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Halo CE Anniversary: “Why are we doing this game now?”

Tuesday, 20 September 2011 06:12 GMT By Patrick Garratt

As we approach Xbox’s tenth birthday, we speak to the team remaking Halo: Combat Evolved, the game that defined the machine itself.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Originally released on November 15, 2001, as an Xbox launch title.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary marks ten years of Halo, features updated graphics, enhanced story-telling features and more.

Tells the story of Master Chief, a SPARTAN II super-soldier, on a mission to discover the location of the Covenant’s homeworld.

Was to be released as a Mac and PC game before developer Bungie sold to Microsoft in 2000: it shipped for its originally intended platforms in 2003.

The new edition was announced alongside Halo 4 at E3 2011.

There’s a charming element to the obsequiousness of the Halo fan, their stoic deference to the franchise exhibiting itself as rose-tinted memory, loving community and unending dedication to play with the later games. There’s no braying about the competition. These are old timers, not children, and some have been playing Halo for a long time.

Halo lovers are truly that. The original shipped ten years ago and became a defining title both for Xbox and console shooters in general, surpassing the perceived anomaly of Rare’s GoldenEye to forge a brave new path for the American games industry. Halo has a well-deserved place in entertainment history.

The Bungie classic changed the lives of many. Its fans will be fans forever, and the one thing they’ve asked for since time immemorial is a Combat Evolved remake. 343 Industries, the Microsoft unit set up in 2007 to manage Halo after Bungie made the decision to move onto projects and platforms new, knows it’s time to pay the piper.

“Why are we doing this game now? November 15 is the tenth anniversary of the birth of this franchise, and the fans have been asking for this game for a tremendously long time,” says 343 executive producer Dan Ayoub, raising his voice against Microsoft’s gamescom booth.

“Now we’re at the ten-year anniversary it makes sense; now is the time to give this back to the community. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while.”

Remaking something as hallowed as Halo isn’t without its difficulties. 343 decided to play it straight; the central content itself remains untouched.

“The core goal of this game is to relive the experience of what it was like to play Halo ten years ago,” Ayoub says. “Everyone remembers the first time they played Halo because it was such a magical, unique experience. It was a game that felt like no other, and it really inspired ten years of console shooters.”

Ayoub and 343 have included parts of the original Halo engine in their quest for authenticity, but were mindful that any special edition released into today’s market had to look and sound the part. A new graphics and audio engine has been layered over Halo’s ancient code to bring it up to date, and having these two tech systems running in the Anniversary Edition allowed for Classic mode – at any point during the campaign, at the touch of a button, you can swap the graphics between old and new.

We see producer Dennis Reese play seminal Halo level Guilty Spark. He flicks from new textures to the old code to show off the substantial change. In the original engine the draw distance is hugely lower than in the modern build, and the textures are surprisingly retro.

“The core goal of this game is to relive the experience of what it was like to play Halo ten years ago. Everyone remembers the first time they played Halo because it was such a magical, unique experience. It was a game that felt like no other, and it really inspired ten years of console shooters.”

“A pretty stunning difference,” Ayoub notes. “I like to say it’s ten years of gaming evolution. It’s really amazing. What’s fun is that you can go back and forth as many times as you want at any time during the campaign. It’s a truly magical feature, not just for Halo fans but for gamers in general.”

Back in the new engine, Reese opens fire and Ayoub waxes about the new audio effects, saying 343 has taken the original orchestral audio and rerecorded it so it sounds “even better today”. It’s hard to argue.

Online co-op, 3D, kitchen sink

There are other, major upgrades. Achievements have been added – meaning this is the first time you’re going to be able to get 360 awards for the original Halo – but most important is the ability to play co-op over Live. Halo had split-screen co-op and LAN-play, but sharing the campaign with a friend online was impossible. Now it isn’t.

Another addition is stereoscopic 3D. We get a quick look and it’s fine, with plenty of depth into the screen. The gun seemed blurry, but maybe that was just me; we weren’t wearing the glasses for more than 30 seconds.

The team has made some “very specific modifications, level-by-level in some cases” to make the 3D work, Reese says.

“In a lot of cases it’s to make sure the weapons look right, to make sure the environments sit right in 3D. You can adjust the level of 3D within the controls. We’ve done what we can to make it as good a feature as possible.”

Don’t expect to be wearing giant glasses for the rest of your Halo playing career, however.

“I don’t think that 3D is representative of one of the goals for the franchise,” Ayoub adds. “This is something we wanted to do for Anniversary because we wanted to make it special with as many cool features as we could.

“It’s yet another feature we have to help that sense of immersion and really help this game feel like more than just a simple remake. I like to say that this is the season of remakes; people are just taking their games and putting them in HD. Halo fans deserve better than that. We wanted to do more than just a simple remake, and that’s where Classic mode and all these other features came from.

“We really wanted this to be a celebration of ten years of Halo.”

We also see the terminal additions. Terminals first appeared in Halo 3; they’re points in the game where backstory is told through a motion graphic interface as opposed to the text boxes of the first two Halo games. Anniversary Edition has fully featured terminals throughout.

We see one which shows the rise of man from monkey to space. View them all and you’ll get some “hints,” as Ayoub puts it, as to where 343′s going with Halo 4.

Multiplayer will have six maps and an additional Firefight level. You’ll be able to play with Reach owners that have the same maps, a feature helped by the Reach engine being used for online play.

More feature announcements will be made before launch.

A love letter to the fans

Which all adds up to an unashamedly special special edition. You can’t short-change Halo.

“All of this is about being a love letter to the fans,” says Ayoub.

“We’re very passionate about this, and we wanted this to be more than a simple remake. Everything about this is celebrating our heritage and the ten years of Halo for our fans, right down to the price tag of $39. We wanted this to be a feature-rich product that was something everyone just wanted to get, and enjoy, and start playing again.”

The Anniversary edition being played in
Cologne last month.

Bungie had no involvement in the birthday edition at all, making if the first true Halo product to ship without any touch of the original developer.

“This is a 343 title,” says Ayoub. “We worked with a couple of partners. Saber Interactive worked on the campaign, and Certain Affinity was on the multiplayer. They’ve been a great partner for us. They worked on the Defiant map pack, which was really well received, and Max [Hoberman, Certain Affinity's founder - Ed] and his team has a long history with the Halo franchise. But yeah, this has been entirely 343.”

And that’s bound to bring griping. Ayoub’s resigned to the fact.

“I think that any time you touch a classic you have to expect criticism,” he says. “We made a very conscious effort that this would play exactly the same as it did ten years ago, and that philosophy meant warts and all.”

Bugs haven’t been fixed and the Library is still the Library. This is the game you played with layers of extras heaped over it. It’s the only realistic way Halo could ever have been remade without ruining the memories of its devotees.

A balancing act has been accomplished, though, and the team believes the Anniversary Edition has more than the power to woo the hardcore.

Says Ayoub: “Classic mode is a great example, right? That’s for the person that played this thing ten years ago, who can switch back and go, ‘Oh my God, I remember this. This is so awesome.’ As we were making this game, it dawned to us that if you’re an 18 year-old player, you were eight when Halo came out and you probably never played. To those people, the graphics are a barrier. They’re, like, ‘I don’t want to play this. It’s old and clunky.’

“So I think there’s an opportunity with the new players as well, with the new audio and the new visuals, to experience the game for the first time. A lot of them may never have played Halo; there’s a whole population of gamers that started playing with Halo 3. We think that the addition of those new graphics, and things like that, is a great way to get people that never had a chance to play it to see why the game is so special.”

Halo CE Anniversary Edition ships for Xbox 360 on November 15.

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3 Comments

  1. jnms

    Anyone else out there find the notion of Halo being a ‘classic’ a bit odd?

    #1 4 years ago
  2. cgalla2000

    Just Microsoft marketing. I, for one, can’t wait for the Gears of War 10th Anniversary remake.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Christopher Jack

    @1, In the same way that Ratchet is a classic for Sony, no.

    #3 4 years ago

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    The suspend/resume feature in PlayStation 4′s 2.50 firmware update is causing some issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Killzone: Shadow Fall developer Guerrilla has said that the game is experiencing some issues in some instance where the suspend/resume feature is used. The timing of when players put the game in suspend mode does have an effect, […]

  • Bungie on Destiny matchmaking: “We believe there’s no substitute for a pre-made team”

    Crazy though this may seem, it’s possible that Destiny shipped according to plan. History points to community as a crucial component, far from the contingency that many now suspect. Paul Davies spoke to Bungie for clarity. “The community always engineers the best solutions for bringing players together. While Matchmaking is a great resource for introducing […]

  • Bloodborne works with suspend/resume, but only offline

    PlayStation 4′s newly-added suspend/resume feature works with Bloodborne as you’d expect, but only while offline. PlayStation 4 received the long-awaited suspend/resume feature today as part of firmware 2.50, and people are starting to test it out with various games. Bloodborne does work with the feature, but only if you play offline. Playing online is arguably […]

  • This is what Crossy Road looks like in first-person

    Crossy Road is fun and addictive. But in first-person, it’s mostly frightening. YouTube user Andy Front Films likes Crossy Road so much he decided to show off what it would look like in first-person. If crossing roads quickly and watching around for cars and trains, all of this as the camera chases you felt intense […]

  • Take a small behind-the-scenes peek at Mass Effect 4

    BioWare cinematic director Ken Thain has given us a very slim look behind the scenes at some motion capture work from the upcoming Mass Effect game. The upcoming Mass Effect game, whether it ends up being called Mass Effect 4 or not, will most definitely incorporate some form of motion capture work. How do we […]

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – 8GB day one patch on PS4, 16GB on Xbox One

    Day one patches for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection are pretty hefty. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection require players to download lots of gigabytes to make the experience as smooth as possible. The PlayStation 4 version has an 8.31GB day one patch. The Xbox One version however has […]

  • Get a PlayStation 4 with Bloodborne and The Last of Us for $435

    If you’ve been waiting for the perfect game to get to buy a PlayStation 4, there’s no better time than the present. Amazon is offering a good PlayStation 4 bundle at the moment. For $434.99, you get a PlayStation 4 console, The Last of Us, and Bloodborne. The Last of Us is of course the […]

  • Upcoming Battlefield Hardline patch to nerf the K10, buff battle rifles

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch will focus on weapon balance and a few changes have been proposed. Battlefield Hardline lead multiplayer designer Thaddeus Sasser posted a few of the balance changes that the team is considering for the next patch. K10: reduce bullet damage to 33 Saiga and PTR: reduce recoil to bring more in line […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and a new Resident Evil game coming this year, according to research firm

    According to digital games analyst SuperData, a new Resident Evil game is due this fall and that this year’s Call of Duty is Black Ops 3. In its latest report on digital console games, research and analytics firm SuperData revealed that a new Resident Evil is coming this fall. “We anticipate this month’s downturn to […]

  • Bloodborne: you can add gestures to your messages

    As players get deeper into Bloodborne, they keep uncovering so many of its little new additions, including this one. Bloodborne, like all of the Souls games before it, allows players to leave messages for other players. These messages could be used to point players towards impending doom, treasure, or just be sarcastic and witty. What […]

  • PlayStation 4 firmware update 2.50 is now live

    PlayStation 4 firmware update version 2.50 has started rolling out. Reports are coming in saying that Yukimura, PlayStation 4′s firmware 2.50 has been made available to download. The update is clocking in at just 245mb, so get downloading. 2.50 brings with it many new additions, including the suspend/resume feature, backup and restore, accessibility options and […]

  • Harley Quinn DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight is a prequel

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s Harley Quinn pre-order DLC is set before the events of the main game, according to Amazon’s description. Today we learned a few details about the pre-order DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight, namely the Harley Quinn one. According to the description on Amazon, the DLC takes place in the lead-up to the events […]

  • Bloodborne Vicar Amelia summon mystery solved

    Bloodborne players unable to summon near Vicar Amelia: here’s your solution. Bloodborne’s secrets are unfolding by the hour as clever players piece together From Software’s cunning design. Yesterday we reported problems summoning in the Cathedral Ward, before the Vicar Amelia boss fight. It turns out this isn’t a bug – or if it is, it’s […]

  • Steven Spielberg will direct film adaption of Ready Player One

    Steven Spielberg will direct the film adaption of the sci-fi, virtual world, video game themed novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film in June 2010 and hired screenwriter Zak Penn to rewrite the previous draft written by Eric Eason, according to Deadline. The book takes place in […]

  • Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets shouldn’t forget about the custom audio

    Here’s a friendly reminder for Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets: be sure to download the Headset Companion App from the PlayStation store if you haven’t already. As previously reported, the game supports a custom Bloodborne audio mode which can be uploaded. It contains custom audio created by developers specifically tuned to enhance the audio. This […]

  • EA explains why FIFA Ultimate Team transfer prices are now platform specific

    EA has posted a blog entry explaining its FIFA Ultimate Team transfer market price ranges which now include platform-specific pricing in order to best the coin sellers. EA said it has implemented the changes to FUT over the last several weeks because it should be “fair and fun for every player,” ultimately coming to the […]

  • Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness now available

    In case you forgot, Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness was released today. It is available on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The third episode releases on iOS devices and Android tomorrow, March 26. The Sword in the Darkness finds Asher Forrester heading to Mereen […]

  • Bloodborne players are already documenting their crazy antics

    Bloodborne has been available for almost two days now in North America, and already players are posting interesting clips and character customization choices for the game. Below are interesting takes on creating a character and videos of a frustrating death and another full of blood coming from a very painful place – monster or not. […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team celebrates sixth year in existence with giveaways

    FIFA Ultimate Team is celebrating its sixth year in existence with special events running from today until March 29. According to EA, every FUT fan will be handed one free pack every day, and those who play at least one match in the FUT Birthday Cup will have a chance to win rare “tradable In-Forms” […]

  • Halo Online is a F2P PC game in development exclusively for Russia – video

    Halo Online is a free-to-play game which will launch this spring in Russia, and is in development with Saber Interactive. According the reveal event attended by IGN Russia, the game was designed to run well on lower-end PCs and runs on a modified Halo 3 engine. The game is set on a secret UNSC space […]

  • SteamWorld Dig Xbox One release expected in late May

    SteamWorld Dig is coming to Xbox One, developer Image & Form has announced. A firm release date hasn’t been announced, but the studio expects the title to arrive on the system in late May. “We’re preparing quite an elaborate Easter egg for the Xbox One version – a gaming thing that we really wanted to […]

  • SMITE celebrating first anniversary with a sale on skins, Ultimate God Pack

    Hi-Rez Studios is celebrating the first anniversary of SMITE with a sale. From today through Friday, March 27, the Ultimate God Pack, which includes all current and future Gods, will run you $19.99. Alll individual pre-launch skins are 50% off, and all Gem Packs will award bonus gems. In addition, from March 27-29, all SMITE […]

  • Borderlands 2 has sold around 12 million copies, says Gearbox

    Speaking with Microsoft’s Major Nelson in his podcast, Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford stated Borderlands 2 has sold somewhere around the 12 million mark. As of August 2014, it was announced by Take-Two in its financial report the 2012 game had sold-in 10 million units. Pitchford noted in the podcast he learned of the figures […]

  • Broken Age releasing on PS4 and Vita same day as Act 2 on PC

    Double Fine Productions has announced it will release Broken Age on the PlayStation Store next month. Act 2 will also be released on PC. The full Broken Age adventure will release on PlayStation 4 and Vita on April 28 in North America and April 29 in Europe. It features cross-buy and cross-save. Broken Age Act […]

  • Star Citizen earned another $1 million within two weeks – total hits $76 million

    Star Citizen continues its funding streak with backers pumping another $1 million into the game’s development in the last two weeks. The total earned for the space sim has now reached $76 million ($76,015,532 to be exact) with 851,395 backers contributing to the staggering figure. Star Citizen’s latest update was version 1.1 which included two […]

  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline top Media Create charts

    Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline were the big ticket debuts during the March 16-2 period in Japan, with each game claiming the top three slots on the Media Create charts, respectively. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD moved 92,094 on PlayStation 4, while Resident Evil Revelations 2 moved 73,373 units on […]

  • You can now learn English or Spanish on Xbox One with the Rosetta App

    Want to learn English or Spanish? Rosetta Stone has an App for that on Xbox One. According to the language teaching firm, Rosetta Stone’s Discover Languages, the new application teaches English and Spanish by way of immersive simulation. Users will virtually travel to learn vocabulary and grammar “necessary for real-world interactions.” Here’s how it works: […]

  • PayDay 2 and PayDay: The Heist have sold over 9 million units combined

    The PayDay franchise is a lucrative IP for Starbreeze and Overkill, as both games combined have sold over 9 million copies as of November 2014. The company has also sold over 8 million paid DLC packages since PayDay 2 was released in 2013 (via NeoGAF). In its Q2 half year report issued in February, net […]

  • Nintendo wants to “surprise” customers with NX, not expand upon existing hardware

    Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has firm wants to “surprise” players with its new NX system. Speaking in an interview with Nikkei, translated by Kotaku, Iwata wouldn’t go into details on the new system, but stated expanding on a current gaming system would be “dull.” “In the past few years, the idea of what [encompasses] a […]