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    Halo: The Master Chief Collection, dons the helmet once more

    See that eight down in the bottom corner of the page on the right? That should have been a ten. That should have been the easiest ten since The Orange Box. The Master Chief Collection is a compilation of four of the best shooter campaigns ever made for consoles, along with an extremely strong 85 map multiplayer offering and a full original TV series… it’s an amazing package. It’s also, at the time of writing (which is several weeks after the game launched and a few days after a major patch) fundamentally broken in numerous ways.

    The biggest campaign drawcard in this collection, at least in theory, is the Anniversary edition of Halo 2. The game has been given the same treatment 343 Industries gave Combat Evolved on the 360, which is a little disappointing considering the considerable extra grunt they had to work with on the Xbox One it looks better, but outside of the rather lavish cutscenes it never looks amazing. It has basically been brought in line with your memories of what Halo 2 looked like ten years ago, and some of the artistic choices are a little strange. This changes the feeling of Halo 2 significantly: in 2004 it was a phenomenal step-up from the first game from a design standpoint, but now it sits awkwardly on the disc. Future Halo games iterated and improved heavily on what 2 did, and the original stands out as unique in its own right. Halo 2 is still enjoyable, but it’s also very caught up in its own nonsense plot. The series, you realise when playing through all four of them on one disc, struggles pretty severely to maintain a consistent tone. But weirdly enough, examining these tonal shifts and examining the difficulties Halo faces in building a consistent narrative is reason to recommend this collection. It’s really interesting seeing how Halo changed across four games.
    Halo 2 is still enjoyable, but it’s also very caugHt up in its own nonsense plot
    Halo 3, a game I underappreciated when I first played it, now stands out as perhaps the most enjoyable Halo campaign. It’s Halo at its most kitchen sink-y, throwing just about everything into the mix and topping it off with Easter eggs and levity. It is, because of 343’s remakes, the most aged game in the collection, which actually ends up giving it a neat sense of nostalgia. It doesn’t look good, but there’s a feeling of purity and vitality to it. The addition of usable power-ups (energy shields, healing auras, gravity lifts) and immaculate level design means that Halo 3 really stands out as the most fun entry in the series now. It’s fast, it’s less serious than the two games either side of it, and it has a lot of really cool moments scattered throughout it. Halo 4, already one of the best looking games on the Xbox 360, looks absolutely stunning upscaled, and despite not being the work of Bungie, it plays incredibly well too. The addition of a sprint button suits the numerous little ways the formula has been tweaked (Halo 2 should could have benefited from a sprint button), and the gunplay is as rock solid as you’d expect from the series. The original Halo, meanwhile, stands out as very much its own beast now, with a different health system, repetitive level design and fewer enemies. Halo has been described as the same great 30 seconds over and over, which is a philosophy the sequels tried to move away from a bit. In any case, it’s still pretty enjoyable, The Flood notwithstanding.

    So yes, Halo is great. But this collection is absolutely riddled with issues. One update wiped my progress, which wasn’t a huge deal because every level is unlocked from the start, but it meant that I had to start the second level of Halo 4 in which my progress had *already been wiped* by a hard crash a third time. In fact the game crashed numerous times, hanging up on pause screens and kicking me back to the Xbox menu. The games themselves run beautifully at 60FPS once you’re into them, but even after patch after patch after patch I still encountered issues with the campaigns. And what of the multiplayer? I’d love to tell you that all 85 maps are great, and that having such an unparalleled level of choice makes this the absolute must-play multiplayer shooter of the year. I’d love to be able to say that, but in all the time I’ve had the game I’ve managed to get into exactly one game. It was in Stonetown, a remake of the Halo 2 level Zanzibar, and it was excellent fun. Then it ended, my game crashed on the victory screen after, and I sighed long and hard. This is a print review with the luxury of a long lead time, and even I can only report that multiplayer matchmaking is utterly fucked.

    Even with these major grievances, it’s basically fundamentally impossible to actively discourage people from buying this. It will hopefully be patched to a point of workability…at some point, and until then, you’ve got four excellent campaigns with every level and skull modifier unlocked from the beginning. It’s a great way of exploring the evolution of a hugely important gaming series, and fascinating as a historical artefact of a series that has changed the gaming landscape in important ways. It may soon be patched into a proper 10/10, but right now it’s brilliant yet broken.

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