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A new dimension for iconic 'Halo'

Aug 29, 2011

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary EditionAs Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary nears its release date, the people in charge of remaking the much beloved classic have more to show fans than a fresh coat of paint in the graphics department. In fact, what the folks at developer 343 Industries showed at the X'11 event in Toronto recently required a pair of 3D glasses.

After a brief hands-off playthrough of a section of the '343 Guilty Spark' level from Combat Evolved, Kevin Grace, franchise manager for the Halo series at 343 Industries, produced glasses for the journalists attending the behind-closed-doors (actually, it was a curtain) presentation.

It's now officially official: the Halo series has entered the third dimension.

Gamers who aren't satisfied with controlling Master Chief in 2D can now play the campaign in 3D. There won't be any need for the game to be played on a 3D-compatible TV, as the new mode can be viewed using either active or passive (the kind that require batteries) lenses. If you already own a 3D TV, you're golden; if you don't, you need only buy a pair of glasses separately.

The 3D Halo experience certainly takes some getting used to. At first, I couldn't get past Master Chief's assault rifle jumping out of the screen toward me (it should be going the other way, shouldn't it?), but I started appreciating the 3D more once I started taking in the rest of the environmental and character effects. Bullets seemed to fly past my head, and I especially appreciated the leaves that popped out realistically as Master Chief ran past.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition Admittedly, I was sitting closer to the television than I'd usually like to be even without 3D glasses on, so I get the distinct feeling the whole look of the game will be better in a larger space with a proper seating setup.

As for the rest of the new-old Halo experience, I came away impressed with just how little 343 Industries changed from the original game, which is to say - nothing. The developers made absolutely certain not to change a thing because as Grace confidently states: "We didn't need to change the gameplay. This game is still a blast to play."

Strong words indeed, and it will be interesting to see what it will be like going back to the campaign. Because as much as many gamers don't want to admit it, a lot of classic titles simply don't hold up very well a decade or more later. As critically acclaimed as Halo: Combat Evolved was when it was first released in 2001, it wasn't without its problems. Some people thought there was too much backtracking, while others simply despised levels involving the Flood.

There's no doubt this release is very much a love letter to the legions of rabid Halo fans who bought the original game. Besides including the single player portion and new multiplayer (more on that in a moment), 343 Industries has also added terminals, which first appeared in Halo 3 and made subsequent appearances in 'ODST' and 'Reach'.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition These hidden objects provide added backstory about the Halo universe, tying in plot points not just from the games, but, as Grace puts it, "they'll also tie in with everything else that's going on with the franchise" including books that have been released, and will be released in the future.

Many of the gamers who bought Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox are sure to have many a story about epic (it was still okay to use that word back in 2001) LAN parties, because Xbox Live wasn't even around when the game was first released.

For the anniversary edition, a full online multiplayer mode is being included, and this is where 343 Industries has decided to change things up considerably. Though six maps from the original Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 games will be making their return, the multiplayer portion itself will play just like Halo: Reach. That means everything from loadouts to weapons will follow the rules of Reach.

Grace says one of the reasons for not keeping the multiplayer exactly as it was back in 2001 is that the developers didn't want to split Halo players up too much online. 343 Industries still hasn't formally announced how exactly the multiplayer is going to work, but it's safe to assume players from the Anniversary edition and Reach will be ranked similarly. Grace also says that, quite simply, the new developers are big fans of Reach and they wanted to see things like jetpacks being used on old maps.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition It's great to see 343 Industries putting so much work into this title considering they could have just slapped an "Anniversary Edition" logo on the box and added some old concept art into the game and probably still sold a decent amount of copies to thousands of Halo fanatics.

The game still plays exactly like it did ten years ago, and thanks to the awesome idea of being able to switch between old and new graphics instantaneously at the touch of a button, old school players can still go through the campaign exactly as they did in 2001 if they so choose.

Although 3D is a neat idea that's seen some success in movies, there's every reason to believe that good old fashioned solid gameplay and interesting characters - even ones that players have known for several years now - will trump all the fancy new features being added to the Anniversary edition.

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