With excitement peaked about Halo’s future with the recent beta release of Halo 5 multiplayer, it’s time to take a look at Halo’s past, Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Due to the fact that The Master Chief Collection is essentially four games in one I’ve decided to split each solo campaign into it’s own dedicated review in order to focus in depth on each chapter of the Master Chief’s story.
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also Available On: Xbox One Exclusive
Release Date: Out Now
When we look at 2014’s lead first person shooter console games; Destiny, Titanfall, Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare, they all have one thing in common. These games all owe the majority of their core gaming mechanics to one particular title, 2001’s revolutionary Halo: Combat Evolved.
A launch title for the original Xbox and quite possibly the reason that the Xbox 360 and Xbox One now exist, this Microsoft exclusive made the companies jump into the games console industry viable, stable and successful.
For those not familiar with Halo, you play the game through the eyes of the Master Chief, a cybernetically enhanced super-soldier whom we know very little about at this stage. Set in the 26th century, Earth’s forces have come into conflict with an alien race known as the Covenant.
Awoken from cryogenic sleep you learn that the Covenant are trying to obtain a mysterious artifact, most likely a weapon, on an artificial ring-shaped world known as Halo and it’s up to the Master Chief to prevent this from happening.
As mentioned before, Halo: Combat Evolved helped revolutionize console FPS gaming. This was the first triple A first person shooter to embrace the modern controller and use twin-stick controls, one stick dedicated to moving and the other dedicated to aiming. In fact all of Halos controls were intuitive, easy to use and proved that you didn’t need a keyboard and mouse to easily navigate an expansive and detailed world.
Looking back at this now we take most of these basic controls for granted, they’ve become the bulk standard with every FPS following a basic template, but back in 2001 this was revolutionary.
In addition to the enhanced controls, Halo had no equal for AI, physics or graphics.
The artificial intelligence still has very few equals when compared to modern games in the same genre. Take Call Of Duty games for example, the campaigns can be a challenge at times but they essentially become memory games, as long as you can remember where the bad guys are you can easily plan a route through a particular level, Halo on the other hand is very different.
The game-play never gets old or repetitive because the enemy AI is so good, your foes react in a variety of different ways depending on the situation. They will react to the environment around them and can be extremely unpredictable at the best of times.
If there’s a cannon or vehicle nearby, they might get into it. If you manage to put a few bullets in one and their force field’s shields are low, they’re likely to run and hide. If one is close to death, expect him to rush into close quarters and attempt to bludgeon you to death with his gun. Or one might lob a grenade at you from behind a pylon or provide cover fire for an ally attempting to move around to attack you from behind.
But it’s not just the bad guys that benefit from this rather advanced AI, your marine allies are just as smart. If you hop into the Warthog jeep and a marine is nearby, he’ll jump in back and man its machine gun turret. If another marine is there, he’ll climb in and ride shotgun.
Not surprisingly, the computer AI provides the game with an immense amount of replay value. You could play the same section a dozen times and not have the same events happen exactly the same way twice. Random elements, such as where enemies are located in a level and where those on watch begin making their rounds, are thrown in often. You’ll also discover that you have a lot of freedom to choose how to beat a level. There’s rarely only one right way of doing something in Halo.
The Master Chief Collection’s version of Combat Evolved is actually based off of 2011’s Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary but with a few tweaks. Improved graphics, running at 1080p with a frame-rate of 60fps , this is the definitive version of the game.
Sadly though this does mean one thing is lost from the original game, the split screen competitive multiplayer which made the original so much fun. Now replaced with the more standard online coop/competitive modes of later games in the series.
That said, the improvements, even when compared to the Anniversary edition on the 360 make the story campaign still as enjoyable as it was 13 years ago but now it’s smoother and more stunning to admire.
Unlike modern games the single-player experience is so strong that it’s easy to disregard the multiplayer as nothing more than secondary, when was the last time someone said that about a Call Of Duty game? The Halo games have always been about telling a great story and providing enjoyable action without the need to take you out of an established narrative.
This new current-gen version of Halo: Combat Evolved improves on genius without taking away the core elements of the original. While improving the graphics to create beautifully enhanced environments the campaign level layout are still identical. The campaign is as much of a challenge as it was more than a decade ago and yet thanks to the regular check-points it never get frustrating, it’s still fun.
Audio-wise this version benefits from the Anniversary editions soundtrack upgrades though a lot of the original audio still makes it into the game and it in no way feels dated.
The newly enhanced Xbox One version of Halo: Combat Evolved is alone worth the asking price for the Master Chief Collection but this is part one of four so there’s lots more to discuss.