It was all the way back in 2001 / 2002 that Microsoft made their entrance to the home console market with the Microsoft Xbox. It launched into the middle of a perfect storm in the gaming industry, the Xbox had to compete against Sony’s dominant Playstation 2, Nintendo’s follow-up to the N64, the Gamecube, and what would become the final Sega console, the Dreamcast. Microsoft needed an icon… A character to rival some of the most well known and highest selling characters present on the competing consoles. Early bets might have been put on a time-sweeping cat named Blinx, or the secret agent who had defected from Nintendo’s previous console, Joanna Dark. Instead, the Xbox was pulled into the battle not by a character with a quirky name, but by a soldier, known only by his rank… Master Chief.
Halo: Combat Evolved became the start of a franchise that has become a key aspect of the Xbox experience. Spanning more than a decade and 2 generations of console hardware, it’s understandable that some of the newer gamers wouldn’t have had the chance to experience the franchise as a whole, and this issue saw the beginning of a remedy when the 10th Anniversary of Halo: Combat Evolved got released in 2011, but with another generation shift on the horizon, Microsoft and 343 decided to become pro-active. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is born. Containing all 4 main titles in the franchise, complete with all multiplayer maps and an upgrade to full 1080p, 60fps visuals, The Master Chief Collection brings everything that new fans need (and old fans love) to the forefront of the gaming scene.
Let’s talk content… Halo: The Master Chief Collection includes close to 100 multiplayer maps (granted, some of them are remakes or update such as Blood Gulch / Coagulation / Blood Drive) plus the full campaigns of Halo 1-4 (with Halo 1 and 2 being available in original and special anniversary versions). There’s a lot to see and do, and reliving it all is a lot of fun. The real gem in the collection is easily Halo 2 though. Halo: Combat Evolved is mostly the same experience as the Anniversary edition offered, while Halo 3 and 4 benefit from graphical updates, but don’t offer much you haven’t already experienced. Halo 2 however, in all it’s 10th anniversary glory, is absolutely worth sitting through. The updated cinematic sequences are amazing, and the new version of The Gravemind is memorable, to say the least. It’s also amazing to see how much of a change has been made within the game. The ability to switch between classic and updated views has returned from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, but now it’s an instant switch and can be performed during cinematics and cutscenes too.
Halo 2 however, in all it’s 10th anniversary glory, is absolutely worth sitting through. The updated cinematic sequences are amazing.
The days following the launch of The Master Chief Collection have been full of buzz, and sadly, it’s mostly been bad. It’s no secret that the game has suffered major issues relating to the matchmaking systems that made the online portion of the game almost non-existent. As a result of this, i haven’t had much chance to try out the real meat of the multiplayer, but the lack of matchmaking drove myself and some friends into custom games that ran perfectly fine and were amazingly fun. All the fun and stupid stuff you mightn’t grown up doing with friends in the multiplayer of your favourite Halo game is still there and still intact. It’s playable with friends, and i have no doubt that when server issues and matchmaking lobbies are a thing of the past, this collection is really going to shine. I spent hours with a couple of friends running around playing hide-and-seek. I can only imagine the number of hours that the Xbox Live community as a whole will sink into it.
As much as I’ve enjoyed playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection, there’s one issue that has consistently pulled me out of the experience, and it’s captured right in the title… Collection. The Master Chief Collection feels like a series of great products, but it doesn’t feel like a singular title. Moving from one campaign to another, you notice functions and mechanics that changed between releases. If you’re jumping back and forth between campaigns, there’s a little voice in your head that reminds you which game you’re playing and the things you can and can’t do. This is compounded by other aspects of the game (specifically Terminals) tabbing you out of the game entirely and launching the Halo Channel app to play media. Of course, this is all a result of wanting to keep each game authentic to it’s original release, but i found it hard to keep immersed, and made the overall product feel like a package that had been frankensteined together out of older parts.
At the end of the day, Halo: The Master Chief collection provides an insane amount of content for a price that i’d be happy to pay just for the Halo 2 Anniversary portion. For solo or co-op players, this is the real reason to pick up The Master Chief Collection. Multiplayer fans might be turned off by early matchmaking issues, but are sure to find a home once the servers are operating at 100%. The Master Chief Collection doesn’t bring a lot to the table for long-time fans, but it’s a great package and should keep people busy until Halo 5 can roll around. It provides a simple and accessible way for fans to get into the franchise, but i’d like to see Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach and Halo Wars make their way to Xbox One to make a true archive of the Halo universe.
Great value package for any Halo fan with exceptional replay value. However multiplayer matchmaking has suffered a disastrous launch.