Gamers will have a chance to revisit what might rightly be called the most pivotal game in the history of Xbox. A remake of Halo: Combat Evolved is apparently in the works and slated to release November 15th this year. Rumoured for months, American game blog Joystiq posted the game's first details-gleaned from unnamed sources-on Friday morning.
It seems New Jersey-based game maker Saber Interactive (of TimeShift fame) is currently at work on the project, labouring under the guidance of 343 Industries, the Microsoft subsidiary that's been looking after the Halo brand since original developer Bungie bowed out of the franchise last fall.
No mere re-release, Joystiq reports the game will feature new art, lightly buffed controls that will be in line with those of more modern entries in the franchise, and online play elements including cooperative campaigns. It will even support stereoscopic play on 3-D televisions. Only the iconic score, sound effects, and dialogue from the original game are expected to remain.
I have to admit that this news tickles me in a singular way-and not just because I believe that without Halo Microsoft's risky endeavour into the world of console gaming would likely have been stillborn (it was the primary-and in some cases only-reason many people purchased the original Xbox).
My memories of playing Halo: Combat Evolved occupy a special place in my brain that plays host to such crucial gaming experiences as my time spent playing Asteroids in the arcade, Donkey Kong on my Coleco Vision, Super Mario Bros. on my Nintendo Entertainment System, Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega Genesis, Doom on PC, and Final Fantasy VII on my PlayStation.
Thanks to its groundbreaking, instantly accessible controls it was the first console-based first-person shooter with which I felt truly comfortable. Indeed, its basic layout has gone on to serve as a model for just about every other first-person shooter that has followed.
Meanwhile, its local cooperative and multiplayer modes were astoundingly satisfying. I've never experienced console LAN parties like those I had with Halo: COmbat Evolved. My friends and I would set up multiple televisions with guys playing in teams, riding with one another in the same virtual vehicles, and experiencing everything together as a group both onscreen and in the same room.
And the physics were simply a treat. My friends and I tried for hours to replicate the famous "Warthog jump" (see sidebar), an archetypal viral video of emergent game play. We never did, but we had plenty of fun trying-and created some pretty spectacular events of our own along the way (including an explosion-aided Warthog triple-flip that ended with our jeep landing upright on our enemies' base in Blood Gulch, one of my all-time favourite multiplayer maps).
I'm not deluding myself into thinking that this remake will result in a whole new set of equally memorable moments, but I'll take any excuse I can get to revisit the Master Chief's first adventure. If all it does is spur memories of the great experiences I had a decade ago it will be time well spent.