The Master Chief Collection sets a new standard when it comes to video game compilations and that’s a feat.
Halo has always been the reason to own an Xbox console, but it has also been a terrific first-person shooter with a rich science fiction universe, memorable single-player campaigns and engaging multiplayer modes. The Master Chief Collection compiles the main four games in the Halo franchise and does exactly what you want from it and more: it packs the main games in the series and adds some exciting new features, introducing the games to a new generation of players with few compromises.
Let’s quickly talk about each game briefly. Halo: Combat Evolved is the first-person shooter that introduced us to Master Chief, a commando who’s joined by artificial intelligence Cortana as they explore the ring-like world known as Halo, a place with both religions and military significance. In this brave new world, Master Chief and Cortana find alien races that want to use Halo to rule the universe and it’s your job to use your arsenal of weapons and vehicles to try to stop the aliens known as Covenant.
The version of the game that’s included in the collection is Halo Anniversary that came out on the Xbox 360 in 2011 and brought some exciting changes, including remixed audio, new cutscenes, achievements and the possibility of alternating between the original and new graphics engines. If you’re going to play Halo, Anniversary Edition is the best option not only because it looks and sounds outstanding, but also because it comes with the original Halo: Combat Evolved and that’s and amazing extra to have at the touch of a button. To achieve this seamless transition, developers 343 Industries and Saber Interactive had to figure out a way to run both engines at the same time and this is impressive to behold.
In case you were wondering, the library level is still bad. Not as bad as most reviewers or people on message boards led you to believe, but this is a tedious level where all the environments look the same and you shoot at the same enemies again and again. The reason why it stands out so much is because the rest of Halo feels varied in entertaining in comparison.
Halo 2 has two different campaigns: one where you play as Master Chief and one where you play as the Arbiter. Set right after the events of the first game where Master Chief destroyed the mysterious structure known as Halo before the Covenant could use it as a weapon, Master Chief is welcomed by his fellow soldiers and superiors as a hero. The Arbiter, on the other hand, having failed the mission to stop the superhuman soldier, is treated as a traitor and heretic. The Arbiter is therefore set on a suicide mission to assassinate a political leader who blamed the government for the destruction of Halo. Halo 2 goes in some new directions and the only flaw I can think of is its abrupt ending (more on this later.)
The campaign structure isn’t Halo 2’s only innovation. For starters, there are new vehicles, weapons and multiplayer maps. The health bar is no longer visible and the only visible marker is your regenerating shield which makes the screen less bloated. Also, some weapons can be dual wielded which allows you to make more damage by momentarily giving up melee attacks and the use of grenades.
Frankly, the only problem I can think of when it comes to the single-player campaign is the abrupt ending. Notoriously, most Halo games end in some form of cliffhanger that is addressed in an upcoming title, but they at least offer some sort of cathartic resolution by the end. Halo 2 has none of that: you’re playing the campaign and then suddenly, the story comes to a complete halt. This was insulting back in 2003, but at least this time, you can start playing Halo 3 right away this time around.
What’s also new is that this version of Halo 2 also received the same treatment as Halo Anniversary which means that you can switch between two graphics engines, the cinematics have received a complete overhaul and the soundtrack has been remixed All these changes make this the definitive version of Halo 2 and let me tell you, it’s a stunning-looking game.
In Halo 3, you finally get to finish the fight. In the game, the Covenant have invaded planet earth and it’s your duty to prevent the alien race from taking over your planet. On top of that, you get separated from Cortana and the only interaction you have with her take s place in the form of short dreamlike visions. Halo 3 benefited from the Xbox 360s power and it shows to this day, since there are large environments with lots of details, the scale of some of the battles is impressive to say the least and some of the missions that involve vehicles are unforgettable. Since it’s relatively new though, Halo 3 doesn’t get the Anniversary treatment nor does it benefit from having a current graphic engine like Halo 4 , but this is arguably the best game in the collection.
And to round up the collection, we have Halo 4. Set four years after the events of Halo 3, the fourth iteration puts us, once again, in the shoes of Master Chief and this time around, he needs to face a new race of mechanized creatures that are helping the Covenant. As if this wasn’t enough Cortana is going rampant (which means that her health is deteriorating) and you need to track down her creator so that the AI can be herself again.
Halo 4 came out almost at the end of the Xbox 360s life-cycle and it shows: the game looks great, especially when you compare it to Halo 3. Innovations come in the form of a campaign that, for the first time in the series, explores the relationship between aster Chief and Cortana, but there are also new vehicles, weapons, enemies and abilities you can use in the battlefield.
Those are the main features of the single-player campaigns, but then there’s the multiplayer. I’ve never been a fan of this part of the game to be honest. To me, the most fun you can have with Halo comes with the single-player campaigns (which, by the way, you can play cooperatively locally or online with another player,) but if you’re into the multiplayer, The Master Chief Collection features every single multiplayer map you can think of.
To conclude, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is one the best compilations on the market right now. Not only does it include the four main games in the Halo series (as well as Halo 3 ODST as downloadable content,) but there are enough new features that make some of the older games worth revisiting. And for those who like to play cooperatively with a friend or compete with other people, have a virtually endless game that will give you dozens if not hundreds of hours of entertainment.