In the world of big-budget, bombastic AAA game publishing, few franchises are capable of touching the high bar set among critics, gamers and mainstream culture as Halo. As the ten year anniversary of its successor - a game that revolutionized online multiplayer for console shooters - has arrived, Microsoft and 343 Industries have cooked up a celebration few, again, could compete with: Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Before the combined content from all four numbered Halo titles contained within The Master Chief Collection was even detailed, it was clear that to almost every owners of an Xbox One, the purchase had already been made. That's the staying power and confidence instilled by Master Chief. But just because reviews aren't exactly needed to help move copies off the store shelves come November 11, that doesn't mean they can't make a statement.
We've published our own review of The Master Chief Collection minus the multiplayer, since recent years have shown that how multiplayer games behave pre- and post-launch can be shockingly different. While other outlets have followed a similar path, some have seen enough to confirm that even based mainly off the package's wealth of singleplayer and co-op content, the collection sets a new high benchmark for remakes of every kind. Read from the critics themselves below:
CVG (Matt Sakuraoka-Gilman):
"The true value of this collection is in the immediate journey back and the slow rediscovery of one of gaming's greatest series. If you're jumping into the Chief's Mjolnir trousers for the first time many of the nods, tweaks and, most potently, quirks of the older titles will at best fly over your head or at worst tarnish your ability to play without cussing like a sailor. For these poor individuals, our score will likely seem overcooked, too. You just had to have been there. Those that were will know exactly where we're coming from."
Polygon (Arthur Gies):
"Halo: The Master Chief Collection sets a bar that other remasters and collections will have difficulty reaching, much less topping. For players new to Halo, who have missed any of the included games, it is a stunning introduction to one of the most beloved series in video games. For Halo fans, it's a package that shows almost as much respect and affection for the Master Chief as they do."
Destructoid (Chris Carter):
"While I think I would have given up playing a Halo 2 remaster on its own after a few months, The Master Chief Collection will keep me busy for quite a while. The sheer number of maps, variants, playlists, and rulesets will keep me interested for months on end. I can already envision myself joining groups of friends who only like particular games, forming separate communities within the collection. Not only that, but this is also the perfect way to replay each campaign if I ever get the itch instead of finding multiple discs. This is the new gold standard for remakes. Well done, 343 Industries."
Shacknews (Steve Watts):
"Halo: The Master Chief Collection has a handful of quirks and legacy issues, but those don't diminish the achievement. It's a stellar collection of some of the best games of the last few generations, with options galore and clever ideas like Playlists to breathe new life into old content. It's a must-have for Halo fans, and may rightly serve as a satisfying introduction for newcomers."
National Post (Daniel Kaszor):
"The game is an especially good deal if you have a group of friends who are all regularly online and want to play Halo together. And that’s really the crux the choice to pick The Master Chief Collection up. At this point you probably know if you want to play Halo or not. Heck, if you own an Xbox One instead of a PS4, Halo probably factored into that decision. This is close to the ultimate package for playing Halo, especially with a crew of pals. If your pals have made the next-gen upgrade to an Xbox One, this is a very good game to play with them."
Games Radar (David Houghton):
"Able to finally play all of Halo, take it apart, rebuild it, and remix it to our own tastes, we can now play both Halo as it was made, and Halo as it exists in our minds. That’s a hell of a good thing. And whether you’re a series veteran or an interested new recruit, it’s something you should definitely consider exploring. In fact you should just do it. Right now."
AusGamers (Nathan Lawrence):
"If you’re new to the series and curious, this is the way to play Halo. With over 45 campaign missions, more than 100 multiplayer maps, access to the Ridley Scott-produced Nightfall series, and the Spartan Ops challenge missions set to drop next month, this is a comprehensive Halo offering that more than justifies the price of admission. The concerns of the original versions of the games persist, but they’re not enough to hold back the potent promise of what Halo: The Master Chief Collection has to offer."
The Verge (Sam Byford):
"None of these games are perfect, but all of them are excellent. This is because original developers Bungie more or less nailed the way Halo was meant to play 13 years ago, and most subsequent tweaks have been minor and unobtrusive. It's the rock-paper-scissors dynamic of guns, grenades, and melee. It’s the seamless transitions between outdoors and in, vehicles and legwork. Most of all, it’s the sense that you could tackle an arena a thousand times and never see events play out the same way twice. Yes, some of these arenas border on the uninspired. But even then, Halo gives you the tools to make your own fun."
Score: No Score
Game Rant (Andrew Dyce):
"Outside of the games themselves, the package as a whole is hard to view as merely the cash-grab that some (ill-informed) skeptics will claim it. In an age when games like The Last of Us and Tomb Raider receive ‘definitive editions’ before their initial launch has faded from conversation, the inclusion of four games in one release stands apart. And the presentation of the Collection itself shows that it’s one hours-long letter to the fans (the developers included)."
Score: No Score
Videogamer (Brett Phipps):
"Collating four groundbreaking shooters, along with every multiplayer map in the series’ history, as well as a live-action TV series and a forthcoming Halo 5 beta, the value of the package makes this comfortably the best series collection ever assembled. Halo fans will zip back and forth to their favourite moments, while new fans will quickly discover what all the fuss is about. Halo 2 may not shine as brightly as some might have hoped, and there’s some minor bugs that can also jar, but nothing stands in the way of what is a fabulous collection."
Score: No Score
In many ways, the opportunity to package the Halo games of yesterday is one with even less pressure than the games forced to fight their own way out of those sizable shadows. However, handling any property so beloved, and bringing it to a brand new platform doesn't happen without significant risks. But from the early signs, it seems 343 and its team of studios has walked the line between updating and honoring, and gamers stand to benefit.
Do you find the overwhelmingly positive reviews surprising, or did you expect nothing less from Halo 2's anniversary celebration? Will you be picking up a copy to dive back into multiplayer with friends, or relive some of the Chief's most memorable moments?
Halo: The Master Chief Collection officially releases on November 11, 2014 for Xbox One.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.