Published on November 25th, 2014 | by Chris Scott0
Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review
Summary: It is a giant downer that it doesn’t work as intended.
If you had told me a decade ago that I would fall in love with the Halo franchise, I probably would have laughed at you. At the time I didn’t have an Xbox and I just did not understand the hype surrounding Microsoft’s marquee franchise. It wasn’t until I got an Xbox 360, for Gears of War, that I took the plunge into the Halo universe and realized what everyone else had already known: Halo is awesome.
Mixing aspects of my favorite science fiction works, Star Wars, Aliens, and Battlestar Galactica, Halo’s story in Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 clicked right away with me. But it wasn’t until Halo 3, or more specifically the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta, that I bought in to the whole package. Up until then my experience with first person multiplayer games was limited mostly to games of Unreal Tournament on the PC or Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the N64. The focus on map control was entirely new to me and I loved it, even if I wasn’t particularly good at it.
Halo, along with Gears of War, defined my experience last generation, and more than anything else swayed my allegiance from Sony’s systems to Microsoft’s. So the one thing missing from the Xbox One that has bothered me the most has been the lack of a real Halo experience on the system. Microsoft knew this was an issue for many potential customers but Halo 5 was still a ways from being ready. And so, they set out to fix the lack of Halo with the same solution many companies are using this year, with a re-mastered package. Halo: The Master Chief Collection isn’t just any ordinary re-mastered package, though. It is a super ambitious historical document of the Halo franchise. Spanning the four primary Halo games, each starring the Master Chief, Halo: The Master Chief Collection features the campaigns for all four titles and all of the multiplayer maps rendered in 1080p at 60 frames per second.
Halo 2 is the shining star of this set, with the campaign getting the full Anniversary treatment that was given to Halo: Combat Evolved a couple years ago. But unlike Halo: CE Anniversary which was on the Xbox 360, Halo 2: Anniversary has had everything designed to Xbox One specs, including brand new cinematics from super studio Blur. It’s actually breathtaking to see the effort that was put into the game, and like the original, it plays just as you would remember it: amazing. And if you want to play Halo 2 just how you remember it, pressing the back button on the controller will immediately revert you to the original visuals. Switching back and forth, which can also be done in Halo: CE Anniversary, never gets old and stands as an indicator of how far the series has progressed. Also receiving the Anniversary treatment are six classic Halo 2 maps that mostly serve as teaser of what is to come in Halo 5.
The classic Halo 2 multiplayer gameplay exists in Anniversary mode, and it is still very much a match of map control. Yet, it does feel a bit different and a certain addition makes it play different too. That addition is the Gungoose, a Mongoose ATV with a gun attachment, and it changes its use completely. Before setting out on a Mongoose was a delicate balancing act of wanting to get somewhere quickly but understanding to do so would leave you very vulnerable. The Gungoose dampens the vulnerability aspect of that balancing act considerably. It’s a change that I for one welcome.
The other aspect that makes the game feel different is its speed. Moving at 60 frames per second means that the game plays twice as fast its ever been played before. As someone who has played a lot of Halo multiplayer at 30 fps, this takes some adjusting too. But that adjustment doesn’t just apply to Halo 2 Anniversary multiplayer but rather to every aspect of
Halo and while I disliked the speed a lot at first, more time with the multiplayer made me feel it is a move for the better.
As mentioned all four campaigns are included in the package and the Master Chief Collection gives its players a couple different ways to approach playing them. There is of course the traditional level by level progression but 343 has also unlocked all the levels without requiring you to play the campaigns in order first, making everyone’s favorite levels available to play from the start. More interesting are the special campaign playlists that group specific missions together to create some sort of theme. One example of this is a series of climactic levels across all four campaigns that sees the Chief driving a Warthog. It’s an interesting way of spicing up campaign play after all of them have been completed.
While the four campaigns and Halo 2 getting the Anniversary treatment is great, the showcase piece here is the ability to play the massive collection of over 100 multiplayer maps, spanning all four titles and their various rule sets, on Xbox One. On paper it is a dream come true. In practice things aren’t so rosy. Unfortunately, as it stands right now, it doesn’t work very often.
Currently various issues plague the multiplayer experience. Long wait times on matchmaking, menu freezes, uneven teams, and dropped players, are standard for the experience even after 343’s first patch. And that is when it is working. Plenty of times I’ve seen myself get stuck in a never ending loop of Searching For Players… Players Found… Connecting Session…Searching For Players… Players Found… Connecting Session… but never does it actually add any of those found players or connect me to a session. Good times.
A small consolation is that Custom Games do seem to operate as intended and if you have friends to play with this is the obvious way to go. Still, it is extremely disappointing that matchmaking is, even now two weeks after release, in such bad shape. 343 might be working on fixing it but much like with Battlefield 4 last year, it kind of feels like The Master Chief Collection is a paid Beta instead of a fully tested product. Which is funny (not really) because the set boasts access to the Halo 5 beta, which is rapidly approaching.
Matchmaking issues aren’t the only ones to plague the set either. Numerous bugs and glitches are rampant throughout the user interface. I don’t even want to start in on the problem with achievements not unlocking properly, if at all. I’m still waiting for the achievement for finishing the first level of Halo: CE to unlock and it was the first thing I played in the game. And then there is the issue of missing content, as all of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops co-op missions are missing currently, with plans to add them in later.
Even with these issues, which are quite major, I feel that The Master Chief Collection has so much great gameplay to offer. And when i sit down to play the campaigns it is evident that a great amount of love and care that went into making this set something Halo fans would love. And as a Halo fan, it is exactly what I have wanted since I first set into Halo 3 so many years ago. It is just a giant downer that it doesn’t work as intended and even if 343 gets it together with future updates, it stands as a huge black eye on Microsoft’s biggest franchise.