Halo: The Master Chief Collection
From the second the Halo: Master Chief Collection was announced, it was clear that this was going to be the biggest holiday exclusive for the Xbox One. Originally rumored to just have single-player campaigns, it was unveiled as having all of them plus every game’s multiplayer mode. As a bonus, all of the Halo Nightfall episodes, Halo franchise cutscenes, and even a Halo 4 docmunetary are included. However, the extra video content isn’t on-disc – instead it downloads a Halo Channel to your Xbox One and you get on-demand access to the content. The supplemental content really shows you how dedicated fans are with a fanart section and absorbs you into the world of the games.
As someone who has played them since the original game on the original Xbox, the plot has never really done much for until this collection. By seeing the story evolve from game to game in this far-more-user-friendly format, I grew to actually care about it. It’s kind of like enjoying the Lord of the Rings Trilogy more in a marathon than watching them all at separate times, or marathoning a season of a show. You’re more immersed in the universe of the work you’re partaking in, and with gaming, you’re not just watching, but interacting with it so the potential is there to get more immersed. Gaming rarely plumbs to those depths, but after experiencing things with the Master Chief Collection, I can certainly see why the universe has spanned books, the Nightfall show, and so on. There’s a lot there that was always in front of me as I’ve played every entry in the series before, I just didn’t see all that it contained.
As a result of my first-hand experience, I would definitely recommend the Master Chief Collection to anyone who has enjoyed, but hasn’t fallen in love with the Halo games. 343 has done a fantastic job ensuring that this compilation flows really well from one game to the next, and ensuring that if the series didn’t hook you before this, they gave you tons of reasons for it to do so now. The storyline hooked me in ways I didn’t expect, and playing them back to back like this really showed how the gameplay has evolved from game to game.
Things start off about the same with glorified tutorials that honestly stick out like a sore thumb in this format, which just made me appreciate Halo 4’s “okay, ACTION STARTS NOW!” approach that much more. Each game has a slight change in the storytelling too, with the earlier games going for a clear break from game to play, and Halo 4 going for a seamless transition whenever possible. The consistent control scheme from game to game is something I didn’t really notice before, but was a pleasant surprise.
Most long-running franchises change up the controls, but here, they’re about the same as ever beyond the additional of the left trigger for dual-wielding. This makes the transition from one game to the next even easier, and if you ever want to change the controls, you can re-map everything at your leisure in the main game selection screen.
One big reason I never explored the single player campaigns in the series was a desire to just rush into the multiplayer. While Halo 1 limited you to offline play, Halo 2 broke down the doors for Xbox Live and provided many players with their first taste of online gaming. I’ve been playing online since the Dreamcast, but never had as much fun as I did playing Halo 2 online shortly after launch. I’ll never forget my now-late mother buying the game at 7-11 for $40 and spending that entire night playing the game.
The Master Chief Collection doesn’t just give you everything that made Halo 2’s multiplayer great a decade ago, it’s also available in Anniversary mode for a more modern sheen. You can also enjoy the Halo 1 Anniversary content online and everything contained in the original Halo 3 and 4 multiplayer modes too. There’s an almost overwhelming level of content here as each game has a slew of playlists, or you can do cross-game stuff and start with some Halo, then play a bit of the other games’ MP maps as well.
Mode variety is second to none with deathmatch, team deathmatch, king of the hill, oddball (where whoever holds the ball the longest wins), and no less than three different kinds of capture the flag setups. You may be at a loss to do online, but you’ll never be short on options. If you want to flex your creative muscles, you can hop into horde mode and customize levels, then save them for others to play. If you needed a reminder of why you loved Halo’s multiplayer at any point in your life, the Master Chief Collection will rekindle that love and probably keep it going for a long time since the new cross-game setup gives you a whole new way to play.
Visually, the more current generation games gain quite a bit in terms of improved textures while the first two games get a night and day changeover. More than just texture upgrades, the lighting has been completely reworked. Sometimes, this is for the better but rarely, it isn’t. There are a few signs – like an early bright yellow one in Halo 2, that is readable above doorways, but it’s obscured by shadows with the revamped version. Halo 3 and 4 have been tuned up, but also feature some downgrades as well. Halo 4’s on-screen text was white, and now it’s blue. While this isn’t a huge change in theory, it makes button prompts much harder to read because the button marking blends in too much with the text.
Still, the overall look of the Anniversary Editions is far better, even if individual small parts don’t look quite as good. After 15 years of DVD viewing, gaming has finally really caught up to providing a user-friendly experience with what’s offered up here. Every branching path for an option is visible within a couple of button presses and even though the modes all have a variety of sub-menus, things never get too hard to follow. There’s a nice theater mode option for easy highlight viewing, and the menu layout is some of the best around. The Halo Channel itself allows you to check out tons of new Halo content, and with Nightfall included, you can really suck yourself into the Halo universe.
The Halo series has always been known for its sweeping scores and you grow to appreciate them even more after playing this collection. The franchise’s space opera setup never really hit me until this game, but it’s very Star Wars-esque with the soundtrack. Everything moves you, and whether it’s a slow song that makes you think, or a fast song that sends blood coursing through your veins, the music always gets an emotion out of you.
The Master Chief Collection raises the bar for compilations. We’ve gotten vast quantities of games before, and smaller quantities of more recent games, but never something that gave you everything out of the included games and so many bonus features. At a maximum price of $60, this is an insane value given that it contains four of the greatest games of all-time. If you love the series, then you’ll want to have it all one collection and it’s never looked or played better than here. While not everything about the Anniversary versions is better, the overall look of Halo 1 and 2 has never been more impressive. It feels like you can finally see the worlds you were meant to see then, but that technology couldn’t properly display.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
This review is based on a digital copy of Halo: The Master Chief Collection for the Xbox One provided by Microsoft Studios.