Halo: The Master Chief Collection's matchmaking is an object of shame, embarrassment and ridicule, both for 343 Industries and us reviewers. The fortnight since launch saw Halo's new guardians apologies, grovel and make all the right noises, but fixes were slow and stumbling, especially following a massively-hyped patch last week that addressed practically everything EXCEPT the state of matchmaking.
However, in the wee small hours of last night (UK time), 343 quietly slipped out another Halo: The Master Chief Collection update weighing in at 523MB. With few hopes and low expectations, I summarily download the file and tried it out.
Ooh. Hey. Whoa. I don't want to jinx anything, but from what I've experienced post-update, this unassuming new patch actually makes an enormous impact. Sadly, it also sometimes does something weird and stupid just to keep us on our toes.
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Enough is enough, Halo: Master Chief Collection. This is getting ridiculous.
That Halo: MCC's multiplayer matchmaking is still a muddled mess several weeks after release is frankly unacceptable. We've given 343i a lengthy spool of rope, and they've been allowed a fair bit of slack from the gaming press, but this was supposed to be the flagship title of the winter. And for all of the talk about what a great content package it is -- and it really is a cracking content package even as an offline game -- the fact is that Halo's multiplayer has always been just as much of an important part of the formula as the expansive, game-changing singleplayer/co-op aspects of the series, if not more so.
This was supposed to be the triumphant end to a year in which the Xbox One has really turned itself around, largely thanks to the efforts of Phil Spencer and his team; and what better series to deliver than Halo? Microsoft and 343i got everything right, delivering an outstandingly well-priced and well-balanced collection designed to (re)introduce a new generation of Xbox fans to the Master Chief and his exploits.
Everything except the matchmaking.
Looking about on Reddit and N4G and the various comment streams across coverage of 343i's debacle, many have asked why the likes of Driveclub and Assassin's Creed: Unity came under such heavy fire while Halo has been given the benefit of the doubt in many quarters. With Driveclub, it's important to note that the game's unique selling points were all tethered to that online experience. Driveclub was a game marketed, previewed, and centred around the connected experience -- without it, the game was simply impossible to review and disappointing to play. Assassin's Creed: Unity was a Uplay-stuffed singleplayer game that released in a broken, shambolic state, filled with bugs that any decent QA department would have surely rooted out, with all signs pointing towards a game that could have desperately used a few more months in development.Click here to read more...
The multiplayer matchmaking might still be a little borked, but otherwise Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a barnstorming value package, and now you can snap it up for under £30.
Use the code CORTANA at the checkout to get it at this price. You can check out Jon's Halo: MCC review here. Thanks Gooner!
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an incredible package, but like any great hero, it has an Achilles' Heel. Matchmaking. Post-launch, what appeared to be solid and stable matchmaking descended to a mess of interminable wait times, broken parties and hilariously unbalanced teams. 343 Industries were quick to apologies and have been working around the clock to sort things out, culminating in a 1400 MB patch yesterday that promised to address the major issues alongside a host of minor tweaks.
So does it work?
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Do I ever feel like an idiot. After refusing to give Halo: The Master Chief Collection a score last week because the matchmaking was untested, I finally got online over the weekend once 343 flicked the switch, successfully tried out the delayed netcode and awarded the game top marks.
Job done. Mission accomplished. Only problem being that the matchmaking then fell to pieces almost immediately!
343 have been working around the clock to fix these problems and many gamers are reporting huge improvements. Unfortunately, I've personally found that the experience has worsened following yesterday's server-side updates, with some crazy wait times and the occasional loading screen freeze. So thank goodness The Master Chief Collection has four massive campaigns to keep you going, packed to the gunwales with fun stuff to try! Here's a sampler (obviously there are minor spoilers ahead):
The Halo franchise is absolutely stuffed full of secrets to discover. Here are just a few of my personal favourites from the last 13 years.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Happy hunting, and be sure to share!Click here to read more...
With Halo: The Master Chief Collection out tomorrow (click here to read Jon's review), the internet went a little mad over the possibility of aiming down sights making its way into Halo 5 after some video footage of the game in action was leaked yesterday ahead of this evening's Halo Fest. The legitimacy of the video footage in question was given credence after studio founder Bonnie Ross tweeted this out:
Leaks are always fun. Tune into #halofest for more on halo 5. Play it at the fest, play in Dec beta and give your thoughts.
— Bonnie Ross (@PlutonForEver) November 9, 2014
It's important to note that the footage in question in no way confirmed blanket ADS for Halo 5, and indeed 343i's studio head, Josh Holmes, clarified some of what had been seen:
No penalty to hip fire in H5, no movement penalty when scoping/zooming, no flinch. Tune in for the beta gameplay reveal at #HaloFest Monday.
— Josh Holmes (@JoshingtonState) November 9, 2014
We're sure to learn more about all of this later tonight, and Holmes already confirmed that descoping is back in, but rather than the debate the notion of potential alleged ADS in Halo 5 (seriously, we're only going to have to wait a few hours), here are five things we'd definitely like to see in the game:
Something didn't quite feel right about Halo 4 to me. It handled brilliantly, had some fantastic enemy design, and the story grabbed me more than any of the previous games except ODST, but it didn't quite make me feel like the Chief.
Much of that had to do with the absence of Marty O'Donnell's fantastic, iconic themes. We got "Never Forget" at the end, but it wasn't quite enough.
Meanwhile, over at Bungie HQ, Marty was working on the best bit of Destiny -- the soundtrack -- before getting fired under very suspicious circumstances. He's free, 343i, snap him up if you can.Click here to read more...
Last week we reviewed the singleplayer portion of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, looking at all four of the legendary campaigns that this unprecedented reboot brings to the table at 60 frames per second, with new challenges and medals, alongside cross-game playlists and full cooperative support.
However, now that 343 Industries has switched on the multiplayer and matchmaking long enough to test it, we're ready to finish this fight.
If you got that reference then you're in good company -- and, spoiler alert, The Master Chief Collection needs to be on your Christmas list.
We've never seen a multiplayer collection like this before. More than 100 maps from all four numbered Halo games are ready for action, from Sidwinder to Hang 'Em High to Midship to Zanzibar to Sandtrap to Blood Gulch, playable in title-specific or cross-game playlists. Whether you're a fan of the outrageous vehicular madness of Big Team Battle (which boasts a cross-game playlist containing 41 maps!), insane King Of The Hill brawls, vertical Oddball matches or the tight teamwork of classic Team Slayer, you're good to go and able to delve into thirteen years of series evolution.
I'm also thrilled to report that SWAT is primed and ready on day zero, including maps from both Halo 2 and Halo 4. SWAT is the king. Make sure it's in Halo 5, 343 Industries!Click here to read more...
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is magnificent. Unprecedented. Masterful, even. It's thirteen years of console FPS history in a single package: Halo 1-4 tweaked and remastered with all of the local co-op, optional skulls, new skill and time challenges, levels, stages, secrets, live-action series and a massive multiplayer suite spanning 100+ maps, brought together into one cohesive experience. Halo 2 pushes the boat out even further with an Anniversary Edition boasting all-new textures, tweaks and gorgeous cutscenes. When it comes to HD Collections and re-releases, we may be looking at nothing less than the new platinum benchmark.
Unfortunately, it's also not all there, and I mean that very literally. The multiplayer suite and numerous performance tweaks aren't included on the disc, rather they have to be downloaded via a massive 15GB patch... which was only released 24 hours ago.
Giving the Master Chief Collection a score at this stage would be hilariously unethical, then, and I'd raise an eyebrow at any site willing to do so. However, having blasted through the all-important singleplayer campaigns, I absolutely can split the review in two to take an in-depth look at the remastered singleplayer and cooperative experience. You'll have to wait until next week for the multiplayer and our final verdict.Click here to read more...
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is out next week, containing all four numbered Halo titles in a single enormous remastered collection. Our full review will be going live soon, but it's now the perfect time to look back at the franchise and remember why we still loved it. For us, it comes down to the levels, thirteen years of unforgettable set pieces, pulse-pounding moments, vehicular shenanigans and the freedom to experiment and improvise with our own strategies. So without further ado: the top ten most legendary Halo levels.
DIShonourable Mentions (nobody's perfect):
Sergeant Johnson knows what the ladies like: grinding treads and awesome tanks. What's not to love? This level starts with a bang as you smash across a Covenant-occupied bridge in a Scorpion, snipe jackals, go on a shotgun rampage ("It's tight quarters on the other side, sir. Use this!"), blow up an entire Covenant task force in a gauss hog and finally leap onto the back of a Scarab to murder its crew.
Halo 2 may be the most inconsistent and unsatisfying campaign in the series, but damn, it has its moments.Click here to read more...
Halo: MCC | Gameseek | £36.00
Voucher Code: 2354682
Get set to come out swinging, because Halo: The Master Chief Collection is absolutely ridiculous. All four numbered Halo games in one package with retouched graphics, new achievements and 100+ multiplayer maps. Frankly it's set to put other re-releases to shame and £36 seems eminently reasonable (remember to use voucher code 2354682 for the extra £2 saving!).
Note, however, that you'll have to download an extra 20GB of multiplayer content before you can play online, though. Hopefully it will be finished by the time you've made it through to 'The Library' in Halo: Combat Evolved. Many thanks to Sunderland06 @ HUKD!
This weekend saw thousands of Halo and machinima fans flock to Austin, Texas for the Rooster Teeth Expo, at which 343 Industries were naturally keen to drop some choice details about the upcoming Master Chief Collection. A new trailer hints at The Arbiter packing some cloudy motives this time around, which we'll be able to expand upon by finding hidden terminals throughout the campaign, while fan-favourite Halo 2 map Coagulation is getting a massive new overhaul.
Oh, and they've decided to strap guns to the Mongoose, creating the appropriately-named Gungoose. New trailer and intel below.Click here to read more...
Halo is coming to Xbox One in a big way, starting this year with the Master Chief Collection, then flanked by live-action TV shows and Halo 5: Guardians. Fans of Spartans and Scorpions have plenty to look forward to.
However, it appears that Microsoft Studios are working on yet another Halo-related project, this time a collaboration between 343 Industries and another as-yet-unknown company. What could it be?
Hold onto your helmets and HUD, because it's time for some wild theorising.Click here to read more...
All the Halo ever is coming to Xbox One.
We knew that already, but didn't know that Microsoft was taking that very literally. The Master Chief Collection has officially been announced, a single disc containing Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 Anniversary Edition, Halo 3 and Halo 4 along with 4000 GS worth of achievements. However, the collection will also contain every multiplayer map from all of those titles, including Halo 2's multiplayer suite in its entirety.
With the exception of Reach and ODST, this is about as "complete" as it gets. Even before you factor in extra content too.Click here to read more...
Frank O'Connor doesn't like people breaking embargoes, and after notorious industry tipster CBOAT's (crazy buttocks on a train) playful little Guardians of the Galaxy-assisted nod to the reveal of Halo 5: Guardians, O'Connor has been fuming. On NeoGAF, CBOAT (also responsible for swathes of rumoured leaked info in the run up to the Xbox One and PS4 reveals last year -- some of it accurate, some of it not so accurate) has been amusingly venerated as something of a prophet for some time. This is NeoGAF, mind, their ordination ceremonies are fairly unofficial.
O'Connor, however, is less keen for such leaking swine to be hero worshipped in such a manner, and took to NeoGAF under his forum ID "Stinkles" to deliver a polemic outlining the damage leakers do:
Breaking embargos is not prophesy. Nor does it require any particular skill or insight. Ultimately he is taking or being given information and leaking it, illegally and often erroneously. And he isn't doing it for some noble or worthy reason. He's doing it for attention.
People, including nice people with kids and families and stuff, work super hard on this stuff and wake up in the morning to find some of their effort blown up. It's not fun, and for what? So you can have a mildly interesting surprise 8 hours early and lacking context? Or get hyped or disappointed disproportionately? Or get someone fired or someone innocent yelled at?
Ok. But it isn't prophecy, nor ultimately even important. It's annoying.
It's not hard to sympathise with O'Connor's sentiments to a certain degree. When you're beavering away on something, any kind of project that has you excited, large or small, you want to be the first one to tell people about it. After the blood, sweat, and tears of getting a project off of the ground, surely as a creator you want to be the first one to relay the message and start getting the word out. To have such an opportunity taken away from you is galling, particularly in the run-up to the world's biggest games expo.
Embargoes serve a purpose in the games industry -- information embargoes allow companies to ready themselves for the public eye. First impressions are absolutely key, and the fact is that the internet can be a home to a hysterical audience. Any information, if it isn't successfully presented (and sometimes even when it is) is always twisted and moulded and torn apart and frequently bastardised as soon as it is released. Once out in the open, there's no real way of controlling it, and so strict NDAs reign supreme, ensuring that everything is just so.Click here to read more...
Halo 5: Guardians is out next year, but Microsoft promise that the Xbox One "journey" starts later in 2014. As such we were expecting an 'Anniversary Edition' of Halo 2 to celebrate the tenth birthday of Bungie's sequel, yet a new report suggests that Microsoft are thinking significantly bigger.Click here to read more...
Halo 5: Guardians' reveal artwork raised eyebrows across the internet by relegating the familiar armour of Spartan-117 (John to his mates) to the bottom of the banner, in place of an as-yet unnamed character wearing MJOLNIR tech.
We previously suspected a couple of series mainstays, but apparently we're way off piste.Click here to read more...
Get set to come out swinging. Touchdown, hit it marines!Click here to read more...
Halo 5 is coming. We'll probably have to wait until 2015 if the rumour mill is anything to go by, but as longtime fans of the series, we can't wait to see how 343 Industries push Bungie's legendary brand into the new console generation.
Actually, we do have a few ideas of our own - and some criticisms of Halo 4 to boot.
Halo 4 deserves to be studied in game design courses over the next few years, since it featured both the best and worst QTEs in recent memory.
The first level challenged us to climb up a collapsing superstructure in the most immersive QTE ever implemented by a videogame. Master Chief glanced left or right instead of relying on silly button prompts, allowing us to unconsciously make the right move without breaking the first-person perspective, to the extent that I had to replay the scene and intentionally fail just to convince myself that it wasn't a cutscene. It was utterly masterful (no pun intended) and we'd be happy with more of that - even in other games. Plagiarise the heck out of it, everyone.
However, we want none of the other kind of QTEs in Halo 5. The bad kind. The lazy kind. The immersion-killing kind. The 'press RB to kill the Elite' or 'hammer X to win the game' kind. No. Bad 343. Bad. Don't make me roll up a newspaper and bonk you on the nose.
eSports are all the rage these days, and Halo 5 is already perfectly placed to turn the best of its gametypes into a sensation. Grifball. Rooster Teeth's joke became a deadly serious mode, one that's as tense and tactical as it is ludicrously fun and riotously ridiculous.
So not only do we crave Grifball at launch, but we'd love loads of rotating championships and tournaments built directly into the game, supported by robust stat tracking, then perfectly accompanied by Xbox One Twitch streaming and DVR. See you in pre-season!
Oh, and we're looking for a fourth team-mate. We're undefeated in 2014. Sort of.Click here to read more...
As I write this, I'm listening to Martin O'Donnell's Rock Anthem For Saving The World. I have the Halo albums shuffled up in a Spotify playlist. Greatest Journey from Halo 3 is up next, and I'm steeling myself for epic Warthog flashbacks from that game's majestic final run. Under Cover of Night aurally describes the midnight before a dawn of fire -- the calm before the storm. The Overture from ODST takes me back to slinking around the Covenant-strewn streets of New Mombasa before Never Forget almost makes me shed a tear. Not for the plot of intergalactic war and the loss and despair that comes with it, but rather for nostalgic good times that have yet to be bettered.
So much of my enjoyment of the Halo series comes as a direct result of Martin O'Donnell's (and Michael Salvatori's) work. The Halo suite itself is an iconic theme that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It's a succession of strings that just says, Oh we got this!
In spite of his long service to the Halo franchise, it's the versatility shown in the games that don't feature Master Chief that gave me hope for O'Donnell's work on Destiny.
This week, though, presumably with much of the work on that game complete, Bungie terminated the contract of their in-house composer. Depending on whose account you read, it's either a straightforward affair, or possibly something a little fishy.Click here to read more...