Game Over: Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Often when I write one of these I'll have played through the campaign and completed it. For those who don't know, Halo: The Master Chief Collection has multiple campaigns. If you’re thinking that I’ve played a lot of Halo recently, then you are entirely correct. The collection contains six games:
- Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
- Halo 2 Anniversary
- Halo 3
- Halo 4
- Halo: Reach
- Halo 3: ODST
Until I got around to Halo 3, I had incorrectly remembered that I’d only played the first two games on the Xbox. It turned out that I had, in fact, played Halo 3 and then just never bothered to play the others. In all honesty, I thought that Reach and ODST were strategy games, not first-person shooters — I haven’t paid a lot of attention to Halo in well over a decade.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection follows the adventures of Master Chief (and a variety of secondary and ancillary characters), after the ship he’s on escapes enemy forces and stumbles across a structure floating in space that is so big it has its own atmosphere and climate. It’s the titular Halo, a world spread across the surface of a ring. The rest of the games take you across multiple planets, Halos and even to Earth! While you’re mainly fighting the alien alliance known as The Covenant, you’re also introduced to a few other enemies. However, you’re never getting the full picture.
As I played through each campaign, I was left with questions. Especially since I played Halo 5 right after this… Some gaps are filled in by finding hidden audio logs, but you need to find them all, and not be in a hurry to leave the immediate area, if you want to know everything. The first couple of games pause things and play a cutscene, but the others play the audio right there and then, whether you stay close enough to hear it or not. You never hear anything about Master Chief’s past, the AI Cortana is seemingly retconned into something it clearly wasn’t, the war with the Covenant just “is”... Hell, I still don’t know what this encompassing belief that joined the various alien races, or why they hate humanity!
All of my questions might be answered in Halo Infinite, but I’m betting that I also need to watch Halo: Nightfall and rewatch Halo Legends, read the 11 comic series, and check out the 34 novels (31 of which are also available on audiobook). Sure, I should probably also play Halo Wars & Halo Wars 2, too…
More gripes I have is how most of the games lack a lot of subtitles (which are pure white and unreadable on light backgrounds), and you can’t adjust the audio volume. It’s one thing to be inaccessible to deaf people, but I’m not deaf and had to keep turning the TV down because of the blaring music. Sure, most of the music is great (except for Peril in Halo 2 which sounds like it’s from a PG-rated kids movie), but don’t blow out my speakers…
I was surprised at how differently each of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection titles felt as I played through them. I tried to play them in release order to get an authentic experience, but the game lets you go through set playlists. You can play every mission from every game, the first four Master Chief missions, missions featuring tanks and planes… Or just play each one in whichever order you feel like. ODST and Reach were separate downloads, so entirely optional.
Playing them in release order allowed me to see how the graphics improved (ignoring Halo 3 which wasn’t given an “anniversary” makeover), and most importantly how vehicle physics changed. The finale of Halo Combat Evolved has you racing a Warthog and it is just an awful section… Similar setpieces happen in later games, and the handling is just so much better. One thing that never improves, however, is how NPCs handle vehicles. I had to leave the turret position multiple times across several games so that I could drive a vehicle a metre to the side so that the NPC driver could work out the route to take around some debris.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection does also have multiplayer, but I didn’t touch that. I’m not a multiplayer person, and had no interest in checking out how good people have gotten at killing each other since this first came out. However, that did also cause me to miss the Spartan Ops mode in Halo 4, assuming it was multiplayer stuff. It actually adds context to some things I’d find puzzling in Halo 5. But not everything — I still have no idea how someone becomes a Spartan.
If you have a Game Pass subscription and don’t hate first-person shooters, then you should definitely check out Halo: The Master Chief Collection. At least once, anyway, since I can’t say that I’d ever want to play the original Halo again. It’s not a long playthrough, in case that would put you off: I finished one game per sitting. At the very least, you can catch up before playing Halo Infinite. I hear it’s a good game.