Over four years ago, Microsoft and 343 Industries, the current custodians of the Halo franchise, announced and released Halo: The Master Chief Collection. This collection contained the four numbered entries of the Halo series, including the Anniversary editions of Halo 1 & 2. There was also a functioning online multiplayer component for the first two games. However, the game was released in a ridiculously buggy state. Matchmaking times were longer than 5 minutes and sometimes just plain infinite. Online co-op for the campaign had a desync issue. And the core concept of playing four games with different engines was flawed in that each engine, including the one holding it all together, had to be booted up and loaded each time you went into a campaign, or a multiplayer match, causing lobby resets. There were a lot more issues than that, too many to list here, but needless to say the games launch, and subsequent months, were a disaster.
As an apology for the problems, 343 Industries remastered Halo 3: ODST, integrated it with the collection, and gave it out free to anyone that bought the collection prior to a certain date, and then offered it as DLC for others. They also remade another map from Halo 2 for the Halo 2 Anniversary multiplayer component. Despite all their attempts to correct the problems, the game was ultimately abandoned after they realized they were just putting band-aids on a growing wound. In 2018, 343 Industries finally revisited the collection and rebuilt the framework that held it all together. Their plan worked, and subsequent patches fixed the game and made it playable. Adding it to Xbox Game Pass boosted player numbers. Since then the title has basically become a service title, with 343 Industries releasing more patches to improve the game and adding new features such as the Match Composer. They also gathered player feedback on what other new additions or improvements they would like to see, meaning they have plenty more support for the game planned. As of right now, the only major addition they’ve announced is a custom games browser, which has yet to be released. Even so, about a month or so ago 343 Industries announced that they would have a major announcement for the tile at this months SXSW convention at the end of the month. But now, a week ago, they announced that there will be another major announcement this week, March 12th, during the Inside Xbox show. So what could they possibly have planned? There are a few ideas that could qualify as major news.
(Image courtesy of Halo Custom Edition mod SPV3.)
It has been the dream of PC players for a long time now to see more Halo games come to the PC platform. The original game and Halo 2 both released on PC at later dates, but starting with Halo 3 the series ditched the PC platform for complete Xbox exclusivity. The next Halo games to see the light of day on the platform were the spin-off titles Spartan Assault and Spartan Strike, not exactly what fans were waiting for. Halo 5's multiplayer component, or at least a portion of it, released on the Windows Store titled Halo 5: Forge. This is the closest a main series title has come to being released on PC in a decade, but its not the full game. Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2 did come to PC after this, but again, while better, were not main series titles. The Master Chief Collection, constantly rumored to have a PC version in development, would be the best thing to bring to the platform. Halo Infinite, aka Halo 6, is slated to be released on PC. So, in the lead up to this release, it would be wise to release the previous entries on the platform to catch players up to speed on the story, Halo 5 can come later of course. This is one of the most likely announcements to be made.
Aside from a PC release, one of the most demanded additions to the Master Chief Collection is the inclusion of Halo: Reach, the last mainline title developed by franchise creator Bungie. While it doesn’t feature the Master Chief(Neither does ODST), it’s still an integral part of the overall narrative, setting up the events of the original Combat Evolved. Adding it to the collection would effectively complete the restoration and remastering of past Halo games, all while packaging them in a neat collection. It will also allow for the inclusion of Combat Evolved Anniversary’s multiplayer maps, which were made as DLC for Reach, unlike Halo 2 Anniversary which had a dedicated multiplayer component.
Halo 3: ODST introduced the world to Bungie’s take on the then popular horde mode. It was a hit. Halo: Reach expanded on the concept of Firefight by making it completely customizable. However, ODST’s incarnation of Firefight, my personal favorite, is absent from the games MCC version. It’s yet another widely demanded inclusion, and rightfully so. It’s not as big of a reveal as a PC release or Reach, but it still counts. And if Reach ultimately comes to the collection, Firefight will simply move further up the list.
In the original Halo you could only customize your armors color. In Halo 2, you could choose to play as a Covenant Elite, set secondary colors, and make an emblem for yourself. Halo 3 expanded on this further by allowing you to choose different armor pieces. Reach added even more armor pieces for Spartans, though it simplified Elites to armor sets rather than pieces. You could also select a gender which changed your characters shape and voice. Halo 4 dropped Elites entirely and added skins. Halo 5 simplified the number of body parts you could customize, but greatly expanded the numbers of armors you could choose from.
Armor customization, in some form or another, has become a staple for the series. It lets players personalize their avatars in a variety of ways. The Master Chief Collection, however, simplified it immensely. You can’t select individual armor pieces for Halo 3 and Halo 4, instead stuck with complete sets. You can still select your own colors, but they won’t show up on the customization screen, only during gameplay. It’s a butchered version that made no one particularly happy. As a result, it has remained one of the more requested features for the game. And if Reach were to be added, it will practically be a necessity.
Halo 2 Anniversary’s multiplayer launched with five maps, not even half of the original games total map count. Post-launch, 343 Industries and Certain Affinity remastered one additional map as an apology for the launch troubles. Fans consider Halo 2's multiplayer, and its maps, to be some of the best in the series, so naturally they want even more remastered maps. That’s easier said than done since it mostly requires Certain Affinity’s cooperation, but what the fans want, they just might get.
Halo 3 passed its 10th birthday one year and almost 6 months ago. At the time, 343 Indsutries’ Frank O’Connor stated that it was due to diminishing returns that the game did not receive an anniversary edition, though whether that meant financial returns or graphical fidelity was not specified. The fact remains that Halo 3, and its expansion ODST(And yes, ODST is considered an expansion despite being a standalone product.), are now the two worst looking games in the collection. It’s art style helps it remain at least somewhat pleasing to look at, but in terms of sheer quality, Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, and Halo 4 defeat it on a technical level for obvious reasons. It can be a bit jarring going from Halo 2 Anniversary, to Halo 3, and then to Halo 4. With ODST’s 10th anniversary coming up this year, it’s 343's last chance to enhance what is considered the height of Halo’s popularity, and to complete the original trilogy before calling it a day(No one would demand a Reach or Halo 4 Anniversary, those two look so good even now that it’s completely unnecessary, at least on an anniversary scale.). With the newfound Games as a Service approach to the collection, diminishing financial returns is likely no longer as big of a deal, and with the release of the Xbox One X and move to include PC, diminishing returns in graphical fidelity is also no longer an issue. And besides, I’d really love to see High Ground remade.
The odds of this happening are still far lower than the others, but 343 never ruled it out, merely insinuated that it was on the list of “Probably not feasible, but we’ll keep it in mind and continue evaluating it as time goes on.”
You may be thinking “How would that even work? Halo 5 is massive by itself and already available on both Xbox One and PC!” Well, you’re not wrong, at least not entirely. Halo 5 is absolutely massive with an install size over 100GB’s, larger than the entirety of the Master Chief Collection. On Xbox One, you can pop out of the MCC and boot up Halo 5 if you wish to play it. On PC however, Halo 5 only exists as its most basic multiplayer component. The Forge release was mainly intended to make map editing easier, and included the multiplayer to test our your Forge creation with friends. The fact is that Halo 5 will eventually need a full PC release in the lead up to Halo Infinite. The Master Chief Collection also now allows you to pick and choose which portions of a game you wish to have installed in order to save hard drive space.
The easiest way to bring Halo 5 to PC would be to include it as part of the Master Chief Collection, a one stop shop for all Halo campaigns and multiplayer. With the revised structure of the Master Chief Collection, adding more games to the collection is no longer a tricky proposition. As for the Xbox version, 343 could choose to keep it separate from the collection, or add it as an option for those who don’t feel like jumping in and out of games.
Despite all that, this remains even less likely than Halo 3 Anniversary, but gotta throw the idea out there.
UPDATE 3/11/19: A Reddit user spotted “Halo: Reach” as one of the tags for the upcoming Inside Xbox episode. This would imply that Reach is the announcement that will be made. However, this is partly thrown into doubt due to the inclusion of the “Xbox 360" tag and tags for each Halo game and the MCC itself. In other words, its such a jumbled mess of tags that while we know Halo will be present, it’s hard to say in what form. After all, we’re still waiting on backwards compatibility support for Halo 1 & 2, and a One X Enhanced patch for Reach is very much a possibility.
The above image was tweeted out this morning, taken from todays Inside Xbox episode. The image is blurred out and intended as a tease of the Master Chief Collection announcement. However, the key details of the image are easy to work out. On the left side of the image, starting from the top, you have the Xbox One Master Chief Collection cover art. Below it, in the center, are the five currently available titles in the collection. From left to right: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo 4. ODST is harder to make out due to it blending with the background, but the slightly lighter shade of blue, and spacing between Halo 3 and Halo 4 confirm its presence in the image. And then below those is yet another image, and with the half tan/half dull gray artwork, it’s definitely Halo: Reach, all but confirming the game is coming to the Master Chief Collection. In the upper right hand corner then is the other major announcement. It certainly doesn’t say “Xbox One” or “Microsoft” or “Xbox Game Pass” or something else entirely. The length and spacing makes it very clear: Windows 10. Master Chief Collection has long been rumored to be coming to PC and 343 were teasing that that was the case lately. It makes sense to bring it to PC once Reach is added as that will bring all mainline Halo titles to PC in one fell swoop, minus Halo 5 which only has a partial release on PC and would be standalone from this collection.
The only part of the above image that isn’t clear is the rest of the right side. It’s at least a window for a bullet point list of what’s being added, but there’s no text to make out what exactly it would be saying. We’ve already identified the two biggest announcements, so all I can think of that they would be adding via that list is, well, everything else fans asked for. A custom games browser, which would make sense to have on PC, the addition of Firefight which would be a glaring omission from Reach’s inclusion and has been a glaring omission from ODST, full armor customization which, again, would be a glaring omission from Reach, and possibly the addition of Spartan-Ops which was never brought to the collection despite Halo 4 being one of the original inclusions.