But will it hold?
Following months of torment for many players and several weeks of teasing, not to mention the promise and subsequent cancellation of an open beta, 343 Industries have deployed the most significant Halo: The Master Chief Collection patch to date. Its aim? To finally fix matchmaking once and for all.
Don't jinx it. Don't even breathe. But as things stand, it seems to be working.
The content update's major objective was to "improve matchmaking performance and success rates," and by and large, it has. To be clear, the last patch actually improved the matchmaking experience for me significantly, but this new drop delivers noticeably improved wait times. Naturally I went straight for Big Team Battle, usually the main offender, and am delighted to report matchmaking speeds of between 1-2 minutes for the half-dozen rounds I played. That said, the player count has been reduced to 7v7, so this is doubtlessly a factor.
Halo 2 Classic seems similarly robust, with speedy wait times and what feels like sharper hit registration. This might just be psychological -- after all, I did read the patch notes -- but I definitely haven't encountered my age-odd bug that used to force me to wait upwards of a minute to respawn instead of a few seconds. I haven't encountered a failed map load or a single instance of unbalanced teams so far.
The only playlist I'm having problems with is Halo 4. Which, I suspect from the general mood of the community and their feelings towards 343 Industries' first attempt, is probably down to a tiny player base as opposed to any problems. A shame, really, because Halo 4 is fantastic and evolved the multiplayer into new exciting new areas without losing that classic Halo feel. Sorry, but it's true.
The update also changes up a few cosmetic details. Colourful animated backgrounds now accompany the matchmaking search. To be honest, I find it a bit distracting, but it is pretty gorgeous nonetheless.
There's clearly still work to be done. Some players still report problems on the Halo Waypoint forums (though most are thrilled to improvements), and there are plenty of features needing attention too. Ranking, for example, not to mention players sticking together after each match rather than starting a new search. Plus, SWAT needs to be brought back as a permanent gametype, because it's the king of all gametypes and its absence is unacceptable.
And the biggest test is yet to come. America will get home from work in a few hours and get involved, stressing the servers and really putting the new patch through its paces. Will it hold, or will it buckle and break under the load as it has done so many times?
The only way to find out is to, well, find out. Good luck everyone.