Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Comparison, Review, and Analysis

January 20, 2012

The New Visual Layer – Pt 2

Active Gameplay Models

To populate the in-game world, Saber used a combination of modified Halo 3 and Reach assets, and new assets. Aside from some dubious face modeling work on the new assets, it’s mostly high quality stuff.

However, a few assets were sloppily ported and made, and there’s a bit of style dissonance between Halo 3, Reach, and new assets. A good example of the poor porting would be the tanks; the wraith has a vestigial turret locked awkwardly to the vehicle’s body, while the scorpion has a weird circular hole where a turret used to be in the Reach model. The Flood elite combat form is a good example of sketchy modeling, as it has rather strange white armor. I’m not sure if it’s like that because they didn’t have the time to make an armor-free model but wanted it to look generic, or if the white is due to a color layer not being filled in, but it looks weird, and especially so in a game with no white-armored elites.

To ensure that hitboxes and models would match well in gameplay with object movements, the new models essentially use the old skeletons and animations during gameplay. This was implemented surprisingly well. I’m not convinced that the new models look quite as natural with the old movements as the old models do, but it’s quality work.

Visual Design and Gameplay

One problem, albeit overall minor, with the new visuals is that they have certain weaknesses with combat situational awareness. For instance, the glow of hunters charging their weapons doesn’t stand out as much (nor does the firing sound) as in CE. Other, comparable problems include a lack of a highly-visible pistol bullet impact graphic. For the interface itself, the red damage indicator arrows are a bit pale compared to the old ones; they’re still visible, but don’t stand out enough to trigger reflexes as snappily as the originals. Furthermore, a few things simply aren’t very intuitive. For example, hunters in the new visuals appear to have armor covering their bellies in front even though this area is technically just as vulnerable as their exposed backs.
These are all in addition to a greater amount of vision-obscuring stuff. The amount of new foliage does have a significant effect on lines of sight. Some active effects get in the way as well. For instance, the shade turret shots are somewhat blinding in Anniversary graphics, and Flood infection forms popping now create dense, green clouds (hey, it’s relevant if you like to melee those guys).

Another gameplay problem is that the in-game terrain collision in the new graphics matches extremely poorly in many areas with the old. The original game wasn’t always perfect here; there are a few objects in CE, most prominently the Covenant crates, which always seemed to be a few inches larger than they looked. But CEA’s collision is atrocious. There are many trees shaped drastically different from their originals. There are extremely commonly used areas of cover in many interior sections that appear to provide far better cover than they actually do, and there are similarly areas which appear to provide less cover than they actually do. Outdoor sections frequently include cliff sides and ground surfaces that aren’t even close to matching the old ones, areas where what looks like a gigantic outcropping or indent full of rocks is actually a straight wall. This issue even occurs in places where it’s a significant and jarring gameplay hindrance, such as the rockslide area of the level Halo, featuring a few warthog paths whose apparent and actual widths differ enormously. These issues are poor for obvious gameplay reasons, and they also make the terrain feel less convincing and damage suspension of disbelief.

CEA on top, classic mode on bottom. Same exact view.

The HUD

It’s not a huge deal, but the Anniversary HUD is a bit less nice than the old one. The new tiny warthog reticle looks horrible, and while the sniper rifle reticle isn’t bad per se, I’m not sure why it was changed in the first place. The motion tracker is now a grey that doesn’t stand out very well on some surfaces, and the objects being tracked on it now pulse in rhythm with the visual pulse animation rather than stay constant.

Real-Time Reflections

Okay, I understand that it’s really difficult to pull off real-time reflections while trying to squeeze so much out of an aging console. But still…

😦

Halo 1, demonstrating a graphical effect that almost never shows up in console games. Two glass surfaces on The Silent Cartographer also have real-time reflections.

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3 Responses to “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Comparison, Review, and Analysis”

  1. Ben said

    Well presented amigo!

    Some might say those differences are negligible, but I agree with you argument completely.

    Halo Combat Evolved had a charm and uniqueness to it that cannot be manipulated or re-created.

    I have some other views and opinions that I could express about CEA, but that’d be going way off topic.

    A 5/5 analysis, backed up with strong evidence.

  2. Ryan said

    Very precisely analysed!

    I agree on every count, while these discrepancies may be negligible to newcomers to H:CE, the overall tone and functionality is greatly affected.

    Very good review.

  3. Zerox said

    Being a fan interested in small details, I looked forward to seeing the new Flood and was dissapointed. They are slightly touched up models ported from Halo 3. The armour is totally different to the other Elites in game, especially considering aspects were changed between Halo 3 and Halo Reach (particularly considering the Elites you fight are slightly touched Reach models). The model has not really been changed, just some colouration. I suppose the whiteness is perhaps to show the paint has worn off? If so, it also removes a previous Flood problem from Halo 3, where even an infected red coloured Elite would mysteriously gain blue armoured legs as it became Flood.
    The same issue occurs with the marines, though is slightly less noticeable. Still frustrating though.
    I don’t mind (and personally quite like) the ported Reach models as the graphic level is rather similar, however, I think porting outdated Halo 3 models (graphically and canon wise) and not bothering to change them significantly strikes me as worryingly lazy, especially considering what this remake embodied for 343.

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