On November 11, 2014, fans were rejoicing as one of the biggest video game collections was set to launch. Halo: The Master Chief Collection had been announced at E3 earlier that year, and consisted of the entire mainline entries in the Halo Saga, as well as their multiplayer components. As a combined package, this included a total of 46 campaign missions across four games, close to 100 multiplayer maps as well as the much-loved Forge and Theatre modes, the latter of which had been expanded significantly with the addition of new features.
As an added bonus, The Master Chief Collection also served as a celebration of Halo 2’s tenth anniversary. Much like Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary featured updated graphics in the campaign alongside stunning cinematics that were produced by Blur Studios. The score and sound design received significant updates as well. For multiplayer, six popular maps were remade and were available alongside the original collection of maps from Halo 2.
At the time 343 Industries and Microsoft seemed like they were providing an insane amount of value to players, and it served as the perfect way to introduce new fans to the series right before the release of Halo 5: Guardians.
If only that were the case, though. As the game slowly released across each region, more and more players jumped online to create new memories and amazing moments in a series that had already provided several over the years. What they were met with was a multitude of issues that rendered the multiplayer portion of the game virtually unplayable.
The multiplayer in Halo: The Master Chief Collection was a nightmare. It was plagued with connectivity issues, making it extremely difficult to do so. If you were lucky enough, you likely would have had to wait for minutes to do so. Even then, there was also a high chance that the lobby would fall apart before a game even began and you’d be left searching once more.
The release was a catastrophic failure, one that 343 Industries and Xbox did not need at the time. 343 Industries had only developed Halo 4 prior, and many fans had been critical of the series after Bungie had departed. Xbox was still recovering from the Xbox One’s launch woes, and Phil Spencer had only just begun to lead the Xbox brand. On November 25, 2014, Bonnie Ross published a post on Xbox Wire to issue a public apology on behalf of 343 Industries.
The issues mentioned previously were highlighted, with Bonnie assuring readers that 343 Industries and Xbox were committed to rectifying them as soon as possible. Close to a month later, as the teams vigorously worked on the issues at hand, Bonnie Ross published another blog post, apologising once more and announcing a number of items that were to be gifted to fans that had played The Master Chief Collection. Among these was the announcement that Halo 3: ODST would be added to The Master Chief Collection, along with the popular Halo 2 map “Relic” getting the anniversary treatment.
The game served as an access point for the multiplayer beta of Halo 5: Guardians, which to the surprise of some worked without any significant issues. Better yet, after months and months of continuous updates issues began to disappear and multiplayer was somewhat functional again. New achievements were added, as well as the addition of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops episodes. In May 2015, Halo 3: ODST joined the collection (without Firefight, unfortunately) and was free to everyone that had played the game in its first month of launch. For those that didn’t, it was available for around US$5 – an absolute steal
Just under 12 months after the release of The Master Chief Collection, Halo 5: Guardians launched and many players naturally flocked to the game. The Master Chief Collection had improved significantly, but it was far from perfect. The menus were slow and clunky, and matchmaking certainly wasn’t a smooth experience either. The team kept pushing out smaller updates to the game, but something drastic was clearly needed.
Close to three years later, that update finally came. On August 27, 2018, Halo: The Master Chief Collection received a hefty 73GB update. The result of months of work behind-the-scenes between the team at 343 Industries and their trusted MCC Insider Community, the update saw a number of enhancements. The first of which were visual enhancements for Xbox One X users, allowing the entire game to run at up to 4K UHD and HDR. Updated Menus and UI elements ensured the game was much easier to navigate and more visually appealing, and the team were even able to significantly improve load times across the game. Most importantly though, was a sizable update for the game’s matchmaking offerings, with the addition of dedicated servers for all matchmaking offerings, updated playlists and offline LAN support.
It was a massive turnaround for the game, and it came at just the right time with The Master Chief Collection joining Xbox Game Pass only days later.
It took some time, but it was great to finally see The Master Chief Collection for what it should have been in the first place. 343 Industries didn’t leave it at that, however as 2019 brought even more changes to the game. Last year, over 2 million transferred custom maps and gametypes from Halo 3, Halo: Reach and Halo 4 in a one-time file transfer, bringing across some of the classic custom games and Forge maps to The Master Chief Collection. Its matchmaking system was once again overhauled, allowing players to easily choose what game they’d like to play along with the exact gametype preference, and Halo: Reach finally made its way to the collection.
The work that has been done to fix The Master Chief Collection is astounding. Admittedly, the game should have worked at launch, but 343 Industries could have easily abandoned the title years ago. Instead, they’ve had a small team working tirelessly to continuously improve the game. Is it perfect? Not entirely, there are some small issues on the console version, and it has needed numerous updates on the PC to remove many bugs and glitches. Despite this, we need to commend 343 Industries and the supporting development teams for their commitment to providing the best possible experience to their dedicated fanbase. The result of their commitment has allowed Halo: The Master Chief Collection to grow into what is arguably the greatest collection of games to date.