Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Comparison, Review, and Analysis

January 20, 2012

The New Audio

Redesigned In-Game Sound

Combat sounds in the new audio have been made to sound much sharper and more powerful. The noises have more fidelity, and are more structurally complicated, with many more sound components. A melee that used to be a simple whoosh and click, for instance, now includes a good deal of crunching and other realistic noise. Gunshots and explosions now consist of more sound components. The sound assets are of high quality, and there are some gems, like the new warthog firing noise.

Not that the original sound is bad by any means. But this is good stuff.

One problem with the newer sounds is that, because many of the newer sounds are fairly cluttered, sounds sometimes drown out other sounds that would make a scene more distinct. Of particular note here is the sometimes cluttered melee noises; in the original game, the whooshing of a melee always cleanly gives way to the impact, and it often makes the melee system feel more crisp.

CEA first, then CE

Sound environments have been changed drastically from the original game. Most of this is, I think, to accommodate the modifications in visual style to some areas, and the choices work fairly well. The new sound environment system corrects an issue with the original which, especially in some very echoey areas, could sound a bit like clipping when loud noises play. That said, I am a little sad to see that there is an extreme lack of such echoey areas in the new sound; it’s somewhat understandable given the new aesthetic which makes things look a lot less cavernous, but I can’t help but feel that there’s something missing from the game. There are even a few cutscene moments which originally used the original sound environments for some crazy awesome mixing effects, but can’t anymore.

CEA first, then CE. The icky “clipping”-like effect during the dialogue is a bit exacerbated by youtube’s sound compression, though it is present in the original game.

I was surprised to find some of the iconic bits and pieces of sound design removed or heavily modified. For instance, the Covenant communications crates in the original game had a ringing sound which was used in numerous places for many different aesthetic effects, while the new crates only have soft ambient noise. Like the sound environments, many sound effects have been modified in a way which seems to be intended to suit the new visual environments; the blue beam sounds on the level Halo, for instance, are much warmer and less airy than in the original game, fitting to the warmer visual style. It’s possible that they were having difficulty working the removed classic sounds into the new environments in an aesthetically pleasing way.

A sound you won’t find in CEA

On another note, the speech audio isn’t quite as faithful as 343i have claimed; there is some dialogue in CEA that doesn’t exist in the original game, including a grunt death sound that I find somewhat annoying. My guess is that this has to do with CEA being built on Halo PC.

A sound you won’t find in CE

Rerecorded Music

While it has the original music should the player choose to use Marty’s tracks, CEA includes a new version of the CE score, rerecorded with better fidelity by the Skywalker orchestra.

The new music was performed and recorded extremely well. And in many cases, like with the sound, it seems to have been adjusted for the visual environments, often quite successfully; the metallic clanking in the music early in Pillar of Autumn seems to fit nicely, for instance. As a whole, it does have a somewhat different feel from the old music, but it works well with Anniversary’s visual style.

But at the same time, the new music has a few problems. Live orchestras are not simply a “same but better” version of a synthesizer, and occasionally this could result in some unfortunate spots and sorts of clumsiness; for an obvious example (albeit one which doesn’t really manifest in-game), compare the transition in the middle of Choreographite to that in Covenant Dance. Resultantly, the new music sometimes feels less comfortable and confident than Marty’s original score.

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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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