Since its iconic debut on the original Xbox, the Halo franchise took us on a number of unforgettable trips, even as development shifted from the team at Bungie to 343 Industries. To celebrate Master Chief's legacy before the debut of Halo 5: Guardians next year, Microsoft is set to release Halo: The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One in time for the holiday season.
This package features the first four games in the Halo franchise – Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 – all re-mastered with stunning 60 frames per second speed, and with more detail.
In addition, there will be extra content with the devoted Halo universe in mind, including an early Halo 5: Guardians beta that will kick off in December, hidden videos that can be located via terminals and the original Xbox series, Halo: Nightfall, executive produced by Ridley Scott.
We caught a glimpse of the game in action this weekend during Microsoft's Halo panel, and the team showed off what Halo 2 will deliver. Similar to the original Halo 2012 Anniversary release on Xbox 360, this game comes with the option of switching between classic visuals from the original Xbox and the modern 2014 edition, with just a simple press of the Back button on the controller. It's a neat technique, and it's done on the fly, without any need for a quick screen blackout like in Anniversary; the original Halo will feature this as well.
Multiplayer, of course, is a whole other matter. 343 Industries restructured the Halo 2 multiplayer set-up from scratch, so that each map was reconfigured back to the originals. No fancy touch-ups here, just the classic multiplayer Halo experience that players have come to know and love. In addition, multiplayer maps from the other games will be included as well, with well over 100 to choose from.
343 respects the legacy, making sure specific features stay put in individual versions of Halo. So, for example, you won't be able to execute the sprint and armor abilities from Halo 4 in the other games. Again, it's a matter of balance. However, players will be able to mix up maps as they see fit, as well as set up custom games for others to partake in.
One of the coolest features involves playing the series from beginning to end, seamlessly transitioning between each title. If you prefer to mix things up, however, feel free to filter the games so that you only play tank levels, among other variations.
Matchmaking will be devoted to a single ranking across all four games, intertwining the multiplayer experience without mashing together elements that don't belong in certain chapters. It's a neat trick, and one players will take advantage of as they challenge each other in combat. We're not sure if the Halo 5: Guardians beta rankings will stay active for the game's eventual release next year, but 343 will likely divulge the details closer to that title's release.
We mentioned earlier that terminals scattered throughout the game will feature multiple videos. While most of their locations have stayed the same, 343 replaced a certain few that were well-hidden in the past, in the hopes of fleshing out the storyline behind the Halo universe to those who don't want to spend hours hunting them down. Veterans may think there's no need for this, but at least they have the other terminals to track down, along with the play-enhancing skulls, which will once again make a return.
On top of that, 343 already promised that the Forge elements will come back, allowing users to create levels within Halo 2's six anniversary maps. They can create their own stages and upload them, as well as more custom games that are open to invited friends.
Finally, Halo Waypoint will play a part somewhere in the Master Chief Collection. That said, 343 didn't reveal many details on how this will work.
With four huge classic games to choose from – all re-mastered with their own little tweaks – along with superb gameplay and unprecedented multiplayer options, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is sure to keep fans busy until Guardians arrives. We'll see how it fares – and provide you with the necessary tips for going into battle – when it arrives on Xbox One November 18th.