Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a compilation of first-person shooter video games in the Halo series for the Xbox One. Released on November 11, 2014, the collection was developed by 343 Industries in partnership with other studios and was published by Microsoft Studios. The collection consists of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4, which were originally released on earlier Xbox platforms. Each game in the release received a graphical upgrade, with Halo 2 receiving a high-definition redesign of its audio and visuals that are exclusive to the collection. The game includes access to the live-action series Halo: Nightfall as well as the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta that was available for a limited time.
Each game in the compilation retained its original story and gameplay, with the exception of Halo 2's cutscenes which were extended by Blur Studio. The collection's multiplayer features every map originally released with each title, including six remastered Halo 2 maps.
Critics generally praised The Master Chief Collection for its updated audio and visuals, as well as its quantity of content, but criticized the multiplayer aspect of the collection due to a significant number of bugs and poor matchmaking experiences. Many of these technical issues were later fixed in a number of post-release patches. On May 30, 2015, the campaign mode of Halo 3: ODST was made available for the collection.
The Master Chief Collection consists of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, the anniversary edition of Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4, complete with their full catalog of extras, including all multiplayer maps and gameplay modes. There have been no story or gameplay changes to the original releases. The games are first-person shooters with vehicular combat that takes place from a third-person perspective. All four campaign modes can be played alone or cooperatively via split screen or Xbox Live. Each campaign has four difficulty levels and access to gameplay modifiers known as "Skulls".
As in Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 players can swap between the original and upgraded graphics on the fly. Additions to Halo 2's campaign mode include "Terminals", and new prologue and epilogue cutscenes to link the series for Halo 5's debut. Since only six of the game's multiplayer maps were remastered, there are two Halo 2 multiplayer modes. The Halo 2 anniversary multiplayer mode uses the six remastered maps, while the standard Halo 2 multiplayer mode includes all of the original game's released maps with a full graphical update but no remastering. The Collection multiplayer includes Mission Setlists, curated lists of levels selected from throughout the series.
The Extras menu includes access to live-action video series Halo: Nightfall and the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta, until it was removed prior to the game's release. The compilation features new Achievements, and all difficulty and play modes are unlocked from the start. The game launched with a total of 4,000 Gamerscore spread across 400 Achievements—the largest amount of Gamerscore given to a game since its introduction—with another 500 Gamerscore, spread across 50 Achievements, being released in a day-one update. With the release of Spartan Ops a few months later, an additional 50 Achievements, worth 500 Gamerscore, were released. In May 2015, another 100 Achievements, worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore, were released alongside Halo 3: ODST.
The collection was developed by 343 Industries in conjunction with Certain Affinity, Ruffian Games, Saber Interactive, Blur Studio, and United Front Games. Following the announcement of The Master Chief Collection at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2014, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox division, stated that the collection originally began as just a remastering of Halo 2 to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. 343 Industries decided that it would be a great opportunity to release the other main Halo titles for the Xbox One in preparation for the 2015 release of Halo 5: Guardians. All of the games run at 60 frames per second and have received lighting upgrades; all but the Halo 2 remake have a native resolution of 1080p. On October 18, 2014, the game had been declared gold, indicating it was being prepared for duplication and release.
Combat Evolved Anniversary is based on the high-resolution remaster of the original released in 2011 for the Xbox 360.Kinect features from the Xbox 360 version are not supported in the Xbox One collection. Stereoscopic 3D features from the Xbox 360 version are not supported in the Xbox One collection. Ruffian Games was responsible for developing the Halo 3 and Halo 4 ports.Halo 3 and Halo 4 received only a simple lighting upgrade, and an increase in both frame rate and rendering resolution. 343 Industries designed the interfaces and online networking. United Front Games worked on the unified interface that works across all games. Coinciding with the release of The Master Chief Collection, 343 Industries developed the Halo Channel, an application for the Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. It is a successor to the Halo Waypoint app that was released on the Xbox 360. The Xbox One app is integrated with the collection, allowing players to access Halo: Nightfall and "Terminal" animations, unlock rewards for the game, and launch the games directly from the app.
Halo 2 Anniversary
Saber Interactive, which co-developed Combat Evolved Anniversary, assisted in the remake of Halo 2's campaign. It received a complete visual overhaul. The game's soundtrack and sound effects, such as weapon audio, were updated as well. The refined Halo 2 cutscenes, as well as two new cutscenes created to complement the Halo 5: Guardians story line, were produced by Blur Studio. They feature the same structure and timing of the originals, and motion capture was utilized for the animation.
"Terminals", a feature first introduced in Halo 3, were added to the Halo 2 Anniversary campaign. Their purpose was to create a "connective tissue" for stories within the Halo universe that explores the relationship between the different races within the Covenant and extensively covers the events portrayed in Halo 2. Terminals also gave 343 Industries the opportunity to introduce Spartan Locke, a main character in Halo 5: Guardians. Visual effect studio The Sequence Group collaborated with 343 Industries to provide the animation; the group had previously performed similar work in Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4. Several voice actors reprised their roles including Keith David as the Arbiter, John DiMaggio as the Heretic Leader, and Tim Dadabo as 343 Guilty Spark. Mike Colter provided the voice-over for Spartan Locke.
Once the Halo 2 Anniversary project was green-lit, executive producer Dan Ayoub at 343 Industries reached out to Max Hoberman of Certain Affinity for assistance on the multiplayer component. Hoberman originally designed Halo 2's multiplayer and founded Certain Affinity after leaving Bungie in 2006. Certain Affinity was asked to remake several of the multiplayer maps from Halo 2. The team found it difficult to decide how many of the original 24 maps to redesign and eventually settled on six – two small, two medium, and two large – to provide some variation.
Along with the visual upgrade, Halo 2's original score was re-recorded with the San Francisco Symphony at Skywalker Sound studio. Guitarist Steve Vai returned to the franchise to play on additional tracks with Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor. The Halo 2 Anniversary soundtrack was released on November 11, 2014.
On June 9, 2014, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo with a trailer titled "Hunter and the Hunted". The trailer was created by animation company Digital Domain, which had previously collaborated on other Halo commercials. The trailer recreates a moment from Halo 2, in which the Master Chief rides a bomb into a Covenant ship. It is narrated by Keith David, who voices the Arbiter. Several other trailers were released prior to launch, showcasing the updated cinematics and Terminals featured in Halo 2 Anniversary, and gameplay from all titles across the collection. On October 31, 2014, 343 Industries released a documentary, Remaking the Legend – Halo 2: Anniversary, chronicling the history of Halo 2 and the development of Halo 2: Anniversary; it also features interviews with developers at Bungie and 343 Industries. The documentary was initially broadcast on Twitch.tv, and was later available on the Halo Channel, Xbox Video, and YouTube.
In August 2014, UK retailer Game revealed two special editions of The Master Chief Collection. The "Limited" edition includes a steel book case, a map book, and an in-game modifier, while the "Mjolnir" edition includes all the content from the Limited edition, along with a 1-foot (0.30 m) statue of the Master Chief. In October 2014, Microsoft announced a white Master Chief Collection Xbox One bundle for Brazil and other "select markets". A second Xbox One bundle containing the collection was announced for release in the United States during March 2015.
The collection was released worldwide in November 2014. 343 Industries confirmed that the collection would be available to download from the Xbox Games Store on the day of release. A 15-gigabyte patch went live to those who had digitally preordered it through the Xbox Games Store on November 6, 2014. Players who preordered through the Xbox Games Store also received early access to the "Boom" Skull, which provides double the explosion physics in the Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 campaign mode; it became available to all other users on December 12, 2014.
At launch, many players experienced problems with online matchmaking modes. 343 Industries released numerous updates to address these issues. On November 24, 2014, Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries, issued a public apology noting issues "that have resulted in a frustrating experience, including long matchmaking times and low session success rates". On December 19, 2014, Microsoft announced that as an apology for the issues, it would give a free month of Xbox Live Gold, a special avatar and nameplate, and a free downloadable copy of the Halo 3: ODST campaign to those who played the game between its launch and December 19, 2014. The campaign mode of ODST was released to the public on May 30, 2015, and with it, 100 additional Achievements. It is available to purchase separately to those who are not eligible for a free code for the add-on.
Spartan Ops, the episodic content originating in Halo 4, was released as downloadable content for The Master Chief Collection on December 22, 2014. Additional Achievements for Spartan Ops and the multiplayer mode were released on January 8, 2015.
Halo: Nightfall—a series of weekly, episodic digital videos directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan and produced by Ridley Scott—launched soon after the collection was released. The series was designed to connect the stories of previous Halo games to the upcoming Halo 5. The Halo 5 beta launched on December 29, 2014, and ran until January 18, 2015.
With the release of The Master Chief Collection, Microsoft and 343 Industries announced an official competitive gaming league, the Halo Championship Series (HCS). 343 Industries partnered with the Electronic Sports League, live-streaming platform Twitch.tv, and other tournament organisers to foster the competitive multiplayer community in Halo. The first season of HCS, featuring Halo 2: Anniversary's multiplayer, launched in November 2014 and ran until March 2015. It served as a test bed for ideas and future plans that 343 Industries has for esports in Halo 5.
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Halo: The Master Chief Collection received generally positive reviews. Aggregating review website Metacritic gave it a score 85 out of 100 based on reviews from 69 critics. Reviews praised the graphics, frame rate, and content included in the bundle, but criticized the prominent matchmaking issues that prevented players from playing online multiplayer modes on release day.
The technical issues deeply affected the game's online experience. Forbes' Paul Tassi wrote the game on release "was just flat out broken", and though improvements have been made, it "may very well be the worst major game release in a decade." Stuart Andrews of Trusted Reviews commented that "Halo 3 looks and feels surprisingly dated" when compared to the rest of the collection, particularly Halo 2 and Halo 4.
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