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This review has some limited story spoilers and focuses on the single-player aspects of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. GamesBeat will run a later review of the multiplayer after release. –Ed.
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The Halo franchise is, in many ways, the lifeblood of the Xbox brand, but on a human level, it means so many personal things to so many people. Whether that’s a cinematic sci-fi epic, the water cooler around which friends gather, or late nights spent forging feuds and friendships in competitive multiplayer, Halo means a decade’s worth of special moments.
Halo: Master Chief Collection is a celebration of all those many moments; it’s part time capsule, part treasure chest. However you choose to experience the saga, 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios have fleshed out every activity you could hope to perform, each element intuitively accessible through a linked universal interface, with new secrets tucked inside. Despite some scarce technical issues and a few bubbles in the remastering ointment, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is as much a complete package as you could ask for, enabling you to rediscover and enjoy the collection however you choose. Whether you’re a lifelong Halo conscript, a tourist with an appreciation, or part of a new generation ready to undertake the journey, this is the definitive version of the first decade of Halo.
What you’ll like
The complete saga to-date, made to order
The core of the content on tap in Halo: The Master Chief Collection is the science fiction epic spanning four complete games. While everyone familiar with the franchise knows the story of Spartan 117, The Master Chief, the collection serves as the absolute best point of entry thanks to the performance bump bringing each campaign up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames-per-second. Admittedly, it’s somewhat alarming to see the over ten-year-old sights of Halo: Combat Evolved unfold at this frame rate, as enemies committed to memory seem sped up and unnaturally fluid at first. But the effect soon fades and the boost in quality melds with the campaign for a smoother experience with cumulative improvements as you progress through the more modern campaigns.
Though I chose to start at the beginning and work my way through the space opera from start to finish, Halo: The Master Chief Collection houses no locked doors: Every mission from every campaign is immediately playable on any difficulty as a cooperative effort or alone. It’s a fantastic decision on 343 Industries’ part that reinforces the idea of celebrating Halo. You won’t need to drudge through The Library — one of the original Halo’s most bemoaned levels — before getting to the points you appreciate. Each mission also supports competitive scoring and time trials in the event you’re looking for an arcade overlay on the traditional experience. You’re free to experience all or some of the story however you please.
In a similar vein, Halo: The Master Chief Collection includes a series of playlists categorized and sub-categorized by level, content, difficulty, and a number of other filters. These playlists allow you to tailor your Halo campaign experience all in one place in a way that’s never before been possible. Say you’ve always been a big fan of the unbridled point-and-kill power of the Scorpion Tank in the Halo campaigns — there’s a playlist comprised entirely of the levels that feature the tank from all four games. Hardened veterans can even undertake the impossible: Every level from every game on Legendary difficult with every skull modifier activated. Dozens of playlists support your freedom of choice, and nearly all of them support cooperative play.