In the run-up to last week’s Halo Infinite campaign reveal, I started playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection again. Doing so has caused a surprising realization: MCC might be the best thing to happen to Halo – but also the worst.
Yeah, yeah, I know – back when it launched, Master Chief Collection was in a hell of a state. It was the sort of mind-boggling mess that is actually sort of symbolic of the entire Xbox One era: ambitious but misguided to begin with, followed by a lengthy period of upgrades, changes and tweaks that actually got it to a good place. The stigma of the launch is still hard to shake, mind.
Master Chief Collection has done a better job of shaking that disastrous first impression than the Xbox One, or indeed the Xbox brand in general. On Xbox One and on PC it still isn’t quite the perfect package, but it is one of the best values in gaming around, especially considering its inclusion in Xbox Game Pass. That’s great for the fans – but potentially a source of consternation for Xbox and 343 Industries.
You see, this is where I found myself as the hype around the Halo Infinite’s reveal and Xbox Games Showcase settled in. I wanted to play Halo, so I booted MCC. Halo 3 – my favorite one – had just been added to the PC version of MCC, making things even more perfect. So I played a bunch of Halo 3. It holds up extremely well, especially when maxed out on PC, looking sharp and gorgeous in 4K.
So I played and I played. Match after match of Big Team Heavy, or Territories, or whatever. With friends as a tight-knit voice-chat squad and with randoms. Then I watched the Halo Infinite reveal, which looked like the best post-Bungie Halo yet, albeit with some unfortunate graphical problems. I then went back to Master Chief Collection.
The more I played MCC, however, the more I realized something: this is the Halo fix I wanted. My love for these older games isn’t just about nostalgia – these games are generally still rather brilliant. The structure of MCC is less exciting in how it delivers the Halo story – more built around co-op and replaying to find skulls and rack up high scores and less about the narrative – but for multiplayer it’s perfect, seamlessly swapping between games, modes, maps and rule sets to keep things fresh, with handy filters to remove the stuff you don’t want to play.
It dawns on me that no matter how good Infinite might look, MCC is now so comprehensive that I’m sort of getting my full Halo fix right there – which significantly dampens my anticipation of Infinite.
Thus the title of this article. From the fan perspective, MCC is the best thing to happen to Halo. It’s great value and a definitive package of the games they fell in love with. For 343, its achievement with the collection might also prove to be one of the developer’s greatest challenges with Infinite: with all this great Halo available in one neat package that’s playable on both current and next-generation hardware, it needs to find new ways to sell us on Infinite.
Perhaps 343 knew this and this is what the new open-ended structure of Infinite is about. It’s not just Halo with a grappling hook, but apparently a different kind of Halo game – one with sidequests, open-ended objectives and a map. Perhaps that’ll be enough to draw me in – but only time will tell. For now, while people meme Infinite’s visuals, I’ll keep on playing Master Chief Collection online. For better or for worse, it feels like all the Halo I need.