Nearly four years since its release, we’ve finally decided to step back into Halo: The Master Chief Collection and give it the review we felt it finally deserves. With new patches, new events being added on a frequent basis, it’s now time to drop right back into the Halo universe. Here’s our official review for Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
+Buttery smooth 60fps at 1080p outside of split-screen play
+Online connectivity has vastly been improved since the initial launch
+3 base campaigns to experience with Halo 3: ODST as an optional DLC for $4.99
+Controller options have been, for the most part, standardized across all four games
+Ongoing support and updates from 343 Industries
-Some NPCs will still delay or not attack at all, simply freezing in place
Back in 2014, I was asked one simple question by a few fellow gamers that I never answered with a yes or no. It was a simple “we would see” that eventually got put on indefinite hold. For five years, I’d sat quietly, begrudgingly staring down my Xbox One I’d bought nearly at launch, holding a sense of contempt for the state that Halo: The Master Chief Collection was actually in.
It was a series that I’d come to love over the course of nearly 13 years, now 18 later. I’d spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours diving into the beautifully and intricately designed maps, blasting my way through countless waves of Covenant forces. I did not even hesitate the moment my friends announced they wanted to hunt down hidden skulls, play the game on legendary, and even take our battles to online multiplayer competitive play.
But now, things were different five years ago. Halo: The Master Chief Collection was out the door, it was broken, barely playable in its initial state. Even with a few updates, things didn’t seem to be getting any better. The multiplayer barely worked for cooperative and competitive play. There were workarounds that fans had discovered that only helped temporarily alleviate the stress they were already beginning to experience.
For some, it was a hype that was a flavor-of-the-week type of deal. Many would already begin to usher their way out the doors to return back to the previous releases, holding their Xbox 360’s closer than ever before. In short, Halo: The Master Chief Collection launched in complete disarray. It was broken, unplayable, and there were times I’d uninstall it out of pure contempt.
But then something magical happened in late 2018. Microsoft and 343 Industries would release a massive, and by massive, a 20+ GB patch for the game out of nowhere, promising to fix the problems they’d created and ensuring fans could get a game that works, that plays, but also adding in features their fans had requested for quite some time. Now, here we are, a patch later out of the roadmap and things are magically working once again. Luckily for us, Microsoft has given us the chance to review the anthology and now, let’s do just that.
The Master Chief Collection works, but it took time
When you first go into experience Halo: The Master Chief Collection, you have to remember that this isn’t just a single game. It’s a compilation of titles including remasters, bug fixes, and even additional content including Xbox One X Enhancements. Titles like Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 2 Anniversary, you have to remember these versions feature upgraded graphics, framerates, and performance fixes all-the-while featuring DLC content from their previous releases.
The stories remain unchanged, only featuring their graphical and framerate improvements for all the titles involved including Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and even Halo 4 with murmurings of Halo: Reach to be added later on due to popular request. In many ways, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a great entry point for those looking to get into the series and it is one that we should all be excited to play due to some of the major bugs having been finally squashed.
Unfortunately, for some, the anthology is one that is ultimately marred by its bug-ridden past that left it almost completely unplayable to most. But as any, I tried to look past this when I prepared my initial review back in 2014 only to have scrapped it over the course of the past two months while hiding out on a non-public profile so I could hide away from those curious to my Halo-filled endeavors. Just like everyone else, a good portion of my time was spent with Halo 2 Anniversary and its delightful offerings it held within its story and online experiences.
The biggest changes are graphics and performance across the board
One of the biggest and most noteworthy of the changes made is performance and graphics in Halo 2 Anniversary. After all, it’s the main player in this review and it’s one that we’re going to be focusing on the most outside of multiplayer due to the massive fixes that have been implemented as of recent.
Just like 2011’s Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary is one that runs much the same. You’ll have a chance to experience the game in both the original 2004 graphics engine, but also the latest coat of paint with the 2014 graphical update, which gave the game a fresh coat of paint, some new lighting effects, and even a few bug fixes under the hood (we all know this was needed, who wanted to see enemies appearing out of nowhere and some just.. Not at all?).
Sadly, a few times, some of the old bugs did crop back up, causing the occasionally frozen enemies to once again appear, minor frame rate drops, and slightly-longer than expected load times for this single title. However, this isn’t the case with others and it could be due to the fact the game, again, is running two graphical engines in a single setting. The best part of it all is the fact the game itself didn’t just get an overhaul during the player-controlled moments. The cutscenes did as well, putting them on par with Halo 4.
Even then, there were moments when I gritted my teeth as I wasn’t exactly impressed with how some of the campaigns moments were a bit darker than before. Setting the tone for both the Flood to appear, making it, at times, a bit harder to see than before. While the tonal changes were quite possibly necessary, it wasn’t one that seemed to have been needed as we already had a great sense of ‘shock and awe’ from before. But who can really be mad when you’re getting to experience the game at almost a solid 60fps at 1080p? Not me.
Audio has been improved and Halo 2’s soundtrack got a worthwhile remastering
One of the biggest things here is the massive improvement in audio quality. Most notably, again, with Halo 2 Anniversary, which saw its soundtrack get completely overhauled, making it feel as upgraded as one would hope. You even get a few subtle upgrades for sound effects as well. Namely the fact you can now hear John-117’s boots hitting the floor as he walks, every weapon sound seeming a bit more modernized to that of Halo 4‘s. The sounds honestly are a welcome change, replaced with heavier, meatier sounds than ever before.
Sadly, I still don’t care for the changes to Covenant weapons. The attempt to make them seem distinctly alien from the rest wasn’t necessary as it was already well done in both Halo Reach and Halo 4. Now, I’ve got to deal with something that seems similar to that of a futuristic car from Blade Runner or The Jetson’s when a plasma pistol fires or a crystalline hum emitting from stone with the slash of an Energy Sword. The visuals, however, are beautiful for the Covenant armory and stand out quite impeccably than before.
Even these changes, however, help make Halo 2 Anniversary stand out from its peers whether or not we enjoy it how it is now.
All four games have been enhanced at their core during the original release and the latest update
Since the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, 343 Industries have been hard at work improving many of the previously released titles, but even the addition of Halo 3: ODST. Even now, the game is still getting some major overhauls and added features. Just this past week, 343 Industry had also announced their latest update has a host of brand new features we have yet to really dive on into this past week, but it’s a very unique approach that they are doing with live challenge events for the community, and even
Surprisingly enough, the framerate instability has been heavily improved upon, allowing the game to run at a solid 60fps, rarely falling below that targeted point. That improvement alone allows for faster pacing, quicker combat scenarios that truly bring the Halo experience to life. The newly established fluidity allows for an entirely new experience on a series we’d barely we’ve gotten to know over the years.
The best part of it all is the fact the framerates don’t really suffer all that much when playing in local split-screen co-op play or in online multiplayer modes. Just don’t expect it to be a steady 60fps as the game is having to process double the data for each of the users sharing the exact same console. Regardless though, it is still a lost art and one that makes Halo stand out among its peers.
Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST didn’t get the upgrade and were left hanging in the dark
Unlike Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 2 Anniversary, the latter two didn’t exactly get the treatment that you would have hoped they would have gotten. While Halo 3: ODST wasn’t an initial launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, it did get included within the set post-launch and much like Halo 3 it didn’t exactly get the fresh coat of paint you would have wanted.
Out of the three that the anthology was released with, Halo 4 does look impeccable with its higher framerate and resolution boosts. These small improvements do give it a sleek new take on how a game should have been, putting it at the forefront as one of the franchises strongest entries next to Halo: Reach. Still, the emotional responses are still triggered for fans both new and old. It’s surprising how well delivered those classic titles actually are.
Multiplayer functionality has been heavily improved upon in recent days
One of the most problematic features with this trilogy turned anthology was its multiplayer component, the very reason I’d been hesitant in giving this series a chance for review. In my initial write-up, I’d found myself cringing due to extended matchmaking queue times, being placed into the wrong map and mode that I’d not queued or even voted for, crashes, freezes, my parties being split onto separate teams or even put into completely different games.
I’d even seen problems such as custom-game oddities that involved one team having far more players than the other and even rule-settings not adding up. However, those problems are now long gone thanks to the Nov. 2018 update which set out to fix some of the games biggest problems.
Many of the problems I ran into have been completely removed from the game, making it the title I should have had when the game initially launched and a worthwhile title for Xbox One and Halo fans. No longer do you need to jump in and out of parties to ensure you connect to a lobby or work around the insanely long matchmaking times. They’ve been fixed and because of that, my queue times have averaged no more than twenty-to-thirty seconds tops.
There’s little to no delay and surprisingly enough, it seems that maybe, just maybe this game should have been delayed instead of released when it was, but regardless, bugs will happen whether they are game breaking or not. Even after digging through the 100+ maps to choose from whether it’s from Halo 4 and its Spartan Ops missions or Halo 3: ODST and Firefight its firefight modes. I’ve been busy and I’ve had an extraordinary amount of fun I wish I could have had five years ago.
The real king of the ring is Halo 2 Anniversary
Among the many games here, there’s always the one that stands out among the rest and that one just happens to be Halo 2 Anniversary. It’s a game that pays tribute to returning fans seeking to once more rekindle their love for nostalgia. Whether it’s in the campaign or not, Halo 2 is packed to the brim with incredible multiplayer maps and story moments for fans to enjoy.
Who doesn’t remember running around Blood Gulch popping heads with a sniper or running through maps like Midship and bashing a few heads in with an Energy Sword before getting a Kilimanjaro? Halo 2 Anniversary packs all 25 maps from its Xbox days and even today all of them stand out as they should. Even old modes such as Fiesta stand out among the rest, but as do the old customization options that are hidden within the custom match rules.
Even the Anniversary maps themselves feel right at home with the original maps they were designed to compliment. They recreate the feeling the originals did when Halo 2 first launched in 2004. These maps even have their very own playlist that one can access when online via Xbox Live.
Controls have – mostly – been streamlined
One of the biggest problems you get from multi-generational releases is the controller schemes. In classic Halo and Halo 2, you wouldn’t have been able to use the Xbox controller as you do now. We don’t have the black and white bottom right buttons anymore. Instead, they’ve been swapped out for left and right bumpers, making the controllers feel a bit more streamlined in recent days.
While they have worked hard to fix this problem, it does exist and it’s one that mostly carries over from titles like Halo 4 that have been modernized in many ways to add a sprint and easier-to-access melee feature. Luckily, there are ways to fix this thanks to controller settings that allow you to select just how you want your controls to be across each of the four titles
Even with this streamlining and ways to select a modern controller setting, there is still a lot to take in, a lot of things to be adjusted, and wishful thinking for completely customizable Spartan’s like in their previous launches and even in Halo 5.
But now, now we have the idea that that is also in the works, but it may be quite some time before it actually happens. However, that’s a story for another time.
When said and done, Halo: The Master Chief does just as it promises. It manages to stuff the contents of four very distinct and beloved Halo titles into one single bundle. Spruce that up with some of the past 15 years’ best coop action and this anthology stands out as one of the best to do what it has accomplished. Thanks to quite a few needed updates, some minor overhauls, and a complete rework of the matchmaking system; Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a must-have for Xbox and Halo fans.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Platforms: Xbox One
Version Reviewed: Xbox One
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: Available Now
With a constant flow of patches in the works and new ones currently in development and rumors of Halo: Reach getting added into the mix, we can only hope that this collection keeps getting the love it’s needed, and the love that 343 Industries has been giving it over the course of the past few months.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.