Yeah, I remember the first time I played Halo," says 343's Frank O'Connor, recalling his days on the other side of the fence - back then he was part of Official Xbox Magazine. "It was multiplayer and it was Beaver Creek. I ran up to the ladder and I didn't know what to do; for a moment I couldn't get my brain around climbing ladders."
In 2001, ladders in a console shooter were baffling. "We had all played shooters with a mouse and keyboard, and a lot of us had played Goldeneye with one analogue stick," says O'Connor. "But this was completely different. That's why the Pillar of Autumn level was a tutorial - it's supposed to lead you in, not just to Halo, but to console FPSs. Most people had never played with two analogue sticks before."
We're not spoiling much to say the Halo blows up at the end of Halo Anniversary. The last of Microsoft's big games for 2011 is a game so familiar there'll be few surprises within - the real surprise is that the original Halo is playable in a way few decade-old games are. This HD makeover, handled by 343 Industries, makes the game feel fresh, even ten years on.
Halo actually debuted in Europe in early 2002, after a five-month delay and catastrophic technical problems for the conversion, but it arrived in America during 2001. Ten years is not one but two console generations ago - an age in videogameland. Many were still releasing PSone games in 2001; Sega were still in the hardware market. And yet Halo has barely aged a day.
The tutorial is still there - and still a confusing maze of steely grey, even in HD. It's one of Halo's moments of 'old design'. Both this and the endless floors of The Library sit uncomfortably beside incredible moments, such as the landing on Halo and the assault on Silent Cartographer. In truth, Halo was booted a little unceremoniously onto shelves after a long and difficult development process. As a result, there are moments when it feels every bit as ancient as it is. Why didn't 343 fix it? Because they wouldn't have it any other way.
If there was a bug in the first game, it works here...we had to go and put bugs back in... Frank O'Conner - 343 Industries
"It's a very special title for millions of people" says executive producer Dan Ayoub. "We didn't want to do just another remake; just do it in HD, slap it in the box and call it a day. Halo fans deserve better, and we wanted to recapture the feelings they had when they played it for the first time.
"It's always tempting to 'fix' things. We said we wanted to be faithful to the original and we've stuck to it, but there are things we can do to improve the most common sticking points. People always had navigation issues on Guilty Spark and The Library, but with the new graphics we can use modern level design techniques to help people stay on track - lighting tricks and things like that." "This whole thing is like a wildly exaggerated DVD cut," says Frank O'Connor.
Metal Gear Solid and Devil May Cry have been given HD upgrades for their anthology editions - the videogame equivalent of a remastered release - but Halo has been given the Star Wars Special Edition treatment.