Halo has been Microsoft’s flagship franchise on the Xbox console for over a decade, and it seems appropriate that that the series’ debut on Xbox One is The Master Chief Collection. Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 campaigns and multiplayer suites are all included in this phenomenal package, with each game remastered to run at 1080p and at 60 frames per second. In addition to giving Halo 2 the full anniversary treatment, Halo developers 343 Industries have included a host of other outstanding extras in this masterful collection.
Every Halo game starring Master Chief has been masterfully remastered to run at 1080p and at 60 frames per second. Halo 2 has received the most attention, but I’ll discuss that in a moment. The first Halo game in the package, Halo: Combat Evolved is the Anniversary Edition from a few years back. The visuals benefit from the resolution bump and you can instantly switch back and forth between the new and old graphics.
Halo 3 likewise has likewise simply been scaled up, with only a few other upgrades to the visuals. Apart from blocky character models and some low resolution textures, the third game still hold up well and runs superbly at the higher frame rate. Controller rumble for Halo 3 has also received a nifty tweak, with different feedback for dual wielding. The classic Halo gameplay from Combat Evolved and Halo 3 is just as entertaining as it always was, although I found myself wishing for a sprint feature at times (I had to constantly remind myself that Master Chief didn’t learn how to run until Halo 4).
Halo 4 benefits immensely from the visual upgrade. The game already looked superb when it was released on aging Xbox 360 hardware, but it is even more gorgeous on Xbox One. It’s surprising how well the game scales, with plentiful detail in the characters and environments. Indeed, Halo 4 is actually one of the best looking Xbox One games, and you could be mistaken for thinking it was made especially to run on Microsoft’s new console. The ten episodes from Halo 4’s Spartan Ops shall be available via a content update later in December.
Halo 2 has been given the most attention in the Master Chief package, with Sabre Interactive providing an entire Anniversary makeover. Every character model, weapon and environment has been completely remade, with the graphics more on par with you may expect in a current-generation title. In certain areas, the environments and backgrounds are absolutely jaw-dropping, and exactly like in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, you can switch back and forward between the old and new visuals. Seeing what Halo 2 looked like 10 years ago compared to the current-generation remake is astonishing. 343 Industries have also completely remade the sound effects and rerecorded the entire soundtrack. The result is an absolute treat for the ears – hearing the soundtrack in the background as you play through with the updated visuals is a spectacular experience that all Halo fans will enjoy immensely.
In addition, Blur – the studio famous for their computer-generated cinematics – have remade all of Halo 2‘s cutscenes. Seeing all the cinematics remade in Blur’s trademark live-action style is worth the price of admission alone. Watching the main characters of Master Chief, the Arbiter, Johnson and Keyes, you could be mistaken for thinking you were watching a blockbuster movie. The quality of the video is simply astonishing, again demonstrating that the Halo 2 Anniversary is arguably one of the best video game remakes – if not the best – in recent memory.
Fans should rest assured that the gameplay has not been touched – only the visuals and sound have been updated. Halo 2, like all the other games in the original trilogy, is just as fun for long-time fans to play today as it was 10 years ago, and anyone yet to experience the game it is in for a treat. Playing as the Arbiter and fighting the flood can still feel like a bit of a grind, but you cannot deny the nostalgia and entertainment factor from replaying Halo 2. Navigating through a covenant-invaded Earth, fighting through a enemy installation and battling the brutes provides for some spectacular and immersive moments. Further, the AI are still a worthy challenge today, even on Heroic difficulty. And just like in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, the developers have littered hidden terminals around the levels. Watching these short videos give some backstory to the events of Halo 2, and provide hints for the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians. These videos, as well as terminals from other Halo games, can be viewed from the Halo Channel App on Xbox One. Completionists will enjoy earning every one of the countless achievements in The Master Chief Collection, collectively adding up to 4000 points.
As soon as The Master Chief Collection is installed, every level of every campaign is unlocked and ready to be played from the main menu. You can play any level from any of the Halo games in any order you like, cooperatively, in addition to modifying the difficulty and adding skulls. The developers have also included numerous pre-made playlists for to work though. For example, you can play every level from Halo to feature the Scorpion Tank, or load every level where Chief battles the flood. You can also launch the classic Forge and Theatre modes from the menu, access episodes of the upcoming Halo: Nightfall live-action drama, and come December 29, all players will be invited to take part in the Halo 5 Guardians multiplayer beta.
Just as The Master Chief Collection includes every campaign, it also includes the unique multiplayer from every main Halo game. Fans dissatisfied with Halo 4‘s changes can go back and play every single map and mode from Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 and Halo 3 on Xbox One. The graphics have also been juiced up to run at 60 frames per second and at 1080p. Being able can relive the classic Halo multiplayer will be reason enough for some, with Halo 2 seen as one of the best online games back in the original Xbox era. Jumping back into the older multiplayer games and playing with friends on Xbox Live is a superb burst of nostalgia and is everything hardcore Halo fans could ask for. Players can either search for public games or invite players into the own custom-made matches.
Multiplayer still offers something new, with six of Halo 2‘s classic maps re-imagined for Xbox One by developer Certain Affinity. These maps retain Halo 2‘s classic multiplayer gameplay, while offering visuals your would expect from the Xbox One. When playing on these maps, you select from one of three basic weapons to ensure things are balanced at the beginning. While it took me a little while to get back into the gear of Halo 2‘s gameplay, the memories quickly came flooding back (pun intended). I had an absolute blast on the new maps, especially driving the new Gungoose – a mongoose with a machine gun mounted on the front. Sniping players from across the map and running over enemies in the Ghost is just as fun today as it was a decade ago.
(Editor’s note: Importantly, we should note that we not been able to try The Master Chief Collection‘s public multiplayer modes. The public servers have not been turned on yet, but I have been able to play private multiplayer games. From the time I’ve invested so far and the countless hours put into Halo multiplayer over the last ten or so years, I believe my final score is an accurate reflection of the entire final game. If there are any substantial updates following the retail release, I shall modify this review accordingly.)
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an outstanding package for anyone yet to play the sci-fi saga, and a dream come true for all long-time Halo fans. Halo 2 Anniversary’s remade visuals and soundtrack make it seem like a current-generation title, and Blur should be commended for their absolutely stunning cinematics. Being able to play every Master Chief title together, running at 1080p and 60 frames per second, is an amazing experience. The untouched multiplayer gameplay, with every single map and mode in addition to the six re-imagined maps, collectively make this package a masterpiece. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a stunning remaster and a magnum opus to the Xbox’s most iconic character.
Every Master Chief game running at 1080p and 60 frames per second | Superb Halo 2 remake | Stunning cinematics and soundtrack | Untouched Halo multiplayer | Re-imagined Halo 2 maps | Includes Halo 5 beta
Halo 5 Guardians is one year away