It was only a matter of time. When the Xbox One was announced, we all knew a Master Chief led Halo 5 would be on the way. But what we should have really seen coming was a rehashing of the original Halo games. After all, Halo: Combat Evolved got the anniversary treatment on the Xbox 360. Why wouldn’t a nostalgia-based cash grab be made again? This time, not just CE was getting the treatment; all four are.
What Is It?
Well I probably don’t need to explain any of the Halo plots for you — I presume you are fairly familiar. But for those of you who were waiting until all games were on a single console (patient of you!), this is actually a set that will get you into it very well. The Master Chief Collection follows Master Chief’s journey of finding the original Halo ring, battling Covenant forces, establishing new found relationships and eventually facing ancient enemies in an overall attempt to stop the Halo rings from being used to wipe out the galaxy.
So what you have are all four “proper” Halo games. That means no Halo 3: ODST, Halo Wars or Halo: Reach, as those did not focus on Master Chief. All four Halos have been given the Xbox One high definition treatment, but the standouts are Halo: CE and Halo 2 as those provide the most drastic of differences considering their age. Halo 3 and 4 look essentially the same.
It’s not just a straight offering of the four games, though. The Collection offers up a more connected way to play through the series through both the campaigns and the mutiplayer, with the latter currently putting a bigger focus on Halo 2 Anniversary modes. You can play Halo in some different ways you’ve perhaps wanted to experience. Also packaged into the Collection are access to the digital series, Halo Nightfall, and the highly-anticipated Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta. However, there are some issues within the Collection that make me believe this could have been easily served better with a delay.
Why Should I Care?
A lot of the Master Chief Collection has going for it is the nostalgia. Cash grab? Sure, but how much did you love playing Halo with your friends back in the day? Probably enough to warrant picking up all four games for $60, which all things considered, is a fair deal. Just Combat Evolved on Xbox 360 was $40 for the single game. As mentioned, Halo 2 Anniversary is the primary focus of the multiplayer as its the basis of the Halo Championship Series. Halo 3 and 4 are available in multiplayer, but not dedicated modes like Halo 2, which has Anniversary, Classic and Championship series. The 3 and 4 maps are sprinkled within currently unranked matches; only Halo 2 Anniversary has rankable multiplayer matches. Notice a game missing, though? Yup, Combat Evolved is still not playable through Xbox Live because of mechanical constraints.
Though at least with no Combat Evolved, you can move forward knowing it’s just not coming. Even H2 Anniversary’s multiplayer has a set 6 maps remastered, an absolute (all maps are available within Classic). Other elements? There’s more “Coming Soon” than a game should really be declaring upon its release. As mentioned, rank-based multiplayer is only available for Anniversary; all other modes are coming soon. Even Halo 4’s Spartan Ops weren’t available but should be via free DLC in December. The game’s servers didn’t seem equipped to handle the release either. Matches have been fairly difficult to set up; a post-release patch released the week of 11/24 did improve stability for matchmaking and UI processing. However, that basically took matchmaking connection time from upwards of 10 minutes to more around 3-5. It can be discouraging to players, who may not necessarily want to deal with unranked modes, but are forced to do so. It’s an easy way to turn off players but all things considered, there are a lot of elements the game is offering that work well, such as the customization features of Forge. If the preset multiplayer elements aren’t 100% to your liking, you’ll at least be able to play levels the way you want with your friends, always one of the more popular options with fans.
All four Halo games are completely unlocked from the start so you don’t have to through each level all over again if that’s not your desire. If you have a favorite level, you can immediately go to that, then bounce around to something else. There are curated playlists for each game, but also playlists that cross between games. These range from being just a few levels (sniper focuses; tank focuses; etc) to entire games, with skulls and difficulty variances. Transitions are fairly seamless, but with small delays when switching games. I find that forgivable to an extent because you’re switching entire games. The biggest playlist is the entire saga, but the most hardcore would have to be that same playlist on Legendary difficulty and over a dozen skulls enabled. Is somebody going to try to beat that in a single setting? I wouldn’t put it past somebody. Godspeed to them. The playlists are nice as is, but customization would be a nice addition.
The visual upgrades are one of the more interesting elements because of how much they stand out. There’s a huge difference between CE and 2 Classic modes and Remastered, from mid-game to cutscenes. Unlike CE: Anniversary on Xbox 360, the transitions between modes is instant. The Remastered versions offer far more detail to the environment, from small insignias on uniforms to blades of grass to clouds in the sky. The lighting is even far better and allows you to see more of the levels, making you think that perhaps darkness was a old way to keep detail requirements at a minimum while designing levels. I did find some oddities with the upgrades, though. In CE, you can’t switch modes mid-cutscene, whereas you can in 2 (CE cutscenes seem to stick with your current mode). Halo 2’s cutscenes get jumpy with mode transitions and almost look too good. They’re better than CE and nearly put 3 and 4 to shame. I wouldn’t call it jarring, but it’s almost a job too well done.
Nothing, though, has been changed about the stories. The only additions have been the ever increasing presence of Terminals that expand the story outside of the campaign, through the Halo Channel app.
Is It Worth My Time and Money?
Even with some content accessibility and connection concerns, yes. The Master Chief Collection is certainly facing some launch issues in terms of offerings and stability, and that likely opens up another discussion of what gamers are truly owed at the time of a launch. However, if you think a little more long term for the set, it definitely shows a lot more value. Again, you get four full games for a single price. Granted, old games, but full games nonetheless. Additionally, Nightfall, if you enjoy diving deeper into the Halo universe. Of course, the Guardians beta and improvements to the Collection’s multiplayer offerings. So if you’re willing to stay patient, it’s definitely worth it. That said, a patient attitude could also workout for waiting to purchase the game once some of its initial kinks are worked out, and hey, you might even see a price drop later in the holiday season. Either way, it’s a solid set to add several games to your Xbox One catalog.