343 Industries’ Halo: The Master Chief Collection has always been a brilliant idea in theory. It’s a complete collection of all the Halo series campaigns (sans Halo: Reach) as well as an amalgamation of four games-worth of multiplayer experiences. It’s something any fan of any long-running video game series would love to have and most Halo fans did eagerly pick it up when it launched for the Xbox One in November 2014. Unfortunately, it turns out that putting such an ambitious idea into action is no easy feat and Halo: The Master Chief Collection was rife with problems from the word go. Long wait times, lack of certain dedicated playlists and optimization problem abounded for a good while, and it was enough to drive many a fan from the game entirely. Yet, Microsoft and 343i remained dedicated to supporting the game through it all and the result is a Halo experience any shooter fan can enjoy.
For the first couple years of its life, the matchmaking experience in Halo: The Master Chief Collection left much to be desired. All games and game types were there, but players had little control over what kinds of matches they’d be participating in. Slayer, Capture the Flag, SWAT, Snipers, etc. all shared the same generic playlist for each Halo game and the decision of what to play was made via Halo: Reach-style popular vote. This system was already a bit unsatisfying in Halo: Reach and it only got worse in Halo: The Master Chief Collection (aka “the MCC”).
In the playlists dedicated to individual games, this setup basically ensured that “Slayer” would be chosen most of the time, leaving fans of more niche game-types out in the cold. As for the multi-game playlists, players tended to favor Halo 3 over the others. It also didn’t help that game-types like “Free For All” were only available as competitive playlists. Combine all this with the MCC’s technical issues and the result was a wholly unsatisfying multiplayer experience. Thankfully, the developers’ continued dedication over the past several years has resolved just about all of this and turned the MCC’s multiplayer setup into something other games can learn from.
The current iteration of Halo: The Master Chief Collection has done away with the playlist system in its entirety. In its place is a set of parameters for players to set before they start looking for games. All one has to do is set their desired team size, select which Halo games they’d like to play and opt-into the game-types they’re willing to participate in. From there it’s a quick matter of finding enough like-minded players and one hardly ever has to wait more than a minute to find a game; even niche game-types like Snipers find matches rather quickly. Players don’t have the ability to choose maps anymore, but this new setup works beautifully otherwise. As a longtime Halo fan who hopped back on in anticipation for Halo: Reach, engaging with this new system has been encouraging.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection will be five years old come November this year. That means Microsoft and 343i have been actively supporting it (and then some) for almost five years now. That’s kind of incredible considering that almost every other Halo game saw little more than three years of support before being wound down in favor of the new hotness. They’re not even done with it yet, either. 343i will be adding Halo: Reach to the compilation later this year and that includes Firefight. Despite the game’s rocky beginnings, it seems both developer and publisher were serious about making the MCC into the definitive Halo experience. The game doesn’t offer everything one would want from a Halo game; the compelling ranking and customization systems offered by the individual games are still sorely missed. Even so, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is the best way to play Halo today and it’s only going to get better. It took a long time to get to this point, but it was worth it.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is available now on Xbox One and will be coming to PC later this year. Make sure to check out our original review for a better picture of what the game’s launch state was like.