Review: Halo: The Master Chief Collection

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story
When Halo: Combat Evolved launched in 2001, it revolutionised the first-person shooter and largely shaped the genre as we know it as today. Originally, Halo was revealed at Mac World as a PC/MAC game until Microsoft’s purchase of Bungie in 2001, leading to the game as a key launch title for the original Xbox. While not originally planned as one of the major titles for launch, Halo quickly took off and created a phenomenon that had never been seen in the gaming industry.

Fast-forward three years to the release of Halo 2. The sequel largely stuck with the same solid gameplay whilst adding much-needed features such a dual wielding which is still a key part of the series today. The biggest introduction in the game, however, was the use of online multiplayer with Xbox Live. Traditionally, gamers had previously used a server list to find an online game, but Halo 2 changed this with the ability to pair you straight into a game with other players with the use of matchmaking. This was the first console game to largely incorporate online play and it provided a great base for the online games of today. These achievements are backed up by the fact that Halo 2 was the most played game on a weekly basis on Xbox Live for over two years.

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Moving over to the HD era, Bungie released the final game in the trilogy, Halo 3 in 2007. This game gave players an opportunity to edit their own maps in a brand new mode called Forge. In addition, players were now also able to use the technology of the Xbox 360 to record their matches for later review.

After splitting from Microsoft, Bungie handed the Halo franchise to 343 Industries. Halo 4 was the last game to be released in the franchise to date and took quite a number of different turns stylistically. 343 took the solid foundation that Bungie had laid and made slight improvements to weapons, maps and online. It also incorporated an online multiplayer campaign named Spartan Ops. This filled in the gaps that took place after the single-player storyline, expanding on the universe.

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At the heart of the Halo series is the Spartan super soldier known as John-117, or the Master Chief. One of the few surviving Spartans by the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, the Master Chief must take the fight to the genocidal alien force known as the Covenant. As the decades-long war enters its final stages, the Master Chief must lead what’s left of humanity’s forces to victory, and before the Covenant discover Earth.

I’ve never been hugely engrossed by the Halo lore, though I know of many who are. Whether you’re new to the franchise or a series veteran, there is certainly no better place to start than with the Master Chief Collection. It is a complete package, giving you the chance to follow in the footsteps of the Master Chief as he saves humanity.

presentation
Upon booting up the game, you’ll instantly notice just how much effort has been put into the presentation of The Master Chief Collection. 343 Industries have incorporated a universal user interface into the game. Everything in the menu has been incredibly thought out and is extremely easy to navigate. Whilst this is a minor detail in most games, it’s a huge part of this collection. The sheer scale of content on one disc has never ever been matched by another game and thankfully, everything is extremely easy to find. The main thing to keep in mind when navigating the UI is that you always start with which game you want and work your way down. This works incredibly well for those that want to play one mission from one game, and then jump to another mission from another game.

Every single game on this disc runs at 1080p resolution and at 60FPS. This is a huge deal for a shooter like Halo and it’s instantly noticeable. Whilst Halo 1 had already received the anniversary treatment it runs noticeably better on Xbox One. Whilst it was a great remaster on the Xbox 360, the game still stuttered in some places. You’re still able to switch back and fourth the touch of a button.

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Halo 2 is every bit the centerpiece of this whole package. Blur Studio have done an absolutely phenomenal job with recreating the cutscenes for the game. The detail and quality of these cutscenes is above anything that I’ve ever seen in a game before. What’s even more amazing about Halo 2 is that you now have the ability to flip back and fourth throughout the cutscenes. This instantly shows you just how far gaming has come and just how much modern cut scenes can do to immerse you in a game’s story.

In regular gameplay, Halo 2’s remastered graphics can be a little bit less of a talking point. Halo 2 looked so good for when it was originally released, that there are now times where I would forget which mode I was in. This is probably more of a statement about just how good the game already looked rather than a negative about the remastering.

The audio has been completely redone and makes a huge difference for me. The game feels so much alive with constant sound effects coming from all over the map. Halo fans might not like the redesigned sound effects, however, with the ability to switch back to old-school graphics, there shouldn’t be any reason for them to complain.

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Another small criticism would definitely be Halo 3. Graphically, the game sort of feels like the odd one out in the collection. Whilst Halo 1 and 2 have both received remastering, and Halo 4 was released late in the cycle of the 360, Halo 3 feels a little underdone. Cutscenes are still a little rough around the edges and look noticeably worse than both Halo 2 and Halo 4.

Halo 4 is the least touched of the collection and that’s extremely understandable. It was the last to be released in the series and it still holds its title as the best-looking Xbox 360 title. It’s visually the most creative and in my opinion, has the best enemy and weapon designs.

gameplay
The overall Halo gameplay experience feels largely the same as it did 15 years ago. It’s as fast-paced, frantic and just as fun as it was when the original launched on the Xbox. It’s wave after wave of aliens whilst trying to figure out what the perfect dual-wield combination is. The level-design can often be confusing but that is apart of the Halo experience. It’s still not a perfect game but it’s fun for every minute.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a celebration of one of the most well known gaming franchises. Halo is the game that put gaming back on the map and kick-started gaming’s journey to become the most popular form of entertainment. When you think of the Xbox brand, you think of Halo.

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Each of the campaigns are obviously in the game. The developers decided that it would be a good idea to open up every mission right from the start. You can either start a new game, or jump straight to any mission throughout each of the games. I personally was really happy that they decided to take this route. Sure, most newcomers or series veterans will want to play each and every mission again, but if you want to skip to the last level of each game straight from the start, you’re able to do that. You’re able to experience this massive collection in whatever way you want and that’s exactly how it should be. It is a nostalgic gaming journey, after all.

Playlists are a new addition to the game. Gamers are able to play through pre-determined Playlists for each game. These range from the final level of each game to playing through each level that have vehicles prominent. These are mostly specific to each individual game, though there is a section of a few cross-game playlists as well. 343 Industries are supposed to be adding more over time, as the opportunity really is limitless.

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For the most part, 343 studios have tried to unify the control scheme across each game but there’s still the fact that newcomers to the Halo universe that try to jump within games will quickly get confused. As each Halo game has been released, new mechanics have been introduced. Obviously this won’t be an issue but to those that jump between missions OR play different games in Multiplayer, it may get confusing.

Forge has also once again been included for Halo 3 and Halo 4. New to the series is a brand new Forge mode for Halo 2: Anniversary. These have been improved by the inclusion of blank skyboxes. These are literally blank canvases that players need to build on from scratch. You’re able to Forge on the six remastered maps, six classic forged versions of those maps and three new skybox-only levels.

Leaderboards are included and provide more insight than ever before. You can now compare completion times of missions and entire campaigns with your friends and take speed-running to a whole new level. You’re also able to select a rival from your friends list. This will show their speed alongside yours whilst you play through missions that they’ve completed. This ties in to a brand new scoring and time HUD that has been built in the game to show you what time/score you’re currently achieving. This adds even more replayability to the campaigns.

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Just when you think you’ve played through all that there is to play, you’ll come across the Extras section. Halo: Nightfall is most likely the biggest part of this section. Halo: Nightfall is a live-action digital show. It features Agent Locke who will debut in Halo 5: Guardians and will serve to set up the story for Halo 5. It will run for five weeks. You’re able to access this and a host of other videos through the Halo Channel that is downloadable from the Xbox store. Other videos include things like the Halo 2: Anniversary making-of documentary and a collection of Halo’s terminal. It’s also important to note that this is where gamers will access the Halo 5 Guardians Multiplayer Beta come December 29th. Spartan Ops will supposedly hit the game in a patch at a later date. There are also currently around 450 achievements included with the game with more said to be coming post-launch.

Multiplayer has been what has made Halo successful over the years and it’s every bit of a celebration as the single-player campaigns. Similar to the campaigns, you’re able to select what game you want before discovering that there are well over 100 maps to choose from across all four games and a ton of different modes across each game to confuse even the most veteran Halo fan. If you’re somebody who likes to play First Person Shooters online, then I can honestly see you spending many months with this game.

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Once again, Halo 2 is the centerpiece of the multiplayer experience. Whilst all of the original Halo 2 maps are playable in their original engine, 343 studios have also included six re-imagined maps using modern tech to make them feel straight out of a brand new game. These six maps are probably among the best in the game. They highlight the multiplayer modes excellently and feel incredibly well balanced.

You’re able to find a game based on which mode you want to play. Players will then have to option to choose which map and Halo game they’d like to play. If you want to be more specific you can create or choose a custom game where you can search based on which game, map or mode you’d like to play.

DISCLAIMER: All multiplayer matches were played online in private matches. We can’t yet comment on how the final multiplayer and matchmaking will hold up once the servers are heavily populated. We will update our review if we feel that the experience is significantly different to our testing during the review process

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