Ask any veteran gamer (who would probably be all of 24 years old) about their fondest gaming memories, and they'll talk nostalgically about Pacman, Final Fantasy 2 and Warcraft. Gaming, much like everything else in the world, is fast changing because of technology, but despite better graphics and more fluid gameplay, many current favourite game series continue to be popular because of their original releases.

A shining example in this category is Halo. Touted as the game that ‘made' the Xbox, chances are you would have played one of the games in the series whether you're an avid gamer or not. To mark the 10{+t}{+h} anniversary of Halo's original release, Microsoft released a remastered version of Halo: Combat Evolved. So is the game worth revisiting?

Plot

Many remastered games don't do much justice to their original counterparts, so most of you will think twice and ask, ‘Is it really worth it?' The answer is a 100 per cent yes.

Unlike many games of a decade ago, Halo's storyline is still gripping and relevant. Those who've played the campaign before will probably be flooded with warm memories of gunning down an annoying Grunt with an assault rifle as it screams ‘Why me?!', or employing your inner sneaky skills to avoid plasma gun fire or enemy ships. The great thing about Halo is that the developers haven't changed a thing in the campaign storyline, everything is still exactly the same.

You play the iconic Master Chief, awoken prematurely from his hibernation because his starship, the Pillar of Autumn is under attack by the Covenant. You battle a few waves of Elites and Grunts before you crash land on the planet Halo, with the feisty artificial intelligence Cortana in tow, where your job is to rescue the imprisoned Captain Keyes.

Graphics overhaul

You'll notice a massive change in the graphics though, which has been revamped by new developer 343 and Saber's improved engine, and you'll really appreciate the effort that's gone into making the game come up to present industry-standards.

The best part of course is that you can switch seamlessly between original and remastered graphics at the press of a button on your controller - you don't even have to dig deep in the menu and change any settings. You can't switch during cutscenes, but you can during combat scenes and you'll immediately notice the difference. While details have been added to the interiors of the Pillar of Autumn itself, you'll notice vast improvements to the landscape on Halo as well, which appears only in monotone shades of brown in the classic version. Overall, the game looks much more ‘sci-fi-ish', but the great thing is even when you switch back to the original game, (which you'll end up doing often – it's highly addictive), you'll notice that the graphics still hold up for current standards. I actually preferred playing some of the combat scenes with the original graphics, because it was easier to spot enemies and find my way around.

The game still has an impressive background score, and sound quality has been improved a lot in the Anniversary edition. Another great modern overhaul is that you can play the game in 3D, if you have a compatible display hooked up to it.

The game's checkpoint system is a bit skewed, and if you haven't killed all your enemies or finished a level completely, they often won't register. Despite being frequent enough, sometimes checkpoints don't register when you enter a new combat scene, which can be annoying, so you'll have to start all over again if you're unlucky enough to get killed.

Other modes

You can experience the classic version if you play co-op in the campaign mode, but you can't for the multiplayer, which can only be played through the new engine. The game actually loses a bunch of the 13 original maps, so you get only 5 of the original maps and one from Halo: Reach.

Additionally, there are two other modes you can play around with – Forge and Theatre. The first lets you change your multiplayer maps to your liking and the second lets you view replays of your matches and take screenshots. There's also Kinect support, which lets you give voice and action commands.

Our verdict

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is one of those legendary titles that deserve to be played, no matter how ‘outdated' it might seem. The remastered edition does full justice to the game, and is a great buy both for those who haven't played the original or those who want to revisit an old favourite. Full credit must go to the developers for an impressive graphics makeover, and to Microsoft for reviving an iconic title that doesn't deserve to be missed.

Love: Great graphics revamp, challenging gameplay

Hate: Fewer maps in multiplayer mode

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Developer: Bungie, 343 Industries

Platform: Xbox 360

Rs 1,999

ketaki@thehindu. co. in

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