Backlog Quest: Day 21 – Halo: CE Anniversary – Tea bagged in nostalgia

Dear Journal,

Today I played a game that was backlogged for so long that it actually got an HD remake before I finally got to play it.

Yes, that’s right, I never played the original Halo (at least not the campaign).  During the Xbox and PS2 era I was largely playing games on the PC, and even then it was mostly the occasional round of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, so I never really experienced the first Halo in all of its glory.  Now, spoiled by Halo 3 and Halo Reach’s improved graphics and steady stream of gameplay tweaks, returning to the original wasn’t something easily done. Finally though, thanks to the HD upgrade in the form of the Halo: CE Anniversary edition I can see where it all began.

Oh… in a series of corridors it seems.  Okay, so let’s be honest, Halo: CE Anniversary hasn’t aged as well as everyone might have hoped.  Sure, it is still a fun game, but it is also very dated (something that is bound to happen when a game is a trend setter).  Going back to Goldeneye on the N64, a game that undoubtedly sparked the FPS revolution on consoles, you can’t help but struggle with just how dated the game is and how poorly it has held up.  That is, in part, because so many games following Goldeneye built on what Goldeneye did and improved the formula. Halo CE was another one of those game changers, literally. So much of what constitutes a modern FPS started ten years ago in the form of Halo and now, a decade later, the game suffers more by being the inspiration for so many games down the line that have had a chance to refine it.

As I said though, the game is still fun to play, and it is obviously Halo in the same way the Halo’s that followed are too.  Halo has a rather epic story to it, and going back to play the beginning of it certainly has its charm (as does seeing the various little things that were expanded on significantly after the first game).  It is also interesting for someone going back to play it for the first time to see how wildly different the game plays compared to now; with lots of tight corridors instead of levels of a much more massive scale.  Not to mention the copy/paste job of art assets that seems to be going on in those very same corridors. It is nice to be reminded that Halo does have some humble roots to it.

One of the coolest features of this HD remake though is the ability to instantly change the game from classic to HD (you can do so by voice if you have a Kinect).  Flipping the switch was always interesting and I found myself doing it on a semi-regular basis. Even though the game was essentially just re-skinned, and the graphics are not up to par with modern titles, seeing the massive difference between ten years ago and roughly now, back-to-back is really pretty cool.  We’ve come a long way, that’s for sure.

A couple new features and a new shiny package aside, Halo: CE Anniversary is bound to be a mixed bag for those who aren’t simply re-living the first game but rather experiencing it for the first time.  As a first timer I found the game to be incredibly dated and lacking.  While there were some parts that really shined, the tank is always a good time, much of it just felt like taking a step back; because I was.  There was no nostalgia here for me, and while there was certainly enjoyment to be had I was left a little disappointed in my experience.  I imagine many gamers who simply missed the first Halo or are even too young to have really played it are going to find Anniversary lacking as well.  Those who loved it when it was new though are bound to enjoy a chance to play through it again all dolled up.  So ultimately, while Halo: CE Anniversary makes no attempt to hide what it is (a re-skinned copy of the same game selling for $9.99 on the other side of the aisle), there is something to be said for experiencing the start of an epic gaming franchise anew; but this is far more likely to appeal to the nostalgia crowd. To sum it up, purchase, but try to find a good deal.

Rating an HD remake like this is tough because in many ways you are rating the original game out of context.  Does Halo: CE deserve a 7/10? Not really, because when it came out it was a trendsetter. Now though, the game just isn’t what it was ten years ago, and since it is very much competing with your money and time compared to other titles on the shelf today, I tried to strike some sort of middle ground below.

Tomorrow I get dirty with Call of Juarez: The Cartel

Final Rating: 7/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: Xbox 360
Time to completion: About 8 hours
Gamer Score Earned: 330/1000
Price Bought at: $29.99 (and again at $15 after trading in first copy)
Current Price: $33.45 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: $15 is where this belongs; for a single game HD remake.
Why you should buy it: Never played the original and want to for the story. Nostalgia if you did.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: Dated gameplay sours the experience without the nostalgia factor.

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