Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2018) – Impressions

It’s only a couple of months short of four years since Microsoft and 343 Industries released their ultimate Halo compendium with Halo: The Master Chief Collection (MCC) which despite being one of the biggest and best value titles to own on Xbox One also shot itself in the foot with a multiplayer experience that many considered to be broken at best. A product that was intended to help keep an active fanbase happy for the long term may have done the opposite.

However, with the arrival of the Xbox One X it seems that developers have given incentive to go back to their old titles and spruce them up to support the new hardware’s 4K capabilities. Not only did 343i update Halo 5: Guardians but they also announced their plans to bring MCC to a similar level of quality and they weren’t going to do it by halves either judging by the release notes from last month. So what we have here feels close to a total rethink of how the game should have been made and it’s close to being an entirely new product. There’s even an extra bit of TLC with support for 4K and HDR too.

It’s a joy to see Halo CE looking this clean and still running beautifully.

Having spent some time in testing as part of an “Insiders” program, many people got to see the changes to MCC starting with the rebuilt multiplayer and later moving over to the rest of the title. MP was what killed it originally so it was key that they got it right this time and it appears they really did it. The interface is a consistent experience and the game runs incredibly smoothly. It can be confronting at first to play classic Halo CE maps and put them up against the far more detailed Halo 4 equivalents but you’re getting exactly what you expect and they all look the best they will ever be and play brilliantly. In the case of Halo 4, they could pass for maps in an Xbox One game they look so good.

One area where the original launch game didn’t fail to deliver on was with the campaigns. We not only got the anniversary edition of Halo CE (from the Xbox 360) but also a new anniversary edition of Halo 2 with both games being able to switch between their original and enhanced versions. Filling out the other half of the roster we have Halo 3 and Halo 4 and also Halo 3: ODST available separately as DLC. Halo 3 was also available on backward compatibility but a recent update to it included Xbox One X enhancements and it would be remiss of MCC to not have the same improvements too. So now ALL the campaigns are benefiting from 4K/HDR enhancements and it really is an impressive upgrade that does a lot to keep these games fresh. You might assume its just be the later games that benefit from the boost but even Halo CE looks better for it.

The menu UI was also given a clean up and is greatly simplified over the original version. The experience is now clearly geared towards helping players get to where they want to be fast and that is also obvious in the boost that’s been made to load times. Whatever black magic they performed in the loading side it’s pretty impressive as it feels like the levels are now loading two to three times faster that before and it is a massive difference. It really makes the game an easy choice to pick up and play if you have a few minutes to spare and want to dive in quickly.

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At the start of this post I did “close” when describing the new MCC as being what the game should have always been – there are still some legacy aspects that I wished could have been done away with such as streaming videos through the Halo Channel but that’s mostly minor. Some of those videos require the player to find hidden terminals which means not everyone is going to watch them. Still… would be nice to have the luxury of storing those on your console and avoid the streaming option as the quality isn’t always as good as it could be.

It would have been great to see more of the historical side presented in MCC like a Namco Museum or even Rare Replay. There’s been a lot of videos over the years (such as Bungie’s viDocs) that covered development and the series evolution and having those and newer documentaries easily accessible could do a lot to educate new fans on the importance of the franchise to Xbox. It’s a minor thing but a potential lost opportunity too.

If you were to compare it to a house the time and resources spent by 343i on renovating Halo: The Master Chief Collection be excessive considering it’s age and condition but it’s hard not to deny that the end result is something special. With it now appearing on Game Pass there is little reason that no Xbox One owner should be without this title as part of their collection. It provides a monumental amount of campaign and multiplayer content that gives players the best of both worlds.

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