Asking someone to pick their favorite Halo title is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. It’s such a hard thing to do because each has its own unique identity that you love and cherish. Luckily with Halo: The Master Chief Collection you don’t have to pick. You can have them all. In any order you want. And then some. I’m here to tell you that this landmark in fan service is not just a Halo fans dream come true, it is arguably one of the best and most feature packed compilations I have seen in a video game.
In Halo: The Master Chief Collection, you’ll find the four titles in the series that feature Xbox’s famed United Nations Space Command Spartan, Master Chief. The titles included are Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and the latest in the franchise Halo 4. Titles that don’t prominently feature the Chief such as Halo Wars, Halo: ODST, and Halo Reach are no where to be found, but again, it’s not really the point of this collection. This is the Chief’s story thus far and serves as a way to set things up for folks who are looking to catch up (or re-play) much of the Halo series before the release of Halo 5: Guardians.
With this collection, the team at 343 Industries pretty much created the Netflix of Halo for lack of a better term. What I mean is that they’ve made the four titles into an immediately accessible a la carte experience. You can pick up the collection and play any chapter of any game in any order that you want. Previously, games in the series would allow you to select chapters once they’ve been completed. But not here.
Here choice is left up to the player to enjoy the series in the way he or she wants to take it all in. To spice things up by adding to the whole “playing your own way” part of it, the game also includes “Playlists.” These organized bits of gaming includes levels from across all four titles and groups them together to compile a sort of like “best of” collection. Want to play all of the “tank” levels from the four games back to back? Sure, there’s a list for that. Want to re-play the epic large scale battles from the game’s campaigns? There’s a list for that. Or maybe you just want to play all of the finales from the games? I think you get the point.
As far as the actual games are concerned, all titles in the series receive welcomed support for 1080p resolution and 60 FPS. For Halo: Combat Evolved (Halo:CE), the collection includes the anniversary edition from 2011. And with that we get the upgraded visuals from its most recent re-release as well as the added improvement to resolution and framerate.
For Halo 3 and Halo 4, since they were generally modern games already, both add little from their original releases. But just like Halo: CE Anniversary, the bump in frame rate and resolution really helps both titles look better than anything that appeared on the Xbox 360 and just slightly below what you would expect to see from a title developed for Xbox One. Both games definitely appear like cross generational titles. And in case you didn’t read our review two years ago, Halo 4 was a pretty damn good video game.
As you can see, I left a title out and that’s Halo 2, which is clearly the star of the show in this collection. I’m not sure if it’s because it finally received the fresh coat of paint and attention given to Halo: CE Anniversary. Or if it’s because of what this game meant for Halo and the Xbox brand in general, but it’s something special to see this game shine 10 years after its original release. Like Halo: CE, in Halo 2 you will also have the ability to switch between classic graphics and audio and do so on the fly, just in case you’re feeling a little extra nostalgic.
I will note that at certain parts of the Halo 2’s campaign, specifically where there were a lot of enemies on screed (like during the “Gravemind” chapter) the frame rate briefly came down to what felt like single digits. But whether or not that’s something that can be addressed in a software update remains to be seen. For the most part though, the game is buttery smooth.
If there were any real downsides to this collection, it would mostly be weighed on your own personal interest in the franchise as a whole. If Master Chief’s adventures wasn’t exactly your thing before, this isn’t going to be the one to make you a fan. Parts of the series do begin to show their age, especially when it comes to things like pacing in Halo: CE Anniversary (tiny changes aside, the god damn Library level still really, really sucks). Or the fact that Bungie loved using giant gondolas to travel from one place to another.
Then there’s Halo 2 and its introductions to new characters that it tries too hard to make players care about. The inclusion of these characters adds (arguably much needed) lore to the series but at the same time it has Master Chief take a back seat in this short, second entry of the franchise.
Fortunately though Halo is so much more than Master Chief’s story arc. Let’s talk about the other star of the show… multiplayer.