STAFF REVIEW of Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Xbox One)

Friday, November 7, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Box art It’s no secret that if Halo: Combat Evolved didn’t do so well on the original Xbox, then there obviously wouldn’t have been any sequels, but more importantly there most likely also wouldn’t even be an Xbox 360 or One today. Halo is synonymous with Xbox ever since it was released and now Halo: Master Chief Collection (called MCC from here on) is available on Xbox One and contains over a decade worth of Halo games on one compilation. MCC contains more than a decade worth of Halo content and with how much that actually entails, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with not only how polished and great all the content is within, but how much above and beyond 343 Studios has gone to make MCC something truly special and what other ‘HD Remakes’ will strive to be going forward.

MCC contains Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4, along with their respective multiplayer components as well. While some may note the omission of Halo Reach and Halo ODST, keep in mind the reasoning for that: this is the Master Chief Collection, and he was not the protagonists in those two titles. Given that these games are quite dated, I won’t go into details about the main campaigns, as you’ve most likely played them all already, multiple times if you’re like me. If you’re new to the series or never played the earlier games, make sure you play through the campaigns as Halo has an epic story and a huge amount of lore that’s been carefully crafted and wonderfully presented over the course of multiple games.

The MCC has an overlaying menu system that is cleverly done and makes finding what you want to do in the collection incredibly simple to do, such as playing a specific campaign or mission, a multiplayer match, Forge, or any other of the extras jam packed in this collection. You can simply jump in with default settings or customize your play through on campaign missions or multiplayer maps to your heart’s content.

So let’s delve into each of the campaigns and what’s offered, new, or changed since we’ve last played Halo. Let’s begin where it all started, with the original Halo: Combat Evolved. Released for the original Xbox in 2001, it got a remake on Xbox 360 for its tenth anniversary dubbed the Anniversary edition. The remastered edition had some amazing features, the most notable being able to switch between the original 2001 graphics and the new and updated graphic engine and audio ten years later. It was a great remaster and it was clear a lot of care and time were taken to make it something the true Halo fans would appreciate. Fast forward to now and the MCC brings us Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, essentially in its remastered 360 state (complete with the on the fly graphic switching) though with some improvements now that it’s on more powerful hardware.

Since the game was already remastered a few short years ago, nothing much has changed with it on Xbox One aside from the game running in 1080p 60fps. One small issue I had with the 360 release was that switching between the two graphic engines took about a second or two, with a slight delay every time you switched. Now on Xbox One, that delay is completely gone and you can spam the button to switch between old and new graphics with zero delay.

Next on the list is Halo 2, and given that this year is its tenth anniversary, it’s been given the same Anniversary treatment that Combat Evolved once got, but even more has been done to Halo 2 Anniversary that truly makes it the centerpiece of the MCC. With a single button press you can instantly switch between the classic and remastered graphic engine along with old and new audio as well. The audio has been remastered and shouldn’t be downplayed in any way. Just like Combat Evolved Anniversary in this collection, switching between the two graphic engines is instant when doing so.

While most will focus and notice the graphical difference at first, if you know your Halo 2, you’ll be amazed with what they’ve done with the audio. Not only has all of the weapon’s audio been completely redone, they sound so much better now and that they feel like they have more ‘punch’ to them simply because of the audio upgrades.

343 has gone even a step further and had every cutscene in Halo 2 remade and remastered from scratch. This isn’t a simple texture upgrade either; Blur Studios has remade every cutscene, almost an hour’s worth, with such detail and high fidelity, it actually rivals any new release title that is out right now and is breathtaking to see. These cutscenes have been reimagined, so some new angles are used, more characters are on screen, and more, but if you know your Halo 2, you’ll still recognize which scenes they are as well. Halo 2 Anniversary is clearly the gem of the whole collection, and it’s clear that a ton of work and love have gone into the remaster for its fans. You won’t be disappointed.

Halo 3 is the third addition to the MCC and while it hasn’t gotten the full Anniversary like the first two, it has gotten some upgrades though. Running at 1080p and 60fps and having improved lighting and effects, Halo 3 looks fantastic and was great to play through again with the albeit small improvements. Though I don’t want to downplay how great it looks at 60fps, as it is definitely a noticeable upgrade if you’ve played hundreds of hours of Halo before.

Last up is Halo 4 and it also has the slight upgrade of 1080p and 60fps as well as the lighting updates as well. It was quite surprising to see how well the game looked on Xbox One considering it is two years old and released on last-gen hardware. Sure it would have been great to see it have the full Anniversary treatment, but being only two years old, we’ve still got awhile to wait until we see that hopefully.

Playlist has its own section in the main menu and allows you to play a very specific set of campaign missions with special modifiers or follows a specific theme. For example, if you would like to simply play all of the Arbiter missions back to back, you can play that playlist and not have to go in and out of missions or menus. Maybe you want to simply play all of the boss missions back to back, or all of the Warthog levels, that’s what the playlists are for. Most playlists are sectioned into their own games, but there are cross-game playlists as well that will keep you busy for quite some time if you want to finish everything MCC has to offer.

Halo’s multiplayer completely changed and shaped the type of gamer that I am today. Before Halo, I never took the effort to coordinate with friends to do LAN parties, back before online gaming was what it is today. For Halo: Combat Evolved, myself and 15 friends actually coordinated with one another to go to one person’s house with our original Xbox’s and heavy CRT TV’s, and this happened quite often because of how good the multiplayer truly was. That’s how you used to play with friends on consoles before Xbox Live even existed. Fast forward to Halo 2, and that was the single game that made Xbox Live what it is today and completely changed how I chose to play multiplayer games going forward. What the MCC is doing though is giving you access to essentially every Halo map ever made, well over 100 maps across all four included games, including the DLC maps and even the PC exclusives. This is a huge deal and shouldn’t be taken lightly, as I don’t know any other games that can boast that, or even close.

In the Options menu section, that’s where you’ll customize your armor for each Halo multiplayer, controls (of which each Halo game can have its own control scheme, so you can play a specific Halo with Bumper Jumper controls if you want), set your Halo 4 weapon and equipment loadouts, and more. While players will be excited to remake their armor sets from previous Halo multiplayers, it should be known that armor sets are unlocked from the start without needing to unlock, but you also can’t mix and match the armor types either, so if you want to wear the Hayabusa helmet, you are forced to wear the rest of the matching armor as well. Not a deal breaker, but a little disappointing for the hardcore multiplayer fans that liked to look a very specific way.

So we know that all four Halo titles have their campaigns intact, but what about their multiplayer component since those are included as well? For Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on 360, the multiplayer was technically there, but it was running the Reach engine, and felt ‘off’, as it wasn’t a true recreation of the original multiplayer that we fell in love with in 2001. For the MCC though, this has been remedied. Combat Evolved Anniversary on MCC brings back the true and original multiplayer mode from the game, including the exclusive PC maps, and now playable on Xbox Live for the first time. It was great to have the ice on Sidewinder be slippery once again, as it wasn’t on the 360 Anniversary edition.

Halo 2 returns in its true original state as well, but six of the multiplayer maps have been remade and re-imagined to look like it belongs in a modern game. The maps that have been remade are: Lockdown (Lockout), Zenith (Ascension), Stonetown (Zanzibar), Bloodline (Coagulation), Warlord (Warlock), and Shrine (Sanctuary). Plus, as a bonus, there’s now a Mongoose that has a weapon attached to its hood (and is incredibly fun to play), titled the Gungoose.

Forge makes its return in the MCC as well, and is an easy to use tool to either modify existing maps or create something completely new from scratch. Not only can you create maps, but you can change many details such as spawning rules, or even creating triggers to make unique events happen. While the original Forge rule sets exist for Halo 3 and 4, Halo 2 Anniversary now has a brand new Forge mode that is actually enhanced and even comes with three brand new blank skyboxes for you to create the map you’ve always wanted from complete scratch. Theater mode also returns in its original form for Halo 3 and 4 as well, but also is now compatible with Halo 2 Anniversary as well.

Under the Extras section, the MCC has some great additions that push the value of the compilation over the top. Halo: Nightfall is a new digital live action miniseries that is going to tell the story of ONI operatives and tie into Halo 5: Guardians, as the new character, Agent Locke, will be showcased. Think of it as the spiritual successor to Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and will run for five weeks. You’ll actually launch the new Halo Channel when you want to watch these episodes or find any Terminals in the game (of which the Halo 2 Anniversary terminals will give information that ties to Halo 5: Guardians).

The last notable extra to get excited for in the MCC is the addition of the Multiplayer Beta for Halo 5: Guardians that will launch December 29th, 2014. You’ll get three weeks of access to the beta that will have rotating content and give you an idea of what to expect from the new Arena experience for Guardians.

The value of the MCC is enormous; not only because you’re getting four games for the price of one, but there’s been so much extra fine tuning done to even the smallest details that true Halo fans are really going to notice and hopefully appreciate. For example, the majority of skulls are unlocked from the get go, but you can still search out and find the skulls for achievements as well. The same goes for armor sets, as you won’t need to grind the ranking system to unlock the higher level sets. Some items are locked that you’ll need to get achievements for or do other things, but the majority of everything is unlocked from the get go.

It’s amazing to see how far the Halo series has come when you play them back to back or switch between them. I have to admit, it’s a little weird at first to play some Halo 2, then go to 3 which came out after, but have 2 look better (simply because of the Anniversary treatment). Is the MCC perfect? No, as I did have some small gripes, but the fact that I can play the whole Halo saga on a single console now AND have the entire multiplayer community in one place and no longer segmented, is an amazing feat. Halo is one of the most important series in all of gaming and it surprised me how well they still hold up to this day when compared to newer titles.

The sheer amount of multiplayer maps that are are included within is simply staggering, but factor in the point that I’ll be playing unique Forge creations on top of the ranked multiplayer, I can see myself playing the MCC for quite some time. Halo fan are going to want this as these are simply the BEST versions of each of the Halo games, and for new comers to the series, this collection is the best way to get caught up. I feel completely comfortable recommending purchasing an Xbox One even if this is the only game you’ll be playing and I actually truly recommend doing so if you don’t have an Xbox One yet, as Halo: Master Chief Collection is the best way to experience one of the biggest and most important series in gaming ever. The Master Chief Collection is now the benchmark of what HD and remake versions should be compared to going forward, as this is the perfect example of how you update a game, but keep the core fan base not only happy, but thankful for the work they’ve done.

Overall: 9.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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