Played on a standard model Xbox One via Xbox Gamepass.
Buckle up for a long one, this review contains four games.
If you consider yourself to be a gamer of any description, you’ve probably, more than likely heard of Halo and may have even played it. For me, I had dabbled with the series in the past, having the odd go of the earlier titles here and there but never really getting sucked in. With The Master Chief Collection being available on Xbox Gamepass, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to properly introduce myself to the series. I set about downloading the games which weighed in around 70gb, not too shabby for four complete games and proceeded to dig into the much beloved series of games.
Navigating the main menu is easy enough, with the games listed in order, you select the one you want to play and how you play it. I was surprised to see so many options for the games, each one having several playlists that let you play various sections from each game one after the other. There was one that would allow you to play the last level from each game or another that showcased the most explosive levels, for example.
The choices didn’t stop there either because you’re also presented with modifiers that can make your experience with the game more difficult by removing various HUD (Heads Up Display) indicators, or allowing your enemies an advantage if you so choose. It’s possible to bring a friend along with you on your adventures into the Halo universe with each of the games offering co-op. I however played them alone on the normal difficulty, though I do have fond memories of playing Halo 2 in co-op back on the original Xbox.
For those of you who are looking for something more of a multiplayer flavour, I can say that it would appear there is a lot on offer to keep any avid online player entertained for quite some time. With maps from all four games present and game modes, I believe, there’s no reason anyone should get bored with it anytime soon, especially if you’re a multiplayer fan.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for something more in depth regarding the multiplayer in this review, I can only suggest you try it for yourself as I limited my play to the campaigns since I’m not much of a lover of the online scene.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The first in the series and the start of one of the most well loved sci-fi franchises. You might be expecting to load this one up and see some flat textures and strange, almost lifeless looking environments but the game has received a graphical upgrade to bring it closer to something you might expect to see today.
You might be a little disappointed hearing that, especially if you’re a returning fan and are wanting to see if your nostalgia holds up. Worry not though, because you can flick between the old and new graphics at the touch of a button. The change is instant, with no loading in-between. I thought this was a great feature and was constantly pressing it throughout my time with the game and it’s both a little weird and wonderful to see the differences.
The game, for the most part plays very well and the gun play can be very satisfying but unfortunately, playing well and being good are two different things. I found once the novelty wore off, the game became a tedious trudge through levels with seemingly endless corridors laid out almost identically while the game sends a few enemies your way to break up the wandering.
The shooting became quite boring fairly quickly when it seemed that the enemies were designed to soak up entire clips and still come for more. Even with the ridiculously overpowered handgun that could take down vehicles in a couple of shots, the enemies were still hungry for your ammo and before you know it you’ve been relegated to the arguably ineffective needler close by.
The bullet sponge enemies and endless repeating corridors only got more prevalent in the later levels when you’re introduced to a seemingly invincible enemy and are forced to take out entire hordes of them. I must confess to exaggerating a little bit with the enemies since sometimes picking the right weapon can be the difference between a five minute fight and a twenty minute one. It can get tiresome fighting the same group of enemies for a long time though.
There are a few vehicles to drive in the game, though none seem to handle as poorly as the Warthog. The thing seems to slide around and bounce about to no avail, spinning and flipping like it’s practicing for a gymnastics recital, funnily enough however, a cursory Google revealed that some people thought this game had the best Warthog controls in the series so far with one person even claiming it handled like a dream.
I enjoyed the music in the game quite a bit, being pleasantly surprised by it. Sometimes hearing the right music can make a massive difference to the enjoyment of a game for me. While the music was good though, just as I started to get into it, the track had finished and my gunshots were once again unaccompanied.
Halo 2 Anniversary
The first thing that really impressed me with Halo 2 was the quality of the cutscenes, which had been redone and were now fairly close to what I would call movie quality. Every aspect of them was fantastic and it made me long for an actual Halo film done in the same style.
Halo 2 seemed like a massive improvement on the first game, taking everything good, amplifying it and taking the bad things and making them as good as they should have been. The same familiar tight gun play was now more enjoyable, adding the ability to dual wield and take down even the most stubborn of enemies with ease.
I had a favourite with the plasma rifles; being able to have one in each hand, no reloading and minimal overheating if used in short bursts meant they were ideal for cutting my way though any of the nasties that got in my way. Things were only made better by the brute plasma rifle later in the game, a red alternative with higher fire power but also quicker to overheat.
The game also included the ability to use the weapon favoured by the Elites, the energy sword, it’s as effective as you might imagine but unfortunately has a very short usage time with being battery powered like much of the Covenants’ arsenal.
The driving, I found had also been improved in the Warthog, making the vehicle handle much easier and less prone to bouncing and flipping, something which in the first game almost prevented me from being able to finish it.
Halo 2 allows you see part of the fight from another perspective, something I particularly enjoyed. It was almost like playing two stories at once. My only gripe with playing as this other character was that I found there were quite a few sections I was able to just walk through, whether it was because enemies were fighting each other or I could make use of the camouflage ability but it made those particular parts seem very short.
After playing the first and second Halo games I was a bit let down to see that the third game hadn’t received the same graphical upgrade treatment, but even more than that was that the spectacular cutscenes I had gotten used to seeing from second game were nowhere to found here. The HUD was also added to the screen as part of the Chief’s visor, it took a while to get used to seeing it with it having been absent from the previous two games.
Halo 3 had some minor gameplay improvements over its predecessor, namely in the ability to rib away turrets from their mounted position. I found this to be a particularly enjoyable addition as I would run head first into my enemies toting this weapon and firing it in some Rambo-esque rage.
As well as making the Chief more of a powerhouse through the increased firepower, items were added which when picked up and used granted things like portable shields. Coupled with the new turret ripping ability I found that it allowed for a far more aggressive style of play. No more hiding behind the nearest object and waiting for the familiar beeping of your recharging shields, just burst in and teach the covenant a lesson without breaking a sweat.
Any players familiar with the first Halo game, and if you’re planning on getting this collection it’s safe to assume that if you’re not you soon will be, will find the ending to the Halo 3 very reminiscent of the Master Chief’s first outing. It almost felt like the story had come full circle, like a Halo ring itself. If we didn’t know that there were more in the series, I would have said it would have made a very fitting end. Finishing the way it began.
Halo 4, I have to say, blew me away with the graphics, so much so that I found myself checking to see what its original platform was because I couldn’t believe it had been made for the same hardware as Halo 3. It looked sharp and crisp and I know there are many people out there who don’t like it, but I love a bit of lens flare in a sci-fi setting, I find it really sets the mood. Everything about it in terms of graphics had been improved upon, from the textures and lighting to the details in the environment.
One thing I didn’t like regarding the changes was the removal of the dual wielding, I had thought it a mainstay in the series and it was one of my preferred features. I quickly got over the loss though when I realised the guns seemed to do more damage in the previous entries. Not only that but the gun play that I didn’t think needed any improvement had gotten better, I was aiming tighter and more accurately, my enemies would be mere memories before me as I was able to charge through being the best Master Chief I could be.
I could even spring now, gone were the times when I would be forced to travel walking speed to bring my enemies their doom, now I could promise express delivery. With the ability to sprint, came sliding however, and if you’re like me, you’re bound to go dashing about the place with your new found speed and very nearly falling off a lot of things. Use the Spartan’s new gift wisely.
If you though the Master Chief couldn’t be any more lethal, especially with his new found ability to sprint, you’d be wrong. Halo 4 adds the ability to finish off enemies with a spectacularly animated melee attack if you strike at them from stealth. It’s something I felt had been missing from the previous games after seeing it in other series, so I was personally glad to see it in this one.
When I started out and I hated playing the first game, it felt like a chore to me and I remember remarking about how the series even got anywhere. I know for a lot of you reading this, that would be a massively unpopular opinion but I suspect nostalgia plays a big part there for many of you.
The second game was a massive step up in quality, the movie like cutscenes made the story feel more engaging and I enjoyed playing from two perspectives, seeing the two sides of the same coin.
Halo 3 was a bit of a let down in the graphics department after coming from two, especially in the cutscenes but it continued to deliver the solid game play and story.
I really enjoyed the forth game and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the graphics and the gameplay. I loved mowing down enemies with a turret I’d ripped off, it felt exciting to play and the change in enemy was welcomed after fighting the flood for the last few games who for the most part would charge in and try to physically beat you.
All in all, it’s a fantastic set of games and you’d be doing yourself a favour to set aside some time to sit down and play them all. Many of you might be like me and get bogged down by the first game, especially so if you’re not a returning fan, but push through, get the whole story and enjoy it, you won’t regret it. It’s inclusion in the Gamepass is as great an excuse as any to give the games a try.