Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review

Let’s make no bones about it, this review is pretty darn late. Over a month after the games release in fact. Obviously when you write a review for a game you want it to come out as soon as possible, that way it’s relevant when shoppers are making the decision on whether or not to purchase the game. So typically, any review that comes a month later than all others would have little purpose; but in the case of Halo: The Master Chief Collection my tardiness also provides me with perspective. No one will argue with me that the much-vaunted matchmaking portion of Halo: MCC launched as a broken mess – but now, according to 343 Industries, those problems have been largely fixed. But the question, at least as it pertains specifically to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, is “has the damage already been done?”

Because, for me, Halo has always been more about the epic story and scale of the campaigns than the multiplayer, that is where I would like to start my review. It should be said that playing Halo: Combat Evolved co-op with my older brother is what got me interested in videogames in the first place, so to say I’m a fan would be an understatement. I love these campaigns. Each of them successfully navigates through small-scale corridor shooter moments to massive large-scale vehicle battles and everything in between. And all throughout the enemy AI remains believable, challenging, but never unfair. Every enemy requires a specific strategy, based not only on their inherent qualities but also on the weapon they happen to be holding at the time.

Going over the strengths of each individual campaign in detail would be silly as we’ve had these games for ages now, but it should be noted that they all look much improved from their previous iterations, and feel better as well. While it dips at times, the 60 frames per second is generally very consistent giving the player even more control over what they’re doing on the screen. I’d also be remiss to not reference the excellent face lift that Halo 2 in particular has received. Initially conceived as a “Halo 2 Anniversary”, it’s no surprise that Halo 2 gets the most love in Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The updated graphics and sounds are fantastic, and the cut scenes are an absolute joy to watch. Halo 4 stands out as well, with updated lighting effects one of the prettiest games on the 360 has become one of the prettiest on the Xbox One as well. The Campaign Playlists are a welcome feature, allowing the player to jump between all four games in one session. The playlists line up missions that have similar qualities between all of the the titles, whether that’s all the vehicle missions or (for the masochists out there) all of the flood missions. This adds an extra spice to the campaigns and gave me a unique way to enjoy all my favorite Halo moments.Halo-The-Master-Chief-Collection-19-1280x720

Now, the multiplayer. Leaving aside the obvious problems for now, I’d like to offer up my opinion on the multiplayer portion of Halo: The Master Chief Collection as if it were working perfectly. What is on offer here is absolutely incredible. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that much of my gaming life back in middle and high school involved fierce weekend Halo: CE LAN parties. Having the opportunity to bust-out that 3 shot pistol again in competitive play is an absolute joy. The map and game type variety is absolutely insane. When I sat down to play private custom matches with some friends, it quickly became clear that we were looking at an embarrassment of riches. We played for several hours, never needing to repeat a map or a variant – a feat that no other shooter can currently boast. It should also be noted that online co-op campaigning has worked like a charm for me. My younger brother and I have already steamrolled through Halo: CE and Halo 2 and are looking forward to finishing the fight in 3 and then doing “whatever the catchphrase is for Halo 4” in Halo 4.

Additionally in my experience when the matchmaking works (as it mostly does these days) the gameplay is smooth, lag free, and just as fun as ever. It took me some time to adjust from the speed at which Titanfall and Destiny play at, but once I got acclimated all the old habits started to click back into place. I haven’t yet had so much success with matchmaking that I’ve been able to tour a bunch of the maps, but I have played a couple matches in all four (technically 5) sandboxes and each has performed as promised. My only quibble is more of a personal issue than a problem with the game. The changing physics between each game make it a little rough to transition between say Halo: CE and Halo 4. It can at times create a very uneven multiplayer experience, particularly in the matchmaking playlists that have all four games available.halo-the-master-chief-collection-59723

As a value proposition, there is no questioning Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s worth. It is four outstanding shooter campaigns, which are each a nostalgic tour de force. Fighting as Master Chief all across the galaxy has never looked or felt (with the new and improved 60fps) quite so good. The remade Halo 2 cut scenes, courtesy of Blur Studios, are a particular highlight (which is weird to say, but that’s just how good these things are). And now that the multiplayer is 90% functional you can include a treasure trove of competitive multiplayer maps in that value. However, the buzz is gone. The wave of nostalgic euphoria that Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s multiplayer portion rode in on has crashed. It’s likely that the player base has fallen out, and so the result of the now working multiplayer suite is still underwhelming despite its incredible offering. I don’t think the impact of this has been able to be fully measured yet, with luck the Halo Guardians beta will go better and 343 will earn the players’ trust back. The failure to launch properly must be a quality that is now permanently affixed to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which is a shame because it marred what would have been, in my opinion, a near perfect game. But with most of the issues fixed, it is now up to 343 Industries to determine just how large a footnote these problems will leave. Will this be viewed as the start of a worrying trend for the Halo Franchise? Or, as a rough 3 weeks with little consequence whatsoever? Here’s hoping for the latter.


**Update: Since the writing of this review 343 Industries President Bonnie Ross has issued yet another apology for the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection; but this time she has offered up the studio’s plans to make amends. All players who signed onto The Master Chief Collection before December 19th, 2014 will be receiving a few pretty sweet bonuses. Players will get, a custom in-game name plate (okay), a custom in-game avatar (sure why not), a month of Xbox Live (nice), a free brand new anniversary version of fan-favorite map Relic (Cool!), and a 60 frames per second, 1080p version of the campaign from Halo 3: ODST (HOLY CRAP!). Apology accepted, Bonnie. However, it won’t mean a whole heck of a lot if Halo 5: Guardians launches with anything close to the number of problems that plagued The Master Chief Collection.