Robert Workman

'Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary'

When Bungie bid farewell last year with the release of "Halo: Reach," that should've been the end of the franchise, yes?

Yeah, right.

This is a big moneymaker for Microsoft and the company wasn't about to let the series go quietly into that good night. So, along with announcing the forthcoming "Halo 4" (and thus opening the door for a new trilogy), the company also confirmed its high-definition remake of the original that started it all, "Halo: Combat Evolved."

So, now that it's here, is it a fond tribute to everything Master Chief, or an insult?

Oh, come on . . . you didn't really expect the team at 343 Studios to walk all over Bungie's legacy with a crappy game, did you? The fact of the matter is, "Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary" is exactly what it's advertised to be: a game that feels like "Halo," while including a number of cosmetic touches and multiplayer tweaks to make the game look and feel a bit more contemporary. And it's a remake that works appropriately well.

In case you've never played the game before (or you've been living under a rock - and with this economy, some folks probably have), it introduces you to Master Chief, a military master who works alongside a virtual hottie named Cortana as they attempt to clean out the Covenant, and also look to discover the secrets of the mysterious, almost religious Halo, which can easily be seen in the distance during most levels.

It's a timeless story, though, as you'll be able to tell through parts of the game, there are moments when the dialogue could've been a little more convincing. Ah, well, why change it now?

The first thing you'll notice booting up "Anniversary" is the new visual polish. 343 Studios has retouched the entire game with a new graphic flourish that features a lot more detail to the indoor and outdoor environments. Lighting is more dynamic, enemies actually look a little better (although they behave the same), and the stages themselves resemble the "Halo" universe more vividly. A neat trick added to "Halo" is being able to switch between modern and retro graphics with a press of the select button, in case you're feeling nostalgic. It's done in real time, and finicky in spots (you can't do it during cinemas, and glitches occur momentarily), but interesting when it comes to noting changes between the two. The only downside is that the HD-based cache takes several minutes to load when you first start the game.

As for audio, it's classic "Halo" through and through. 343 Studios is to be commended for doing wonders with the game's remixed soundtrack, though you can also select the original tunes if you feel the need. The dialogue is about the same, slightly flawed in areas but devoted to the game's script, and the sound effects are still lots of fun, whether an enemy is screaming as they run away or a pulse rifle whaling away on an armored Covenant (to very little effect, obviously - try hitting them from behind).