Review note: At the time of writing the multiplayer maps have just been made available, hence I’ve not had enough time to write anything comprehensive on it. On Monday the multiplayer segment will be added and the score adjusted accordingly.
In the world of gaming the word ‘Halo’ is as synonymous with the Xbox as Super Mario is with Nintendo. It’s only the series that made first person shooters a thing on consoles. Since it perfected the recipe there’s been many other clones emulating that success, but there’s never been anything quite as exhilarating like a game of Halo, be it online or offline. It’s a series that saw it rise from humble beginnings in 2001 to the console-selling megaton hit that the series is renowned for today.
We’ve seen some special bundle offerings in the past in the form of The Orange Box and Metroid Prime: Trilogy that both stood the test of time. Now it’s Halo’s turn to show off it’s legacy. As soon as the menu appears you’ll feel the chills running down your spine. It’s a familiar and nostalgic experience as you hear the out-of-this-world soundtrack kicking into gear. You’ll instantly recall memories of your Halo 1 and 2 LAN days. There aren’t many games that can bring that emotion to the fore, there are but a handful and the Halo franchise falls into that category.
343 Industries kept with the simple theme by offering a uncomplicated menu. It makes it an easy task to tackle the campaign, multiplayer, playlists and the usual options and extras. I’ll let you know that I did get my hands on some Halo 1 and 2 multiplayer games, but I’ll leave that for Monday. It’s daunting when you enter the Campaign mode. It’s as if 4 giants are staring down at you and asking you to fulfil the quest ahead. Veterans will feel comfort in hearing the soundtrack for each campaign changing as you hover over the different campaigns, while newcomers will see their brains run into overdrive with everything that is on offer. If you’ve never played a Halo game this is by far the best place to start (and I hate you for playing it for the first time ever).
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Based on the original outing in 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a remake of the 2001 game, that launched on the Xbox 360 prior to this. Outside of the graphical upscaling there’s not much else that’s changed. It is however Master Chief’s first adventure. It’s here that you get to follow SPARTAN-II Master Chief from the very moment he sets foot on the Pillar of Autumn, a starship, to where he crash-lands via a pod on the alien world of Halo. You’re also introduced to his sidekick, Cortana – an artificial intelligence, for the first time. The combat might feel a little rusty after all these years, but it’s quite obvious why it was so much fun back then. There are vehicle based sections as well as some impressive moments of scale, but it’s the sequel that had all the bells and whistles.
If there’s only one reason to play any campaign this is likely it. Halo 2 has also received the ‘remastered’ treatment, as Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary did (see above) , but this is the first time Halo 2 has ever looked this good. A quick tap of the ‘view’ button will instantly see you jumping between the original and new updated graphics of Halo 2. I found myself tapping away so often that I had my wife getting annoyed at me. You can’t help yourself. It’s unbelievable that we’ve come this far in a exactly 10 years (It originally launched on 9 November 2004).
Halo 2 saw a big shift in terms of concepts coming to life. Instead of just driving vehicles you could commandeer an already occupied vehicle by tapping the RB button, that generally actions everything. You could also now fly in a Banshee, something that was but a dream that many gamers had in the previous game. As Master Chief you could wield two weapons at the same time, making a mediocre weapon, when doubled, something of a force to be reckoned with. It’s all returned and it still feels as fresh as it did back in 2004. Yes, newbies, there are some other things I’d love to mention in terms of ‘alien’ quests in the game, but that would be very unfair of me to mention it. Let’s just say that it kept to the title number and made Halo 2 double the fun in campaign mode.
What is perhaps the biggest improvement in this remastered version are the dazzling cutscenes. Here you can also tap the ‘view’ button to jump between old and new very realistic-looking cutscenes, but it’s nearly unfair to compare it as the new take is obviously CG and not in-game… unless they plan to blow our minds away with Halo 5: Guardians? Talking about that, there are scenes that will tease you with what to expect in Halo 5: Guardians. Halo 2 ends on a massive cliff hanger. If you’ve never played it you’ll weep for those who had to wait another 3 years to see the conclusion to the series.
This was Bungie’s last Master Chief title, and other than the upscaled graphics, it’s pretty much the same as what you played on your Xbox 360 a good few years ago in 2007. It’s also, though this might sound confusing now, the original closure of the Master Chief chapter in the series… but we all know that Halo 4 happened, so keep that in mind when you play through it for the first time. As Halo 2 ended on a cliffhanger it’s only obvious that Halo 3 took over from there, it’s just that you don’t have to wait 3 years. Yup, you, oh lucky one, will wait a massive 3 minutes to “Finish the Fight”, as per the marketing campaign back then.
You’re still up against the Covenant, but you’ll find a drastic improvement when it comes to the AI enemy characters. As it was the first Xbox 360 game the developers were not scared to test the power of the new console and it shows when you fight your first Scarab. The four-legged creature is literally the size of a building, controlled by the Covenant and equipped with powerful weapons. As with all Halo games you’ll be in awe at some of the stunning backdrops and distant fighting that’s taking place up in the clouds as the humans defend earth. It was sad to see the end of Master Chief… but as we know that was not to be. In fact, the best was still to come.
It was the first time 343 Industries they had a say in where Master Chief would be heading off next. They produced what is, to this day, the best Halo title money can buy. When playing Halo 4 for the first time it’s quite hard to believe that this appeared on the same console as Halo 3. From a visual perspective it pushed the Xbox 360 to its limits. Now that the visuals have been improved for the Xbox One it astounds you even more so. It’s a sci-fi piece of art that’s come to life.
After events in Halo 3 Master Chief finds himself drifting in a vessel, Forward Unto Dawn, when Cortana, still by his side but in trouble of her own, wakes him up. Rogue Covenant units have flooded the vessel and, as always, you’re there to save the day. After an encounter with the Covenant your ship crashes to another alien planet whereby you discover a whole new threat – the Prometheans. Stronger and more advanced in a mental and physical capacity than the Covenant – they are your new enemy.
The big new addition was the run button. Up to this point Master Chief could merely stroll about, I mean, his armour must be very heavy, but he’s proven me wrong in this game. The armour abilities, from the excluded Halo: Reach, returns – this includes jetpacks! Then there’s some of the coolest vehicles that features in any Halo game, but again, I don’t want to spoil it if you’ve never played it before. You’ll also get to play with some new toys that comes in the form of the Promethean weapons you pick up. It’s highly advanced and very powerful, though your standard human-made Sniper Rifle System 99-S5 Anti-Matériel will down an enemy with a mere two shots. Yes, humans are still in charge (and probably the real threat?).
Halo 4 is a masterpiece. Set scene after set scene will keep you gasping with excitement up to the point that the credits roll. When the credits do roll in Halo 4 it’s the end of your campaign experience, but, if you’re like me and a bit of an achievements whore you’ll have to do it all again on Legendary. There’s afterall 450 achievement to unlock.
A collection filled with extras
All the games ran like a dream and never had anything crashing or giving me any problems, but there’s something small that did irk me slightly. In all four campaigns you get to unlock terminals. Every time you unlock a terminal the video streams via the Halo Channel app and not from your disc or the files on your Xbox One. What makes it annoying is not the fact that it’s using your bandwidth, but that the quality is not as good as it should be. It’s a very small stone in the road, but it’s something I wish they’d include on the disc or in the files for the digital version.
343 Industries has made this Halo extravaganza a seemless and enjoyable experience. Jumping between campaigns can be done with ease as you simply save and quit your current game and start up another. Your progress is also shown on the home menu so you’ll see how many levels you’ve played in each campaign to keep you up to speed with your completion of each one. And then there’s of course the Halo Nightfall digital series that will be made available via the Halo Channel on launch day, which promises hours and hours of entertainment.
Is Halo worth the entry without the multiplayer? Let’s calculate this quickly. You’re getting four complete Halo campaign modes of at least 15 hours each and we know there are endless hours of multiplayer incoming. You do the math.
Multiplayer review to be added on Monday (and it will affect the score)