Bungie and 343i’s iconic franchise returns to the next-gen stage in one stunning collection designed to please almost all, if not every Halo fan on planet Earth with an Xbox One this Fall. Containing all of the legendary games featuring Master Chief (this means excluding Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach), you have every single chapter of Halo 1, 2, 3 and 4 at your disposal in addition to every single multiplayer map ever made. To keep the game as a 1-disc shipment, a 15GB update is required for those who want to play the best multiplayer games on Xbox LIVE. I don’t see this as an issue considering if you are online with an internet connection then downloading should not be a problem, saving all the necessary campaign content for disc – and you do get to play and keep the flaming helmet in Halo 3 made famous for Bungie staff only on Xbox 360!
The traditional Halo menu system with all previous left-sided options has been replaced for a series of drop down selections and slides to make navigation as seamless as possible between games. With such a huge collection of content to hand, finding what you want, when you want has never been easier. It’s quite a simplistic system of choices by Campaign, Multiplayer, Playlists, Options & Career, and Extras. With each selection opening up further choices by title, map, and rather impressive is a new cross-play playlist to play well remembered parts of different Halo titles straight off as one chunk of gameplay action. Whether you want to focus on Hogs, Jets, Tanks and Mechs – or the final escape from each title then it has now all be made possible. This collection is about re-living memories and moments that made an impact on your love of Halo and Xbox, with next gen touch ups to the main engine of each and solid, fluid gameplay at 60FPS – replaying Halo all over again feels like an entirely new experience on Xbox One.
The driving force behind the collection is undoubtedly the remake of Halo 2; do you remember the outrage at closing down the original Xbox servers forcing Halo 2 online to its sudden death? With the remake of Halo Combat Evolved, Halo 2 Anniversary was always ‘that’ rumour, or for many, a wish, a hope, a chance to replay a classic game in a whole new skin – and now that day is here. In the same tradition of Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary which was released three years ago on the Xbox 360, Halo 2 Anniversary also has a seamless old vs remade graphics switching on the fly. This transition of old vs new is such a realism check on how far gaming has evolved since the early days of Halo, but in the newest Anniversary edition cut-scenes too have been completely remade from the ground up and taking advantage of next-gen capabilities allowing them to look as amazing as your mind can only imagine. This leaves something to be admired in terms of the upcoming Halo 5, because if Halo 2 cut-scenes can look this good on Xbox One, just how bloody amazing will Halo 5 look! Since, touching on the subject of Halo 5, do not forget that the Beta is only available through Halo: The Master Chief Collection this coming December as for those with the game will notice its presence in the Extra’s menu! Just sat there teasing you with an image.
When the campaign of Halo is as majestic as it is and millions around the globe having already played it many times over in the last ten years and more, Halo 2 Anniversary truly is like reliving the magic all over again as every detail you remember re-skinned, from the very floor tiles to the stars in the sky – it’s all new and shiny, with a very current feel! Gamers who joined the Xbox brand from the Xbox 360 days may have never played Halo 2 and if they haven’t upgraded yet to an Xbox One – they still might never play Halo 2! The early Halo games are a pinnacle in the story lines that gave rise to the continuation in to Halo 4 and upcoming Halo 5: Guardians. A real “miss it or miss out” game and if you’ve enjoyed all other Halo’s then rather than cling on to the Xbox 360 for every last day it has left in its life – go out and get your Xbox One if only for this collection alone!
Halo 2 itself was originally released in 2004 seeing out the Xbox original in its last year, but was quite rightly the most popular game on Xbox LIVE until Gears of War was released on Xbox 360 in 2006. That’s two whole years of LIVE domination and before the rise of Call of Duty, the FPS king of gaming was always that of Halo. The story campaign plays out in alternate plot lines between an early Master Chief, and a Covenant Elite called the Arbiter, who also made the transition to Halo 3 as a co-op playable character. So, if you’ve ever wondered about how the Arbiter branched into the first chapter of Halo 3 – you need to play and relive the story through Halo 2 Anniversary which has a visual quality now far greater than ant of its predecessors thanks to the overwhelming power of Xbox One. Halo 2 has been revamped and brought back to life in a very eye-catching way, so much so that it could even be considered a current game on Xbox One, it’s a grand job well done from 343 industries.
Other Halo games in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection, that includes Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4 are all Xbox 360 editions that now take advantage of improvements to the game engine running on Xbox One with clearer detail and more fluid gameplay – and it is clearly evident in the frame rates. Whilst Halo Combat Evolved and Halo 3 campaign do not appear much more visually enhanced than what you would normally see on Xbox 360, Halo 4 on the other hand looks far cleaner, brighter, smoother detail enough to make you sit up and realise that lighting and textures appear to be enhanced in some way. The main benefits of all four halo games together as one collection has to be being able to jump right into any mission from any game instead of having to play your selected game through from beginning to end to keep chapters you’ve played. 343i have really opened up Halo as a whole allowing for cross-game playlists as mentioned earlier and also being able to compete in challenges, Leaderboards and make it a real social experience with friends over Xbox LIVE.
One of the burning questions you might ask is about Customisation; with so many Halo games and each with their own unique styles for multiplayer – it’s natural to think about how has this been adapted for one huge collection as this. The customisation options are all linked together in the Options and Careers menu that allows you to edit your online multiplayer settings for each game, Player ID, Career Stats Viewing, My Files for Map Variants, Films and Screenshots, controller Settings and Leaderboards, all linked into the same menu system. Character customisation allows you to edit your player for Hale Combat Evolved, Halo 2 & Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4 independently. The best options for Halo 3 and Halo 4 include all the Armors unlocked from the start; this allows you to play with a Flaming Helmet in Halo 3 that was never previously available outside of Bungie Employees, and no need to earn unlock rewards in Halo 4 as the mass of Armor is readily available to you without earning CR points. It’s simply about choosing what you think suits you best. This also applies to colour options too, but it’s all a little different for Player ID and NamePlates.
Player ID’s are those shapes and symbols used to display on your Service Record where you can mix and match emblems, where as NamePlates are the background displays showing a game logo or associated icon. To get access to these you need to complete certain challenges within each title and then a notification will appear alerting you to check for new unlocked items. If you want to edit your own Clan Tag you must complete 50 Missions or multiplayer games, but you can edit your Service Tag at any time you choose. Other unlockables include Avatar’s, which are relevant images of iconic characters that you can set to appear on your Player Details page (accessed through Roster and highlighting a player). These characters are also unlocked for performing various tasks within each title and are prominently displayed on the Player Details page that includes your Career History, File Shares and Rivals.
For gamers who love to create their very own map or game variants, Forge has returned and allows you to play around with Halo 2: Anniversary Maps, Halo 3 Maps and Halo 4 Maps and some with Magnets and Snaps to create a seamless and tidier looking map variant by accurately being able to place objects where you need them. In the older days of Halo, just dropping a whopping great boulder as close as possible was the only option and hope for the best it landed where it needed to be. With snap tools and magnets crafting a great map has never been easier, but this has been left untouched in Halo 3. It’s not just Forge that makes a return, but Theatre mode is back too, with all recent play offerings stored in your Temporary files you can simply browse and watch all the action all over again, and again if you wish.
Although online Multiplayer was not available during the time of this review, all maps were available as part of custom game play and browsing. Nineteen maps available for Halo Combat Evolved, Twenty-Five maps for Halo 2 Classic, Six re-made and renamed maps for Halo 2: Anniversary, Twenty-Four maps for Halo 3 and finally Twenty-Five maps for Halo 4. This is a grand total of Ninety-Nine Multiplayer Maps – a huge amount of endless gameplay online right there when the multiplayer becomes available. I have a sneaky suspicion that more Halo 2: Anniversary maps could come as DLC on the success of this collection because six seems like such a low number. I am unable to comment on server encounters because multiplayer was not played, but having looked in depth at a great deal of the maps available, the same fluid movement and improvements to texture and lighting applied to each. This has given me confidence that the multiplayer in Halo: The Master Chief Collection will be every bit as bright, detailed and fluid just as I encountered during a Press Only session at Gamescom with Xbox UK earlier this year.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is quite possibly the largest ‘Master’ collection of gaming history in one very large bundle. With all the campaigns of four great Halo games and every bit of multiplayer maps and the downloadable content is no denying a great deal and a great piece of gaming history re-touched and improved to freshen gameplay and bring Halo on to the Xbox One. It’s very hard to find fault with such a piece of excellence as this, everything is created to ensure you have an easy transition between games with encouragement for cross-game play action. A whole ton of maps and of course, a completely re-made Halo 2, where everything else on disc is more of a bonus to accompany it.
The ‘must-have’ game of the year, and an absolute disgrace not to own it.
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