Halo: The Master Chief Collection Multiplayer Review – Meltdown


Developers: 343 Industries, Bungie (Original on Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3)

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Platform: Xbox One

Release Date: November 11th

This multiplayer review, combined with my Halo: The Master Chief Collection Single Player review, will determine the final verdict for the product as a whole. I plan on taking a look at the multiplayer modes once again further down the line, however the content and how it plays at launch needs to be addressed.

Bungie had accomplished a great feat when they released their first Halo game in 2001. They begun what would be an important addition to the realm of console first-person shooters, all the while immediately bringing legitimacy to Microsoft’s hugest gambit in the Xbox platform. Its groundbreaking revitalization of multiplayer action was only further adapted and realized as future games were added to the impressive collection. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is selling itself a great deal by these aspects, and it’s unacceptable that 343 Industries let the original developers down by not having half of their product function properly at launch.

Right now, what seems to be the most functioning part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s multitude of multiplayer services is custom and customizable games. There are a great deal of options available to those with friends on Xbox Live to get in on the dozens upon dozens of Halo maps across four titles, with the ability to change spawn locations, weapon locations and competitive settings. These peer-hosted maps will help spare you tens of minutes looking for matches with strangers, and best help facilitate actual gameplay.

When you actually get into online multiplayer maps, especially with the updated visuals for Halo 2: Anniversary, the experience is absolutely amazing. The graphical quality of the maps available at launch (with even more coming in December) is outstanding, with updates to not only interactive objects, but to the gorgeous skyboxes. Attention to detail is spectacularly underrated when it comes to twitch shooters, yet 343 did an amazing job with infusing more life into already-vibrant multiplayer settings.

Getting into a matchmaking multiplayer game in Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an ordeal in of itself; keeping a stable connection is a statistical improbability.

What separated Halo entries’ multiplayer at the time of their initial releases was the viability and variety of its multiplayer modes, and that sense of switching things up to keep things interesting remains in each game of the Master Chief Collection. Whether it be Team Slayer, 1-Flag Capture the Flag, Swords-Only or Free For All, each mode still brings its own unique flavor, no matter what map you play in. Some of the melee-only modes need not be chosen on wide-scale maps like Blood Gulch, but in the grander picture, the basic gameplay mechanics transfer over smoothly between game types.

I believe that what solidifies this notion in my mind is that, in my self-realization that I am a poor Halo player (with most of my previous Halo multiplayer experiences being in local matches with my friends during Halo 3), I could find enjoyment in learning the process. In my desperate attempts at forgetting everything I knew during my semi-legitimately-skillful days as a Counter-Strike 1.6 player, my yearning to understand the sensibilities of arena-based FPS action drove my interest in maps like Ascension, Zanzibar, Midship, Lockout and others. My awe in the fluidity of the controls, responsiveness in my shots and the design of the maps are why I can attest that, when the multiplayer experience is working properly, there’s something special here.

If only it would work properly.

Getting into a matchmaking multiplayer game in Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an ordeal in of itself; keeping a stable connection is a statistical improbability. I have not been able to get into a game without at least a two minute wait, and have only managed to keep a 2-games streak without dropping connection to host. There are even times where I can’t get in after multiple stints of searching for players four minutes at a time, where everything up to resetting the console does little to improve matchmaking chances.  The host should be Microsoft, with their dedicated servers, however due to connection problems peer-hosting has been the contingency plan for matchmaking entries. The issue with that is the contingency has come up a lot more often than not, resulting in lag and stutter issues.

Relating further to peer-hosting problems is the return of standby abuse. Hosts can hit standby on their modems, causing others to momentarily drop service while the host player racks up kills and accomplished objectives. This shouldn’t be an issue once dedicated servers are back up, but I had encountered it once and once was way more than enough. It’s fairly silly to see such a simple “lag-switching” tactic be used in a video game in the mid-point of the 2010’s, yet here we are in Halo 2: Anniversary.

Even when trying to share the single player campaign experience with a friend, the peer-hosting for co-op campaigns are downright finicky, if even possible I had gotten in one mission with a friend, however even playing just that 25 minute stretch of story mode simply wasn’t fun. The framerate dips to unstable levels, getting the missions to work required multiple connection attempts and my system even hard crashed like it did during Delta Halo by myself. It is completely not worth the effort to get running long-term, and with the focus on improving matchmaking at the moment, I don’t know when it will be.

When Halo: The Master Chief Collection launched on November 11th, there were a lot more playlists available to access game-specific maps and multiplayer modes in matchmaking. However, to herd users towards specific lists, others were culled until matchmaking could be fixed. With that problem still around at the release of this review, I can’t find a dedicated playlist just to review Halo 4 or Halo: CE multiplayer. Both show up as possibles in other playlists (while Halo 4 is only accessible in the Big Battle playlist), and I have got some time with these games, however it is ridiculous that one can’t pick up a game with the community purely surrounding the maps of these games at launch.

The multiplayer aspects of Halo: The Master Chief Collection have been totally abysmal.

It’s frustrating to see that these connectivity issues the Master Chief Collection is facing is the only thing that’s truly holding back the multiplayer experience. I’ve already talked about the incredible value that four separate story campaigns bring to a $60 title; it is only multiplied a great deal more with the ongoing replayability of these 100-ish different multiplayer maps. With time, it


absolutely work as its brilliant intentions strive for, but having to go onto forums or read PR/Customer Service-driven messages from the studio themselves as to how to improve your wait times to just fewer complete minutes is appalling.

Even in the lead up to the review embargo on November 6th, matchmaking hadn’t even gone live yet. This collection needed more time to develop, to get it right and iron out all the connectivity kinks. The decision not to delay the release, despite even reviewers not having full access to the entire multiplayer service prior to launch, speaks to the necessity of getting another exclusive out the door for the holiday season. Hopefully, future updates will fix these matchmaking problems relatively soon. A great series of games like these deserves the best, not what we have seen so far.

Multiplayer Verdict

More from Reviews

Four Halo games’ worth of multiplayer content, as a concept, seems as good as gold. There may not be a series more impactful for FPS fans (and the Xbox brand itself) over the past 13 years than in the Halo franchise, and a great deal of its excellence is owed to its multiplayer maps. Expertly crafted to facilitate both small skirmishes and large-scale tactical warfare, the map designs (especially across the first three games) are near unmatched. That’s why it’s such an utter disappointment that 343 has completely dropped the ball when it comes to the crux of the Master Chief Collection’s gameplay.

Whether it be matchmaking difficulties, reliance on spotty peer-hosting as an ever-constant fallback, or reduced playlists and game-specific lack of functionality, the multiplayer aspects of Halo: The Master Chief Collection have been totally abysmal.

Final Overall Score

Between single and multiplayer action, Halo: The Master Chief Collection has very much been a tale of two cities. Making its first appearance on the Xbox One, the Halo series had been recalled to life in its single player offerings, with each outputting at 1080p and a mostly-constant 60 FPS (outside of Halo: CE cutscenes). Yet, one golden thread of design has yet to be seen; matching the quality of the campaign missions with an outstanding multiplayer service. It is therein where we come to the track of a veritable storm, with an outright inability to reliably engage in online co-op missions or find match-made online competitive matches.

The potential for a quality set of games is absolutely possible, here; there’s just no way that one can recommend picking it up right now if you’re not interested in the campaign experience. A definite “wait until it is fixed” title that dearly deserved a couple more months worth of development time.

(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.)