With MasterChief by your side, how can you go wrong? Almost 15 years on and still Halo manages to be one of the most immersive and captivating gaming franchises on the market. The scope and story are only outdone by the sheer competitiveness of its twitch-based multiplayer modes. Therefore, it was inevitable that, as gaming consoles evolved the creators of the Halo games had to follow suit. Thus, in November 2014, gamers were gifted The MasterChief Collection, a compilation of all the main Halo titles in one package.
I was a latecomer to the Halo franchise. The first instalment I played was Halo 3 when it was given out as a free game on the Xbox 360 a few years ago – I didn’t think too much of it, let’s just put that out there. The plot went right over my head, obviously having missed a few games prior, and the multiplayer was a bit of a mess. That said, Halo 3 was an old game at that point.
With some peer pressure from a couple of nagging mates, I took The MasterChief Collection as an opportunity to experience what all the fuss was about with the Halo franchise, whilst taking advantage of some highly enjoyable co-operative play.
Despite respectable review scores in its opening weeks, The MasterChief Collection was absolute garbage. Multiplayer servers and subsequent connections were a mess and attempting to play a few campaign missions with friends was a big no-no. It was only a month or two after its release that a friend and I were actually able to start playing through Halo: Combat Evolved with some respectable connections.
Nevertheless, Halo: CE was a great first step into the series. The first instalment had a few missing mechanics that developers simply wouldn’t get away with today. The realisation that the auto-rifle had a fixed aim (a current game design choice), and the inability for MasterChief to sprint, had me scratching my head.
Far be it from me to criticise the story of Halo but, even as early as Halo: CE, time after time the plot simply eluded me. Whether it was the terrible score, or the painful drawn-out missions, all I clung onto was the fact that the Covenant are the bad guys and the Flood are a bunch of annoying deformed aliens. Switching from the game’s original and HD graphics to see how far Halo had actually come was undeniably appealing, though.
Halo 2 provided the most exhaustive co-operative experience in The MasterChief Collection. It proved that, even months down the track from its 2014 release, there was still work to be done on the games. Before the implementation of some major patches in February 2015, The MasterChief Collection was still plagued by server problems and in-game glitches. It was more challenging to complete, that’s for sure. My co-op buddy and I are far from proficient Halo players, but the amount of restarts from dying (mostly on my part) was proof that it was indeed a step up in difficulty from Combat Evolved.
343 Industries put a lot of work into overhauling most of the facets in Halo 2, which was prevalent in the quality of those high-definition, life-like cinematics. A beefed-up soundtrack with accompanying sound effects really added to the game’s immersion. But battling through the game in the midst of so many technical issues undoubtedly watered-down the plot’s coherence.
Players were given a gift though, when Halo 3: ODST was added to the MCC pack as a free download. Two mates and I took this as an opportunity to tackle both Halo 3 and this new addition. By all accounts, it was great fun.
In my opinion, the story of Halo 3:ODST shone through the brightest out of all other titles in The MasterChief Collection. The graphics were good, the music was good and the voice-acting was above-par for what I was expecting. The impressive open world between chapters was not only a great change-up from the franchise but it gave players time to breathe and explore a setting outside of fixed story missions. Furthermore, the missions in question didn’t feel as drawn-out as previous instalments, maintaining player focus on not only the action but the story, too (having a few buddies along no doubt helped, as well).
ODST was also a great lead-up to Halo 3, of which I have a slightly better understanding now. Halo 3’s re-introduction of spawning in the campaign was also welcomed, as players simply needed to wait on an ally to get to a safe position to spawn – instead of the “one person dies everyone restart” approach of Halo 2.
Even though this franchise doesn’t grab me, I can appreciate why it’s so popular. I can be easily engrossed by a similar space exploration game like Mass Effect, with hectic shooter action and tense alien encounters, but something like Halo just doesn’t seem to hook me in. I don’t get it.
Yes, I’m still working my way through The MasterChief Collection. Despite the raft of online content available, it seems something as simple as 4-player support for the Halo 4 campaign is something 343 Industries is still working towards. Progress is slow but this is the full package I’m talking about here. For all its immediate and existing flaws, this it isn’t the type disc you simply trade-in; it’s a keeper.
I decided to play Halo for a chance to better understand its plot and characters. I feel as though I haven’t really succeeded, even if having another game with co-operative play was a large part of that reason, too. I have barely dipped my toe into the multiplayer, where an abundance of twitch-based modes await my somewhat co-ordinated attempts at victory.
A year on, I think The MasterChief Collection can be labelled as a success – a year ago, I would’ve said “no”. It’s brought tales from an iconic franchise into one game, with potentially thousands of hours of content – with playlists and Spartan Ops great distractions. I doubt I’m the only one that feels confused as to these tales of MasterChief, despite its revolutionary effect on the industry, but I’ll be watching closely to see if 343’s latest offering, Halo 5: Guardians, can put my mind at ease or raise more questions than answers about the franchise’s future.