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Halo: The Master Chief Collection (single player) Review

When the first Halo: Combat Evolved - Anniversary arrived on the Xbox 360 in 2011, the inevitable excitement around such a subject soon turned to anticipation of what might follow, the possibility of a Halo 2 update and whilst it was inevitable, little could prepare the gaming public to just exactly what was coming, with Halo: The Master Chief Collection becoming not only a compilation of our heroes greatest moments but also an interesting view of just how much the first person shooter has evolved over the years.

For the purpose of this review I will be focusing on the single player elements of the title, the main reason being the majority of the online and multiplayer elements have only just been turned on (6th Nov) and a little more time is required to experience the whole package to offer you a fair review.

Focusing on the exploits of Master Chief himself (so do not expect Reach or ODST) the disc is crammed with content that any fan of Halo or first person shooters is bound to enjoy for a very long time. For those wishing for the ultimate Halo experience then you have each game available, Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 which were released on the original Xbox and Halo 3 and Halo 4 on the Xbox 360; but do not go expecting simple ports of each game as a lot of love and care has been taken by the new overseers of the Halo series, 343 Industries.

Starting off with Halo: Combat Evolved; the version on this disc is essentially the updated edition experienced on the Xbox 360, when the world first heard of Master Chief and his amazing battles across the stars against the Covenant which results in locating the Halo ring, a space station that holds a terrible secret. Now at the time Halo was first person shooting action at its best, introducing industry standards like recharging shields and open worlds to explore but at the same time a lot has changed since then and even with the new visuals it does feel a little dated, with Chief squarely rooted to the ground as he walks the many corridors blasting anything that moves. 

As with the first anniversary edition there are two choices when it comes to the visuals, playing the original albeit a little cleaner looking game or the newer version with updated graphics, with my own personal tastes preferring the original, there being something about the basic blacks and greys feeling more realistic than the brighter and more colourful palette used in the update. Playing the game again also reminds me of some of the bad moments as the action is still at times a little laborious (especially the Flood levels) but then it also offers some of the best scenes in gaming history like when the game offers you the huge battlegrounds, leaving you to your own choice of tactics to deal with whatever threat is in front of you and it is here that Halo still rules the roost and so even though the game is getting old, with its new clothes on it is still a tremendous gaming experience, offering many classic moments to relive or witness for the first time.

Moving on to Halo 2 and everything just feels a lot better; maybe it is that the teams tasked with updating the game are now more comfortable with the source material or that you now have dual weapon handling capabilities but everything seems to fit a lot better here. Again the game has two graphical modes to check out, but this time it is the updated visuals that steal the show, with much more effective lighting adding lots more depth to the game and just like the other games on disc, a much smoother frame rate. Also worth note and something the fans are bound to love are the all new cinematics interspersed through the game, though for retro fans you can still switch back and forth.

Halo 3 feels little bit left out of the loop; I am not saying it is any worse than the other games but the overhaul feels a lot more subtle, with it not really benefitting from a graphical upgrade other than smoother frame rate and improved lighting and even though this was a game that came out relatively early in the Xbox 360 lifecycle these touch ups do benefit the game.

Last but not least we have Halo 4, 343 Industries first real foray into the world of Halo, starting a new chapter on the series and kicking things off with a bang, their high end visuals looking even better on the Xbox One thanks to a faster frame rate, an already fantastic looking game now looks even better.

Now for many, these games could be played with their eyes closed so just how do you challenge the masters of the Halo series? Well, aside from various difficulty settings and of course the return of co-op play you now also have playlists. These have been created with specific themes in mind, some focus on elements from one game whilst others bridge across all four titles, be they vehicle only levels or focusing on a specific supporting character. It is with these playlists that the creators can really challenge the players who are overly familiar with the games, bringing back the classic skulls; level modifiers that really add some spice to the already challenging action and hopefully offering the fans some new experiences.

Playing all four games in such quick succession it is surprising to see just how much Master Chief and first person shooting games in general have evolved over such a small space of time and even more surprising is that even after all this time, Bungie really did nail it first time around, their original trilogy needing little more than a facelift to make them feel relevant all over again.

So far you have four full games amassing weeks of gameplay and I have barely scratched the surface on this compendium as still to come is customisation, multiplayer, the Halo Channel and of course the return of the Forge. Of course for many this is playing the game again, a chance to relive classic gaming moments or for others, a chance to see just what all the fuss over Master Chief is about, either way, not even touching the multiplayer yet this is worth your time.

In the past it has been two big companies battling it out for FPS supremacy, Call of Duty and Battlefield, Activision and EA but this year it is a little different with Microsoft essentially pitching the same company against itself, Bungie of old versus Bungie of new, but either way you look at it, the gamer wins each time.

Words by Ash Buchanan.

(Version Tested: Xbox One)


+ An amazing update of Halo 2.
+ All four of Master Chief's exploits on one disc.
+ Hours upon hours of challenging gameplay.


- Jumping from one game to the next can be quite jarring in terms of visuals and handling.

Edited On 07 Nov, 2014

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