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When 343 Industries took over Halo development from Bungie several years ago, the future of the beloved series seemed uncertain. Now that idea seems ludicrous—Microsoft would ever let it die, right?
Thankfully the series is in good hands—hands that seem to want to give fans exactly what we want. Enter Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a package that includes all of the Master Chief's adventures so far. Yes, all of them.
Basically, if you want it to be in there, it's in there.
343 Industries studio head Bonnie Ross and Master Chief Collection Senior Producer Dennis Reese walked us through the package's features backstage at E3 this week. Included on the collection's single Blu-ray disc is the remastered anniversary edition of Halo: Combat Evolved, along with newly remastered versions of Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4. With their shiny new graphics the first two games look fantastic—probably better than Halo 3, actually, though we've yet to see them side-by-side. But more important than graphics is the gameplay, and that's been left 100% intact for the Master Chief Collection.
All of these games play exactly as they did when they were first released. Even glitches—like Halo 2's infamous "superjumps"—are alive and well (though there is one small difference in the new version of Halo 2—it now has normal horizontal split screen instead of the weird vertical split it shipped with). They've also added terminals and skulls to the first two games, though no one is complaining about that. And when you're playing the remastered versions you can switch between the old and new graphics with the press of a button, just like you could in the Halo: Combat Evolved anniversary edition, except now it's faster because of the Xbox One's superior hardware.
That remastered version of the original was a fun nostalgia trip, but it was missing one thing: the game's original multiplayer. Thankfully 343 noted fans' distress at its absence, and in the Master Chief Collection each game retains its original multiplayer engine. The collection also features every original map, both those included on the original discs and downloadable ones, and an online matchmaking system that lets you jump between them seamlessly. Even the Forge from Halo 3 and Halo 4 are intact. Basically, if you want it to be in there, it's in there.
It looks surreal to be voting before a match among a map from Halo 2, one from Halo 3, and another from Halo 4. And it might feel strange going from one engine to the next, but that's something we'll be more than willing to get used to. "Some of our potential fans weren't even born when the first Halo shipped," Ross pointed out. They want to make the whole series more accessible with this release so they can introduce new players while at the same time letting veterans play more easily than ever. Even the menus are easy to navigate, designed to get you where you want as quickly and painlessly as possible.
One thing they were eager to show off is mission playlists. From the moment you pop the disc in your Xbox One, every difficulty level on every mission of all four games is unlocked, and you can play them in any order at any time. But you can also choose playlists that, for example, put every Warthog-driving mission back-to-back, or let you play the final level from each game all in a row. One playlist even has you play from the beginning of the first game to the final mission of Halo 4. There will probably be an achievement for finishing that one up—the whole package has 4,000 Gamerscore worth of them.
Ross said the third most-requested Halo game that fans ask to be released, remade or followed up is Halo Wars—after Halo 5 and Halo 2. We know Halo 5 is coming, and this collection has the oft-requested overhauled version of Halo 2, so who knows what the future of the series might hold? Actually, for Master Chief Collection owners the future will definitely hold at least these two things: the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta, which will become available in December, and the Halo: Nightfall series, a live-action show that tells the origin story of Halo 5 character Agent Locke.
Now that's something to look forward to.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection launches November 11, 2014 on Xbox One.