I love, love, love Halo. At this point, that's the videogame equivalent of walking into a movie theater and proclaiming, "I love, love, love Pirates of the Caribbean!", but I can't really help it. A lot of that love is fueled by nostalgia: Back in 2001, Halo was a hell of a thing. Like GoldenEye for the N64 a few years before, it was one of the then-rare shooters that actually worked on a console. But more than that, it conveyed a sense of epicness—the gameplay was smooth, robust, and addictive, but what really grabbed me was the gorgeous design of the huge environments and the awe-inspiring sense of grandeur. Halo felt big, and played big, and it spawned, god, what? Five sequels/spinoffs? So far?
The most recent spinoff/sequel/cash-in is Halo all over again: Halo: Anniversary is a straight-up remake of the original Halo, with slicked-up graphics and a redone multiplayer that lifts more from Halo: Reach than the original.
Tweaked multiplayer aside—that mode is basically just Reach, but with new versions of Halo's classic multiplayer maps—this is Halo with a facelift: Shinier, prettier, smoother, and a whole lot texture-ier. Produced by 343 Industries—Microsoft's new factory for all things Halo, now that original developer Bungie's moved on—Anniversary hits all the right notes and doesn't mess anything up. It's... well, it's Halo. Which is why there isn't much to say about it that hasn't been said a billion times already.
The gameplay's still great. The campaign is still one of the best that any shooter has to offer. The scale still impresses—no mean feat, considering the past decade of AAA titles trying to out-epic each other. And it's still hard to put down the controller once you've picked it up. There's a reason this property's as successful as it is.
But even at a discounted rate—Anniversary retails for $40—it's still the exact same game that just about anybody with an Xbox has already played the hell out of. Forty bucks seems like an alright value to me, but unless you've never played the game before, there's no way around the fact that this is an utterly unnecessary purchase. If you've never played it, though? Here's the way to do it. (And make sure to hit the "back" button every once in while as you play through the campaign: In what might be my favorite thing about Anniversary, the game can toggle between this version's spruced-up graphics and 2001's original Xbox graphics. Actual quote from me in 2001: "I just can't imagine a game looking any better than this!" Actual quote from me in 2011: "Oh, yeah. This is how it looks better.")
So $40 for a game you've already played, or have easy access to several sequels/analogues for. Not a bad deal, but like Nex said in his review of Modern Warfare 3, this gaming season is so packed with excellent games that it's hard to get too excited about anything that isn't flat-out amazing. Let alone something that is—quite intentionally—as familiar as Anniversary.