Before I start with the review it will benefit you to know that I am essentially a grumpy little man, I dislike most companies’ executions of DLC, pre order bonuses and so-called “HD remakes”. Most of the time it looks to me like nothing but money grabbing and I generally moan about it endlessly, much to the annoyance of anyone who will listen. I say this not to bore you or even so you can get to know me better as a reviewer, I write this because it lets you know my own point of view when reviewing this collection.
This is a very personal review for me, I adored the Halo games and still maintain that Halo 2 is the best local coop experience in any video game. I remember sitting in my room with a few mates playing the hell out of Halo and Halo 2 on the original Xbox after school and I still hold it as one of the best, most engaging and immersive experiences in all of gaming. I’m sure there will be many people that disagree with me and yet more that may not have even played them.
Nowadays trying to get an original Xbox can be a major pain and I’m sure some of our younger readers may have only picked up the franchise at Halo 3. All that has now changed and Halo: The Master Chief Collection has arrived for the Xbox One.
Firstly, let me explain exactly what you get in the collection – Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4. Along with the four complete games it also ships with every multiplayer map from all of the games including some that have been remastered specifically for this collection. It truly is a huge bundle that is essential for any Halo fan.
Above all the others, the major title in this collection is Halo 2 Anniversary. The gameplay is exactly the same as the OG Halo 2, the controls do feel a bit clunky in today’s super twitchy FPS world but on the whole it has aged very well indeed. The graphics are beautifully reimagined and the all new cut scenes are absolutely staggering. I found myself switching back and forth between the new graphics engine and the original one, a process that is utterly seamless, and I was stunned. Sure, these are cosmetic changes at best but the difference it makes is one that is deeply felt, it brings one of the biggest FPS games of old and makes it relevant again. The attention to detail is incredibly impressive, even down to an Admiral’s chipped tooth. Halo has one of the best soundtracks I have heard in any game and the orchestral score has been remastered along with the graphics. When the game kicks into gear and the music scales with it, it is almost like a punch in the chest. I can’t give it enough praise.
Fighting in Halo 2 Anniversary is great, the little quirks I mastered ten years ago flooded back to me and it’s like I had never stopped playing it. I did find that I died a lot and for the life of me I couldn’t think why, that was until I realised that hits taken can go unnoticed. There is often not a distinct enough shield hit to draw your attention to the health bar. Other than that somewhat small issue with the gameplay I have no other misgivings about the title.
Halo: Combat Evolved anniversary was available on the Xbox 360 and had upgraded visuals, improved graphics over the original game and the Xbox One version looks pretty much the same. It is still the great Halo gameplay that we all know and love but with the added power of the Xbox One, 343 and Microsoft studios have managed to smooth out the gameplay. The sense of nostalgia it evokes is brilliant, from the first time we step foot on Halo to the epic fighting on the “Two Betrayals” all the way to the final hell for leather Warthog dash out of the Pillar of Autumn. For me, a huge fan of the Halo franchise, it is brilliant to get the same gameplay, with the same “balls to the wall” standoffs from the original Halo, and the improved graphics is the perfect cherry on top.
Halo 3 and Halo 4 have not had the anniversary treatment but as with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, there is a remarkable smoothness to the gameplay. During my play through I didn’t notice a huge difference in the latter two games, Halo 4 being largely the same as it was when it was released a couple of years ago but it is still great to get the entire Master Chief saga before the release of Halo 5 Guardians.
All four of the games in the collection have co-operative play, both local and online. It really is the perfect collection for someone like me.
The user interface is well designed and easy to use, you can pick any level from any of the four games without the need to unlock them, it is a good way to manage the UI and means that if you want to go ahead and jump into the level Gravemind, then you are welcome to do it without having to play the rest of the game. You can also play games from “playlists”. The playlists take levels from all four of the titles in the collection, for instance, if you want to play the final level of each game, you can jump into the playlist and just play those levels. It’s a good way to tailor the experience that you want but I felt that jumping between the four different games, all of which handle slightly differently, took a little getting used to. It’s not a bad thing, just one that my man-child mind struggled with at times.
Skulls have been added to all four games, Skulls being modifiers that can be chosen that will usually increase the overall difficulty of the game. There is a Skull that will generally buff all enemies, another will mean that all dropped weapons will have lower ammo and of course there is the Grunt Birthday Party where shooting a grunt in the face will make him explode. My personal favourite for a wackier Halo is one that will change any players controlled weapon into the Cannon from a Scarab tank. Mucho destruction. I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with how these have been implemented though, you no longer have to find the Skulls that are littered around the levels and instead just pick them from the menu. It took away the sense of discovery for me and while it isn’t a game changer it is something that I wasn’t too keen on.
Overall Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a brilliant buy, it takes what are arguably the best halo games (Sorry Halo Reach) and puts them in one place. It’s the perfect collection for people who grew up playing Halo and were enthralled by the haunting choir soundtracks as I was. The gameplay is exactly the same so don’t expect any major differences but it means that this is a true Halo experience and one that I encourage everyone with an Xbox One to pick up.
We will be bringing you a separate review for the PVP Multiplayer content as we feel it deserves its own separate piece; after all there are over 100 maps to play through so stick with us.