Halo: Combat Evolved Anniverary Multiplayer Hands-On Preview -- Nostalgia Evolved?By Kevin Kelly - Posted Aug 17, 2011
The Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary game that's coming out later this year is starting to top my chart of eagerly awaited games. Yes, I know there are things like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and more coming out this holiday season, but after spending time pwning noobs in remakes of classic maps like Beaver Creek and Damnation, this title is playing extremely heavy on the nostalgia center of my brain.
The original Halo: Combat Evolved was the only reason to own an original Xbox years ago, and I spent many gleeful hours playing through the game with that gigantic Duke controller in my hands. It brought me into the modern console age at the time, because I only had an aging Sony PlayStation, and my PlayStation 2 experiences were all at my best friend's house. This was also the day and age before Xbox titles were flooding store shelves, so you tended to go back in and play the game over and over. With enjoyment.
Then Halo 2 came, and gave the franchise a massive shot in the arm via multiplayer over Xbox Live. That took Halo in an entirely new and enjoyable direction. The original Halo launched before Xbox Live, meaning that SystemLink was the only way to play multiplayer games with other consoles. Halo 2 brought true online to the mix, and skyrocketed to fame as a complete fragfest. With it came Beaver Creek, a remade version of Battle Creek from the original game, and a slew of other new multiplayer maps.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary finally brings those maps to the current-gen Xbox 360, giving us remakes of Beaver Creek (now restored to Battle Creek), Penance (a twist on Damnation), and so far 343 Industries has also announced that versions of Hang 'Em High (from Halo 3) and Timberland (a PC-exclusive level) will also be in the game. At gamescom, I was able to jump into multiplayer and get some serious time with both Battle Creek and Penance, and I'm happy to report (I actually mean brag) that I came out on top in matches on both maps. That's due to extreme knowledge of Battle Creek, and a ton of luck on Penance.
Battle Creek takes the tried and true Beaver Creek, but adds some new elements. The two bases on either side of the map now have a cave system behind them that contain teleporters to the other side of the maps, and the former teleporter locations have been replaced with air vents. This, thankfully, kills the 'porter camping that took place on this map, where players used to toss the flag up through the skylight to a waiting player above who would drop down, port, and quickly score. There are two entrances to both caves, which also contain a health pack in addition to the teleporter.
Other than that, I'm happy to report that the new Battle Creek is gorgeous. It's strange to see this and then go back and look at the old Beaver Creek, which I always thought looked impressive. It doesn't even compare now with the HD graphics and the Halo: Reach armor abilities, which can unbalance this map a bit as well. The jetpack makes you the king of this map, particularly if you know where the sniper rifle and rocket launcher spawn. Yes, I'm a rocket whore. Sue me.
Penance is also gorgeous as well, but not having spent much time in Damnation, I wasn't nearly as familiar with this map. One of the other players sporting the Camouflage ability spent a lot of time ripping us apart because this level features multiple levels and a lot of tight corners. It's a much more expansive map than the rectangular Battle Creek, and is very easy to get lost on until you learn your way around. Again, the jetpack here comes in very handy, as there are large, open, vertical areas that you'll be able to traverse quickly if you're jet-powered. We only played with four players total, but this map is tailor-made for larger team battles.
These are just two of the seven coming to Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and we can't wait to see the others. Executive Producer Dan Ayoub at 343 confirmed for us that H:CEA is ready to have DLC dropped in, so we hope to see a lot more classic maps after the game launches in November.