It’s been 13 years since Halo: Combat Evolved came out for the original Xbox and with it came a campaign that told us an intriguing story full of action, fierce enemies, captivating music, and thrilling moments. With Halo 2 being taking the lead role in this re-release the question is, “how does it compare now?” and the answer is: It’s better than ever.
Right from the start screen you can see the time and dedication that has been put into bringing each one of the Halo games into the current generation. The introductory male chorus brings back memories of system-link LAN’s and many a replay through each campaign difficulty. The universal menu brings together each game into its own experience and are intuitive in design, displaying your progress through the four game epic. You are able to jump into any level from any game right from the get go to experience each game in stunning 1080p 60fps.
If you feel like you should let the developers hold your hand and direct you where to go, there is a newly introduced playlist option which allows you to select from a variety of mission types to get a catered experience. It’s a clever touch to have as people may not want to start with the first game and run through start to climatic finish. Whether you only want vehicle missions or only want to duke it out against the Flood, there is something there for you.
As you play through the campaign, you can toggle between the remastered and classic visual modes with the flick of a switch. The visual comparison is striking, especially in outdoor areas where the overhauled land, sea, and sky textures are enriched by vibrant details. It shows that 343 Industries has done a fine job of adapting the original game for modern audiences. This is not just a lazy HD upscale for a quick buck; the teams involved have taken great care to update the experience for everyone.
The advertised 60fps will stay solid for most of the time you will be playing Halo, but while it doesn’t necessarily cripple the game there are still a fair few dips when it comes to framerate, especially if you decide to co-op split-screen with a friend. But thanks to updated technology, you can have a much better experience playing locally now that the resolution has been bumped up to 1080p.
Above all, with the anniversary treatment also being applied to Halo 2, the quality in the remastered cutscenes is what really blows me away. Each one has been painstakingly re-crafted, and boy does each cutscene look amazing. Entire characters seem to be remodeled in these scenes and the resemblance is almost lifelike in comparison to their 10 year old counterparts. This is a feature that makes me want a movie-length film created for the Halo universe.
Unfortunately the level design is from a 10 year old game (or more if you are playing Halo: CE) and it really shows when you are being lead down repetitious corridors. To add to this the game has inconsistent checkpoints for you to navigate your way through, and while I played this through many times on release I still found myself getting lost. The vehicles also handle like they did 10 years ago (i.e not well) with an honourable mention to the lovable Warthog that slides and flips at the slightest change in direction.
What the Master Chief Collection does however is it allows you to see how the game has evolved over the course of its releases. As new technology was released the developers made improvements to each individual element for the better. Guns are tweaked, levels are redesigned and vehicles are reworked with no waiting around for the next release to see what happens next in the story because it’s right there for you. It’s just one, free flowing story with no interruptions and even some enhancements along the way.
With the addition of the Halo Channel, 343 Industries has allowed more avenues in which they are able to share content with fans of the series. Terminals have been placed around the individual games that, when activated, direct you to watch some extra content. These terminals will play snippets of video explaining extra story details. The stories shown will give you more context to the events that have happened between the games or in different locations, revealing other Spartans and their stories. It’s really awesome to see because the animation is great and for a Halo fan they can learn more about the universe they already enjoy so much.
Multiplayer has been what has made Halo successful over the years and it’s every bit of a celebration as the single-player campaigns. Similar to the campaigns, everything has been upgrading and with well over 100 maps to choose from across the four games, it may confuse even the most dedicated Halo fan. The amount of content that has been put in and reworked is astounding, and I can see myself playing through multiple games of slayer without experiencing the same map twice. With Halo 2 being the centerpiece of the event, some of the most popular maps have been remastered and renamed so they are included in the current roster. This allows players to experience the nostalgia they have for Ascension and then heading over to the newly named “Zenith” to experience a new, lovingly crafted map.
Now getting to actually play on these maps has been a difficult experience. Custom games take multiple invites, game restarts and even console restarts to finally get into together in a match. This may be because I was playing the game pre-release but when it takes longer to get into a session than it does actually playing, it can become an issue.
With that being said, upon joining into the session I was lead to a slew of customisation options for game, maps, weapons and more. Seeing old favourites and new modes to try was a fun experience and brought back a lot of nostalgia.
Gameplay is fluid and even though people some of the matches were 6 v 4 we were still able to have a mildly enjoyable experience. The new maps have been updated (mostly graphically) and tweaked to have some additional features. Old lockout (now dubbed Lockdown) has been revamped and has had some added stalactites above the map that can be shot to kill people and it’s really satisfying to hit someone with them.
The problem is that it has been so long after this games release and it still has not been fixed 100% by the developers. I’m guessing resources have been shifted to Halo 5 Guardians but it’s really not good enough for fans of the previous games who bought it expecting the full experience. If it wasn’t for the upgrade to the single player I would have probably never picked this game up again.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection was on track to pass its “ode to the fans” test with amazing results in the single player department. Other than a few performance glitches here and there, it is a wonderful experience and brings back many memories of late nights and long gaming sessions. These four games bundled together live up to their legendary reputations and surpass previous expectations in regard to Halo 2. This collection is severely brought down by its multiplayer aspect because it has really fallen on it’s face when it came to even basic features. For a product that was meant to sell Xbox One consoles I don’t think it’s done the best job.
Rating: 6.5/10 (10/10 Singleplayer, 3/10 Multiplayer)