When Halo: the Master Chief Collection was announced earlier this year, I sent a text to a friend and fellow Halo enthusiast, asking him rhetorically if we were going to play through the Halo 2 campaign on Legendary. The Halo 2 Anniversary edition alone was worth the price of admission, and really what I had been waiting for in the Halo series. All the other stuff: three Halo games, Halo 5 previews, etc; was great of course, but I was sold on the promise of remastered visuals for the 2004 classic and a chance to take a crack at its venerable multiplayer maps. In a year that has seen some big releases, I can say that the Master Chief Collection has been the only “blind” purchase I’ve made. No previews or reviews were necessary for me, I knew exactly what I was getting. You may be wondering if Halo 2 was really that good or if I entered some sort of sentimentality mode during the Microsoft E3 2014 presser that stayed with me all the way to the Amazon preorder page. I’ll confess that I own far too many copies of the same game on multiple platforms, especially if it’s some old game with updated HD graphics. But yes, Halo 2 really was that good in 2004 so I was more than happy to punch the $60 ticket to nostalgiaville.
According to the metrics maintained on Bungie.net, it’s been 3,321 days since my last multiplayer game in Halo 2. If you’re curious it was a losing effort in rumble slayer in which I came in with an ugly 7th place finish. It’s easy to take for granted now but Halo 2 was the game that made Xbox Live. Sure there were other franchise milestones in the game but it was the multiplayer that stood head and shoulders above the rest. It really laid the groundwork for the huge success of the Xbox Live platform. That’s probably not much of a revelation to people who had been fans of the game since the start. I was a latecomer to the Xbox world, in fact I didn’t buy one until fall of 2004, shortly before Halo 2 came out. Actually I had bought it for Fable, not Halo. I didn’t “get” Halo: I knew it was immensely popular, especially for its local multiplayer, but I was leaving dorm life by the time it hit so I had no easy access to the console or competition. I had been more into Goldeneye anyway, as were many of my contemporaries. But once I joined Team Xbox and had been shamed into a few rounds of LAN games I quickly understood. Halo’s multiplayer was solid and relatively easy to get into. So with all that in mind, the irony hasn’t been lost on me that the Master Chief Collection launched with some embarrassingly bad online issues. 343 Industries has been patching the game ever-so-lovingly to address the issues, but still it was not a great way to reflect the legacy of the series. When multiplayer works though I can say I’m not doing any better or worse than I did in the old days.
In his review of the collection, Chris Watters wrote that: “…it’s a game that makes a strong case to be owned, to be put on your digital shelf for when you’ve got an old friend coming by, or are hankering to revisit familiar battlegrounds.” He’s absolutely right about that. Since adding the Master Chief Collection to my shelf, I’ve been waiting to get into the action with a few of my old buddies. In single player I just haven’t spent as much time in the corridors of the Forerunner superstructures as I would have thought. My trip down that particular memory lane has left me wondering how I loved Halo 2 so much without the benefit of sprinting, but I’ll leave that matter to others more passionate about the sprint in Halo subject. That said beyond the multiplayer issues everything else about the collection is, in a word, awesome. If you’ve never played any Halo games or if you’re interested in the iconic series for its own sake, the collection is a bargain. The magic of the series really shines through when experiencing it with a friend, and if it’s with somebody who you know has gone through the Master Chief’s adventures, they can marvel with you at those remastered 1080p textures and sound effects.