A true remaster.
What a difference a month makes. After a fairly drab summer regarding big-name game releases, the Xbox One has suddenly been engulfed by gaming goodness – with blockbuster titles bounding into stores by the bucketload.
For some time, Microsoft has been lauding the upcoming exclusives for the system and within the space of a few days, two so-called system sellers have appeared on the shelves. While Sunset Overdrive has staked its claim as one of the biggest and best new IPs of the year, it’s arguably the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection that has set pulses racing.
"And talk about value for money! Without doubt, this is one of the greatest gaming anthologies of all time. The package includes Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, a re-mastered anniversary edition of Halo 2, as well as Halo 3 and Halo 4 – that’s over 100 multiplayer maps and 45 campaign missions running at 60 frames per second on dedicated servers.
The Halo series has proven phenomenally successful, with more than 60 million sales since everyone’s favourite shiny-suited soldier embarked on his first mission on the original Xbox in 2001. The release of this omnibus edition promises to satisfy a craving for both fans and newbies.
And talk about value for money! Without doubt, this is one of the greatest gaming anthologies of all time. The package includes Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, a re-mastered anniversary edition of Halo 2, as well as Halo 3 and Halo 4 – that’s over 100 multiplayer maps and 45 campaign missions running at 60 frames per second on dedicated servers. To top it off, there’s also the live-action digital series, Halo: Nightfall, as well as the upcoming multiplayer beta for Halo 5: Guardians. If that’s not enough, there are loads of videos and extras available to draw you further into the Halo world too.
Designer Jaime Griesemer famously put the success of Halo down to the constant bombardment of fast and furious encounters: “No 30 second stretch of Halo is ever repeated; the missions are constantly changing the context on you.” And he was spot on! From the very first moment you play, it’s a fraught non-stop adventure that showcases some of the best action from a first-person shooter on any system, ever.
In a nutshell, the story revolves around the ongoing battle between mankind and an alien force known as the Covenant. Just to make things extra interesting, another alien race called the Flood is on the scene and doesn’t like you too much either. As a Spartan supersoldier, you’re tasked with blasting the hell out all of them! Supersmart blue-toned AI hologram Cortana is along for the ride to provide some assistance too.
"The work that’s been put into enhancing each of the games is staggering; it really has been a labour of love. Each game, level, character and environment looks superb – extremely detailed and well defined, from the cutscenes to the animations.
Lock the doors, cancel all your appointments and put those other pre-orders on hold… this is all you’re going to be playing for a while.
With so much content, there’s an understandably hefty install but the wait is worth it. As the eerie orchestral music kicks in, a single menu screen appears to provide easy access to each and every single level of all the games from the outset. There’s no need to start the series from the very beginning or play your way through each stage in order; it’s all unlocked immediately and absolutely everything is at your mercy. You can dive straight into any of the campaigns, play specific missions, try your hand at the lauded multiplayer and Spartan Ops maps, or select cross title playlists created by the game’s designers.
Such unparalleled access to everything is a great feature, allowing you to instantly see portions of the game or the emblems, armors, Skulls and abilities that may have eluded even the most dedicated players in the past. If, like me, there are some levels you don’t particularly care for (personally I really didn’t take to the Cortana level in Halo 3 – always getting lost in the strange Flood-infested lair), then you can just go ahead and skip to the next mission. Fantastic.
The work that’s been put into enhancing each of the games is staggering; it really has been a labour of love. Each game, level, character and environment looks superb – extremely detailed and well defined, from the cutscenes to the animations.
There’s a clear leap from the visuals seen in Combat Evolved, when Petty Officer John-117 first appeared on the scene, to the staggeringly good-looking Halo 4 but the original has stood the test of time surprisingly well.
Halo 2 (circa 2004) was the only edition of the series I missed when it made its debut and I was pleasantly surprised by the graphics and fantastically good-looking cutscenes in this souped-up Anniversary edition (apparently Blur Studio has included an hour or so of reimagined cinematics).
"Take the Metropolis level as an example, where you have to cross the bridge in New Mombasa, steering a Scorpion Tank through a horde on oncoming enemies. Before you take the controls, the cutscene has Sergeant Johnson talking to the marines. The revamped graphics for this section are a huge contrast to the blocky, washed-out original.
What’s more, I was able to get an idea of just how far the aesthetics have been tweaked thanks to being able to switch between the classic and remastered versions.
Take the Metropolis level as an example, where you have to cross the bridge in New Mombasa, steering a Scorpion Tank through a horde on oncoming enemies. Before you take the controls, the cutscene has Sergeant Johnson talking to the marines. The revamped graphics for this section are a huge contrast to the blocky, washed-out original.
When you’re done and dusted gawping at the graphical overhaul and have played the campaign to death, there are not only Halo 2’s original multiplayer maps but six re-imagined maps to get stuck in to as well.
Bear in mind that this is just a small portion of the overall package and you’ve also got all the other games, maps and modes to play, and you’ll realise just what great value for money this is.
Since launch there have been complaints of multiplayer matchmaking issues but there are server updates underway. That aside, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a superb addition to your games library and will keep you occupied for absolutely ages. The multiplayer aspect in itself is reason enough to buy a copy but with four such iconic campaigns as well, this is an essential purchase.
If you missed out on this epic saga the first time round, this should be at the top of you wish list – and it’s certainly another good reason to get yourself an Xbox One.
The game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Remastered 1080p visuals at 60fps, dedicated servers, improved audio and absolutely every mode, mission and multiplayer option available from the start.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Matchmaking issues at launch.
Whether it’s nostalgia or intrigue, this collection of classics is a must have.