The Pinnacle of First Person Shooters makes its new generation debut, representing each of Halo’s numbered entries. Despite launch issues, 343 Studios undoubtedly took the bar for AAA re-releases and set it at a new height with the iconic Master Chief’s first foray into 1080p/60 FPS graphical power.
HALO SPOILERS BELOW
Halo is one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. Despite being relatively young, it is iconic and represents the Xbox brand. Heck, there might not even be a present day Xbox without Master Chief. What was once a rumor in the beginning of 2014, Microsoft announced Halo: The Master Chief Collection at E3 in June 2014 and reignited the hardcore fan base.
The MCC contains the original Xbox’s Halo: Combat Evolved (the Anniversary edition from the Xbox 360 release), a stunning Halo 2 Anniversary, and Halo 3 and 4. Halo 2’s cutscenes were completely redone and look as gorgeous as any game you see (and likely will see throughout the generation of Xbox One). The collection features all 4 games’ campaigns with all levels unlocked from the moment you load the game to your hard drive. Halo 2’s multiplayer rewrote the book on First Person Shooters. Online gaming truly became an obsession for console players thanks to Halo 2. Over 100 maps from the 4 games are featured and ready to play.
The MCC is not just a trip down memory lane, it is the perfect game to help show off your new Xbox One to your friends. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary received a few slight touch-ups from its Xbox 360 edition, but largely remains the same. You can still toggle back and forth between the original Xbox graphics/sound/soundtrack and the Anniversary’s version with the press of a button. The campaign is still as memorable and fun as ever.
Halo 2 is the star, receiving the total anniversary treatment (I hope Halo 3 receives this in 2017). 343 brought in extra firepower to help create the best visuals you will see in all of gaming. The game’s cutscenes were redone in aesthetically stunning fashion. You simply need to look them up online if you haven’t yet. My words don’t do them justice. The audio was rerecorded as well, so gunplay sounds crisp and powerful. Picked up an Energy Sword? Ignite that baby and you’ll feel like a Jedi Knight. The Battle Riffle is my favorite new sound, with its burst action sounding heavy and full of bass. It makes Halo 4’s Battle Riffle sound like a child’s toy. You can find and download Terminals & Skulls all around the campaign’s levels, just as in Combat Evolved Anniversary. With all the upgrades surrounding Halo 2’s campaign, the upcoming story in Halo 5: Guardians is nicely supported with slightly better clarity and background. Master Chief looks great, but it’s Cortana’s new look that really had me impressed. She has always been a favorite of mine and I hope (and predict) that 343 will find a creative way to revive her for Halo 5.
Halo 3 received the least amount of work, but it wasn’t completely necessary. I’m assuming there will either be a redone campaign in the vein of Halo 2 Anniversary released as DLC or a completely new release in 2017, the tenth anniversary of Halo 3. This was my least favorite of the campaigns, but that is quite a compliment to the franchise. Some of the levels simply drag on too long for my liking. For what it’s worth, Halo 3 represents my favorite collection of maps in online matchmaking. Some of my fondest memories in gaming revolve around my time in college, staying up until 2:00 am, and playing in matchmaking with my Dad.
I almost forgot how incredible Halo 4 was. It generally gets forgotten when compared with the other numbered entries. I enjoyed my original time with Halo 4 on the 360, but this time around was even better. The cutscenes are not quite on the same level as Halo 2’s, but they still look amazing. The best part of Halo 4? The campaign, which is the best storytelling in any Halo game yet. The focus shifts only slightly – Master Chief still has to save the universe, but now has to mix in personal issues. The story begins right where Halo 3 left off, with Cortana waking up Chief from his cryosleep. She cleverly states that she has run some upgrades to his suit, which explains all of the upgrades and differences from previous entries.
The relationship between Chief (John 117) and Cortana is very attractive. 343 nailed the dynamic, leaving me on edge and wondering how much time I had left with her. Cortana at one point asks Chief to determine which one of the two is more human. She is Chief’s assigned A.I. companion, but the two have developed a mutual respect and romantic-like relationship in their seven years together. In Halo 4, Cortana is experiencing a phenomenon called “rampancy,” in which an A.I. begins deteriorating. This causes spurts of malfunction and downright insanity.
What should have been a celebration of the return of one of the tightest, most polished, most fun multiplayer in gaming history became a vast frustration for long time Xbox fans. Online servers have only recently become stable meaning that since launch, players have had issues getting into matches. The wait time in the lobby was sometimes hours. In addition, it was frequent to see players dropped out of matches and I witnessed some random glitches. What’s most frustrating is that each of these games worked completely fine online on their respective consoles at launch. We have the most powerful Xbox to date, with exponentially increased resources, yet online matchmaking worked better a decade ago!
Halo: CE released before Xbox Live existed. Halo 2 was the breakthrough game that made Live a permanent staple of the online gaming community. I was extremely excited to finally play CE for the first time in matchmaking, I was even more excited to finally play Halo 2 online again (servers have been disconnected for years for the original Xbox). I remember being a freshman in high school when Halo 2 came out and how many classmates were “sick” that day, so this was a long time coming. It is simply unacceptable that Xbox’s biggest fall release was broken on day one and continued to be broken long after. Its biggest franchise was supposed to be a system seller, but was instead a major disappointment at launch.
When Halo’s online system works, the collection is unrivaled in its execution and approach to matchmaking. As previously stated, over 100 maps are available right from the beginning to jump into. Halo 2 received an anniversary redo on 6 maps, receiving a gorgeous new coat of paint and the sound to match. You can jump into a random assortment of maps or choose by game. When you highlight a given game, you will automatically hear the soundtrack from that game. It’s the finer details like that that made me appreciate the attention to detail.
Online or not, the campaigns are more than enough to keep you occupied. Eventually, we will be getting an add-on for Halo 3: ODST’s campaign. I’m hoping Halo: Reach is in the pipeline too.
The gunplay is as tight as ever. Whether you’re jumping in Halo: CE, piloting a Ghost, or sprinting in Halo 4, you won’t find a better shooter. And that’s part of why Halo stands up after all these years. Countless shooters have tried to do what Halo does. Some have succeeded, some have not. Though the control scheme changes slightly in each game, it was not an issue for me for long. It can be jarring pressing one button to throw a grenade in one match, then the next have to press a different one, but that’s just part of the challenge.
The overall scope of Halo: The Master Chief Collection is downright impressive. A trip down memory lane is only the beginning. It was important for Xbox to bring these 4 games to the next generation of gamers, setting us up for the journey to Halo 5: Guardians this fall. This is a game that likely won’t ever leave my Xbox One’s hard drive for the life of the system. Nostalgia aside, 343 and Bungie have created what I consider to be art – a beautiful, memorable, enjoyable experience from beginning to end. New Halo fans should undoubtedly start here, old school fans should make the jump to Xbox One for the sole reason of playing all 4 games on one disc.
The Master Chief Collection creates a feeling of sheer excitement, optimism, and plain gets me amped up to be a gamer.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is Xbox One’s finest game to date and should be experienced by every player, newbies and veterans alike. Setting the precedent for First Person Shooters over a decade ago, the older games hold up incredibly well while showing off the latter entries’ graphical prowess. Despite its online issues (though improving weekly via patch), this is a can’t miss.
+ Tight gameplay controls
+ Variety and dashboard setup allows for near endless choices of campaign levels, matchmaking games, and playlists
+ Gorgeous visuals, particularly in Halo 2: Anniversary and Halo 4 (which looks like a made-for-Xbox One game, despite being developed for Xbox 360)
+ Best value you can find on new-gen systems
– Online issues
Josiah LeRoy is Geekiverse’s Senior Editor. He is getting increasingly excited for Halo 5: Guardians. You can find him on Xbox Live via josiahislegend. Follow him on Twitter!