Were It So Easy.
I have deliberately put off this review in the hope that 343 industries would quickly remedy the various issues this game has and that I could review it when it’s fully functioning, but it has been over a month now and I want to get this published.
Being a super-duper Halo fanboy you can well imagine that I spent a good part of this year counting down to the release of The Master Chief Collection on November 11th. I readily hopped on board the hype-train and was ready to sail off into an autumn of nostalgia presented in glorious high definition. Alas it was not entirely meant to be. For many, the release of all four numbered Halo games on one disk, complete with their respective mulitplayer suites was a great opportunity to revisit the great campaign missions they fondly remember from childhood and to re-experience how Halo’s online multiplayer has changed over the years. Halo 2 in particular holds a special place in fan’s hearts as it was the first to feature party systems and set the template for modern online shooters. The crown jewel of the collection is the anniversary edition of Halo 2, with remastered graphics and audio running simultaneously on top of the original code so that you can flit between the two versions in an instant and think to yourself ‘gee wiz that’s pretty’. Halos 1, 3 and 4 (Halo 1 being the updated anniversary edition from 2011) are their original selves albeit bumped up to a lovely 60fps and 1080p. I won’t go into much detail about each Halo title as these games are re-releases aside from H2A, but I wanted to record the sadness I feel at the unfortunate issues which have plagued this game since it’s release.
Halo : Combat Evolved Anniversary is a fantastic game even all these years on. To be able to revisit it with the higher frame rate is fantastic as Halo has in the past felt quite slow with it’s movement but now it’s fast, fluid and a great trip down memory lane. One of my favourite aspects of the MCC is how new players will get to experience all those great first moments, like landing on Halo and stepping out into that massive ravine with trees, rocks and rivers all looking their best in 1080p. Halo 3 is not a bad looking game given it came out in 2007, it still plays great and is possibly my favourite Halo game overall, but it hasn’t been paid the same amount of attention as the others and stands out as being the child that didn’t get the same Christmas presents as it’s siblings. Halo 4 is still fairly recent and thus looks very nice on the new hardware, given how good it looked on the 360, the Xbox One runs it with ease and I love how much lighter the controls handle as a result of the new frame rate. These three games in the MCC are essentially like owning the blu-ray versions of your favourite films. You love them already and now you can appreciate them at their best.
As I said the highlight of the four is undoubtedly Halo 2 Anniversary. It does suffer from limitations due to running on top of the original code, occasional frame rate dips make it less solid than the others but not by far. Graphically it looks great but not as good as if it were made from scratch for the Xbox One, hopefully the Halo 5 Guardians beta will give us some idea of what to expect in that department. The soundtrack and audio is fantastic, the Halo 2 soundtrack is my favourite so I was anxious about how it would turn out but it absolutely works, it takes the original score and lovingly amplifies it’s orchestration and production. Apart from taking out Breaking Benjamin for the High Charity mission (that was a no-no for me), thankfully the original soundtrack runs parallel so I can just switch back with the graphics but I would’ve liked them to have kept it n the remastered version. Weapons all sound better and louder I’ve even got used to the more musical energy sword effects, the sniper rifle in particular sounds like the punch it packs. Unfortunately my original Halo 2 disk developed a glitch that covered the screen with a purple ghost image, so it was really great to play through the campaign and enjoy it fully once more. The campaign really shines due to the new cinematics courtesy of Blur studios, they look fantastic and help bring to life what were quite static performances originally. The addition of terminals, skulls and toys to find mean that there’s plenty of exploration and replayability here, I’d replay the hell out of it anyway but it’s nice to have new reasons to do so.
And now to the multiplayer. Oh dear. If you’ve ever played a game of ‘Oddball’ on a Halo game, you’ll likely have heard the multiplayer narrator exclaim :’You dropped the ball!’ and unfortunately that’s all I can hear in my head when I think about the catastrophe that has been the online launch of the MCC. 343 Industries have been criticised at every turn ever since they took over the franchise from Bungie, Halo 4 proved divisive amongst fans particularly over the changes to mulitplayer and with the MCC, 343 had a chance to monitor mulitplayer data and ensure that Halo 5 is the definitive Halo experience fans want it to be. However, the only data they could monitor was that of the rageful complaints that rushed forth after it became apparent to players all over the world that the multiplayer aspect of the MCC did not work. At all. Not even a little bit. Players were endlessly waiting to find games despite the volume of people playing, when they did they could be ejected from the game, it could freeze, party’s were separated, lag was rampant and teams were terribly unbalanced. Halo has a huge multiplayer legacy and for many fans this was the reason they purchased the MCC in the first place. Angry gamer after angry gamer took to Twitter to bombard 343 with disappointed messages, demanding they ‘fix their game’. The mulitplayer issues affected UI performance creating new bugs, my brother and I were really looking forward to playing through the campaigns together online but the lag delay was so bad we couldn’t make it through a level. Several patches and updates later the game is only just beginning to run anything like it should (though it’s still bloody awful). This saddens me because 343 will have alienated any newcomers to the series when it should have been a masterstroke for the Xbox One. 343 really needed this to go well and it just didn’t, what’s worse is the amount of hype they put into the advertising campaign. I still see people who are saddened by the TV adverts that are played, because anyone who takes a chance on Halo based on that advertising is likely to feel very disappointed and disillusioned with what Halo should be. I believe that they genuinely didn’t know this would happen, but given it was released the same week as the much criticised Assassin’s Creed Unity the disappointment and anger from the gaming community was riding high.
I really hope they resolve the situation soon because with the Halo Championships they want to run (MASSIVE mistake that it was to announce that when no one could even play it) and the Halo 5 Beta they need to take care of their fans at home first to restore faith. Halo has such a huge and passionate fandom, I think most just feel let down that what they were promised was not what was delivered. It’s abit like when a parent or teacher tells a child ‘I’m not angry with you, just disappointed’ (although there’s alot of anger too) and I think that’s how 343 are probably feeling, they do at least seem to care about their fans and take pride in their work. Unlike the unashamed milking of Assassin’s Creed fans (that’s right Ubisoft I’m looking at you), 343 are themselves fans of the franchise and want it to be the best they can make it. What’s worse is that they came so close, played solo the campaigns are great and the sheer amount of achievements on offer as well as collectibles and the live action Ridley Scott produced Halo : Nightfall make this a great investment. Had the multiplayer worked as it should, I’m 100% certain this would have been a fantastic end to the Xbox One’s first year but instead one of it’s greatest franchises is suffering heavy criticism and they need to sort that out fast.
Taken as a whole the Master Chief Collection is a fantastic package, provided they patch up the multiplayer and get it working as it should it will be a must have for any Xbox One owner. The fantastic campaigns, and the love and attention that has gone into H2A are absolutely stellar but the problems that have plagued it’s release as well as the irritating involvement of the Halo Channel (all in game terminals outsource to the Halo Channel to play) prevent me from scoring it as highly as I would have liked to.
Halo : The Master Chief Collection receives a score of : 6/10
(and they only get that because the campaigns are fantastic)