Another (un)surprising show at Comic Con, Halo: Anniversary came toting three of the re-made Halo: Combat Evolved maps that will be making their way into Reach's multiplayer come November 15th. Does 343 Industries do these classic maps enough justice? Did they mess with my Hang 'em High?
I'd like to point out that even though they announced some awesome Kinect functionality at Comic Con that allows for reload, grenade tosses, and item indexing, it was unfortunately unplayable on the show floor. But who cares? I played remakes of Damnation and Hang 'em High with 11 others, something that hasn't been done since the savvier of us finagled games through the Gamespy client and system link connection ten years ago. Every bit of each level was kept in tact, save for a few modifications, and most item locations remained the same. At first I thought using the Reach multiplayer would feel somewhat off (remember, no 3 shot pistol), but my worries were quickly dashed away as soon as I sprinted and jet packed my way through each map.
If memory fails you, Hang 'em High and Damnation, now High Noon and Penance, were more close quarters and vertical styled maps. High Noon adds an environment to the once greyed-out walls, sprinkling the landscape with tufts of dried grass, giving the walls a battle-worn look, and throws in some fancy projecting equipment in to boot. Penance receives the same texture overhaul, the Covenant architecture sparkling beautifully as ever, and retaining its fast paced and floor-less feel.
Both maps keep their basic play style, but the minor layout changes and Reach loadout options give way to a different, yet still exciting flow. They support 12 people with ease, hopefully clearing the path for a new 6-on-6 playlist. Where high ground was key back in Halo:CE, its advantages are drastically lower because of the jet pack and other loadouts, as well as the multitude of long ranged weaponry that's been included over the past decade. Admittedly, it feels weird to fly around each map and not be able to collect an overshield or pop someone with three shots. But the new maps are definitely great, and much-needed additions to the aging Reach multiplayer that hasn't seen new content in nearly a year.
Yet, above all else, it still feels like Halo, and I'm pretty sure by now you've decided if you love it, hate it, or want to shit on it. Get ready to return to where it all began in Halo: Anniversary on November 15th.