Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition
Bark of the Covenant
Switch it down
Just as The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition lets you switch between 'new' and 'old looks, so Halo Anniversary Edition allows you to flip between the new and original engines at any point in the game. Simply press the back button and a decade's worth of graphical advancements are undone in the blink of any eye.
Bay for blood
Obvious throughout, those advances are nonetheless most apparent in Halo's exteriors. Take the swamp in the level '343 Guilty Spark', for example. Switch to retro view and it's noticeably claustrophobic and lifeless. Muddily textured trees and mounds punctuate the barren gloom, while a static tree canopy barely protrudes through the surrounding fog.
A quick switch back to the Reach engine and the swamp is transformed into lush, verdant wetlands, where bioluminescent plants light the darkest corners with a panoply of colour and everywhere long grasses and tree branches sway in the breeze.
Cave of forgotten beams
Strikingly apparent outside, it's actually inside that benefits most from the overhaul. Most criticism levelled at the original centred on its repetitive interiors - nowhere more justifiably so than in 'The Library' and 'Silent Cartographer' levels.
In truth, the new engine does little more than paper over existing wallpaper, but it's transformative effect is nonetheless remarkable. Subtle shades of lighting break the monotonous architecture, while neon wall glyphs and additional floor markers disrupt the incessant déjà vu and minimise the backtracking that plagued Halo's most repetitive sections.
Damson in distress
Of course, a graphical overhaul counts for nothing if the gameplay doesn't stand the test of time. For the most part, it remains as peerless as ever. The evolving storyline - no mere pretext for absurd amounts of violence, no cardboard character cutscenes - continues to grip as a good sci-fi novel might.
And, despite years of innovation and advancement, no shooter has quite matched Halo's gunplay. Its narrow focus might seem rudimentary compared with the complex narratives, objectives and other ancillary distractions of modern shooters, but Halo was always unabashed in relying on scintillating sandbox combat alone.
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