(In a very good way!)
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is out next week and the first half of our review is live. We haven't tried to give it a score, since a full third of the game was only released yesterday (mark the cards of any site that didn't fully disclose this!), but there's one part of the experience I'd like to bring to your attention as a Halo fan since 2001.
This is the first time that any Halo game has run at sixty frames per second... and it feels completely, totally, wonderfully different.
"No, Jon, you can't tell the difference between 30 and 60 frames per second." Oh, hello. I didn't see you there, mister or miss pedant. Normally I'd hesitantly agree after showing you this, since unless you have two similar games running side by side at different frame rates, developers tend to make up for the disparity with motion blur and other forms of visual trickery. Not to mention that we're used to films running at 24FPS anyway.
However, when you've spent hundreds of hours playing a particular franchise over a thirteen year stint, the first few minutes of Halo: The Master Chief Collection is like taking a plasma sword straight to the retinas.
In a thoroughly delightful way.
If you've seen The Hobbit or its sequel running at 48FPS, the effect is much the same: everything seems to be running in fast-forward. Enemies appear to react twice as fast as they normally would, ducking, charging and dodging with supernatural speed. When headshot or otherwise dispatched, the effect of gravity feels as if it's been amplified twofold as they crumple to the ground in the blink of an eye.
It takes some getting used to. Seeing as Halo 4 was the first section of the game to install, I spent the first level of the game both gawping and questioning my own sanity. I genuinely thought that I'd gone completely loopy following the observation deck shootout as even Grunts seemed to move like The Flash after a strong coffee, let alone the Elites and Jackals as I pushed on into hard vacuum. A quick blast on the Xbox 360 later and, nope, I'm not imagining things.
Or more accurately, I've played so much Halo over the years that the leap from 30 to 60 frames per second was literally a shock to my system.
And it's bloody brilliant.
The action is smoother, sharper, crisper, more muscular, complimenting the aggressive and snappy sound design. Ubisoft have sadly been caught with their pants down, because 60FPS feels better for an action game. Though, of course, Halo's colourful alien aesthetic helps when compared to more realistic titles, which will have to put more effort into their animations and environments at higher frame rates. Which, let's face it, is why many companies are so resistant to it.
You'll soon get used to it. After an hour or so the frame rate becomes second nature, fitting into the four games perfectly, and you'll fall back into your comfortable muscle memory and combat loop.
But fellow aficionados, be prepared... it's gonna be hot. Get set to come out swinging!