Throwback Thursday Review – Halo Anniversary

On November 15th 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released for the Xbox. This game marked the beginning of an incredible series developed by Bungie and later carried on by 343 Industries. The remake that came ten years to the day later was truly a masterpiece. The ability to return to the 2001 version of the game, achieved through the graphics switch was amazing. The gameplay identical to how it was in 2001 was achieved by having the original engine run and using another engine on top to support the 2011 graphics.

 

Halo begins with a human vessel approaching a unknown ring world in orbit around a gas giant. After a brief cutscene explaining why the vessel, named the Pillar of Autumn arrived here. You are awoken from cryosleep and then do a brief tutorial before the game begins. Immediately you feel a sense of danger as the man in the control room above you is gunned down by the hostile aliens attacking the ship. You run past numerous enemies and you feel powerless as you have no weapons to defend yourself. Once you meet the captain you are introduced to the AI, Cortana. A valuable tool, she serves as a valuable ally and gives you waypoints and processes information whilst you fight throughout the game. Once the first mission ends you step foot on the ring, Halo. The huge and stunning vista is impressive upon exiting your crashed pod and watching how the wheel arches up. The second campaign mission features you gathering survivors and defending them for extraction. Through all this you are overwhelmed with the majesty of Halo. This mission gives you a chance to explore the ring and the immense structures on its surface as you search for survivors.

Halo Architecture - Mission 2

Halo Mission 2

The Third mission in the campaign features you on a mission to secure the captain from the Covenant. This mission gives you the chance to stealthily, for a while take out enemies with the night vision on the sniper rifle. Furthermore, you battle enemies along side the cliff edge as you make your way towards the base of the ship so watching your footing is important to prevent yourself from falling to your death. Before you can board you must dispatch two Hunters, aliens encased in powerful armor and who use powerful fuel rod cannons. Tricky creatures that required sustained fire on their exposed back to kill.

Hunters

Hunters

Once you right the gravity lift onto the ship, you then make your way down corridors and hangars until you reach the bridge. Just off the bridge you locate the captain, it is best to quickly kill all enemies as one would kill the captain and the mission fails. The game plot develops further with the name of the ring being discovered and how it is believed to be a weapon by the aliens. With the captain back It is decided to stop the Covenant from acquiring the ring for themselves so the chief and Cortana must then locate the control room. You fight your way back to the hangar and after an amusing cutscene of squashing the Hunters, you leave. The next mission features you exploring an island. This mission can be approached in two ways, either head for the map facility and fight your way in but get locked out of the area. If you chose this path then you must head to the security station.

Security Station

Security Station

I prefer the next method of traveling to the security station first, shutting it down and then heading straight into the Cartographer. As you make your way down numerous levels you truly see the architecture of the alien ring being developed and showcased here. Once you uncover the location of the control room you must simply fight your way out of the Cartographer and then fight your way to Pelican to fly you underground.

 

The next mission once more highlights the scope of Halo; with large rooms and expansive caverns you must traverse to reach the control room. This is one of my favorite missions in the game. The cold climate and the beautiful but large environments truly adds to the game. You battle your way to the control, using a tank and a small platoon of men still there to make your way through. Once you arrive at the control room you once more appreciate the artistic talent for the game. You see a huge pyramid structure embedded into a wall and the artists did a wonderful job in emphasizing here of the important of this building. Upon entering the structure and killing the last of the enemies you uncover the control center. The cutscene here is impressive in developing the plot further. You learn of who created the ring and how the ring is not a cudgel which was quite amusing.  Cortana’s tone immediately shifts and the tension build as begins explaining that the Covenant discovered something “horrible”. She also realized that the weapons the Captain was looking for is not actually a cache but perhaps might be linked to this thing discovered. This is not developed further but the scene is impressive on how it shifts and creates a tension based atmosphere instantly.

 

The next mission starts and sense of dread can be felt. You see Covenant soldiers running through the swamp. You make your way through the swamp, the environment truly does add to the tension in the air as you encounter enemies and come upon a structure.

Swamp

Swamp

As you make your way down and begin exploring this strange site you uncover dead bodies, and hallways smeared with blue blood. In one room, you come across a fellow soldier so afraid that he attacks you with his pistol until you leave him. The atmosphere for this mission is perfect as well as the use of the soundtrack here as you approach the last known location of the Captain. The door opens and a body falls onto you. I admit this scene made me jump the first time watching it. So masterfully designed to ensure the fear is always present. You uncover a room covered in blood, and view a recording of what transpired. After viewing the Captain and other soldiers overwhelmed by some unknown parasite, you yourself are attacked and must escape. You make your way back outside and must deal with hordes of these new creatures in the swamp. After holding out against waves of enemies a new character introduces himself as 343 Guilty Spark, the monitor of the Halo ring. He teleports you to another location, one much darker and filled to the brim with flood who seek to stop you from acquiring the key to fire the ring. You make your way through ten blast doors and enemies and complete the mission.

 

 

You return to the control room and Cortana intervenes. Stating that Halo does not kill the Flood but its food, such as Humans, Covenant etc. Upon refusing to fire the ring the monitor then sends Sentinels to deal with you. This mission features you battling three opposing enemies; the Covenant, the Flood, and the Sentinels. You make your way to three devices that power the weapon Halo uses. This is to buy time to find the Pillar of Autumn so that you can detonate its reactors and destroy the ring. Once you complete these objectives you move to find the Captain. This mission features you inside a Covenant ship, and then as you fight through the Flood, you must the drop into reactor coolant and make your way to the grav-lift to come back on board. This mission features Covenant and Flood forces fighting and you caught between them. Eventually you come aboard and must listen to messages of the Captain ordering you to retreat. You eventually find him, but he has been infected, you kill him and recover his command codes. This scene was truly horrific and such a twist in the games plot and was beautifully implemented. You then make your way to the hangar and escape on a Banshee.

 

The final mission of the game sees you returning to the Pillar of Autumn, you make your way through the wrecked ship and towards the bridge. Once here you prepare the self-destruct sequence. Just as soon as you think things are fine, the Monitor returns to cause trouble, he disables to self-destruct and sends sentinels to stop you. Plan B is then in order, you make your way to engineering with your rocket launched and grenades, expose the four cores and blow up the ship. As the ship prepares to go critical you head to a vehicle bay and drive along the interior of the ship. You contact Foehammer, your trust ally who has transported you across the ring. Sadly, as you wait on a platform you see her badly damaged Pelican approaching you, and she is shot down before your eyes. You then continue racing on and after a harrowing jump (which can kill you most of the time), you head to a ship still docked. You rush through enemies as you are against the clock and aboard the vessel. You escape in time just as the Autumn detonates. The shock wave destroys the ring and various fragments crash into one another as the whole thing comes apart. Whist the game ends with you wiping out the Covenant stationed here, it is just a taste of what is to come with the series as the game ends on this note

 

Halo was released before Xbox Live and therefore multiplayer was achieved via system link through a local area network. This allowed four consoles to be connected and multiplayer modes could play anywhere between two to sixteen players. Sadly, the multiplayer was the only component holding the game back as it predated Xbox Live so a golden opportunity was missed. However, the remake ten years later, Halo Anniversary corrected this by remaking the original maps and allowing multiplayer via Xbox Live. This improvement was much needed to the game and definitely encourages you to replay it.

 

Overall Halo has endured well since its launch over ten years ago. I still enjoy returning to the game and enjoying the nostalgia it offers. The anniversary edition which shows the switch in graphics was truly amazing. The level of detail to each map is truly impressive and adds to the game. I would rate this game 9/10. It is a classic and one worth revisiting, especially for Halo fans.

This is Reclaimer signing off.

Images courtesy of Halo Waypoint.

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