(Link to YouTube Video below)
I think it’s about time to talk about Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Those of you that have watched my retrospective on Bungie, Halo, and Destiny know that I covered my experience with the franchise, but I didn’t cover anything to do with the MCC, more focusing on my love for Bungie and the Halo series as a whole and why that got me into playing Destiny. But with 343’s announcement of MCC finally coming to PC and Halo Reach now being added as well, I thought this would be the best time to talk about my experience with it, but also get PC players up to speed in how we got here in the first place. But to do that, we need to go back and look at the development of the Master Chief Collection.
Coming out of the release of Halo 4, 343 Industries decided to do something a little different while half the team were working on Halo 5. They wanted to remaster Halo 2, just like they did with Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary. But that idea soon changed, they realised that they would have all the games spread out between two different console generations, the Xbox 360, and the Xbox One. So instead of just remastering Halo 2, why not give players the entire Halo experience all on one disk? And so the Master Chief collection was born, but there was a problem. While Halo 2 Anniversary would be developed to run on modern consoles, the other games were designed for the 360 in mind, which meant that it would take a huge amount of effort and time to get them to run perfectly on the Xbox One. And while there is no doubt that all 4 campaigns ran really well on launch, the multiplayer side of MCC was having different problems, but they were problems that 343 had yet to see. According to a blog post by Frank O’Connor published on October 2017, Halo MCC’s multiplayer had been tested by people in the company but there had been no public beta or stress test to see if things ran smoothly with actual players. And while trying to stitch together 4 Halo games worth of multiplayer into a single framework is a tremendous task especially for a brand new console, it still wasn’t enough, and ultimately this was MCC’s downfall, but 343 were yet to know it.
Along comes November 11th, 2014. The release date for Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The day that many players, and 343 Industries, had been waiting for. This game was meant to be a Halo fans wishlist come true, and it was for many including myself. And even though it sold really well, there were a few problems. Firstly those players that chose to jump straight into multiplayer sometimes ended up waiting almost 30 minutes to get a match, and some of those players that did get a match were sometimes kicked from the session without warning. But multiplayer wasn’t the only part of the game experiencing troubles, some players campaign progress was being wiped, and the playlist progress wasn’t even being saved at all. There were a hundred different problems with MCC, and 343 was in panic mode. They put out a few updates trying to rectify the problems, but it didn’t work. Eventually they decided to beta test an update in 2015 hoping to fix these problems once and for all, as well as give players a brand new Halo 2 Anniversary multiplayer map and adding Halo 3: ODST to MCC, but the beta never happened, and the testing for the new update was completed internally at 343. Even though they had added Halo 3: ODST, which was a welcome addition, it still felt as if 343 were never going to fully fix Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
On October 27th, 2015, a little over a year since MCC first hit store shelves, Halo 5 Guardians was released. This was 343’s way of rebooting the franchise after Halo 4, but it received mixed reviews from both players and critics alike, some players felt betrayed by 343 because the campaign they got wasn’t the one that had been advertised in Halo 5’s marketing. But the best part of Halo 5 was the multiplayer, it seemed that 343 had learnt from their experience with the MCC, building a solid multiplayer platform with a large variety of maps, game modes and spartan customisation. But what about the Master Chief Collection? Well it seemed to the players that the developers had simply given up on the game, that they no longer cared and wanted to focus solely on Halo 5, but this was not the case. In that same 2017 blog post from Frank O’Connor, he elaborates that the disaster that was the Master Chief Collection was still fresh on everyone’s minds. Here’s a piece of that post, he writes: “But that didn’t stop us being concerned about it anymore. On the contrary, in some ways leaving it worse. I mention this not to garner sympathy, we deserve none, but to answer folks who’ve continued to ask, “Why don’t you guys care?” We do. Everyone here puts their and soul and sweat and tears into building our games. I can tell you without hesitation that I have never heard someone here dismiss or ignore or belittle complaints. We always take them to heart. It’s the internet of course, so sometimes folks take it too far, with threats or other inappropriate reactions, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand the anger or disappointment those came from.” But the players didn’t know this, and obviously a lack of communication between 343 and the fans caused many to lose hope and eventually abandon MCC altogether. But there was hope on the horizon, and that hope came in the form of a brand new Xbox One.
With every new next-generation console that is released by Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo. There is always improvements being made, with better frame-rates, higher fidelity, and better looking graphics, companies have always brought out newer versions of their consoles over their lifetime. Microsoft’s newest version of the Xbox One was the Xbox One X, supposedly made for the most hardcore of Xbox players that play hours upon hours on their consoles and want the best graphics and power they can. But for 343, this was a way of finally fixing the problems that had plagued MCC since 2014. With many updates to the Xbox One’s operating system over the years and now a bigger and better version of the console on the horizon, 343 took this as a chance to finally make things right, and make Halo: The Master Chief Collection the definitive Halo experience it was meant to be. Right after the announcement of the Xbox One X, 343 Industries held a livestream detailing what’s going to happen with the MCC going forward, and what sort of updates players should expect in the coming months. For myself and many players, we felt that maybe there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but we had heard these promises before and we had been let down too many times to really truly believe it. As someone who played a lot of MCC from it’s release through to when this update was announced, I took it with a grain of salt. But when the update finally rolled out, myself and many other players would be extremely surprised.
To say that this update completely fixed all the problems MCC had would be a stretch, but it definitely improved the overall experience. With a brand new UI look that made it easier to navigate the menus to a much better matchmaking system that had players entering into matches in seconds, not minutes, was a huge improvement over what MCC had been like at launch. But this wasn’t the only update that 343 had prepared, in fact they were going to be rolling out even more updates and bug features over the coming months, as well as adding new game types and having seasonal events. All of a sudden the Master Chief Collection was alive again, old players who had given up on the game were returning, and new players with their new Xbox One X’s were joining in on the fun as well, wanting to experience the Master Chief’s epic saga for the first time. But was it enough to save the game? Not for some, with the disappointment with MCC and disappointment with Halo 5: Guardians, some players decided to abandon the Halo series entirely. But those that stuck it out, that kept playing long after 343 had stopped putting updates out for the game, have seen it come to life again. Even all the way up to the end of 2018 343 was putting out regular updates, but the most important part? They were talking to the community, taking feedback and using that to improve the game. The Master Chief Collection was now a playable and fun experience for everyone playing it.
And that now leads me into what has happened in 2019, as I said at the start of this video 343 Industries announced earlier this month that Halo: The Master Chief Collection was officially coming to PC. As well as Halo Reach being added to both PC and console versions. And people are excited. This is the most I’ve seen people talk about Halo since before Halo 5. And that’s exciting! I’ve realised that this video has not once mentioned what I think of the Halo games as a whole, but I have plans to do a retrospective on all the games individually. What I wanted to do in this video was show the new players that have never played MCC before, those playing it on console or when the PC version comes out, what the Master Chief Collection has been through. I just have to say thank you 343, for giving us the Halo experience we always wanted. And to those of you just joining us, that have yet to experience the Master Chief’s epic journey, let’s finish the fight, together.