What you will also discover when you play Halo CE Anniversary (whether it's your first or tenth time) is that every sequel, for all of their strengths, has suffered from the absence of the Halo CE's main character: the Halo itself. This game wasn't called "Master Chief," it was called "Halo" and with good reason. It's not about Master Chief John Spartan 117, or the rambunctious AI Cortana or the heroic Captain Keyes. It's about the fabulous and mysterious ring structure and the secrets locked within. The game begins with the discovery of the structure and ends with its destruction. The story is, like the ring itself, a perfect circle and although the final scripted words are "We're just getting started," you could leave off with this one entry and not feel as if you'd missed a thing. Fitting, then, that the previous entry in the series, Halo Reach, was in fact the prequel to this game, as if all roads lead back to Halo CE. You could, if you choose, play Halo CE Anniversary as a sequel to Reach and it would hardly feel out of step.
In addition to all that made Halo CE great, Halo CE Anniversary comes packed with a bundle of bonus multiplayer maps you can download to your Xbox 360's HD for use with Halo Reach. Also, you can switch the game's settings to play either the original music, or the newly re-mastered and enhanced symphony soundtrack. And if you want to see how far graphics have come in the past ten years, you can press the Select button at any time to switch between the Anniversary edition and the original edition graphics. Doing so is guaranteed to blow your mind at least once.
Multiplayer is its own treat. While riding on the backend of Reach's multiplayer component, Anniversary packs a few of its own surprises into the mix such as a handful of the original game's maps (Beaver Creek, being one of my all-time favorites) as well as the iconic "Magnum" pistol that proved to be the bane of so many gamers' online careers. The action is as frenetic as always and quintessentially Halo, while the matchmaking, in the few brief hours I banged on it, proved robust.
All of that said, it's hard to know where to draw the line between remaining faithful to the original experience and not offering gamers anything new. The graphical and musical overhauls are phenomenal, but for true-blue Halo fans, they may not be enough to justify the expense, even at the "bargain" price of $40. It will be interesting to see if the same nostalgia that has driven four sequels to the top of the sales charts can also drive an updated edition of the original.
Bottom Line: If you played and enjoyed Halo Combat Evolved or one of its sequels, then you will find plenty to enjoy with this edition. If you haven't played Halo CE, there's no better time. Few other games with as many miles under their belts look and feel this good. A fresh coat of paint is all this game needed to remind the world how Bungie brought shooters out of the stone age.
Recommendation: A must-have for Halo fans, in spite of the lack of any significantly new content. Knowing how it ends, after all, hasn't ruined a Halo game yet. Newcomers will be in for a rare treat: discovering the game that changed everything for the first time, without having to forgive dated graphics. Buy it.
This review is based on the 360 version of the game.