It could be seen as a means to cash-in on a history of games during the Holiday period, but the depth of delivery in Halo: The Master Chief Collection tells a very different story.
For one, it’s your
story, and this is probably the most poignant thing about this Halo revisit -- the team has gone above and beyond to not simply give you a series of titles playable on a single disc on a single console for the first time, but has also allowed you to tell your own Halo/Master Chief story by way of playlists. Every game in the collection -- Halos one through four -- can be played, from a chapter-by-chapter perspective, in any order you see fit. So, like a music album, you can effectively decide how you want to approach the four games from a gameplay perspective built from your own desires -- want to play nothing but vehicular missions? You can put that playlist together and do it. Only care about what Cortana is telling MC? Well, tee it up and knock it down.
“This [is] really something for the fans, it’s why we started this process,” explains Dan Ayoub, executive producer on the project. “It’s who we wanted to make this game for, in addition to helping [new people] come into the franchise. So we wanted that experience to be special, we wanted it to be magical. [And] we wanted it to be special for the platform because we have so much more power to work with.”
The power side of things might be harder to appreciate given the age of some of the games here, even with Halo 2: Anniversary’s graphical and performance makeover, but that players will have not only four complete single-player experiences, replete with under-the-hood tinkerings for the last two games so they’re now running at 60-frames per second in full 1080p, but the entire multiplayer experience from each game is also included, should not be overlooked. That’s more than 100 maps. And you can jump into these anyway you see fit -- or, load a game-mode and the retail product will find playable games from any of the series for you, all you need to do next is choose which game you want to play that mode in and off you go.
Moreover, The Master Chief Collection is also your first step towards the full Halo 5 experience, and this isn’t simply a means to gain access to a beta or the like, 343 has gone to great lengths to build out the Halo universe while leveraging the Xbox One’s entertainment component as well.
“The Xbox [One] is an all-in-one entertainment box, and Halo is a leader in transmedia,” enthuses Bonnie Ross, 343’s studio lead. “And when we think about how we can tell our stories the things we can do on Xbox One really open up possibilities for us on interactivity; on being able to seamlessly move between game and story.”
The collection itself comes with access to Halo: Nightfall, a new digital series that introduces a new Spartan (Agent Locke) and will serve as a means to ready the Halo hardcore for Halo 5: Guardians. It’s being helmed by the likes of Ridley Scott and Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (whose credits include Battlestar Galactica and Heroes, among others) and, as Ross explains, is larger step forward in the live-action realm for the franchise.
“We learnt a tonne with Forward Unto Dawn,” she reveals. “The production level and, you know, talent and story is at a much more premium level, so we’re super-excited about this story and being able to see it on Xbox One… and we’ll have more interactivity stuff we’ll be able to talk about at [San Diego] Comic-Con.”
While the universe-expanding initiative might seem slightly exclusionary for halfway fans, Ross is quick to point out that none of this will be a requirement to wrap your head around Guardians, and all they’re really doing with the peripheral expansion content is effectively laying “breadcrumbs” for the Chief’s next tale -- one we’re told is darker, deeper and far more personal than anything that has been delivered at this level in the Halo universe before.
And finally, the last piece of the puzzle is, of course, that picking up The Master Chief Collection will grant you access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta -- a practise that isn’t remotely out of the norm in modern gaming, except that 343 is doing so a lot earlier than a lot of their peers do in an effort to not only gather informative and helpful feedback, but to make sure it’s implemented in a productive and reactive manner.
“When we talk about the beta… the beta starts December 27th and [it’s] three weeks long, so it goes to January 17th,” Ross explains. “It [will] focus on arena multiplayer and it is on our brand-new engine we purpose-built for Xbox One so the first time you’ll [see] that will be the beta. It is [also] an interactive beta where we will have lots of different mechanisms to get feedback [and] we’re deliberately having it a year out so we can actually take this feedback and make a difference with the multiplayer for Halo 5: Guardians.”
There’s currently no official word on Australian pricing for the product and when we asked about dedicated servers for Australia given Azure still isn’t up and operating locally, Dan assured us they’d find a way to support the game for the geographically-challenged like us, and with Titanfall an active and successful example of this sort of thing happening we’re inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt (though those servers really need to be up and running sooner rather than later). It’s all obviously not a new Master Chief story, but it’s the perfect lead-in to that next chapter when it lands next year, and with more transmedia of a high calibre on the way for the Halo universe, The Master Chief Collection looks like it’s lining up to be either a perfect way to revisit the Chief’s past before his future is revealed, or to jump into the Halo universe for the first time.
We’ll have more on this Holiday release come Comic-Con time and as 343 trickles it out, so stay tuned.