If there’s one day in 2014 I will never forget, it has to be Monday June 9th, during the Microsoft E3 Media Briefing when 343 Industries General Manager Bonnie Ross took to the stage to herald our Halo journey that would begin in 2014. That journey would involve looking back at the expedition of one character that has made Halo what it is today, the Master Chief and it was then we knew that our Halo journey would be revisiting the seeds of our past in what would be known as ‘The Master Chief Collection’. The excitement between me and my friends over these few minutes was insane. This was all four Master Chief Halo games on one console, the Xbox One.
‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ is packed with content and I mean packed. When I look at Halo, there’s two things that come to mind. Creative storytelling and competitive multiplayer. The Master Chief Collection nails both of these to perfection. Firstly you get the Halo C.E. Campaign with the Anniversary treatment, the Halo 2 Campaign with the Anniversary treatment and then there’s Halo 3 and Halo 4 running at 1080p. That’s 45 campaign missions. Plus, for the first time ever, all of these games are running at a blistering 60 frames per second. Then there’s the Multiplayer and there’s a lot of it. You get a whopping 106 Multiplayer maps. Let that sink in for a moment, that’s about nine to ten times more maps than all the first-person shooter games that have launched in the past few years. This is how you make a game that never ends.
Halo 2 is a huge focus of this collection, the game originally launched 10 years ago on the Original Xbox and is the reason the Xbox Live community has built up into what it is today. While Halo 2 is getting the full Anniversary treatment, not all the multiplayer maps can except six chosen re-mastered maps:
– Ascension which will be known as Zenith.
– Coagulation which will be known as Bloodline
– Zanzibar which will be known as Stonetown
– Sanctuary which will be known as Shrine.
– Lockout which will be known as Lockdown.
– Warlock which will be known as Warlord.
All maps have a dynamic element except Warlord plus they all have additional cover, however these maps haven’t been altered too much and if you prefer, the Halo 2 Classic versions are still available to play on. Here’s a cool little tip too. If something was removed or added to an Anniversary map and you dislike the change, you can hop into Forge and alter it yourself for use in Custom Games. Neat! Plus, all those PC exclusive Halo maps, there also in The Master Chief Collection.
When you launch The Master Chief Collection, you see the Universal UI for the first time and it’s astounding because of how it unifies Halo C.E. Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 4 and the Multiplayer experiences all under one easy to use menu. The first moment I experienced the interface, it was kind of emotional but exciting. As a Halo player, I know this collection means a lot to fans. The re-telling of our favourite story and re-experiencing of the classic and modern Multiplayer experience. Immediately you notice the classic soundtrack you all love and remember from Halo, that music score that defines perfection in a soundtrack. The Halo soundtrack is no ordinary soundtrack, it’s one all Halo fans remember. It’s something that has been part of the franchise forever and this added touch where the tracks are playing in the background from Halo Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 is something that every Halo player will appreciate. I’ve sat on this menu for ages, listening to these pieces over and over. This is one of the few soundtracks I really enjoy listening to. I also listen to it outside game time.
So I decided to take a few minutes to explore. You’re brought into this overwhelming (but one I fell in love with very fast) Universal UI which feels like it swooshes in. The one place for every Halo fan. The one place a Halo fan can call “home”. The menu has five main sections:
– Campaign: The one place to experience the legend of the Master Chief. Here you find Halo C. E. Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4. You can immediately select a mission and hop straight in!
– Multiplayer: Here you get Find Game (Matchmaking ranked/unranked playlists), Custom Games, Forge and Theatre.
– Playlists: These are Campaign oriented playlists based on certain areas. They can be set up for LASO, difficulty, Vehicles and can be selected for certain Campaigns, or all four together.
– Options & Career: Customize your Spartans Armour across all games, create your Halo 4 loadouts, edit your Player and Clan ID, access stats, leaderboards, settings and file share.
– Extras: Watch original programming like ‘Halo: Nightfall’ and other videos (both take you to the ‘Halo: Channel’), view help and credits.
I immediately jumped into Halo 4, because the full game had only installed 40% of the way at the time, meaning Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 4 were the only two playable. My initial impressions were the game looks stunning and to me, felt it was built for the Xbox One. The frame-rate was also immediately noticeable and feels just right. To me, there was no FPS drops except odd stuttering here and there which really, didn’t affect the experience for me much at all because it was barely noticeable. Driving a warthog has never felt better. That extra FPS makes it feel so smooth! The terrain looks amazing and the draw distance is fantastic, you can see much more in such good detail. Zooming in on rocks doesn’t really show a loss of detail. Ripples in the pools and lakes look incredible. There’s so much detail in the little things.
For me, games are more about graphics and FPS and one thing I also immediately noticed the triggers. That first time you lean your finger on the RT button and that rumble motor and vibration kicks in to shoot your Assault Rifle for the first time on an Xbox One, you know you’re in Halo heaven right there. The rumble trigger on the Storm Rifle makes you feel like you’re shooting this gun, with passion and desire. It brings you further into the action and yet it’s such a tiny but significant change. However, do note that rumble-trigger support is only available in Halo 3 and Halo 4. It’s a feature I would love to see in Halo 2 Anniversary.
Halo Combat Evolved already seen the Anniversary treatment back in 2011 with the launch of ‘Halo: Anniversary’ and that also came with six classic multiplayer maps with the Anniversary treatment, but for ‘Halo: Reach’ instead. This time of round, we’re getting all the Halo: C.E. maps in The Master Chief Collection but none of those have the Anniversary treatment, however they still look and feel great as they play in 1080p and 60 frames per second. Plus this time of round, switching from classic to re-mastered is instant. No more two second black screen when switching. Campaign wise, nothing has really changed since ‘Halo: Anniversary’ except the increased resolution and frame rate, oh and the removal of the Kinect Voice support in-game which I found very neat back on the original Anniversary. It allowed you to scan objects, reload your weapons, throw grenades and so forth. It was a small little feature and I’m not sure why they decided to remove it. Halo C.E. on the Original Xbox had no matchmaking and for the first time ever, you have competitive Combat Evolved multiplayer matchmaking on the console and it feels great. Those Halo C.E. local and LAN memories all start flowing back and those are still there too, you are not restricted to Matchmaking. You still have your Custom Games for all four Halo titles. You have all your classic game-types and maps. However, the matchmaking really changes a lot, no more begging for someone to play with you in your local area. You now have this Combat Evolved multiplayer on dedicated servers powered by Xbox Live.
Halo 2 launched 10 years ago and was the biggest title for Xbox Live on the Xbox Original. Nothing compares to it. Halo 2 was one of greatest games ever made for both its diverse story and unforgettable multiplayer memories. Halo 2 gets the full Anniversary treatment for its Campaign with a bunch of new skulls added as well as new Terminals which tell us more of the story of various covenant divisions, the Arbiter and Agent Locke. Halo 2 Anniversary also has six remade multiplayer maps along with all the classic maps you remember. At E3 2014, Dan Ayoub said we would be getting the full Halo 2 Multiplayer as we remember it 10 years ago and that was no lie. Halo 2 on the Master Chief Collection feels just like it did 10 years ago and the new Anniversary maps make this feel like a huge upgrade. All the unforgettable easter eggs are still present. Many of the Campaigns glitches are still present, however some have been removed from Anniversary Multiplayer due to compatibility issues. I played a lot of Halo 2 Anniversary matches, one of them was a 1v1 Custom Game on Zenith and some things I instantly noticed were the kill cameras actually work really well. The ‘Leap of Faith’ remains awesome and I still love getting the banshee! (However, sometimes it can be a disadvantage, use it only when wise). The best part is how stunning the Halo Ring looks as you’re battling others. Lockout makes a great infection map and Turf in Classic makes a good sniper map, same with Ascension.
For Halo 2 Anniversary’s Campaign, Blur Studio created almost one hour of brand new footage for Halo 2 cut-scenes and they are beautiful. The first moment I saw my Xbox One render these in real time, I knew we were onto something here. The realism of these make you feel like you’re in the room with them. Chief has never looked as polished, Cortana has never felt more human, more emotional. Then there’s Sergeant Johnston and all the others that make up this glorious Halo 2 story. Personally, for me, ‘Ryse: Son of Rome’ had the most realistic cut-scenes ever. I think Halo 2 Anniversary has beaten it. There is nothing I can fault here with what Blur has created. It’s phenomenal and when you see them for the first time, it feels like you’re there, because that’s how I felt.
Roll onto Master Chiefs journey with the Arbiter in Halo 3 and memories of 2007 onwards start flooding back. Whether it’s the classic music once you select Halo 3 from the universal menu or revisiting your favourite Halo 3 maps like Valhalla or the competitive Guardian it really brings you back and once again in that crispy 1080p and blazing 60 frames per second. Halo 3 is kind of the odd one out in some ways, it hasn’t received the Anniversary treatment that Halo C.E. and Halo 2 received and it wasn’t built in HD like Halo 4 was. So where does it fit in? Well when I was playing it, it wasn’t the nicest looking Halo game in comparison to the other three, however, it still looks great. It’s been upgraded to make it feel as prodigious as it can but also remarkable. When you start Sierra 117 for the first time, that forest area is striking. The reason being is because it looked great for the time in 2007 but revisiting it today, in 2014, it was just stunning. We have the epic Halo 3 Campaign, we have the competitive multiplayer but one thing that will always stand out to me about Halo 3 was Custom Games. They were epic back in the day. Halo 3 continues to be one the greatest online experiences I have ever had. If we get classic games like ‘Ducks’ and ‘Smear the Queer’ to name a few on my Xbox One, this has to be the greatest form I’ve seen Halo 3 in. Because the Campaign and Multiplayer is epic as I always remembered it.
When you enter Halo 4 for the first time you experience a tonne of differences in comparison to the other three games. As well as covenant enemies and weapons there’s also now promethean enemies and weapon. Master Chief has also learnt how to sprint in this one and there’s armour abilities like the jetpack and the hardlight shield. These new elements that aren’t present in the other three games really shake up both the Campaign and Multiplayer and adds another layer of thinking while you’re playing the game. Personally, Halo 4 is my favourite Campaign-based Halo game and remains my favourite in The Master Chief Collection because of its epic storytelling, dynamic missions throughout the campaign, and it’s co-operative Spartan Ops (which I haven’t got to try out yet in The Master Chief Collection, those will be added in a free game update this December). Another reason I love Halo 4 is because of the incredible well-designed Multiplayer maps which are very comparable to the six Halo 2 Anniversary re-mastered maps. Skyline remains one of the most stunning maps I’ve ever seen in a FPS. Daybreak, Wreckage and Landfall are all simply stunning. The epic story of Halo 4, those deep personal interactions between Master Chief and Cortana continue to define what story-telling in a video game should be. These are personal experiences which are emotive. When I played Halo 4 again, the cut-scene before Requiem is one that’s emotional and tearful as Cortana tells you “AI’s deteriorate after 7 years”. Chief wants to find Halsey to fix but Cortana says a line that remains one of favourites; “Don’t make a girl a promise you know you can’t keep”. Halo 4 is feeling even more emotional than the first time. Halo 4 looks stunning on the Xbox One with its lighting and movement that’s full of precision and accuracy and for me, it’s the most spectacular game in The Master Chief Collection.
The Master Chief Collection also uses the classic 1-50 Halo 2 ranking up system. That’s individual ranking up playlists an social (unranked) playlists. For our Review test, we had two playlists. Team Slayer (ranked, uses H:CE, H2 Classic, H2A, H3 maps, I’m currently level 6 at the moment) and Halo 2: Anniversary Rumble (unranked, H2A maps only). As we get closer to launch day, they’ll be many more playlists to choose from. But I enjoyed my rounds across these playlists, regardless of the map chosen. There’s also three options to vote for, for every round.
From creative story-telling to action driven multiplayer, ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ also shows its ease of access of creativity with Forge. What was a simply map editor you could place objects on has been completely overhauled in The Master Chief Collection. Finally, that really senseless money budget has been removed, but only from Halo 2 Anniversary maps. In Halo 3, Forge doesn’t have the ‘snap/magnetic’ functions or angle positioning and uses a very limited money budget. I tried Sandbox and Forging felt the same as it did in Halo 3 on Xbox 360. For some, this might be preferred. In Halo 4, it was much better experience. The magnetic and angle editing is all there and there’s a much fairer money count. In ‘Halo: 2 Anniversary’ we have a much more simplistic object count. Forge in ‘Halo: 2 Anniversary’ also allows you to place terrain really allowing you to create your own landscapes. There’s also a performance bar to ensure your map runs as smoothly as possible as you play it in real-online experiences. This gives creators the opportunity to make there maps more unique and as someone who likes to Forge, I definitely found that the improvements have made this a more pleasant experience. There are three blank canvas maps in ‘Halo 2 Anniversary’ Forge; Skyward, Nebula and Awash. All three have fantastic landscapes as backgrounds and support a lot of objects on them. The six re-mastered Anniversary maps are also Forgeable and so are all Halo 3 and Halo 4 maps using their specific engines.
Then there’s Customization. Armour, loadouts, avatars, clan tags and player ID. Armour customization is done using a separate appearance for Halo: CE, Halo 2, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4. Halo 4 has the most armour sets but across all games, you cannot modify individual pieces of armour which is something I enjoyed back on Reach and Halo 4. Halo 3 also gives the Flaming Helmet, unlocked to everyone at the start but you have to use the standard armour., I prefer using Recon personally. You can choose from Elites in Halo 2, Halo 2 Anniversary and Halo 3. Halo CE only allows you to modify your colour. You can modify your colour across all games, my only issue is the colour doesn’t reflect in your armour in the menu and is only noticeable in game. This is definitely something I would like to see addressed.
The package that is ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ is huge. All four Halo games that tell the story of the Master Chief’s saga, 106 multiplayer maps, custom games a brand new Forge experience and soon Spartan Ops. But that’s not even all, The Master Chief Collection also includes ‘Halo: Nightfall’, a live action digital television feature created by 343 Industries, directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan and produced by Scott Free Productions. ‘Halo: Nightfall’ tells the back-story of Agent Locke, a key new character that will play a key role in ‘Halo: 5 Guardians’. Locke is played by Mike Colter and leads the ONI agents who must fight for survival and choose between their loyalties or lives. ‘Halo: Nightfall’ will air on a weekly basis (5 episodes) starting with the first available on November 11th.
However, that’s not everything included in ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ as the game also ships with ‘Halo: 5 Guardians Beta Access’ which starts December 29th 2014 and lasts until January 18th 2015. The Beta will focus on competitive arena based multiplayer which is key in Halo. This Beta is one year before the launch of ‘Halo: 5 Guardians’ and 343 Industries will be taking our (us the fans) input on what they need to do next with ‘Halo: 5 Guardians’ before it launches. Excellent.
So, is it worth it? That’s the big question. Should you buy this game if you have an Xbox One? Should you buy an Xbox One so you can get this game? The answer to all three questions is absolutely 100% yes. You get all of this for $59.99/€69.99/£44.99 and you pay nothing more. This price is so good for all you get, most games released this year would barely reach a fifth of the content of what’s included in ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’. This game defines perfection. I, as a Halo fan who loves the story and multiplayer that Halo has always been famous for, have never felt more at home. This is paradise for any Halo player. ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ is the most ground-breaking story-telling and competitive online experience you can get on Xbox One this holiday season. If you’ve never experienced Halo before, this is the best way to join the bandwagon and experience the mysterious, magical journey I keep referring too.
Creative storytelling, competitive multiplayer, ground-breaking moments, unforgettable memories, a dynamic soundtrack and creativity with Forge. If you experienced these back in the day, then you know what I’m talking about. ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ executes all of these perfectly. I could not be more thrilled to say that we are back. This is the time when us, the Halo community have gotten the package we have always dreamed of. The game is real. Halo 2 Anniversary is real. The hype is real and revisiting all of these Halo memories has been the most thrilling experience I’ve had in a game for years. There are no flaws, there is nothing we could criticize 343 Industries for. That’s why, we at Rectify Gaming are thrilled to give ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ our first ever 10/10. ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ shows how a game should be built in 2014. 343 Industries, Microsoft Studios, Certain Affinity, Sabre Interactive, Blur Studios and everyone else who made this project happen. Thank you! You have created a master piece which I am still going to be playing years and years from now.