Playing through The Master Chief Collection and there’s a feeling that 343 Industries may have bitten off more than they can chew. Four lengthy games, one of which is remastered, and multiple multiplayer iterations make this a hefty package. One that still has the brilliance of the Halo series at its core, but also contains a number of major issues that cannot be overlooked.
Most notably, matchmaking. At the time of writing (around five days after release) the matchmaking is still broken, making it near impossible to get a game. 343 being forced to cut some of the playlists in the hope of making it work, only this appears to have done absolutely nothing. There’s a chance by the time this review goes online that it has been fixed, however, this still does not excuse the fact a major selling point was broken. Gaming appears to be stuck in a ship now, patch later mentality that quite simply has to stop. See also: DriveClub and Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
So with multiplayer out of the window we delve straight into the single player campaigns. Chronicling the Master Chief’s war with The Convenant, it’s nice being able to play through his story in its entirety thus far. And is a perfect way for newcomers to get to grips with the story before Guardians release. Even if it does go off the rails a little with Halo 4.
It’s quite clear that Halo 2 is the darling of this collection. Newly remastered graphics, audio and phenomenal looking cut scenes are all present. And despite being the weakest of the campaigns, we just wanted to play it so we could see just how lovely it all looks. And being able to toggle between old and new graphics makes you realise how much effort has gone into recreating it. Not just the graphics, but the soundtrack is just so much more vibrant and energetic than it was in the original.
It’s understandable why 343 didn’t just choose to release Halo 2 on its own. It still has excellent combat, with some great new additions, but as was the issue when the game was first released, you never quite felt like Earth was under attack (with the exception of the impressive space battle at the beginning). The Earth levels seem incredibly barren, which is probably a restriction of the original Xbox hardware in fairness. So throwing it in with better single player games may have been a wise choice. But a more challenging one.
There are a number of bugs we encountered; most frequent appears to be issues with the audio. During the Silent Cartographer level one piece of music would play, abruptly stop, then start again. Reducing what should’ve been a heart pounding moment into an audio hell. Then as we first encountered everyone’s favourite villainous organism The Flood, our weapons audio cut out completely. Going one better was Halo 2 where all the audio stopped. The only way to fix it was to go to the Xbox Home menu and back again.
One specific bug that is most likely to drive people insane are checkpoints not saving. This has only been seen with Halo 2 thus far. Save the game midway through a level and you’d better cross your fingers, because half the time you may find yourself back at the start of the level. Something that will no doubt anger people attempting a Legendary playthrough. It’s something that seems so basic it’s amazing it passed through testing.
It’s such a shame that all these issues have made it through, because it’s still Halo, a fantastic series. Making your way through the open expanse of Assault on the Control Room, attacking the Scarab, being able to actually run in Halo 4! All great moments in a series made up of great moments. And in the ten years since Halo 2’s releases, combat has rarely been bettered. A good array of weapons and vehicles made every combat scenario different. You could be strategic, find a sniper and pick off the stronger enemies before mopping up the rest. Or just dual wield two SMG’s and go in all guns blazing. When everything is going smoothly, it’s superb.
The Master Chief Collection should’ve been a celebration of all things Halo. It may have that fantastic, core gameplay that made the series much loved, but shipping in such a buggy state is inexcusable. If you’re still on the fence about getting the game, then maybe wait till it’s actually fixed.