Halos Master Chief is one of the games industrys iconic characters, having pretty much single-handedly established Microsoft as a force to be reckoned with in the console world. And now 343 Industries which became keeper of the Halo flame after originator Bungie completed Halo 3 has given Master Chief perhaps the most lavish starring vehicle ever seen on a single game disk. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is the first game that you could describe as having been curated, since it teams all of the single- and multiplayer elements of all four Halo games lovingly remastered for the Xbox One with a cornucopia of extras, making it essentially the games equivalent of a DVD box-set.
If youre wont to bemoan the fact that modern games have annoyingly short single-player campaigns, then youre in for an almighty treat. The Master Chief Collection contains Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary, as seen on the Xbox 360 to mark the franchises ten-year anniversary, except further upscaled in graphical terms for the Xbox One. Halos 3 and 4 are included, and have also had their resolutions uprated to mark the jump to the Xbox One. But the centrepiece of the game is Halo 2: Anniversary, which has been specifically upscaled for The Master Chief Collection and, consequently, is glorious to behold, especially when you get to its cut-scenes. Both Anniversary versions let you revert to the original graphics at the touch of a button, which is likely to trigger either nostalgia or amusement, depending on whether you do so during general gameplay or a cut-scene.
One new, and brilliant, concept that 343 Industries has introduced is that of Playlists. Playlists group missions together according to themes all the boss-battles, say, or all the missions involving corridor-shooting. You can play through a number of those for each game, but the cross-game ones are particularly cool: they include things like all the Master Chiefs end-of-game escapes, or every single mission in the quadrilogy in which the Flood feature.
Then theres the multiplayer, which is equally comprehensive: all the multiplayer elements, with all the maps of all four Halo variants, have been shoehorned into The Master Chief Collection. This is pretty daunting to confront at first, although at least Halo has always stuck to a small number of multiplayer game-types. 343 Industries has introduced a handy feature which highlights particular multiplayer game experiences you might want to sample. Jumping into Halo multiplayer is like bumping into an old friend, but youll have to work hard to dig out your favourite modes and maps, or even decide which particular instalment you prefer to play online. No doubt the hardcore community will resolve such issues pretty quickly, and it is, at least, easy enough to generate custom online games.
Over and above all that, Halo: The Master Chief Collection includes a new undertaking which will delight true Halo geeks. Called Halo TV, its a video/online resource which fills in all sorts of previously unexplored back-story and Halo lore gaps. Plus you can actually access it from the game: explore and you will find terminals that hook you up to Halo TV and show, for example, videos related to the particular area and story youre traversing. Halo TV also gets you access to the forthcoming live-action TV series directed by Ridley Scott, Halo Nightfall. And to cap it all off, The Master Chief Collection will grant you access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta when it goes on-stream.
As you may have guessed, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a vast assemblage that will keep you occupied enthralled, even for months or maybe even years. Its beautifully executed: Halo 2: Anniversary, in particular, feels like a true labour of love. If the idea of living and breathing Halo once again appeals, you will absolutely love it.