Halo The Master Chief Collection Review

By Adrian Cajili

343 Industries is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Halo 2 in a big way - giving fans not only a remastered version of Halo 2 for the Xbox One, but every single one of Master Chief's adventures in one special collection.

Originally released for the original Xbox in 2004, Halo 2 was a massive success for Microsoft and Bungie, with acclaim from both fans and critics. The game quickly became the top-selling game for the original Xbox, selling at least 6.3 million copies in the United States alone.

343 Industries partnered up with several studios to transition Master Chief's story to the Xbox One in preparation for their next installment, Halo 5: Guardians. After the success of remastering Halo: Combat Evolved ‐ Saber Interactive and Certain Affinity were called back to remaster the Halo 2 campaign and multiplayer sections respectively. Blur Studios was also called to redo the cut scenes, completely retelling the story in a more cinematic perspective.

As aforementioned, this collection sees every single Master Chief story coming to Xbox One ‐ with Scottish studio Ruffian Games handling the transition of Halo 3 and Halo 4 from Xbox 360 to the new console. The collection is filled with a lot of extra content that will no doubt, keep fans interested until Halo 5's release.

In this review, we won't be covering every single aspect of the collection, but will largely be focusing on Halo 2 Anniversary ‐ more specifically the remastered features ‐ and the extra content included in the collection.

So, does the remastered Halo 2 recapture the nostalgia? Also, do the new additions to the remastered experience fit in with the Collection? Well, there is only one way to find out.

WARNING: This review might contain spoilers.

Part IHalo 2 Anniversary

There's enough Halo goodness in The Master Chief Collection to please every fan of the franchise ‐ from the Campaign to Forge. But let's be honest, the main reason why fans would purchase this would be the Anniversary edition of Halo 2.

Following in the footsteps of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, 343 Industries have partnered up with Saber Interactive to remaster the campaign for Halo 2 for the Xbox One. Almost everything has been revamped. The visuals, music and sounds have been re-worked, taking full advantage of the power of the Xbox One. The weapons sound more beefier and intimidating. Also, the remastered soundtrack is much more atmospheric ‐ giving a real sense of wonder, excitement or just feeling badass as rock music plays when flying the Heretic Banshee in 'The Arbiter'.

The remastered soundtrack is much more atmospheric ‐ giving a real sense of wonder, excitement or just feeling badass

Like the Anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 Anniversary lets users switch back and forth between the original and remastered versions. The two engines run simultaneously and, thanks to the hardware of the Xbox One, switching between the two is instantaneous ‐ as opposed to Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on the Xbox 360, which took quite a while to switch. Thankfully, this isn't an issue anymore in the Xbox One version.

Halo 2 Anniversary also sees all the campaign cutscenes remastered by Blur Studios, and they look phenomenal. The characters are brought to life, bringing a new perspective to the campaign, and differing greatly from the classic cutscenes. With cinematic panning shots and a greater level of detail in each character and their facial expressions, these cutscenes make the characters more emotive and relatable. Especially Cortana, whose appearance in the cinematics are on the verge of the uncanny valley. Even the smallest of characters, like a grunt, exhibits some personality. While I still enjoy the classic cut scenes, the ones produced by Blur make it really hard to switch back.

My most memorable missions from Halo 2 were Cairo Station and Metropolis, and experiencing them again with the polish of Saber Interactive and Blur brought back positive feelings of nostalgia. While the textures and objects have been beautifully redone in campaign mode, I found that in some parts where the classic textures were more superior in terms of visual design and creating a feel for the environment. I also felt that the remastered version seemed to put a lot of emphasis on the music, drowning out the classic sounds when you switch.

As well, as much as I enjoy playing through each mission to see the next cinematic, the gameplay in Halo 2 appears to be the most bland out of the four titles ‐ making me realise how much of the story in Halo 2 just flew over my head. I see that as a good thing, as Halo 2 Anniversary lets me revisit the campaign to get a better understanding of it.

Halo 2 Anniversary's multiplayer feels like a completely different experience

The other integral ‐ and arguably, the most iconic ‐ part of Halo 2 was the multiplayer experience. Back in the day, it introduced new gameplay mechanics such as dual-wielding and vehicle hijacking to the franchise, and created a more dynamic style of play. After working on various Halo map packs, the responsibility of remastering Halo 2's multiplayer mode for the Xbox One fell to Certain Affinity.

Under their hands, the Halo 2 Anniversary's multiplayer feels like a completely different experience. It combines familiar and brand new concepts, working together to create a very unified Halo multiplayer experience. It reintroduces the arena-style gameplay that fans know and love, while the maps are beautifully designed and captures the essence of the original maps - from the abandoned feel of Lockdown/Lockout, to the ancient atmosphere of Shrine/Sanctuary. As well, like the remastered campaign, multiplayer has jaw-dropping vistas that really immerse players into the game.

If you're an old fan or a recent convert to the Halo franchise, they have done a great job in trying to appeal to everyone. Giving fans a choice between a cinematic retelling or the classic visuals for the campaign, two different Halo 2 experiences, and even features like Forge and Theater.

Part IIThe Collection

Halo: The Master Chief Collection/> UI
The Unified UI in Halo: The Master Chief Collection

One of the massive changes you will notice is the interface. All four games in this collection are tied by one single UI ‐ allowing players to easily switch between dozens of campaign missions, hundreds of multiplayer maps, and thousands of options across the four games. The UI is fairly easy to navigate, with the only downside being that the individual menu screens are no longer accessible.

All the campaigns can be played individually, letting you configure the skulls, scoring and time settings ‐ if you want to do a speed run or place on the leaderboards. You can also play them in a set playlist of curated (not user customisable) campaign missions from the four games, specifically designed around a story theme or game element. In other words: if you love playing missions with the Warthog or Scorpion, or you just like killing the Flood or the Prometheans ‐ there will be a playlist for you. For those who are really looking for a challenge, there is a LASO (Legendary, All Skulls On) playlist which includes all missions spanning from Halo: Combat Evolved to Halo 4 - good luck!

The four games are now running in 1080p at 60fps. But while Halo 2 received a massive overhaul, the rest of the games in the collection received minor tweaks in their graphics and performance to take advantage of the Xbox One's hardware. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is much faster, especially when switching between the classic and remastered version. Meanwhile, both Halo 3 and Halo 4 had changes to lighting and rendering. I also did notice that Halo 4 suffered from fewer frame drops during campaign.

Halo Multiplayer

One of the biggest announcements of E3 this year was that The Master Chief Collection will include all the classic multiplayer experiences and will ship with over 100 maps ‐ including all the maps from Halo 3, Halo 4 and the PC versions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. All the experiences are preserved, and you can easily switch between the old and new games, or join a mixed playlist. For example, if you are not interested in the remastered Halo 2 multiplayer, you can easily switch to a classic Halo 2 online playlist. Or, if you enjoy games like SWAT, there is a playlist that includes all versions of SWAT from Halo 2 to 4 - which is pretty neat.

All the classic multiplayer experiences... are preserved, and you can easily switch between the old and new games

In writing this review, the multiplayer servers were not available. However, I was able to party up with several 343 Industries employees and play on some of the Halo 2 Anniversary's maps and gametypes. The gameplay was very familiar and insanely fun. One gametype in particular we played on was Gungoose CTF, a Capture the Flag variant where players spawn on Gungooses, resulting in chaos as you race for the flags and hunt down other drivers. Like all multiplayer games, being in a party is the best way to experience Halo's multiplayer. Even in the sessions with 343 Industries, the light trash-talking and overall enjoyable atmosphere just made me love Halo even mode.

For those who are concerned with the the classic multiplayers, I was able to play local Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, and they both play and feel great, retaining some glitches and button combos. However, I did have some problems trying to execute some of the super-bounces.

Customising your player is made simpler, letting you configure your appearance for each title, with the later games having more custom options. As well, you can also edit your emblem, the avatar that will be shown on your Halo profile, service ID, clan tags, and name plates. I noticed during the customisation that some of the emblems have been resized, with some of my old classic emblem configurations not working. It is a minor annoyance but may affect a lot of players. As well, your armour in Halo 3 and Halo 4 is not completely customisable, limiting you to armour sets as opposed to changing individual armour pieces. It is a little disappointing, but at least we get access to special armours like Halo 3 Recon and flaming helmet and Fotus amour.

Halo 2 Anniversary will get its own Forge as well ‐ and I believe it is the best Forge mode to date.

Other favourites, such as Spartan Ops and Forge, are also included in The Master Chief Collection. For the uninitiated, Forge is a level creation and editing tool that allows you to create your own maps, While the Forge modes in Halo 3 and Halo 4 remain the same, Halo 2 Anniversary will get its own Forge as well ‐ and I believe it is the best Forge mode to date. Adding new items to the sandbox like the Golden Warthog, Heretic Banshee and even an infected energy sword! It evolves from the Halo 4's Forge Mode by reworking some of the building mechanics and adds new features like dynamic and interactive elements, resulting in some awesome Race and Infection variants. I'm really excited to see the maps and gametypes that come out of the community. Spartan Ops, on the other hand, will not be available on launch but is scheduled for release in December via an update.

Extras

Halo: Nightfall
An image from Halo: Nightfall

The Master Chief Collection comes with three notable extras: Halo: Nightfall, access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta, and the Halo Channel.

Produced by Ridley Scott, Halo: Nightfall is a five-episode miniseries that will serve as a lead-in to Halo 5: Guardians with one of the characters, Agent Locke, connecting the miniseries to the game. It tells the story of a group of operatives from the Office of Naval Intelligence as they investigate and try to stop a terrorist threat. The first episode was not available to us when reviewing the collection.

The Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta will debut on December 29, designed to give fans a taste of what to expect in the new direction for Halo 5's multiplayer, as well as collect valuable data and feedback for 343 Industries to create the best multiplayer experience they can. Meanwhile, Halo Channel is the place to rewatch the cinematics and terminal videos from the games, and watch other Halo-related content produced by Microsoft, including Halo: Nightfall, Halo documentaries and behind the scenes videos. There are also a handful of other extras like the leaderboards, service records and the file share system that will surely be more active once the game releases.

The Bottom Line

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a must own for the Xbox One ‐ regardless if you are a Halo fan or not. Fans will be clearly excited because the collection contains the best version of all four games. For those who are entering the series, the collection is the perfect way to "start your journey" into the world of Halo.

It is really incredible that you get that much content for the standard price of a next-gen game, and it really sets a great standard for all video game collections. You not only get the remastered Halo 2 Anniversary, but the Anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 3 and Halo 4 ‐ all featuring beautiful graphics, presented in high definition, and all playable on the Xbox One.

On top of that, you also get access to the multiplayer beta of Halo 5: Guardians, making it even better.

With dozens of campaign missions, hundreds of multiplayer maps, Forge and its near infinite amount of maps that are produced by your friends and the community, plus Spartan Ops ‐ there is certainly more than enough content in Halo: The Master Chief Collection to delve into and keep your Xbox One busy.

It'll also be a nice distraction while we wait for the next chapter of Master Chief's story, which comes next year.

Review Breakdown

9.0
  • The Good

    • Having all four core Halo games on the one console
    • The new Halo 2 Anniversary cinematics are just amazing
    • Multiplayer is an entirely different experience - in a good way
  • The Bad

    • Some sound and performance issues during Campaign
Join the conversation
  • Enric Llonch

    Slick review. Kudos!

  • Sick review. One more important thing to note is that in H2Classic these button combos are going to be huge for the skill gap. You would want to get good at the button combos to. This is a pretty good guide. http://www.halocheats.com/glitches/halo-2-glitches/halo-2-button-combo-glitches/

  • LucasAzzola

    Couple of minor nitpicks:
    – Halo 2: Anniversary’s Campaign runs at 1328×1080 (sub-900p).
    – There are a bunch of bugs relating to Halo CE’s ported multi-player from Halo PC.

    Nice review though, great format.

    • LucasAzzola

      Oh, and possibly more tangential, the multi-player maps are as they where originally shipped, so we don’t get map variants like Boundless, SAND TARP, Pit Stop and Epilogue from Halo 3, and equipment that was removed via patch, namely flares (which were exploitative in Matchmaking), have been returned.

      IMO those factors, amongst the armour customisation limitations, warrant a 9/10, rather than taking points off for the frame-rate issues, which where actually mostly fixed after the CU.

      • Adrian Cajili

        I still haven’t been able to play on the classic maps, so my thoughts on that matter are pending.

        Not having the patched/fixed maps will be a problem, so hopefully that will get fixed ASAP. I also just checked on Halo 4, that the glitch room on Complex is back. Which makes me wonder why the ‘definitive’ versions of these multiplayer experiences weren’t added to the game initially.

        There are a lot of issues with the game that can be simply fixed by a patch, like the UI bugs. Nevertheless, this collection is amazing! :D

  • Master Debater
  • avi

    I also agree with astronut. docking a full 10 points for some FPS drops and sound glitches (which will get fixed in future patches anyways) is just silly.

  • foxesforsale

    apparently 9/10 isn’t a high enough score nowadays lol. Someone should tell universities that 8/10 is too low for a “high distinction” nowadays. Great review, love the ability to change the site style.

  • Astronut7

    So, as with every other reviewer, you are going with the “safe” review score of 9.0? Ask yourself this: is a couple of framerate drops and a couple of sound glitches REALLY worth 10% of the complete product? You either need to up the score, or spend some time finding a LOT more problems with this massive collection.

    • Adrian Cajili

      As awesome as this collection is, there are a few problems (that mainly affected my experience), as stated in the review. Like the sound design, UI and other performance issues (I also left a recent comment on here about multiplayer and the maps) The frame rate and sound issues, I think, were the most noticeable. and was highlighted over the ‘smaller’ issues.

      Its a massive collection, and the amount of content in the game is insane – but there will also be problems for something ambitious like this. Sure, most of these issues can be fixed via patch in the future, but the accumulation of these small, initial issues, just creates one big one.

      • G. Hammond (Astronut7)

        Wow. This was 2 years ago? Just stumbled across my own comment. I had no idea that anyone responded. You’re probably not going to see this, considering that your account has been inactive for 2 years, but whatever.

        I completely agree with the fact that 343 Industries released an incredibly buggy game. It was massively bugged, and that was evident at launch. Microsoft Studios, and practically every video game company today has an incredibly bad habit of releasing games which have features bugged to the point of unplayability–without notifying the buyer that the game is bugged before selling it.

        From my basic understanding of the law, the fact that Microsft has been doing this might actually be illegal, under “false advertisement,” and consumer/retail terms. No game company is permitted to release a game that advertises certain features, and then does not provide those features, under the law. The fact that it can be updated “afterwards” is irrelevant. The features must be available upon purchase of the game–and all bugs must be eliminated before the game is published.

        At the point in time I purchased the Master Chief Collection, I had insufficient internet connection speed and ping to actually use Online Multiplayer. In addition, countries aside from the USA typically do not have Unlimited Internet Capacity–I know people who have only got 10 Gigabytes available per month–or 1 Gigabyte if their phones are all they have (I’ve been in this situation between moves). The Day One update for the Master Chief Collection was 20 Gigabytes. In case you are wondering–I have lived in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Internet Usage Data Limits are commonplace worldwide. The Consumer in these locations is having to download the Updates–in order for the game they purchased to function–at their Own Expense.

        In short, I’m fairly confident that Microsoft Studios released a falsely advertised product. It took around a year for them to fix, and around 80 Gigabytes of Mandatory “Free” Updates for them to fix it–at the Consumer’s Expense. What probably should have occurred is that Microsoft Studios should have Recalled and Refunded their product (The Master Chief Collection), until such time that they had actually fixed the problems.

        Now, aside from these technical issues, where Microsoft Support failed to meet minimum standards for a product, and in so doing inadvertently released a falsely advertised product, what was the problem with the Master Chief Collection?

        From this review on TechGeek, the only thing that caused problems were the bugs–things that should have been fixed before the game was released. One of the major problems with the games released by the 343 Industries division of Microsoft Studios is that as soon as the internet connection suffers a hiccup, features present and playable OFFLINE in the Halo games made by Bungie Studios–because they are ON THE DISC, are DISABLED. Look at Halo 5, or Halo 4’s Spartan Ops–in Halo 5, the only thing playable offline is SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN. There is no valid reason for this. An Xbox Live Connection is required to access Xbox Live Online features. That does not give Microsoft Corporation the right to prohibit access to features advertised to be, and are in fact located ON THE DISC when offline. They sold a product, advertising that those features would be available. If they want the game, or any part of the game to be available only online, then they need to market the game as an MMORPG or an ONLINE EXCLUSIVE GAME.

        But once again, I’m grieving over technical problems where a company is successfully getting away with things they shouldn’t be getting away with. That has nothing to do with the content of the game itself.

        As for the actual game itself–the story, the setting, the characters, the events, the maps, the artwork, the music, the sound and visual design, the guns, the vehicles, the aliens, the enemy, the action…the map editor, theater mode (recording gameplay from Any Angle)–the fact that five campaigns (Halo CE, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 4, Halo 4 Spartan Ops, plus two Anniversary campaigns, as well as 100 multiplayer maps, with a map editor and theater mode were sold at a price of a single game ON DISC…what was the problem with that?

        The issue here is that this review is on “TechGeek.” Their main focus appears to be the Technical Problems of the game. If that is correct, then it is my opinion that they should have rated the Master Chief Collection a score of ZERO. I don’t think it met minimum standards under consumer law–or should have passed the Zero Bug Release board. However, as most of these issues did not become apparent until AFTER THE GAME WAS RELEASED, it is my opinion that pre-reviews of the game cannot be counted as actual reviews of the game. People look at Metacritic for review scores–apparently certain game companies get bonuses if they achieve a certain score on Metacritic. It is the responsibility of the professional reviewers and critics to never make a review of a game–and never provide a final review score–until they have thoroughly analyzed the sold and completed product.

        For some strange reason reviewers want to praise Framerate and Resolution, and condemn bugs. This has nothing to do with the GAME. It has to do with the technical limitations of THE XBOX ONE. I wish that people would Cease and Desist reviewing Framerate and Resolution when they have no idea what it means–Halo Combat Evolved for PC and Halo 2 Vista run perfectly well at 1080p60Hz, and Halo PC was released in 2003! Framerate and Resolution are limitations of the COMPUTER SYSTEM and the MONITOR DISPLAY.

        What people might want to be reviewing, as part of the GAME, is the PARTICLE and ENTITY framerate (separately), and whether the ARTISTIC DETAILS are making full use of the TEXTURE RESOLUTION.

        Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 ran natively at 30fps for vehicles, the player, and the AI, but ran natively at 60fps for particles and effects. The Xbox 360 could not fully display all details of the particles and effects–but can for the XBOX ONE. As for the artistic details–the Halo games up to Halo Reach made Full Use of the texture resolution available. For Halo 4 and 5, there are many areas in the games which have nasty blurred and jagged textures. In terms of whether or not efficient use was made of the available texture resolution, I have to say that Halo 4 and Halo 5 are SUP-PAR compared to previous Halo titles.

        In addition, the aim of the Halo games has always been to provide a complete experience–what is available in one part of the game (splitscreen, co-op, theater mode, map editing, weapons, vehicles, etc) is generally available in EVERY part of the game. What is available in Campaign is generally available in Firefight. What is available in Campaign and/or Firefight is generally available in Multiplayer. What is available in cutscenes is generally available in gameplay. Now, I’ve used the qualifier “generally” because whilst it is apparent that this is intended to be the case, this has not always happened with everything that Bungie Studios did–but for every Halo game that Bungie Studios made, they always used a SINGLE GAME ENGINE for the entire game.

        As for 343 industries; they’ve ignored this unwritten rule completely and provided a fragmented experience, requiring MULTIPLE game engines in Halo 4, Halo 5, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. That’s their business, but no matter how good it looks, when something is available in one component of the game, it is incredibly disappointing for the player (or at least, when I play the game) to find that it is unavailable to the player in another part of the game. For the most part, Bungie Studios avoided that. 343 industries on the other hand, keep CAUSING this issue to happen.

        Now, the funny thing is that my original comment was entirely accurate–either the review scored needed to be increased, or more problems needed to be found with the collection. Well, more problems WERE found with the collection, and many problems were fixed. TechGeek might want to re-review Halo: The MCC, considering all of the changes.