Developer/Publisher: 343 Industries/Microsoft Studios
Release Date(s): Nov. 11, 2014
Genre(s): First-person shooter
Platform(s): Xbox One
Language(s): English; several others supported
Pricing: $59.99 USD / €52,99 EUR / £44.99 GBP
Rating: M (ESRB), 16 (PEGI, USK)
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Halo 2, Microsoft has put together a very special surprise for fans of the series. Halo: The Master Chief Collection brings together four games from the Halo universe on one disc. But let’s go ahead and take a closer look.
Four games for the price of one
For the price of one normal game, The Master Chief Collection includes four legendary games: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (better known as Halo 1), Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3 Remastered, and Halo 4 Remastered. This should make all Halo fans really happy. Where you used to have to change the disc every time you wanted to play a new part of the saga, now all you have to do is select which mission from which game you feel like playing.
What’s really fantastic is that all 45 missions are available right from the start, and you can play your favorite mission any time you want. You can also play the campaigns from both Halo 1 and Halo 2 with up to four players in co-op mode. Unfortunately split-screen co-op is only available for two players, ditto for co-op mode in Halo 3 and Halo 4.
Another new feature are Xbox Live mission playlists, which group missions from all four games according to certain themes, such as all the sniper missions, all the vehicle missions, etc. You can play them either one after another or create your own playlist with all your favorite missions in it.
Multiplayer fans will definitely get their money’s worth with this title. There are over 100 multiplayer maps, and for the first time ever, the multiplayer mode from Halo 1 is available on Xbox Live. There’s also a new multiplayer map editor that allows you to put together your own maps. The only downside is that you have to download 15 GB of data before you can even play in multiplayer mode.
In terms of graphics, nothing has really changed in the version of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary in comparison to the 2011 standalone version, though Halo 2 through Halo 4 are a different story. Like its predecessor, Halo 2 has been completely overhauled to coincide with its 10-year anniversary, and the difference is striking. Once again, the developers at 343 Industries have done an amazing job. You can see the difference for yourself at any time during the game by pressing a button to switch between the anniversary edition graphics and the original graphics. Everything is much sharper and more detailed than before, displaying the full potential of the Xbox One.
The graphics in the remastered versions of Halo 3 and Halo 4 also feature some noticeable changes. These aren’t as striking as the ones in Halo 1 and Halo 2, of course, but you can still see the differences. The resolution of all four games has been increased to 1,920 x 1,080, and the frame rate to 60 fps. Every now and then you might run into minor frame rate interruptions, but the frame rate always remains well above 24 fps, which means that the action is still fluid and these interruptions will not affect gameplay.
The sound in the anniversary edition of Halo 2 has been updated and improved, so that the game features even more pomp and circumstance and the weapons sound even more realistic. For international fans, localized versions of the game still have the English-language voice acting tracks available, so you can play the game in the original language if you like.
In addition to all these games, The Master Chief Collection also gives you access to the Halo 5 multiplayer beta, which will run from December 29, 2014 to January 18, 2015.
The Story of Halo
The following section contains spoilers for Halo 1 to Halo 4. If you still haven’t played the individual games and want to experience it all for yourself, you’d better skip this section!
Halo: Combat Evolved
In the year 2525, contact with the outer colony Harvest is lost, and a task force was sent to investigate. Only one badly-damaged ship returned, its crew reporting that the task force had been attacked by an “invincible alien ship”. That was humanity’s first contact with the Covenant, a hodge-podge of various alien races who see humanity as an affront to their gods. 32 years later, the people of the earth are still searching for new planets to colonize, as the earth has become overpopulated. This is where you come in, playing as John-117, better known as Master Chief, apparently the last surviving genetically-modified supersoldier of the SPARTAN-II project. All others appear to have been killed on the planet Reach as they attempted to defend against a Covenant attack.
The game begins aboard the Pillar of Autumn, where Master Chief is frozen in cryogenic sleep. Since the disaster at Reach, the ship has been relentlessly pursued by Covenant forces, and is heavily damaged and in danger of falling apart. Captain Jacob Keyes wakes Master Chief from his slumber in order to entrust him with the ship’s artificial intelligence, which goes by the name of Cortana, so that it won’t fall into enemy hands. You are to take Cortana and leave the ship as quickly as possible. Your escape pod lands on a huge ring, which the Covenant calls “Halo”. The interior of the ring houses an artificial landscape with animals, forests, water, sand, mountains, and much more – a complete ecosystem.
Now your task is to find and rescue those of your shipmates who managed to escape the Pillar of Autumn. Then it’s up to you to find the captain, a search which will eventually lead you to the map room in Halo’s control center. By intercepting Covenant radio transmissions, Cortana has learned that the Covenant plan to activate Halo to fulfill one of their religious prophecies, and this map room is where it can be activated. Once you’re there, Cortana enters Halo’s computer systems and discovering something that troubles her, sends Master Chief to find Captain Keyes and stop him from opening up the weapons cache he is looking for. Cortana remains in the map room while you go out and search for Keyes. On the way out, you discover one of your fallen comrades behind a door. Though he can no longer actually talk to you, you’re able to activate his helmet cam and see how he died. He and many of his squadmates were killed by an alien life form known only as “The Flood”.
A few doors down you run across 343 Guilty Spark, Halo’s AI security monitor. 343 Guilty Spark reveals to you that in order to defeat the Flood, all you have to do is activate the right systems on Halo. You agree to help him destroy the Flood, which eventually leads you back to Cortana, who tells you what Halo really is – a devastating weapon of mass destruction that will kill all sentient life within a radius of 25,000 light years. Now it’s up to you to stop 343 Guilty Spark’s plan to activate it. You make your way to the crashed Pillar of Autumn in order to cause the ship’s fusion reactors to explode, destroying Halo in the process.
While Master Chief is being hailed as a hero after the destruction of Halo, the commander of the Covenant fleet that failed to fulfill the prophecy is declared a heretic and sentenced to death in High Charity, the mobile capital of the Covenant. Soon, the Covenant launch an invasion of the Earth, led by the High Prophet of Regret. With the help of Master Chief, the humans are able to repel the invasion, but the High Prophet manages to escape. The human frigate In Amber Clad, captained by Miranda Keyes, daughter of Jacob Keyes, quietly pursues the High Prophet’s ship, with Master Chief and Cortana aboard.
The heretic is presented before the Prophet Hierarchs of the Covenant, who decide not to kill him, as they do not consider him a heretic. Instead they offer him the ancient position of Arbiter, an honored rank now typically reserved for disgraced Covenant Elites. For the missions an Arbiter is sent on are pure suicide missions. His first mission is to kill a number of heretics who have rejected the Great Journey as the only true path for the Covenant. After completing this mission, the Arbiter encounters 343 Guilty Spark and brings him back to High Charity. However, Tartarus, right hand of the Hierarchs and Chieftain of the Covenant Brutes, immediately takes 343 Guilty Spark from him.
While pursuing the High Prophet, In Amber Clad runs across another Halo ring known as “Delta Halo”. Keyes rushes to kill the High Prophet as quickly as possible, but Master Chief is faster. After he dispatches the High Prophet, High Charity suddenly appears in orbit around Delta Halo. They order all Covenant ships present to bomb the ring, and during the bombardment Master Chief falls into a lake, where he is seized by mysterious tentacles. The Arbiter is thrown into a chasm by Tartarus on the orders of the Prophets.
As the two awaken, they are in the clutches of the Gravemind, a huge Flood creature who controls all the others on Delta Halo. He commands both Master Chief and the Arbiter to help him stop the Covenant from activating Delta Halo. The two are sent to different locations to carry out this plan.
The Covenant have made their way to Earth, where they are searching for an ancient artifact. Meanwhile, Master Chief is aboard a Forerunner ship on its way to Earth from High Charity. Once in the Earth’s atmosphere, he jumps out of the ship and plummets towards the ground, where his Mark IV armor spares him from any serious harm upon impact by changing the density of its inner gel layer. He’s found by a rescue team that includes the Arbiter. When Master Chief comes to, his first reaction is to try to shoot the Arbiter, but Sgt. Johnson explains to him that the Arbiter’s race, the Elites, are now fighting against the Covenant alongside the humans.
On the way back to the base, Sgt. Johnson and his men are taken prisoner by Covenant forces, and now Master Chief has to find his companions and make it back to the base, where he’s greeted by Keyes. In a video conference, Lord Hood reveals to Master Chief what the Covenant has found in the ruins of New Mombasa, but the transmission is abruptly hijacked by the Prophet of Truth. Soon after the Prophet delivers his threat, Covenant forces launch an attack on the base, and Master Chief helps the others escape. After everyone else is gone, he activates a bomb with the intent of blowing up the base, then flees the scene himself.
Taking one of the Warthogs from the base, you head towards the occupied city of Voi, fighting your way through hordes of Covenant troops. Upon arrival your next task is to destroy the Covenant anti-air defenses so that Lord Hood can bomb the area. However, the covenant manages to activate the artifact before Hood’s aerial bombardment begins. It opens up a slipspace portal to the Ark, the site where Halos are produced, and Covenant forces are able to retreat through the portal. Once upon the Ark, Master Chief forges a pact with the Gravemind, as they both seek to kill the Prophet of Truth and stop him from using the Ark to activate the Halos. However, once this task is complete, the Gravemind and the Flood once again turn against the humans.
In order to destroy the Gravemind, Master Chief, the Arbiter, and Cortana (who was salvaged in a previous scene) agree that it is necessary to activate Installation 04B, a new Halo being constructed to replace the one you destroyed at the end of the first game. The activation of the ring would also mean its destruction, since it isn’t finished being built yet. 343 Guilty Spark attempts to prevent this from happening, and a fight breaks out. The surviving humans escape the Ark aboard the ship Forward Unto Dawn, but not fast enough, as it turns out. The portal collapses while the ship is travelling through it, and only half of the ship makes it through. The Arbiter makes it back to Earth aboard the forward section, but Master Chief and Cortana are left behind. Back aboard the aft section of the ship, Master Chief puts himself in hibernation indefinitely.
For more than four years, Master Chief has floated through space in a cryogenic slumber. However, he is awakened by Cortana, who has detected something strange going on aboard the Forward Unto Dawn. They soon realize that they are in orbit around a Forerunner planet and right in the middle of a huge Covenant fleet. A few units have boarded the ship, and you fight your way through them until you are able to fire a tactical nuke at one of the Covenant ships. While you’re preparing to launch the missile, the whole ship is scanned by a mysterious light. You launch the missile and destroy a Covenant ship, but then the light reappears and all ships are pulled into the planet, yours included.
You wake up to find yourself inside the planet. Cortana informs you that she is entering the early stages of rampancy, as she has well exceeded the normal 8-year “lifespan” of an AI construct. They decide to try and make it back to Earth and bring Cortana back to her creator, who they hope can fix her condition somehow. However, while they are searching for a ship they can use to escape, Cortana receives and unknown signal, and the two attempt to locate the source. It turns out that it’s a USNC signal, and they discover a terminal, which Cortana is soon able to take possession of. She finds out that the signal is from the USNC Infinity, which is attempting to find a way inside the planet. The two are unable to warn the Infinity, as something in the planet’s core is disrupting the signal. You make your way to a tower where you are able to open up a portal to the center of the planet, which you immediately jump through.
Deep inside the planet you discover a satellite that is appears to be jamming the signal, accompanied by two towers that are boosting the satellite’s power, which you promptly destroy. Once this is done, you try to use the satellite to send a signal back to the Infinity. However, you discover that the satellite is actually a Forerunner ship, and that you have awakened the Didact, who unites the Covenant and the AI enemies known as Prometheans under his command. What follows is a thrilling escape that ends on the planet’s surface.