‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ Review

Platforms Xbox One

Publisher Microsoft Developer 343 Industries

Genre First-Person Shooter

Many of us remember the special moments in our lives when we get small peaks into the mature realms of adulthood in one manner or another.

One of my greatest memories was when I was in the 5th grade. I sat down with my dad and watched my first-ever R-rated movie: The Matrix. Even if this film was bottom-of-the-barrel terrible – but it’s not and is actually one of my all-time favorite movies – it’s something I’ll never forget because it made me feel more like one of the grown-ups.

Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox was my “The Matrix” for video games by being the first mature-rated game I ever played. It was a game where I spent hours playing the campaign over and over again with my cousin; it was the game that first introduced me to using two thumbsticks; it was a portal to a new world with vast possibilities of what video games could be with mature elements.

This, among other reasons, is why Halo will always be special to me, and it’s why Halo: The Master Chief Collection (MCC) made me excited with glee when it was first announced several months ago.

MCC, as it sounds, contains the entire Master Chief saga since the series’ debut in November 2001, meaning this set contains Halo: Combat EvolvedHalo 2Halo 3 and Halo 4. While the first title receives its fantastic Combat Evolved Anniversary (HCEA) aesthetics, developer 343 Industries has treated us to a truly special addition exclusive to the collection: Halo 2 Anniversary (H2A), a remake of the 2004 original Xbox sequel honoring the game’s 10th birthday.

A visual treat, H2A has some of the best visuals available for the Xbox One. Every aspect, from the weapons to character models to the sound effects and soundtrack, has been revised wonderfully by 343. The cutscenes are easily the best part, however. The visuals in the cinematics are on par with top drawer CG movies. Seeing Master Chief “give the Covenant back their bomb” in what’s perhaps one of the most epic and unforgettable moments in my gaming history remastered in breathtaking HD visuals legitimately gave me chills.

Both HCEA and H2A have an instant visual switch button, allowing players to compare the game’s original graphics in the middle of playing. This is an exemplary feature because it not only grants players an option play through the games in their original form while basking in a nostalgia trip, but you also can’t help but appreciate how far gaming tech has come in the past 10 years. This was also implemented in the original HCEA, but it took a few seconds to load, which proved both annoying and a hindrance in combat. In MCC, the switch is made instantly, which keeps you in the action at all times while appreciating a piece of gaming history.

Each game has also been amped up to 1080p resolution and 60 frames. Admittedly, the whole 60 frames and 1080p far cry drives me up a wall and back, but the transition from 30 to 60 frames feels snug in MCC, almost as if it’s been there all along.

Although it’s the “ugliest” game in the package, and character mouth movements are laughably bad, Halo 3 visually holds up quite well for a seven-year-old title. On the other hand, Halo 4 looks gorgeous, even when compared to H2A. Thanks to the resolution and framerate upgrades, Halo 4 can understandably be mistaken for an Xbox One title.

Whether you are a newcomer to the Halo universe or you have indulged yourself in the expanded universe via books, comics and spinoff games, the campaigns to this day remain a blast to play whether you play solo or local and online co-op.

Those who may not necessarily wish to play the games in order have several options. Every level is unlocked from the get-go, so if you want to skip the infamous Library mission from Combat Evolved, the choice is present.

There are also campaign playlists tailored to specific tastes. For example, one playlist spanning each game involves playing levels with a heavy emphasis in driving Warthogs, while another has players go through levels where the Master Chief primarily fights The Flood. These playlists add an interesting way to approach playing the campaigns, especially with the way the cross-over types allow you to experience the changes made to the franchise over the years.

With four games also come five sets of achievements – one for each game and one spanning across the collection – totaling up to a staggering 4500 points. While some of them are similar to achievements from the original games, new ones such as beating each level within a certain time or completing the grueling LASO playlists, in which nearly every skull is activated while playing on Legendary difficulty, and acquiring medals add much replay to the game.

Players are also treated to little bonuses through the Halo 5: Guardians beta and Halo: Nightfall miniseries. Though these may be considered small inclusions by some, it adds further value to the overall package.

By far the biggest damper in what’s such a fantastic collection is the broken multiplayer. Despite several updates – both from 343’s end and more than 1.5 GB worth on the player’s end – since launch, MCC makes finding any match a chore whether I was using an Ethernet connection or not. Even once I got into a match, with pure luck I might add, the connection was filled with lag and I would often times get kicked.

This makes half the game essentially useless for the time being, which is such a disappointment in this Halo fan’s heart because access to Halo 2’s multiplayer – let alone all four games – was something I have only dreamed of playing since Microsoft shut down the original Xbox’s Xbox Live.

Hopefully once – rather if – the multiplayer is up and running, I can enjoy the H2A multiplayer, which contains six classic Halo 2 maps revamped with visuals and some added twists. It even contains the Assault Rifle, a Mongoose with attached guns and Halo 3 ODST’s SMG, one of my favorite weapons in the franchise. I was able to explore these maps locally, and the additions they have included are great, but, again, it’s almost pointless if I can’t take the action online.

I also wish multiplayer playlists were divided by game. Instead of a Team Slayer playlist where I will play a match from one of the first three games, why not just make something like a Halo 2 section and put individual playlists in it? I’ve always been a fan of choice, and with these playlists, I don’t always get that. If I simply want to play a game of Halo 2 Team Slayer, but the people I’m playing with select a Halo 3 match instead, it’s a bit frustrating.

I feel both reverence and disappointment with MCC. While the Master Chief’s story told through the campaigns remains a blast and a half to play through – even the somewhat dated mechanics found in HCEA – to this day, the significant other half of the package is basically broken with its multiplayer. Even when I am able to find a match, which mostly takes dozens of minutes at a time, the experience is hindered with terrible lag while lacking the basic ability to keep me in a match. MCC is still fantastic, however, because of its campaign package, especially with the astounding touch-ups 343 put into H2A, but those looking for a stable online experience may want to look on other Halo rings until 343 can solve these issues.

The Good

  • Halo 2’s anniversary upgrades
  • Instant visual switch in HCEA and HA2
  • 4500 points worth of achievements
  • Fun campaigns
  • Games still play excellently overall…

The Bad

  • … except general issues make multiplayer unplayable

The Score: 7.5