If you were quaking with excitement today to jump back into the online multiplayer game that practically founded Xbox Live, you might want to find something else to do for a while.
Halo fans trying to get into matches of Halo 2 multiplayer, which is part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection released today, aren’t having much luck. The issues seem to be server-side and related to the Xbox Live service, which is ironic because after a fashion Halo 2 multiplayer is responsible for the success of Xbox Live in the first place. The popularity of Halo 2 in 2004 drove gamers to Microsoft’s then-new online service, and proved that online multiplayer shooters could reign elsewhere than on PC.
The copy of Halo 2 included with The Master Chief Collection is the first time gamers have had a chance to see what Halo 2 looks like when it is updated to meet modern visual standards. The cutscenes in the single-player campaign have all been entirely remade, to the point where they are almost unrecognizable from the original release (in a good way).
The return of Halo 2 multiplayer, however, seems to be the biggest draw to The Master Chief Collection, which is why today’s rough launch is such a big deal for Microsoft. Especially when almost everything included in the collection is something gamers have already played, and potentially paid for, several times over.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is essentially to video games what a trade paperback is to a comic book series, with the addition of a new author’s foreword, and some bonus materials. The collection is a compendium of the first four numbered Halo games. It’s doesn’t include Halo: ODST or Halo: Reach.
The enclosed copy of Halo 1 is the same Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary edition released in 2011, but set to higher graphics resolution, and includes the original multiplayer maps. The enclosed copy of Halo 3 features higher graphics resolution and improved frame-rate, but is otherwise unchanged. The enclosed copy of Halo 4 takes one of the most graphically impressive games on the Xbox 360 and ports it onto the Xbox One. In other words, Halo 4 already looked damn good, and The Master Chief Collection makes it look just a little better.
The only content in Halo: The Master Chief Collection that is properly new is the Ridley Scott-produced Halo: Nightfall series, and a set of fresh cinematics that serve as kind of a narrative glue for the four re-released single player campaigns. In the new scenes, a former ally of Master Chief named The Arbiter relates the story of the Chief to another, new Spartan super soldier, named Locke. Locke, in turn, is the star of the newest Halo game in production at Microsoft’s 343 Industries.
In other words, the new cinematics turn Halo: The Master Chief Collection into a running advertisement for Halo 5: Guardians, which is slated for a late 2015 release. Not that we needed the new cinematics to tell us that, when The Master Chief Collection is composed almost entirely of recycled material.
Keep an eye on Microsoft’s Xbox Live status page to see when the current server issues clear up. Or you could follow the Halo subreddit, where the comments read eerily similar to what you’d see on launch day for a Battlefield game, i.e. complaints that the game’s not working.