death surrounding her.
Covenant Elites are troopers; you have to pretty much empty your assault rifle to kill one. We spent most of our time lobbing plasma grenades when they weren't looking to get their demise over and done with. Whilst on the subject, grenades are so overpowered it's unbelievable; a single well-placed grenade can take out an entire squadron of Covenant.
Beating down is a lot tougher; 343 Studios has worked with Bungie's original combat system and brought it into this decade. This seems to mean that when you go to hit someone you have to do a silly twirl with your gun or something flashy to slow the whole process down. You also seem to do a lot less damage than in previous Halo games. There is one bonus point though, when you hit an Elite with the butt of your gun it recoils, leaving it open to further attack.
Vehicles are simultaneously annoying and fun; the Warthog in particular is as slippery as always to drive. In large open spaces it's very fun, especially using the left trigger braking system but in smaller areas it becomes increasingly frustrating. The ability to make smaller, intricate turns has never been the Warthog's strong point and you do often find yourself getting wedged between rocks and falling off of cliffs.
We did seem to die quite a lot, this may be because of the difficulty setting, or it could be down to not having played Halo since 2009. What we do know is that we get a lot less direction in the 'Anniversary Edition' in comparison to the original Halo: Combat Evolved. We seem to require previous knowledge of the game in order to succeed.
Waypoint is an interesting one; it has lots of Halo-related videos including the ever-popular 'Red vs. Blue'. It also contains statistics from your Halo: Combat Evolved career, including both multiplayer and campaign.
The Waypoint is a 95MB download item that is selectable from the title menu which is slightly odd, especially as that menu has an 'extras' category which it would slip into perfectly.
As we know from the more recent Halo games, Firefight is essentially a defence game completely separate from the campaign. It has several nice features - including special weapons - but it does get rather tedious very quickly.
Watch out for the 'Target Locator' that first featured in 'Halo Reach', its effects are devastating even on the strongest of enemies.
'Halo: Combat Evolved' is clearly marketed towards nostalgic fans of the franchise, however we seriously think a second generation would love this game. Although we had to work hard in places to either remember or work out what to do next, with a little effort reaching the in-game goals can be extremely rewarding.
It's a fun game that most gamers would enjoy even if it was a standalone title, it doesn't rely on 'Halo' branding to make it good. Yes, we have listed a lot of minor inadequacies but the rest of the game reinforces 'Halo's' brilliance.
This game was by no means 343 Studios demolishing Bungie's ten-year-old work of art; it worked on the game and made it different. It improved the graphics and fiddled with an aged combat system - that's all. The great game is still there, the core foundations of Combat Evolved still exist.
Developer: 343 Industries and Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 15/11/2011