Halo: The Master Chief Collection – First impressions last

I’m sure all of us have been told just how important first impressions are. Make a poor first impression to a potential employer and you may never get the chance to prove yourself. Make yourself look like a fool in front of your crush and you may have just ruined your potential date. This basic rule of psychology effects how we judge everything: From our relationships to the products and media we consume. I think most people can agree that Halo: The Master Chief Collection has made an incredibly poor first impression, one so bad that it may never recover.

Halo 2 was released a decade ago. It’s not 2004 anymore. It’s 2014 and things have changed…

The worst launch ever?

In recent years there have been many cluster fuck game launches thanks to developers forcing unnecessary online play and awful attempts to prevent piracy but The Master Chief Collection may be the worst AAA title launch ever, and that’s saying something. It’s obvious that the launch of Master Chief Collection was rushed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Halo 2.

As of writing it’s the 22nd of November. The Master Chief Collection was released 11 days ago here in Australia and I’ve barely touched the game. On the 11th I bought 2 Xbox Ones and 2 copies of Master Chief Collection and rushed home, so excited to relive the glory days. Unfortunately it was too good to be true.

The first mistake by 343 was a 15GB day one patch. Now, I know most gamers have access to broadband but how the hell is this ok? Some of us have data caps and 15GB can easily take a day to download, even on broadband (especially with thousands of people downloading from the same sources). Gamers want to go home, turn on their console, put in a disc and play. The selling point of consoles over PC’s is supposed to be simplicity. I’m not opposed to a day one patch but surely some (or most) of that content could have fit onto a second disc. My guess is that the game was incomplete and content needed to be created and finalised after the game had already gone gold.

Oh, and the game is broken.

Yup, the game just plain doesn’t work. I could write a giant list of reasons Master Chief Collection is broken but I think I can safely sum it up with:

Searching…

343 rushed into recovery mode and made some server side adjustments that seemed to do nothing for the vast majority of players. 343 then promised us a patch to fix match making which was then delayed. Well, the patch is finally here (weighing in at 1.4GB!) and the game is still broken.

I managed to get a game tonight which then proceeded to crash as the level loaded. I’m still unable to make a stable party with my brother. I’ve given up for another night. I’m sure I could eventually get a couple of games of Halo in if I wasted all night trying, but why? There’s so many other great games to play that don’t cause so much frustration.

The reign of Halo

Halo 1 was the killer app for the Xbox. Halo 2 was the killer app for Xbox Live.

While Xbox Live had been around for quite some time before Halo 2’s release, there was little reason for gamers to purchase an Xbox Live subscription. While there was definitely a few great games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein available, no developer seemed to get online play right for a console audience. Most Halo fans preferred to play Halo 1 through XBC despite the poor netcode and difficulties setting up games, over playing the other FPS on Xbox with XBL support at the time. If that’s not an indication of just how good Halo was I’m not sure what is.

Then things changed. Halo 2 came out with a match making system that made it very simple for players to find games. While many hardcore gamers like myself missed the server browser it’s hard to deny just how successful match making has become for online gaming. No need to filter servers by location, ping or map. Just create a party, choose your playlist and wait for a game to come to you.

Halo 2 also had a ranking system to keep players hooked to the game. While ranks were obviously nothing new to online games, Bungie created a system that was simple and kept people playing until 3am trying to earn their level 50 in Team Slayer.

Other games just didn’t stand a chance competing with the popularity of Halo 2. Even when the Xbox 360 launched Halo fans were still clinging onto their original Xbox’s so they could play Halo online and wouldn’t buy an Xbox 360 until the release of Halo 3.

A challenger appears

Shortly after the release of Halo 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released. Boasting an addictive upgrade system to unlock new weapons, fast action packed gameplay and many ways to customise your character, CoD was very enticing for gamers who were starting to get bored of Halo. While it wasn’t quite enough to dethrone Halo it certainly evened the playing field.

Besides the monster that is Call of Duty, free to play games have now exploded. League of Legends can be played for free and will run on a toaster.

The game has changed

Many 343 apologists seem stuck in the 2004 mindset, as if gamers don’t have any other games to play besides Halo. “Just wait a couple more weeks, 343 will patch the game”. Except 343 doesn’t have a couple of weeks. People are already returning their copies of Master Chief Collection. Here’s a list of AAA titles released this month:

  • Assassin’s Creed: Unity
  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Far Cry 4
  • World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

You think the average kid that saves up $60USD mowing lawns for 3 months is going to keep a game that hasn’t worked for more than a week after launch? Fuck no! That game is going straight back to the shop to swap out for Call of Duty or Destiny… You know? A game that actually works! Not everyone is made of money and some of us bought an Xbox One solely for Halo!

I think it’s pretty sad when my friends and I can play the newly released Warlords of Draenor expansion online together but my wife couldn’t even join my party when we were connected via LAN to play the co-op campaign together in Master Chief Collection.

Halo 2 revolutionised online gaming but that was 10 years ago now. Everyone else has caught up and Halo isn’t doing anything new to gain popularity. In fact, Halo is now copying off trends that other games have started, such as sprinting and load outs.

Christmas is barely over a month away. When parents have a choice of Master Chief Collection or Advanced Warfare for their child’s Christmas presents, which game do you think they’re going to purchase when the guy behind the counter says “Oh, BTW, Halo is broken and you can’t play it online”?

Too little too late

First impressions last and 343 has created the worst impression for Master Chief Collection imaginable.

If Halo 4 didn’t crush our expectations for Halo 5 then Master Chief Collection sure as hell did. If 343 can’t release a remastered version of previous games that many Halo fans consider near perfect then how the hell are we supposed to trust them to continue developing our favourite series?

Any newcomers giving Halo a chance have been left disappointed and are long gone. The online population for Master Chief Collection has taken a hit it will not recover from. When 343 finally have the servers running properly the only players left will be the die hard Halo fans.