Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary - PC version review

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Jason R. Rich

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3 months after the release of Halo Reach, comes as a surprise to PC too Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, the remastered version of the first historical chapter of the saga.

This new port is included in the Halo: Master Chief Collection, although it is possible to obtain it separately for a smaller price.

Halo: Combat Evolved initially came out as far back as November 15, 2001, almost 19 years ago, but later arrived on PC via a port of Gearbox of questionable quality.

The version now on Steam, however, is the so-called Anniversary, released on Xbox 360 in 2011 and then on Xbox One in 2014 with the original Master Chief Collection, which includes both renewed textures and an audio sector in line with the standards of the time.

Will 343 Industries succeed with this port to bring the historic sci-fi shooter back to the glories of the past? Find out in this new review!

Crash landing on a mysterious ringed planet

The story of Halo: Combat Evolved begins exactly where the Halo Reach prequel left off. After a series of hyperspace jumps, the Pillar of Autumn, a UNSC Halcyon-class cruiser commanded by Captain Keyes, suddenly crashes in an unknown area of ​​space.

Here, a not just show will await the ship's troops: around a gas giant, in fact, they will discover the presence of a mysterious artificial world in the shape of a ring.

Joined shortly after by a fleet of alien ships belonging to the Covenant, the powerful religious alliance dedicated to the extermination of humanity, the captain makes the desperate decision to try a crash landing on the strange world, hoping to buy some time to counterattack. .

In this critical situation, the player will take on the role of the legendary Spartan-117 Master Chief, commander of Spartan II and allegedly the only supersoldier to survive the attack on Reach.

Everything that follows in the course of the campaign will not only lead to the discovery of horrible hidden truths, but will prove to be fundamental in turning the tide of the war.

Even advanced combat feels the weight of the years

Despite being one of the most iconic chapters of the series, Halo: Combat Evolved still remains the first chapter of the saga, and consequently has several components that in modern times can be considered dated in all respects.

The mission structure, for example, presents a variety that is not exactly exceptional, alternating excellent and varied missions such as He Silent Cartographer to others like Halo in which we will have to remain stationary in different structures all similar to face long hordes of enemies.

The only thing actually added, even if only in Anniversary mode, are two types of recurring collectibles within the series, namely the Skulls, who now donate only Achievements, and i Terminals, which reproduce exclusive videos that deepen certain details of the lore of the saga.

Despite all this, the variety of enemies that can be faced is more than good and the plot, however simple, turns out to be extremely functional, two factors that can still give the player several hours of fun.

In addition to that, a co-op mode completely absent from the original Gearbox port has been introduced for the campaign. For the moment it is only possible to try it online with another player, while the splitscreen is not supported.

From the point of view of PvP, however, nothing has changed compared to the Xbox One version, and the servers have always shown, in our games, to work perfectly and without giving any latency problems.

The only thing that can be criticized about this mode are some bugs that partially worsen the experience, which we will talk about in the section dedicated to the audio sector.

Breathtaking settings and views, with several critical points

One of the most universally appreciated features of this Anniversary version compared to other remastered is the ability to change the aesthetic sector of the game at any time from the version with new textures to the original one, all by pressing a single button.

As for the visual impact, however, the most recent version is undoubtedly the better of the two, thanks to excellent quality textures in general and skyboxes among the most beautiful of its generation, elements further improved by the "Quality of the graphics: Improved ”.

Here, however, some critical issues come back to the fore since the first release on Xbox 360, since in general the lighting of the environments was completely upset, worsening in certain sections the atmosphere that the original title had carefully constructed.

A palpable example is the swamp through which we will travel at the beginning of the 343 Guilty Spark mission, which will be decidedly less gloomy than the original, also due to the less presence of fog and the brighter colors.

Furthermore, the version with original graphics also presents several problems.

For the Anniversary, in fact, the title released on the first Xbox was not used as a reference, but on the contrary it was preferred to fall back on the PC port of Gearbox, which, as we mentioned earlier, presented several critical points from the point view of the graphic quality.

Example of this are the objects with transparency effect, which in the current version are much flatter and in certain situations opaque or not at all reactive (as in the case of the Jackal shields, which will not change color every time they will suffer hits such as happens in the other chapters of the saga).

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Another of the most serious flaws then undoubtedly concerns the management of bumb-mapping.

Bumb-mapping, in a nutshell, is a technique that allows flat textures to give the observer a sort of illusion of depth, enriching them in the process with details that make them seem more realistic.

In the original Xbox release, the title made extensive use of this technique, giving a breathtaking aesthetic to the time especially to the Forerunner structures.

However, with the first port on PC, and therefore also with the Anniversary version, something went wrong, making bumb-mapping work on any surface substantially invisible except by pointing it at a dynamic light (such as a weapon torch).

Below is an example that makes it clear how deep the difference is between a surface with and without bumb-mapping.

It is therefore more than clear how much these problems affect the final visual presentation of the title, and it is worrying that several mods over time have corrected all these errors in the Gearbox port, while 343 has not yet managed to do anything about it after almost 10 years since the remastered release.

The consequences of an early release

If on the one hand one can praise the work done by 343 in the visual rendering of the title, on the other it is impossible to defend certain problems that afflict and, unfortunately, irremediably undermine its enjoyment.

Although the title has in fact an all-in-all good optimization that makes it more than playable even in medium-low-end computers, it is unforgivable that some elements within the game are not in the least affected by game performance, remaining inexplicably locked at 30 FPS.

A very obvious example of this are plasma bullets, which will constantly give the impression of lagging if you play at 60 FPS or above, making it difficult at times to handle the shootings against the Covenant.

Worse still is the impact the frame rate has on shooting in general, as the higher it is, the more inaccurate our weapons will be.

These problems were also present in the original port of Gearbox and had been solved by several mods over the years, which makes the lack of any effort in trying to fix everything further unacceptable.

The lowest point of this port, however, is undoubtedly reached by the sound compartment.

Already with the review of Halo Reach we notified how much the audio sector had clearly deteriorated compared to the original for Xbox 360, resulting in all respects more suffused and making the noises of the weapons much less impacting.

In the case of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, however, the situation is much worse.

In fact, not only is the 3D sound occlusion system that the original Gearbox port had completely absent, but in the current situation multiple bugs undermine its quality otherwise more than good.

The background music loop in the campaign, for example, is completely broken, breaking from time to time for no reason and throwing an eerie silence during gameplay until a subsequent load is reached.

Some sounds, then, will be reproduced only sporadically or will not be reproduced at all, such as the announcer in PvP mode or the alarm that indicates the downloading of the shields, a fact that, especially in multiplayer, negatively affects the experience of gameplay.

There are also several bugs already reported in the last flight session and never corrected, among which the most striking example is the plasma gun which, in the event that several shots are fired in bursts, will continuously reproduce the noise of the loaded bullet.

It goes without saying that all these problems in a port of a game almost 20 years ago are completely unacceptable, and it is clear how much all these problems are due to a rough work or a premature release.

The fact that all of these bugs have been transported with the latest patch to the Master Chief Collection on Xbox One, where they were completely absent before, makes the whole thing even more serious.

In conclusion

We won't go around it too much: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary for PC not a good port.

Despite being functional as regards its fundamental aspects, it presents too many problems that undermine the quality of the original title, especially from a technical and sound point of view, due to the presence of a multitude of bugs that worsen the experience for the player. .

Pending any adjustments by 343 Industries, we suggest anyone to block the frame rate on 60 FPS and to select the audio sector of the Anniversary version, even if this will only solve part of the problems.

That said, the title can still be an excellent introduction for anyone who wants to approach the saga and for those who want to relive both the campaign and the PvP of Halo: Combat Evolved, and it is precisely to these two categories of people that we would like to recommend it.

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