Saturday, February 02, 2008

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) Completed for the... 7th Time?

I think. Suffice it to say, I've played through the Xbox version of Halo: Combat Evolved a lot since I first bought it in late November 2004, and its still a great game. Originally released in November 2001, it still looks good, plays great, sounds amazing, and provides a solid, generally well-balanced and challenging Campaign.

This particular play-through was special, however, as it's the first time I've played through the game on my Xbox 360, so instead of going into detail about the epic shooter everyone knows everything about, I'm going to talk about how the Xbox emulation held up on my Xbox 360.

For those of you unfamiliar with software emulation, you can get the jist of it here. In order to get the Xbox 360 to play original Xbox games, Microsoft had two options:

1) To include the original hardware components of the Xbox in the Xbox 360, which would have increased the Xbox 360's size and more importantly, been much more cost prohibitive.

2) Attempt to emulate the Xbox's hardware via software emulation.

For whatever reason, Microsoft chose the later option and took on the immense challenge of emulating the Xbox's architecture on the Xbox 360, no easy task with such vastly different graphic cards. To make a long story short, Microsoft's Xbox software emulation has allowed the Xbox 360 to play hundreds of Xbox games. Like all software emulation I've experienced, however, it isn't perfect.

The Xbox 360's architecture is very different from the Xbox, and no matter how well you're able to emulate the original hardware, it still isn't an original Xbox, and various glitches will occur. An example of this is occasional random or specific crashes, ghosting images, frame rate issues, etc.; it's different, though usually predictable, for every game.

Halo: Combat Evolved has no known issues listed on the Backward Compatibility - Technical Support and Known Issues page, so I'm going to list the bugs that I did experience:

- Occasional frame rate hiccups, often when Shades would fire and on extremely rare occasions, like when you're flooded with Flood or in a large, intense battle outdoors.
- Minor physics issue where an item, such as a corpse or weapon, would get stuck in or on top of an object and make an annoying static sound if you're close to it.
- Occasionally the screen would flash red for a second when part of a level loaded mid-level. This was very rare though.
- Very minor texture detail pop-in.
- The final post-credit video seemed grainy.

Those were the only issues I recall, and to be perfectly honest, they never once disrupted my enjoyment of the game or the pacing and rush of combat. Of the three Xbox games I've played on my Xbox 360, Halo: Combat Evolved has the best quality emulation.

Now, onto the good stuff. The Xbox 360 will both upscale and apply full screen anti-aliasing to any Xbox game. In English, this means that it increased the resolution to 720p, and it got rid of all those "jaggies" common in a standard definition image. To be blunt, Halo: Combat Evolved looked solid on my Xbox 360, I'd have to say as good as the PC version.

It also handled very nicely on the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller. With the exception of the "X" button (Reload should always be on "X." Stupid Bungie), I've adapted well to Halo 3's controls, so I had to quickly relearn which Bumpers to press for what, but once I got that down, it was smooth sailing. I will confess I missed the presence of the old "White" and "Black" buttons, but it wasn't a huge loss.

So, in the end, I've immensely enjoyed Halo: Combat Evolved, both on my Xbox and now on my Xbox 360. If you're a fan of Halo 3 and missed out on the rest of the trilogy, I recommend picking up a copy of Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo 3 really tried to capture the original title's feel over its sequel, both in design, sound (the musical score for Halo 3 was almost a complete remix of Halo: Combat Evolved's sound track), and gameplay.

Halo: Combat Evolved can still be found as a Platinum Hits title at various retailers, and of course as a used title. Failing that, you can now download it via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace as an Xbox Original.

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