I was lucky enough to be sitting in the audience at The Galen Center in LA as Halo: The Master Chief Collection was unveiled to an unsuspecting audience at the Xbox E3 media briefing. Of course, the crowd went wild.
A few short months later and here we are, 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios have just delivered four of the most influential games in Xbox history. Each one remastered on the Xbox One for a new audience to enjoy and for the old hands to experience again, albeit with updated visuals.
I’m going to put my cards on the table and tell you right now that if you’ve got an Xbox One you should be buying this collection.
And here’s why.
For starters Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a package of games from a series that helped define the Xbox brand, and that’s got to count for something.
Then there’s the story set around this amazing concept whereby these huge, planet-sized ringworlds- the Halo constructs, exist in the human race’s far-flung future.
The games tell a rich, full-blooded sci-fi yarn unlike any other. These beautiful artificial worlds harbour a sinister secret and the humans are not alone in the universe. The Covenant is a collection of alien races, who see humans as an abomination that needs to be destroyed. From the chimp-like grunts to the light-sword wielding Arbiter, the alien Covenant are the perfect enemy.
But it’s the gameplay that makes the Halo games so amazing. For over a decade the Halo series has retained a certain purity as a first-person shooter. Whilst other franchises have tweaked their gameplay, the Halo saga from Combat Evolved to Halo 4 has remained, fundamentally, the same. Almost retro, but totally sublime.
But this isn’t a collection of four individual games, this is one seamless package with all the games’ levels unlocked and ready to play. They can be played chronologically or bundled together via a series of playlists. It’s an incredible undertaking the preserves the original Halo experience, but allows for an almost museum-style presentation of this important franchise.
The first game in the series, Halo: Combat Evolved was released way back in 2001 for the original Xbox. Three years ago a re-textured version of the game, Halo Anniversary, came out for the Xbox 360. This is the version included in The Master Chief Collection; albeit at a better resolution and faster frame rate. If I’m honest, whilst the gameplay is still there, even with the remastered textures this instalment of the saga is showing its age.
Halo 3 was the series’ first outing on the 360. I remember being a bit disappointed with the lack of anti-aliasing and the resultant jagged edges marring some otherwise great graphics. Of course for the Xbox One version this is no longer an issue. But without the benefit of a modern re-texture, the visuals for this chapter seem to take a bit of a downturn from those of Halo 2.
The Halo saga’s pure shooter experience is no better showcased than in the games’ multiplayer. Whilst at the time of this review I was unable to test the multiplayer mode this collection ships with all the maps created for the original games, including a few specially remastered Halo 2 multiplayer maps.
There’s also access to an exclusive hour-long Halo 2 Anniversary “making of” movie as well as direct access to Blur’s new Halo 2 cut-scenes and the games’ terminal animations.
No matter how you look at it, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is shockingly good value. With hours and hours of gameplay and tons of extras this is a must-have for every Xbox One owner.