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Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary preview: Combat revolved


We knew it was coming. We've known it was coming for a long time. So, what's the skinny? What's the story behind the Halo remake, now titled Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary? As it turns out, it's the same game we all played back in 2001. I don't mean that figuratively. The same engine that powered the first Halo is literally still thrumming underneath Anniversary.

Gallery: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (E3 2011) | 12 Photos

As 343 Industries executive producer Dan Ayoub explained it, Anniversary actually employs two engines running simultaneously. While the game employs a new graphics engine -- specifically a proprietary engine created by Saber Interactive -- the original Halo engine still powers the actual gameplay. That is to say that every moment of gameplay, apart from some graphical tweaks, is exactly the same code used on the original Xbox.

To drive the point home, Ayoub employed a fancy trick. With a simple button press during Halo's fan-favorite Silent Cartographer mission, the new graphics fell away, revealing Halo: CE in all its original Xbox glory. It wasn't just some secret developer code, either. Much like the Monkey Island Special Edition titles, players will be able to swap between the remastered and original graphics at any time.

Still Halo after all these years.

The feature serves a dual purpose, the first being its general novelty. The other, more important purpose is to prove that Halo's classic gameplay hasn't been touched. All the weapons, enemies and environments should perform exactly as they always have. The new graphics are impressive enough and very colorful -- reminiscent of Reach or Halo 3 -- though I imagine most players will occasionally switch back to the original graphics now and then. That said, the prospect of watching a Warthog launch in HD is pretty thrilling.

Unlike the dual-engine campaign mode, Anniversary's multiplayer component -- created with help from longtime Halo contributor Certain Affinity -- is rendered entirely using the Halo: Reach engine. The multiplayer component will still be separate from Reach, however. Those playing multiplayer via Anniversary will be restricted to the seven remastered traditional Halo: CE maps (including one campaign level converted into a Firefight map). In other words, your friends playing Reach will see that you're logged into CE. That said, Anniversary will also include a voucher to download the maps directly into Halo: Reach.

Where's mah pistol?

But what about the important question? If the multiplayer utilizes the Reach engine, where does that leave the original Halo weapons? What about the Master Chief's famous engine of death, the pistol? For that matter, what if I don't want jet packs sullying my newly remastered memories?

343 Industries' Frank O' Connor wouldn't say directly whether or not the original weapons will appear in multiplayer, though he did say that the company has every intent to "respect the classic experience" and that matchmaking can be used to facilitate that. He added that we can expect more info on that front at PAX Prime later this year.

You can bet we'll be keeping our ears open come August.

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