Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary PC review — A quality port with notable problems

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
(Image: © 343 Industries)

After the high-quality port of Halo: Reach on PC, expectations were set high for each of the games in the Master Chief Collection that 343 Industries is porting to the PC platform. After a few months of waiting, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary has followed in Halo: Reach's footsteps and has officially been released on PC through Steam, the Microsoft Store, and Xbox Game Pass for PC. However, the question on many fans' minds is: is this port as good as the Halo: Reach one?

After fully completing the Campaign and trying out the multiplayer matchmaking experience, I feel confident in saying that the answer to that question is no. The port is a good one, but it has many issues that the Halo: Reach port did not. In the end, however, it's still quality, and the issues that are there shouldn't stop PC players from experiencing the remaster of the game that started it all.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary PC Campaign

The Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary campaign looks better than it ever has on modern PC hardware.

Overall, the Campaign experience in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on PC is good. The game looks better than ever on advanced PC hardware (in particular, visual effects and lighting got large improvements). There's the occasional problem with shadow render distancing to deal with and some slight texture pop-in, but aside from that, there are no visual problems.

I experienced no input delay at all throughout my playthrough, either. Just like with Halo: Reach on PC, using a mouse and keyboard just feels like the right way to play Halo. The game is also able to run at a buttery-smooth 60+ frames-per-second (FPS) without any problems or slowdowns at all.

Things aren't all smooth-sailing when it comes to the audio, however. The worst problem is with the game's music, which will cut itself off, skip beats, overlap, or — in rare cases — not play at all. Considering Halo's music is one of the best things about the franchise, problems with it playing correctly are a bit grating to say the least. On top of this, gameplay sounds can sometimes glitch or not play either, which will definitely take players out of the moment. Also, sound effects may not echo or reverb properly.

From a gameplay perspective, things are mostly just as they are supposed to be, which is important for the game to get right. However, there are two issues with Campaign gameplay that are worth mentioning. The first is that there's a bizarre bug where the higher your framerate is, the faster your weapons become inaccurate when fired for sustained periods of time. This affects the Assault Rifle, Magnum, Plasma Rifle, and Plasma Pistol. In my experience, I found that the bug didn't hamper my gameplay experience much since perfectly hitting shots is rarely demanded of you in Campaign. To limit the impact of the bug, you can cap the FPS at 60 instead of using uncapped FPS.

The second issue in the Campaign is that sometimes, scripted events such as enemy spawns or important areas opening up can become delayed for a few seconds. This isn't a big deal most of the time, but it can get you killed if enemies spawn on top of you.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary PC Multiplayer

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

The multiplayer experience in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is excellent, though not without one notable problem.

While the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Campaign suffers from some annoying bugs, the multiplayer experience in the game (which is a version of Halo: Combat Evolved's original multiplayer) is excellent — both in Matchmaking and in Custom Games. All of the different game modes, maps, and Custom Games settings from the original Halo: Combat Evolved are present here, and the matchmaking system is quick. In addition to this, I haven't experienced any lag or server stability problems to speak of during my testing at all.

Something I'm very happy to see with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary's multiplayer is the fact that it's generous with how much experience it awards players. Compared to Halo: Reach's when it came out, you can potentially get six times the amount of experience in one match of Combat Evolved multiplayer than you could have originally in Halo: Reach. There are no new Combat Evolved Anniversary-themed unlocks to chase, but you can use the Season Points you earn from your experience to get Halo: Reach unlocks.

There is one issue that keeps the multiplayer experience for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary from being perfect, though. The issue with gun inaccuracy in the Campaign also is present in multiplayer, which means that players getting very high framerates will have a disadvantage against ones with lower framerates than them. I lowered the game's graphics settings as far as possible and turned on uncapped FPS to test just how bad the bug could be, and I found that while it has negligible impact on short and medium-range fights, it does hamper your ability to fight at long range with a Magnum quite severely.

Unlike Campaign, hitting headshots is crucial in multiplayer, so I really hope 343 Industries can fix this issue soon. As I said before, though, you can mitigate the effects by capping your FPS at 60. This reduces the bug's impact on accuracy considerably.

Should you buy Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary PC?

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While the bugs impacting the Campaign are annoying and do take away from the experience, the game, overall, still looks and feels awesome to play on PC. The issue with gun accuracy is problematic in multiplayer, but you can mitigate its effects with some settings changes, and 343 Industries is aware of the bug and is working to fix it, as well as every other performance problem I mentioned in this review.

Overall, people shouldn't feel like they should wait to pick up Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on PC. The port may not be as excellent as Halo: Reach's was, but it's still good, and players will still have an awesome time with it despite the bugs.

If you can't stand dealing with issues of any kind, you should wait. But if you can deal with the hiccups, I wholeheartedly recommend buying and playing Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on PC.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.