Shane’s Review – Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Part Two)

We’re picking up right where we left off! In the first part, I covered Halo: Reach, Halo: CE, and Halo 2. You can go view that article to see what I had to say about those games. In this article, we are playing the latter part of the Halo saga in this collection. I’m playing Halo 3: ODST, Halo 3, and Halo 4, in that order. I typed each of my opinions of each of these three games in real time. For example, when I finished Halo 3: ODST, I started the first draft of this review and immediately typed what I had to say on Halo 3: ODST while all of my opinions were still fresh and it was the latest campaign I played.

Without further dialogue, let’s jump right in!

Halo 3: ODST

I noticed the setting of this game was quite familiar because it was the same city as you played through in the mission Metropolis from Halo 2. This is a highly advanced city, 500+ years in the future in Kenya, called New Mombasa.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away but I can easily set the scene for you.

You are a rookie in a ODST team (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers). Your mission is to drop down into New Mombasa and recover the artificial intelligence, called The Superintendent. This A.I. controls the city such as the power, cameras, and anything else. Also, the ODST team is interested in using this A.I. to figure out what the Covenant is seeking in New Mombasa.

Of course, the mission is not so simple. Things go wrong, and you get separated from your team. As the campaign marches on, you find different items around the city and put together the puzzle in hopes of re-uniting with the ODST team in order to resume the original mission.

With this story, I can safely say there is no cliffhanger, and in fact, the final cutscene leads right into Halo 3. I wish I could say more, but I cannot without spoiling it for you.

Turns out, it was a great recommendation to play this campaign before Halo 3, even though when the game was initially released, it was beyond Halo 3’s release.

The main takeaway from this game is that Bungie tried a different style with the campaign to this game. I wonder if they were receiving some criticism with the fact that Halo is more of a linear campaign to where you progress through a level, kill waves of Covenant aliens and brutes, and then reach the end. Once you do that, a cutscene happens, and it’s onto the next mission. Rinse and repeat. I have noticed this pattern but it was perfectly fine with me.

With Halo 3: ODST, Bungie lets you explore New Mombasa after each mission. They give you a map and they show you the general direction of the next objective. You get to roam around the city in a semi-open world. Once you reach the blue objective on your map, the game wants you to look around the area and find a clue, such as a weapon hanging from a cable or one of the ODST team member’s helmets bashed into a wall.

Then, you interact with the item and it triggers the next mission in the campaign. You go back and forth between different ODST team members, eventually re-uniting. Heh, whoops, minor spoiler on that one! Still though, you can see with this game Bungie wanted to experiement with a different type of campaign. At the end of the given mission, you will see how that item you found got to its location and then you were prompted to explore New Mombasa once again and find the next clue, almost like you’re a detective.

I thought the change in the campaign was bold enough to give you a breath of fresh air and a break from the traditional cycle. Also, it was safe enough that every mission involving the ODST team members took you back to the traditional, linear experience. In fact, I wonder if 343 looked into this game to help them with the idea behind the campaign for Halo: Infinite coming out this holiday season.

With it’s gameplay demo last year, it looked like you could roam around the map and go to different objectives and trigger missions from there.

In terms of gameplay, graphics, and performance, Halo 3: ODST operates just like the other three games I have mentioned so far.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Halo 3: ODST. I will admit though, I got to a point shortly after the midway point of the game, to where I would just run as fast as I could to the next objective in New Mombasa and skip as much as the combat as I could during the “Explore New Mombasa” objectives.

Sometimes, it’s okay to shake things up a bit and Halo 3: ODST is one of those “case and point” examples to reference.

Halo 3

Before we get too far with talking about Halo 3, I want to say that Halo 3 was my overall favorite campaign in the Master Chief collection.

For many reasons, it took Halo 2, which was my overall favorite campaign in the first half of this review, and it made it bigger, as well as better.

With Halo 3, the whole theme was finality and resolving the conflict between the prophets, the Flood, and the humans.

Each mission of Halo 3’s campaign felt grand. The further you went along in the stories, the battles got bigger and the enemies got even more major. You were working your way up to the two main antagonists of this campaign and the execution was well-done!

It felt like that in many respects, Halo 3 was supposed to be the final sendoff. You get the same sense when you’re watching The Return of the Jedi. Everything has already been introduced, you have been exposed to the cliffhanger, and now it’s time for the resolution.

I told my wife that Halo 1,2, and 3 felt like the progression of watching the original Star Wars trilogy. The first movie in both instances introduced the main characters and main conflict without diving too deep. Plus, if either flopped, it could have been a fine stand-alone story. Instead, both were a major success and got proper sequels. Halo 2 did a great job fleshing out and advancing the plot and background for their already established characters, as well as adding some new ones to the fray. Remind you of Empire Strikes Back?

As for the final installment, you’re watching the grand conclusion. To me, that resonated very well. It was the capstone to all of the long hours I have spent on each campaign and especially all of the frustrating effort I poured into completing Halo: CE.

I liked how it rewarded you with seeing New Mombasa after the events of Halo 3: ODST as well. Granted, you got exposed to the aftermath of ODST’s plot first hand and you were in a neighboring town.

In terms of the gameplay, it stayed true to the previous games. One aspect I appreciate about Halo 3 is the balance of fighting combat on the ground as well as the fact that you are given just as many opportunities to take over the various vehicles and participate in the big battles, especially when you have to take down the Scarab.

One comment I also want to point out is that Halo 3 was not re-mastered. You’re getting the original visuals minus some of the lighting improvements Xbox does with its HDR. Halo 3 was released in 2007 and it aged very, very well. I remember my friends playing this game and thinking “this is only the beginning of the 360??” I really was torn with my inner conflict of getting a PS3 or a 360 at that time. That was a real tough call.

Considering the order of the games in terms of how I played them, this game was the final one made by Bungie. In many ways, it felt like a good sendoff for the company that brought Halo to reality and started a huge franchise.

After completing the story, I had to take a couple of days and let the epic story just marinate in my mind. Ultimately, it left me wanting to play more. I was curious to see what direction Halo 4 would take, given the finality of Halo 3. Not to mention, Halo 4 was the first game made by 343 Industries.

Halo 4

Upon typing this section of the review, I am a day removed from completing the Halo 4 campaign. This campaign is going to be complicated to review. In terms of comparisons, it’s like the Star Wars: Episode 7 to Halo. You already have a perfect trilogy and 343 was tasked with taking this franchise and rebooting it with a fresh trilogy of ideas. A lot like Disney had to face when booting up their billions of dollars purchase.

So how did 343 do? Well, it’s complicated. Even up to this point, I am still conflicted. There are some aspects of this game I thought they did better, or at least enhanced. There are also some changes they made that really hinder my views.

Let’s start with the easy topic, the graphics. This game released in 2012. Around this time, we were near the tail end of the 360’s console generation. The rumors were already swirling of the new consoles and many of us wondered what these last few games would show.

Late 2011, we got Skyrim and gosh did it look great!

So naturally, a lot of gamers wondered how Halo would push it with graphics. To me, they did an exceptional job. The lighting was terrific and it was just a visually pleasing game. Space was detailed very well, and then the architecture of the Forerunner world was just great.

Not to mention, it was fun watching these new high tech Forerunner guns had their own visual pop. It felt like Halo 4 wanted to be next-gen so badly.

This campaign pairs really well with the Xbox Series X’s enhancing features. The HDR is very complimentary and makes the colors pop even more. Graphics were a huge win for 343.

How about the story? A lot of people don’t remember the story to Halo 4. I talked to many friends that have played each game. It seems like their sour taste of Halo 5 has clouded their memory of what they thought of Halo 4. I really am trying not to use another Star Wars comparison here, but it fits so well! Remember how The Last Jedi resonated with the people that just flat out hated it? It made their originally fair takes on The Force Awakens sour even more.

On paper, 343 did a great job setting up multiple angles. You have Cortana, Master Chief’s AI, going through rampancy. Basically, she has survived longer than intended. Due to this, she is deteriorating and devouring herself. With this in mind, their bond is what humanizes Master Chief in this game. He has been paired with her for so long and he watches the effects of her rampancy in real time.

Another aspect is that you get to meet the Forerunner race, especially the main antagonist, the Didact. In short, the forerunners and humans have been in a conflict for a long time and he’s ready to wipe out the humans. Keep in mind, I’m trying to cover the story but not spoil it.

Then, you are also introduced to the conflict between the OG Spartan, Master Chief, versus the newer Spartans and chain of command that operate the USNC Infinity. They are concerned that Cortana’s rampancy is going to take Master Chief down with her. Unfortunately, Chief does not want to part with Cortana, so that gives him a major target on his back by the UNSC. They don’t cover it too much more, but it sets the stage for Halo 5.

That’s a lot to digest right? Well it is! You get to see this story flesh itself out and honestly, it’s a fair continuation of the saga. 343 could have went any direction and they chose this one. The main guy they left out of this story was the Arbiter. They briefly mention the Covenant is at war with him but that’s literally it. 343 provides many cutscenes that flesh out their new story, but you are tasked to find them in terminals on each level. I didn’t find one of them, so I had to watch YouTube videos.

Why do I mention this? Because most of the story gets explained in a single sequence when Master Chief encounters the librarian. She exposes over 10 plot points in a few minutes of dialogue.

Keep in mind also that Halo 4 only has eight playable missions so it definitely could have used a couple more missions in the middle to let it breathe a bit.

So, 343 gets another win in terms of the story. All things considered, it was a fine continuation. I knew I still have Halo 5 to play and hopefully it explains more. I’ll give it the chance to!

Now here is THE single biggest drawback to this game: The damn gameplay!

I had established a pattern with the rest of the Master Chief collection by saying “well it plays a lot like the other Halo games.” This game takes my statement and throws it out of the window.

I have two major complaints about the gameplay.

First, is the limited ammo on the weapons. Many, many times I would find myself having to scrounge for more weapons/ammo during the heat of battle. I would have many enemies firing on me and I struggled to find ammo. The weapons didn’t hold as much as they used to. Hell, I would find plasma pistols and unload all the ammo on an Elite and it still did not kill them.

Combine that issue with my second one: The shield.

You could tell 343 really tinkered with the shield mechanic. First of all, when your shield runs out, you have no idea how much of your health is remaining before you die. So naturally, this forces you to conserve your shields. In other Halo games, I had to be playing outright stupid for my shield to even play a factor. Subconsciously, I did a fine job managing aggression vs tactfulness.

Not this game! Your shields go down very quickly and you also have to wait a fraction longer for your shields to replenish, even a little bit. Try doing this while you are hunting for ammunition and there’s little to no cover for you. Many times, I could not even find a place to hide with many creatures firing from each direction.

It’s like 343 tried to change almost everything with this game. I mean the story alone was a drastic shift, why did they have to change how you have to play Halo as well?

This is where I mention that I bought Halo 4 when it came out. I played over 100 hours on multiplayer. I played only two missions of the campaign because of this gameplay experience. 343 had the task of introducing new players to Halo as well as veterans. The gameplay experience back in 2012 ruined any desire of mine to play the copies of Halo: Reach and Halo: CE Anniversary that sat on my shelf. In hindsight, I should have played those two first. I bring this point up because it made me not dive into Halo until I got my Xbox One in 2018. I could have already been hooked for years. I might have even got an Xbox One original and Halo 5!

The story and graphics are what make Halo 4 standout above the drastic shift in gameplay. I still would give it a good 3/5 but if the gameplay was mostly unaltered from the previous Halo games, it would easily be a 4. I don’t really want to rate any of these games because I’m considering the collection as a whole, but this is just one example how an essential, fundamental aspect of your game can either help or hinder it’s impression. All of these reasons above explain why my views on Halo 4 are mixed.

I remember telling my wife “I don’t know how much of Halo 5 I can even play if they don’t at least fix the ammo and the shields, story be damned.”

(Thankfully, they have….so far. I’m already 3 missions into the next game…)

In Conclusion…

Halo: Master Chief Collection is the essential anthology into the Halo Universe. You get exposed to everything and I think it is the perfect primer before Halo: Infinity launches in the holiday season.

I enjoyed playing each campaign, overall. This anthology shows you why Halo is the main franchise for Xbox, much like Mario and Zelda are equally the main franchises for Nintendo. This game runs very well on the Xbox One (no matter which model you have) because I started this collection on the Xbox One from its first release. The Xbox One X really made the game shine on the 4K television. Then, the Xbox Series S/X upgrade made the game run smoother. You will have no issues there.

The main issue is that you better have 130GB of storage available to hold all of the campaigns (Including Reach and ODST) as well as the multiplayer.

During various stages of playing through this collection, I was able to venture off and play some multiplayer in order to test performance and latency. You will be in great shape if you want to shake some dust off or just get familiar with Halo multiplayer. I would strongly advise that you do not get discouraged because I was at the bottom tier of almost every game I played but it was a blast! I had to remember the Master Chief Collection has been out for years and the maps that the game contains have been out for 20 years in some instances. It’s a hell of a learning curve for a beginner, but give it a shot! That way when Infinite launches, you can jump in and get a head start.

I think that if you are both new and tenured to the Xbox ecosystem and have not got a chance to try Halo, I highly recommend it. I am kicking myself, in hindsight, for not jumping into this franchise sooner. Thankfully, we have this anthology to break the ice.

I remember a friend asking me, “So why should I bother playing Halo? I’m not a major multiplayer person and usually the campaigns aren’t that special, as far as shooters like COD go…” Well, this is where Halo stands out in comparison to its competition, all around. The story is just as epic and impactful as its multiplayer. In many regards, you’re getting two full experiences for the price of one game.

With this anthology in mind, you’re getting six Halo campaigns, and a multiplayer that pulls from each of them for about $30 or less! If you have Game Pass, it’s free as a part of your subscription.

I am also going to write one more piece in my Halo series. I’m going to review Halo 5 and then we shall discuss the upcoming game, Halo: Infinite.

Until then,

Go out there and finish the fight!

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