Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review
Halo is an important staple in my appreciation of video games. It taught me that moving a giant tube television and an Xbox to a friend’s house for a few hours for LAN multiplayer was absolutely worth the effort. It was a bonding exercise with the neighbors and roommates of my college dorm, and online multiplayer helped us stay connected when we moved apart. It’s a series I enjoy for its solid mechanics, fleshed out universe and story, and for its ability to bring people together. This collection includes all four core Halo games, perfectly encapsulating what the series has accomplished – and serving as a perfect starting point for anyone who hasn’t experienced Master Chief’s journey yet.
This collection includes four full games – plus multiplayer for each one. 2011’s Halo: Anniversary remake is delivered here with some added tweaks, Halo 3 and 4 have new lighting and other effects, and all the games have a better framerate. Halo 2, however, is the highlight of the collection, and the piece that received the most attention.
Halo 2 looks and sounds like a brand new game, but expertly retains the feeling of the original. A press of a button is all it takes to instantly swap back to the Xbox-era sound and graphics. The visual gap is sometimes laughably striking, but Halo 2 has aged pretty well overall. The cutscenes are where you find the biggest gap, as every single story scene is now a pre-rendered sequence from the prolific and talented animation studio, Blur. Under its direction, Halo 2’s story attains a new level of gravitas and scope even when things get really weird – like when the giant talking plant shows, now looking more like a terrifying monster than a huge muppet.
The story – and this applies to all games in the collection – still rides the line between ridiculous and epic, but having it all in one place makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. If this is your first time playing through Halo, you will never know the sinking feeling of seeing Halo 2’s credits roll right after Master Chief promises to finish the fight; the rest of us had to wait three years to see what happens next.
Halo’s campaigns are not without their shortcomings. The level design can get confusing; indoor Forerunner environments are especially bland, and you still backtrack a lot, especially in the first two games. Yes, it gets annoying, but it also lets you watch the campaigns get better and better, showing how far the series has come.
For those not interested in revisiting every beat of the Halo saga’s story, playlists are available. These pull out specific collections of levels that let you skip around based on the type of action you’re looking for. It’s a good way to get right into the meat of Halo without replaying a lot, and it’s the type of thing I can see other games and comparable compilations borrowing in the future.
Halo 3 and 4’s online servers are still going strong on Xbox 360, but the original Halo was never playable online on consoles, and Halo 2’s console servers were shut down in 2010. Alongside Halo 2’s heavily updated campaign, revisiting the online modes from these inactive titles is a huge draw for many, myself included, and jumping back in does not disappoint. Playing the original Halo online is a surreal experience since it was previously only available split-screen and through LAN connection on Xbox, but I love it. Using the admittedly overpowered pistol against online opponents is a joy, and I can see myself spending a lot of time online with the original Halo’s playlists.
Returning to Halo 2’s multiplayer is less surreal and more nostalgic. Everything is exactly as you left it in the best way. The remade Halo 2 multiplayer has a number of tweaks, none of which feel out of place or game-breaking. In many ways the additions make the game friendlier to new players with more on-screen callouts like grenade alerts and location names. After playing both extensively, I find I enjoy them both and would have been happy with only the remake, but I am overjoyed to have the option to play online exactly as I did in 2004.
The total package of Halo: The Master Chief Collection is massive and intimidating, but none of it is crammed in or hastily included. Even the modes that appeal to a small dedicated group of Halo fans have received attention. The new Forge mode has an impressive collection of tools, including the ability start from scratch on creating a multiplayer arena. Realistically, it’s not a mode most players will touch, but it has not been diminished as a result.
Master Chief Collection raises the bar for remastered compilations by allowing players to experience these games as they really were, and how our memory has colored them over the years. Whatever your main incentive for getting The Master Chief Collection may be – replay the story, relive the multiplayer – you won’t be disappointed with this revival.