New to the franchise? Want to know which games to get first? This series is for you.
With Halo 5: Guardians' release imminent, I thought I'd take the time to make a weekly series, in the vein of Wilc0's Halo 101, reviewing each of the Halo games up to this point, and then top it off at the end with a review of Halo 5 itself. Starting with Halo: CE, it will run right through to the 8th of November, by which time I will have played enough Halo 5 to give it a fair review. Finally, on the 15th of November (which, coincidentally, is my birthday) I'll top the series off with a top 10 list of the best Halo games of all time.
Some games will be grouped together, such as Halo PC and Halo: CE. Additionally, graphics will not be discussed in these reviews (art styles and framerates may, though) because we're reviewing retro games here - the original Xbox couldn't handle 1080p. While this series is mainly for those who either cannot play these games due to lack of time or money (or those who (rightly) don't trust review sites), feel free to read and share your thoughts if you have played. Oh, and don't worry: I haven't been paid by Microsoft or anything, these are all my honest opinions.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Glitches, errors and problems prevented a game that had every right to be the best FPS experience ever from fulfilling its potential.
Before I start this review, I want to give it some context. TMCC was announced at the first E3 I actually bothered to watch live. As you could expect, I was insanely hyped - three of my favourite games ever bundled up into a single disk and interface. As the months passed, the constant news did nothing but to make me even more excited. And then, came the release date... And I loved it! I dived straight into campaign, beating Halo 2 on Normal within the first few hours. At some point, though, I must've got round to a bit of Multiplayer, as I was able to unlock the Bite the Hand achievement on day one. I found the UI to be a bit clunky, but didn't notice any other problems.
It was after launch that the problems really began to show up, for me at least. Once I'd beaten Halo 2 on Normal, and Halo 3 and 4 on Legendary, I moved on to Multiplayer - where I found I'd have to start matchmaking, find something else to do for a while, and then come back to actually play. Little did I know, there were many other problems in things such as custom games. I don't know how they came about, but I do know that these glitches, errors and problems prevented a game that had every right to be the best FPS experience ever from fulfilling its potential.
So, onto the actual review. TMCC always boasted that it contained over 100 multiplayer maps, in addition to more than 50 campaign missions, all on a single disk, and it wasn't lying. The UI, while slow and hard to navigate, did an excellent job of organising things, and always telling you which game you were entering into. The biggest problems with the UI were its reliance on the bumpers for navigation, and its slightly slow load times. The bumpers on the Xbox One controller are, in my opinion, the only thing that were downgrades from the 360. They're now more stiff, and harder to press in general, leading me to think that their use in the menus of the game was a mistake. I must admit though, I love that it plays the music from the Halo game you were most recently playing.
Campaign playlists were a very odd addition, in my opinion. I can see why they would be fun, but they've never particularly interested me (thus, I haven't completed any, although I have tried). I'd assume they were a result of the lack of Spartan Ops at launch (and, annoyingly, Firefight). Nevertheless, while not anything ground-breaking, they were a nice touch to add for those people who seldom visit Multiplayer.
The 1080p bar promised was reached in almost all cases, and it looks great. While Halo 2: Anniversary's campaign didn't quite hit it, the difference is barely noticeable. Furthermore, the 60FPS framerate delivered by the games makes the experience a lot smoother, and makes going back to the old games on the 360 a lot harder. However, I will not lie: the 60FPS mark is not always hit. Framerate dips are not unheard of, particularly in the Anniversary graphics of Halo: CEA. Even then, though, it usually stays well above 30FPS, and so remains smoother than the original versions of the games.
As far as new content, TMCC had little to offer besides Halo 2: Anniversary (discussed below). However, it also came bundled with the Halo 5: Guardians beta (expect the Halo 5 review in two weeks from now, BTW) and Halo: Nightfall. Nightfall was by no means exceptional, but it did pleasantly kill a few hours of your time, all the while introducing a character I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of in the time to come. It had the most ridiculous tagline of all time, though.
After a lot of deliberation on my part, I've come to a decision on the verdict. It's based on the game in the form it is now, not the mess it was at launch.
|In the form it is now, where it's finally playable, the sheer amount of content excuses the few problems that remain, in my opinion. It's at the end of its multiplayer lifetime though, so unless you're here for the campaigns, I'd advise getting it soon or not getting it at all.|
|Insane amount of content for one game.|
|Menus worked well, even if they were a little clunky.|
|Additional content was offered as compensation for the slow matchmaking (and some of it was free to everyone).|
|Universal control schemes made the entire package easier to play.|
|1080p was a good move, and even though the 60FPS wasn't always maintained, it was always a step up from 30FPS.|
|Slow matchmaking at launch.|
|A plethora of other, smaller issues still remain.|
|Armour customisation was severely limited.|
Halo 2: Anniversary
This review will be of the new features and graphics added in Halo 2: Anniversary. For a review of the actual game and gameplay itself, please see my Halo 2 review.
This is how anniversary editions should be done.
While Halo: CEA was not a bad remaster by any stretch of the imagination, Halo 2: Anniversary outclasses it in almost every way. Diving right in, let's take a look at the art style and music. Halo 2: Anniversary's single player art style rivals that of Reach. It stays true to the original designs and themes, but also makes it feel like a modern game, with gritty, realistic textures (particularly on the human equipment). The environments look miles better too, and contain nods both to the past and to the future. I've seen complaints saying H2A sticks too close to the source material, but I strongly disagree; it looks brilliant but also reminiscent of the original, without limiting itself too much. From a music standpoint, the new tracks are essentially Martin O'Donnell's original tracks, but re-recorded with some minor alterations, that keep it fresh after 10 years. In my opinion, this is how anniversary editions should be done; true to the source material, but still adding a fresh spin on things.
In true anniversary tradition, additional easter eggs have been inserted into the game, for people to find. The most notable of these are the new terminals. While the terminals did provide some interesting insight into the title of Arbiter over the years, little of what was shown was new lore. Also, quite annoyingly, it didn't explain anything about what happened to 2401 Penitent Tangent, as I'd hoped it would. Skulls were also added. The skulls that were originally in the game remain as options (although they're now available through the menus, much easier to access than in Halo 2 itself), but many more have been added such as the Scarab skull, which is great fun.
Despite only using a modified version of Halo 4's engine, the multiplayer plays surprisingly similar to Halo 2, and that's no bad thing. (Almost) all of the Halo 2 sandbox returns for the anniversary multiplayer (sadly no Shade turret, Spectre or Shadow though), as well as some welcome new additions like the Assault Rifle, Silenced SMG, Speed Boost, Heretic Banshee (for the first time in multiplayer), Gungoose and Hornet. The maps are all well-designed, with logical deviations from the originals. Above all though, they play well, and have enough familiarity for them to bring back memories, while simultaneously having enough differences to feel new and fresh.
So, the verdict?
|This is how remasters of games should be done - true to the original but still fresh and new. It's a shame this game was left in shadow of TMCC's failure.|
|Excellent art style and music.|
|Gameplay hasn't aged a bit.|
|Fun multiplayer, with interesting additions to the sandbox.|
|Many new easter eggs, as well as returning favourites.|
|Limited customisation options (only 6 armour sets).|
|Not all the original sandbox was in the anniversary multiplayer.|
|Lack of uniformity between the multiplayer and campaign - how much time was wasted making two different models for each weapon?|
That concludes the H2A and TMCC reviews. Next week, we're going to take a look at Halo "Pay £5 to Continue" Online.
15:09, October 18, 2015 (UTC)