The lights are on
Halo 5: Guardians isn't coming until next year, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to enjoy the series on your Xbox One in 2014. Today at its E3 press conference, Microsoft announced Halo: Master Chief Collection, a single-disc collection of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 out on November 11 for $59.99. The Collection not only offers new ways to experience this classic content, but it also serves as an introduction to Halo 5: Guardians – including access to the upcoming title's multiplayer beta.
"When we look at the transition of the platform and what we want to do with [Master Chief's] story," said Bonnie Ross, 343 Industries general manager at a pre-E3 event, "it is about his past, it is about his future, and we wanted an opportunity to be able tell his full story – exactly as you remember it – but then also with a new twist as we lead up to Halo 5: Guardians in 2015." Thus, the Halo: Master Chief Collection fulfills several ambitions. It's a collection of all the main, numbered Halo titles, it's a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Halo 2, and it's a tease for Halo 5: Guardians next year.
A New Way Around A Familiar Story
Even if you've played Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4, the Master Chief Collection offers a new experience. Not only will all of them run at 60 frames per second in 1080p and include all of those games' respective DLC, but thanks to a custom user interface built just for this collection, you can play any of the campaign missions on the disc from any of the games in any order in any difficulty. "We can do more than just give you four Halo games," said Dan Ayoub, executive producer of publisher at 343. "We can give you a new way to play it." The collection also boasts 4,000 achievements – a 1,000 per title – some of which mirror those in the original titles, as well as some new ones. 343 says that your stats across the games will be recorded and that Halo Waypoint will be supported, but it's still not decided exactly how.
Unlike Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, which added online multiplayer not found in the original, the Master Chief Collection sticks to each game's original multiplayer format – including any native unbalanced aspects or quirks. Series development director Frank O' Connor says that he can't promise that the gameplay hasn't been changed slightly due to technical reasons, but staples like the BRX button combo, for instance, remains.
You can access multiplayer maps across the titles by their gameplay type (like Team Slayer, for instance), and 343 will create playlists within individual games as well as all of those in the Collection. For example, these playlists round up all the final four levels of each title. Custom games are included, but 343 says it's not sure if The Forge map editor will be offered. The company did say, however, that dedicated servers would be used for the title's multiplayer.
The 10-Year Anniversary of Halo 2
Halo 2 is getting a slightly special treatment in this Collection. Six maps from the title are being remade (including some undisclosed modern FPS features), and the cinematics are being totally redone as well. We saw a still of a soldier's face in one of the new cinematics, and the before-and-after effect was astounding. Similar to Halo: CE Anniversary, you can switch between the revamped Halo 2 and the original with the press of a button while you're playing. Unlike that title, however, the switch is instantaneous and doesn't rely on a wipe effect.
What Does This Have to Do With Halo 5: Guardians?
If you're anxious to see what's next for Master Chief, this look back at his exploits so far also serves as a prologue for what's to come. It's bookended by cinematics that tie all four of these games into Halo 5, and there are new terminals within Halo 2 that also contain information related to the 2015 title. The Collection also features the full digital series Halo: Nightfall, which will appear as weekly digital shorts around the time of the Collection's release. Nightfall is roughly the length of a feature film, contains characters germaine to Halo 5, and tells a story leading up to the game.
The Master Chief Collection is also your ticket to getting your hands on Halo 5: Guardian's multiplayer before anyone else. The Collection includes entrance into Halo 5's limited-time multiplayer beta in December, which features some of the gameplay elements and features from the upcoming game.
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