Joseph Stalin once said, “Quantity has a quality of its own”. Now, Stalin might have been wrong about a few things, but I think he was pretty right on that one. Halo: The Master Chief Collection (MCC) has made me reconsider though. Every mainline Halo game made (from 1 to 4) on one disc… well that and the 20 GB day one patch; Halo and Halo 2 redone with all new graphics; Halo 3 and Halo 4 running in 1080p at 60 FPS; and over 100 multiplayer maps spanning over a decade. How do you mess that up? Well, turns out it’s not that hard. Just skip the QA all together.
Let’s start with the campaign, since that works… most of the time. None of the Halo games need any introduction, so I will skip the part where I talk about how good they are. Instead, let’s talk about how good the ports are. Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 both run on redone graphics. The old engine is still there; press the Back button (I don’t care whatever you are calling those two squares. It’s still the Back button to me, damn it!) and you can instantly switch to the old graphics. It’s only when you switch to the old graphics that you actually appreciate the work that’s been done when it comes to the visuals.
Both Halo and Halo 2 could easily pass for last-generation games. Perhaps the best compliment I can give them is that with the updated graphics, they look how you always remember them. It’s only when you press the Back button that you realise how much simpler they used to look in reality. The Back button is your rose-tinted glasses. Put them on and take them off with the press of a button.
Both games also feature remastered audio, including soundtracks and in-game sounds. The music is the same (with one single exception in Halo 2), but it’s been rerecorded with few minor adjustments, and it sounds absolutely fantastic. Halo 2’s cut-scenes have also been remade in CGI and they are jaw-dropping. Blur Studio did a great job with the cut scenes in Halo Wars, and this time, they have done an even better job remaking the cut-scenes from Halo 2.
The aforementioned lack of QA pops up its head right away though. Randomly, the game will just forget when you save and quit. You will save the game and quit out, and the next time when you resume, it will just throw you back to some old save from basically anywhere. This sounds a lot worse than it is since all the levels are unlocked by default anyway, so when it does happen (and it’s a bit random), the most you usually lose is 10-15 minutes of progress. It’s still a glaring fault that shouldn’t exist though.
Move on to Halo 3 and Halo 4 and it’s much smoother sailing. Both games run smoothly and look phenomenal. Halo 4 could easily pass for a current-gen game and Halo 3’s jaggies are nicely smoothed out at the high resolution it’s running at. Both those games are also not as buggy as Halo 1 and Halo 2, although Halo 4 did crash for me once. Saving and resuming works fine though. Online co-op works smoothly as well. I had no issues connecting and playing with friends.
But that doesn’t mean the campaign is entirely free of other issues. There are a ton of minor ones that aren’t game breaking but you will run into them anyway – everything from sound and UI glitches to Achievements not popping up. If I listed everything I ran into, this review would end up reading like patch notes. Again, they aren’t game-breaking in nature, but they do leave a bad taste in your mouth when to do run into them.
Then you move to the multiplayer and you wish the save and resume bug was the worst that was happening. To put it simply, multiplayer does not work. Ideally, it is supposed to let you pick a game type and then choose maps from the four games to play the game type on. In reality, matchmaking takes agonising minutes and, most of the time, finds you no games. In the rare cases when you do get into a game, teams are often uneven, parties are split, and people get dropped all the time. Worse, when the game does finish, the entire lobby is often randomly split up again. Sometimes the game just freezes at the post-match screen forcing you to quit and relaunch. Oh, and once the post-match screen was partially in Japanese. ‘Cause why not?
More unforgivable is the fact that even custom games are broken. It’s a chore to connect to your friends, and when you do get connected, the best you can hope for is to not get split up again after the game ends. So not only are you out of luck if you want to play online with strangers, but private games with friends are also an absolute nightmare to set up. The first patch has made absolutely no difference to any of the issues I faced in multiplayer. The game still feels broken at its core.
There is perhaps some irony in the fact that the multiplayer is so broken. Halo 2 made online console FPSs. The foundation of a lot of things you take for granted today were laid down by Bungie ten years ago, and every console shooter released since then has had a bit of Halo 2 in it. So maybe it’s only fitting that the multiplayer in MCC is a mirror to gaming as it stands today. Rush it out and patch it later.
And patch it they will. Halo is Microsoft’s crown jewel. Some would argue its Microsoft’s only worthwhile IP. So it’s hard to imagine them leaving this collection in the dire straits it is right now. The cost of that would be too high. It probably will be what it was supposed to be a few weeks from now, but as things stand, it’s hard to recommend this to anyone. Even Halo fans. Especially Halo fans.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is available in India exclusively at Amazon.in.