The recently released Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary featured a subtle yet cunning example of software engineering. While the Halo: Combat Evolved campaign existed on the disc as a solitary unit, the retail product also contained the Halo: Reach engine, propelling the multiplayer as a separate entity. This allows for the multiplayer included with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary to be connected directly with the existing Halo: Reach multiplayer audience, and as a generous token of appreciation, also allows the content to be downloaded as a separate component for Halo: Reach, known as the Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack.
The Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack is available now to purchase as downloadable content (DLC) for Halo: Reach as well as being included free with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on disc, and as a DLC component for Halo: Reach by way of a redemption code. The idea is simply that those who wish to play the additional maps and Firefight mission without purchasing Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary may do so via DLC, and those who have purchased the newest Halo release but wish to continue using the original Halo: Reach content can do so simply by adding the Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack content as DLC to the original videogame, for free. The Anniversary Map Pack offers six new maps, some of which are based on those included with the original Halo: Combat Evolved, but have never bared the burden of online play before.
Each of the six maps has two variants, classic and enhanced, though when playing online it seems that only the enhanced maps are chosen by the default playlists. A number of new playlists have been added specifically for the Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack, though of course for players adding the content to Halo: Reach these maps can be entered into the normal rotation. The playlists include Anniversary Classic, which is your standard deathmatch affair (still known as Slayer here in the world of Halo), while Anniversary Squad is a team based playlist involving both Slayer and objective based variants of the multiplayer. Anniversary BTB is a larger team based affair for up to sixteen players, and Anniversary FFA offers a mix of the original Halo: Reach maps and modes and those of the Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack. It’s a simple system to signpost which content will or will not be used, allowing players to quickly determine what they have the option of playing with friends that might not have purchased all of the DLC available.
The maps themselves stand-up well to online play, despite some not previously playing host to more than four players simultaneously. A slight modification here-and-there has been necessary to accommodate the increased number of players, but without bringing out the original Halo: Combat Evolved it would be difficult to notice the adjustments. Some maps are based on those featured in Halo 2 as well, and these have simply benefited from a visual overhaul. Of all those included with Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack, it’s arguably Battle Canyon that provides the most intense deathmatch action, with it’s symmetrical open plan design and small corridor-driven bases, while tactical matches play best on Solitary or Penance, with the fear of team-based strategies coming from more than just your flanks.
The Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack doesn’t renovate the Halo: Reach multiplayer formula, but it does breathe new life into a videogame that has begun to struggle against the weight of its competition. Halo: Reach is arguably the leader of the genre in terms of online play at present, but that hasn’t stopped many of it’s fans turning their attentions to Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The Halo: Reach Anniversary Map Pack may not be enough to call them away from the new competitors in the field, but when the dust settles and it’s time to return to the high-speed action of Halo: Reach, it’ll be a nice welcome home.