It’s been about 10 years ago since one of my best friends bought the original Xbox. At that time I was just a teenager with too little money and thus didn’t have cash to buy one myself. You might understand how aesthetic I was that my friend gave me the opportunity to finally play on this ‘next-gen’ console. When he went and bought the Xbox he only got a single game for it: Halo: Combat Evolved, a very good choice we found out later, because this game would entertain us for months to come!

The original Halo CE

The original Halo Combat Evolved turned out to have everything a first person shooter lover would ask for. Beautiful graphics, an engaging storyline, superb gameplay, goosebumps inducing music and most important of all: split screen cooperative gameplay! It was that same cooperative gameplay in Halo Combat Evolved that then went on and further shaped the friendship between me and my friend. We played the game into the late hours, days after days, never getting bored of it.

Later on, Halo also became the very first console game I played online over the internet. After I found an article on the internet on how to set the game up with something called a “Gamespy Tunnel” I had to try it. We went out to other friends and gathered additional UTP cables and switches and ran a cable from my study room upstairs all the way down to the TV. I can remember that we just had enough cable and that the whole thing became a dangerous contraption. But after everything was set up we fired up the Windows client on the PC, turned on the Xbox and….it worked! We found some other guys also playing on the Gamespy services and had the longest playing session ever. It was awesome!

The trailer for the original Halo: Combat Evolved

You might understand that Halo has been a big part of my youth and that I was totally pumped about the news that a remake was going to be made of a game that meant so much to me. Then, when it was announced it would get Kinect support I was totally over the moon. Now the game is out and I’ve had the chance to play it extensively. What I thought about it? You can read that below!

Kinect in Halo

You are reading this Halo Anniversay review on a Kinect website, so I decided to give the Kinect features a bit more priority than the rest of the game. The Kinect features of Halo CE Anniversary had long been been revealed in a shroud of mystery. The developers were pretty quick with announced that the game would get Kinect support, but then kept their mouths shut about any details all the way up to just before the release. Well, I personally think that the people from 343 just had no idea themselves on how they would implement Kinect, and in the end they decided with a quick and dirty implementation of the motion controlling sensor. In fact, there is almost zero motion controlling to Halo Anniversary. Kinect is almost solely used for its speech recognition capabilities, and this is a big shame.

If you have Kinect hooked up with playing Halo anniversary you will be able to shout out commands and the game will respond to them. These range from setting menu options without going to the menu (say “darker” or “more contrast” for example) to actual command that will make your character do something. You can for instance say things like “reload”, “grenade” or “flashlight on” to perform those actions. Using these commands feels a bit awkward to me: It just doesn’t feel right to say to your character to reload, while at the same time you are supposed to “be him”. It’s like saying to yourself to reload, and then doing it. It just feels weird! The only thing where I didn’t have trouble doing this was the flashlight function: I could imagine that I was telling my suit’s computer to turn my flashlight on or off. That did feel a lot more natural and felt like it actually “made sense”.

This is a list of all the command you can use: Analyse, Scan, Stop analyzing, Classic, Remastered, Grenade, Reload, Chance Weapon, Flashlight, Activate 3D, Deactivate 3D, Subtitles On, Subtitles Off, Brighter, Darker, More contrast, Less contrast, Pause game, Resume and Display library.

Then there is the Halo Library, which is a place where you can view iconic “Halo objects” in 3D and read more information about them. These object have to be unlocked by scanning them in game and this can only be done if you have a Kinect sensor. This is because the scanning command can not be activated by a regular controller, the only way to activate it is to say “analyse” to your Kinect sensor. Upon doing that the screen will get a blue overlay and things that can be scanned are bright orange. Trying to find scan-able objects kind of takes the pace out of this otherwise quick-paced game and will probably only appeal to the hardcore fan that really wants to fill up his library. The library itself is the only place where motion controlling is used. You can select the various items you found by means of a Kinect interface and rotate them around with your hands. This interface uses the same as Dance Central and Raving Rabbids and is quick and snappy.

Inside the Kinect only "Halo Library"

In my opinion the Kinect options to Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary are very limited and are not something that really add to the game experience. On top of that the speech recognition had an insane amount of trouble with my voice. I just couldn’t get it to work. I was screaming “analyze” at it at different volumes, tried different accents, but still it would work only 1 out of 10 times or so. I recalibrate my sensor but no luck, Halo just didn’t want to listen to me. I don’t know if others had the same experience but for me the whole implementation was unfortunately just unworkable.

The Anniversary Edition

Where the game totally misses the mark with Kinect it fortunately makes up for it in the way it is remade. This game gave me exactly the same feeling as the original Halo, but better! It was pure nostalgia all around! The game will by default start with the Halo Reach graphic engine and just look gorgeous. It is amazing to see the original Halo in all the beauty of today’s standard in graphics, sound and visual effects. The game looks amazing, sounds amazing but at the same time feels just like it felt 10 years ago. The game will allow you to switch back to the classic graphics engine with just a press of a button (or by saying ‘classic’ to Kinect). By doing this you can truly see how far we have come in terms of graphics, the difference is truly staggering. If I didn’t have the classic mode available I would’ve never thought the graphics of the orginal Halo were that ‘ugly’. In my head I always pictured them to be way better. I guess it is a really cool feature to have because only this way allows you to fully appreciate modern graphic technology!

A comparison of the classic and remastered graphics mode

Other than new graphics and sound the game also got revamped with stuff you would expect in any modern Halo game. Notably multiplayer over Xbox Live (the original Halo didn’t have this) but also the inclusion of things like Terminals and jet-packs. The multiplayer part is exactly the same as in Reach. In fact, you get a code to import the maps into your Reach game which give you basically the same experience. What you do have to keep in mind is that because you can seemingly switch between classic and remastered mode is that the level design has not changed at all. This is not necessarily a problem but to me it did stand out as to how empty the singleplayer maps really are. The outdoor areas are just grass fields with an occasional tree or rock, but nothing fancy whatsoever. This is also why this game is probably only for the hardcore Halo Combat Evolved fan: To them this blandness will feel like nostalgia, while to a newcomer it will feel like boring level design.

Conclusion

Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition has disappointing Kinect featured that feel like they have been rushed in at the last moment and don’t really add anything to the game. The library mode will add a bit of fun for the really die-hard Halo fan but will otherwise be of no interest. The speech recognition didn’t really work for me all that well and also provides for an awkward playing experience. Fortunately the remake element of the game is great and the improved graphics and sound will provide gamers that played the original Halo with plenty of nostalgia while also giving visuals and sound that are acceptable in today’s standards. The multiplayer is the same as in Halo Reach and will provide for countless hours of fun. Halo Anniversary stays very true to its classic counterpart and will bring tears to the eyes of Halo fans. However, for the non-Halo fan it will probably be not that appealing. To summarize: Only for the fans and please don’t buy this for its Kinect features.

Disclaimer: I scored Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary a 7 out of 10 mainly because of its totally disappointing Kinect features. If I would’ve written this review for a non-Kinect website it would’ve scored higher, but 123Kinect is all about Kinect, and the Kinect in Halo CE Anniversary is just not up to scratch.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?