Published on December 4th, 2014 | by Jimmie Dodger0
Halo: The Master Chief Collection – Review
Footage of the first Halo game was first shown to the world by Steve Jobs at an Apple Event in 1999. Yes, Halo was originally created for the Mac, but shortly after, in 2000, Bungie was acquired by Microsoft to make Halo a flagship product for their new Games Console, the Xbox. Since Halo’s release date (15th November 2001) there have been a plethora of games inside the franchise ranging in game type, from first person shooter, to a real time strategy game (Halo Wars) and also a top down twin-stick shooter (Halo: Spartan Assault). The most recent release, on the 11th November 2014 was The Master Chief Collection, for Xbox One, which holsters the games featuring the Master Chief: Halo 1, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4; the other games in the series: Halo 3 ODST, Halo Reach, Halo Wars and Spartan Assault do not feature the Master Chief and are therefore not included.
The idea of The Master Chief Collection was to update all four games and the multiplayer to run at 1080p and 60 frames per second. A great thing that 343 Industries did to keep the game as close to the original games was to use the old engines so each one feels like the original game, there has been no tweaks so you can enjoy the game as you did years ago, but in a much prettier shell. The biggest update on the disc is the remastered Halo 2 campaign and Halo 2 Anniversary multiplayer. The graphics have been drastically updated to look incredible, and the cinematics in between levels have been completely recreated by Blur Studios, who created the Halo Wars cinematics, and these again just look awesome. A great feature is being able to press the ‘View Button’ (left of the Xbox Home button, looks like two boxes) to instantly swap between the original game and the remastered version which really shows you just how good the new game looks. This is essentially what was done in 2011 with Halo Anniversary, but with a fully fledged multiplayer, which Halo Anniversary failed at.
I am personally a huge Halo fan and the first of the franchise was the reason I wanted an Xbox as a 10 year old boy and is one of the big reasons I adore gaming today. I bought my copy of Halo: MCC at midnight on the Monday and took the Tuesday off work to play. As of writing, I have currently finished the Halo 2 and Halo 3 campaigns on heroic difficulty and I am only 11% into the game, the reason being that this game is simply huge. It contains four full campaigns that are around 10 hours each depending on difficulty, and skill, and also a massive online multiplayer featuring around a hundred maps, from all 4 games. It also holds 450 achievements worth 4,500 Gamerscore; for anyone not in the know, a normal game usually has 1000 Gamerscore before DLC.
I started with the Halo 2 campaign as it’s the one I haven’t played most recently and it gave me great nostalgia at just how much fun this campaign was 10 years ago. With it being the longest at 14 missions, and alternating between playing as the Master Chief and The Arbiter, it has a wide range of level structures and story. This campaign was great at the time, with it’s inclusion of dual-wielding, vehicle boarding and the Battle Rifle, seeing it in a new Xbox One skin with remastered sound is a true reawakening of how this game is a true classic. The audio is a definite improvement, not that the old audio was poor, but the new bigger and meatier sound, such as the Battle Rifle, really do make a difference to the game as a whole. The new cut scenes really are something to treasure, they have been completely re-shot and as previously mentioned, are crafted beautifully by Blur Studios. The ability to instantly switch between the old and new really does shove this in your face. Gravemind’s reimagining is especially glorious.
You can now jump straight into Halo 3, as I did, and instantly see that this game has just been upscaled and not remastered. The game is 7 years old so it was expected; however Commander Keyes now loses about 15 years in age, good for her. The campaign in this game is potentially my favourite and the most enjoyable, I am excluding the ‘Cortona’ mission in this as it is by far the worst level of any Halo game, and carries it’s own despised hatred from every fan around. We do lose the ability to dual-wield Needlers (somehow) and regain the pitiful Assault Rifle as the Chief’s main weapon, but a big plus is the Gauss Warthog and new grenades: the Spike, and the incendiary – particularly useful against The Flood. The lovely part of this campaign is how it ends, the same way as the first, with a warthog race against possible annihilation as you drive towards the UNSC’s ‘Forward Unto Dawn’ ship to escape a new and exploding Halo ring (to replace the one you destroy in Halo). Once you escape the perilous doom – during which you will have several ‘restart from checkpoint’ moments from driving into randomly occurring holes – you are shown the end cut-scene which depicts how the Arbiter reaches Earth safely and John 117 is still missing, due to The Dawn splitting in two upon the new Halo ring’s destruction. I had forgotten how difficult both of these games can be in Heroic mode, which is how the Halo games are supposed to be played.
I have dipped my toe into Halo and Halo 4 to see how they faired and they seem as I expected. Halo looks like the Anniversary edition from 2011 and played very well. Halo 4 looks like any Xbox One game released today in terms of graphical quality. I have read elsewhere of players seeing a drop in frame-rate when playing the campaigns but I can’t say I noticed this personally. Maybe I was just lucky or just didn’t have enough carnage going on at once to push the console to drop frames. The campaign section of the game does also include set playlists if you’d like to play certain types of missions from the 45 on offer, such as quickly hopping into playing the a campaign in LASO mode (Legendary, All Skulls On), which is a decision no one should do without pause for thought.
As of Tuesday 2nd December, the multiplayer is still not working perfectly with: groups being split up, finding games taking longer than expected, uneven teams, and a host of other issues. I tried it with a couple of friends over Xbox Live and we had a blast, playing the remastered versions of Blood Gulch and Lockout, and really reliving our youth with the Chief’s slow run/brisk walk, the pathetically low jump and a starting Battle Rifle. Maybe the poor network support is just server issues and a flooding of the system, but it would appear to be down to Xbox One as 343 are struggling to see the issues on their side of things and appear to be trying different things in a ‘trial and error’ method. Part of me wants to think 343 is doing this on purpose, to force us to meet up and play in the same room, like we did 10 years ago, but I’ll get to that in a second.
The multiplayer right now, hosts a short list of gametypes, to help the server load, but still consists of over 100 maps, and also a playlist dedicated to the several remastered Halo 2 maps; it even has the old rank indicators which is a wonderful little homage to the olden days. Being able to play each version of the game in quick succession is fun and enjoyable but can also be jarring, even with the ability to set one controller layout for each game (thank god for that) each game still has large differences in it’s physics and weapons. For example: the Battle Rifle features in Halo 2, 3 and 4 but acts differently in each, some games have ‘equipment’ like a bubble shield or sprinting and others don’t. Therefore, even with the same controller configuration (or as close as it can be) there is still a difference your muscle memory needs to adapt to quickly. My only gripe currently with multiplayer is the lack of population figures for each playlist. Something which is very useful to know if you want fast matchmaking. I hope this will be an addition in a future patch.
Multiplayer – LAN
So in the good old days of multiplayer you would gather your friends, a couple of consoles, snacks and play in one room for hours on end; so that was exactly what we tried. My friends and I connected two Xbox Ones and loaded two copies of the game. It wasn’t possible to connect the two consoles in a local LAN like in 2004. Instead, we had to go through XBox Live to even see each other, and even then we were subjected to periods of lag. We also had to restart one console after every game as the group would crash and neither console could see each other. We are going to do this again at Christmas but with Xbox 360s and the original Halo 2 instead. Our assumption is that 343 Industries didn’t test this method out much as they didn’t expect many people to connect this way. Regardless, it’s still frustrating that in the 5 hours I could play, we only managed 5 games.
From playing a bit of multiplayer, and two of the campaigns, I can positively say that this game is entirely worth the £40 (and even £55 if you got the limited edition), as even with the LAN issue (a minor issue overall), it easily packs in over 50 hours of campaign playtime and endless fun in the multiplayer. In my opinion no Xbox One owner should be without a copy of this. It’s the Xbox’s heritage and it is a staple of the gaming world. It may have a bit of an ugly menu system and some issues with multiplayer right now, but what game doesn’t have day one issues at this point? Overall you are getting 4 games on 1 disc (and a 15GB day 1 download) for the price of 1 game. You also get beta access to the multiplayer of next year’s release, Halo 5: Guardians, along with access to Halo: Nightfall, a live action TV series set in the Halo Universe.
Really, what more could you ask for?