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This review was conducted of the Halo: Master Chief Collection multiplayer suite on multiple networks and Xbox Live accounts over a period of three weeks. GamesBeat previously ran a review of the campaign components upon release. –Ed.

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection could be the best multiplayer experience of next year.

It’s been a turbulent few weeks for 343 Industries, Microsoft Studios, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a compilation of sci-fi shooter classics and arguably their biggest release of the year. Since its Nov. 11 launch, the collection’s marquee multiplayer component has been largely dead on arrival. During this time, it’s been difficult to conduct a fair assessment of the Master Chief Collection.

The issues that persist and plague the multiplayer suite cripple half of the Master Chief Collection experience. But 343 Industries’ weekly patches, updates and fixes have began to alleviate some of these ailments. The original vision and promised experience may still be months off, but for now, at least, there appears to be a plan of action.

Despite a matchmaking system that simply does not work to a degree anyone would deem agreeable, I’ve attempted to soak up as much of the intended experience as possible. And amid the muddied cloud of dropped connections, jumbled uneven teams, and a party system that does more to frustrate than foster connections, clear flecks of brilliance shine through.

In those brief but welcome moments, you’ll get a glimpse for what 343 Industries was trying to do and still might deliver. Months from now, Halo: the Master Chief Collection is a no-brainer for fans of multiplayer shooters — but today, it’s just a heartache.

Halo 2: Anniversary multiplayer maps carry new environmental flourishes.

Above: Halo 2: Anniversary multiplayer maps carry new environmental flourishes.

Image Credit: 343 Industries

What you’ll like

Everything and the kitchen sink

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an ambitious and hefty thing. It touts the complete multiplayer trappings from Halos one through four, bound and woven into a singular experience, and synced together through a universal interface. With the exception of Halo: Reach, if you’ve ever heard a story, experienced a moment, or recalled a memory from an online match of Halo multiplayer in the last decade, you can find it in this collection.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, each of the four games are represented in the exact same condition you would have encountered them upon release. You’re able to boot up a match of Capture the Flag in Halo 2 on Zanzibar, and use the exact same strategies you did in 2004. That means every game mode, from every Halo, on any multiplayer map ever appearing in a Halo game can be yours in one connected multiplayer suite. It’s madness.

Something for everyone

That same spirit of all-inclusiveness can be said for the matchmaking playlists that are integral to any Halo multiplayer experience. As a compilation, The Master Chief Collection’s playlists support not only a number of game types, but a number of games themselves. For example, you can hop into the Big Team Battle playlist for large-scale warfare across all four Halo games or stick to a playlist solely composed of Halo 2 multiplayer and its modes.

The obvious downside is that with so much more variety — dozens of modes on over 100 maps across four distinct games — the select combinations of modes, maps, and games you want to play have much more competition in the rotation. To that effect, the popular voting mechanic is back allowing players in the lobby to vote on one of the three options available at the start of the round; the chances of seeing at least one option you’re drawn toward are pretty good.

That new (multiplayer) game smell

Like the campaign portion of the offering, the Halo 2: Anniversary component is the marquee feature on display in The Master Chief Collection. As such, 343 Industries selected six classic Halo 2 multiplayer maps and dipped them in the same anniversary treatment. The results are fantastic as old maps come to life with a new look, tweaked cover placement, and new mechanics that will speak to Halo 2 veterans.

The suspended catwalks of Lockout have long been a fan favorite, but in the Halo 2: Anniversary treatment, Lockdown’s hallways rest under stalactites of ice that can be shot loose and dropped on players for an environmental kill. The reimagined Blood Gulch, dubbed Bloodline, finds each base housing an EMP that knocks out vehicles in the vicinity when detonated after a lengthy charge. Again, as with the single-player portion of Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 2 diehards will appreciate the care that went into both the overhauls and the fresh coat of paint on their memories.