The Halo franchise is one of the most famous science fiction video games around. Historically, it has also been an Xbox exclusive. As someone who never owned an Xbox, it was a game I only ever played in snippets on friends’ consoles. That changed when The Master Chief Collection came to PC, and I was finally free to play my way through this famous game in full, and at my own pace. Sure, I waited until the game was properly patched and on sale, but I was eager to dive into this military SF staple. And I’m glad that I did.

I chose to play through in the order the games were listed, which is chronological rather than release order. This means I started with Reach, which is probably the strongest game in the series. It throws you right into the middle of a galaxy at war, with humanity on one side and a religious alliance known as the Covenant on the other. Throughout the games, you play as a Spartan – a supersoldier. Not my preferred protagonist for a novel, but an excellent avatar through which to mow down alien hordes.

After Reach, we head into Halo, then Halo 2. After a brief stop-off with ODST, it’s straight back to Halo 3 and Halo 4. reach and ODST are outliers in that you do not play as the titular Master Chief, but there is a single storyline connecting the six games. It’s all about the war with the Covenant, and the discovery an ancient alien superstructure called Halo, which has the ability to wipe out all life. Oh, and there’s also a parasitic species called the Flood gnawing at the edges of the galaxy. Seriously, this game has all the good stuff.

In terms of storytelling, Halo is a mixed bag. The game itself is a first person shooter, so individual levels are pretty simple. Few of them boil down to more than ‘get to this location and shoot everything you see along the way.’ It’s good brainless fun, accompanied by an assortment of grand science fiction ideas like organised religion, superstructures, the ethics of artificial intelligence, and the morality of war. The cutscenes make the plot of the individual games clear, with the aid of some top notch voice acting.

But trying to get deeper into the game’s lore is difficult. For some reason, key elements of the universe’s background are delivered through tricky-to-find hidden computers, which are easy to walk right by. I probably found about half of them across the whole collection, and I was definitely left with a lot of questions. There is a timeline of events stretching back thousands of years, but I only ever glimpsed it in snatches. If I’m right, then the implication is that humanity once had an interstellar empire, thousands of years before our time. That’s something I would like to have seen made more clear.

As a game, things are much more straightforward. Point and shoot. Yes, I inadvertently maimed a few allied soldiers, but generally the aiming is easy to get a hold of. There’s a good range of weapons, ammunition is plentiful, and the game is generous with autosaves in case you’re as useless as I am at staying alive. There’s not a whole lot of variety in enemies, but the maps are at pretty to look at, and there were only a handful of battles that dragged on long enough to no longer be fun. Honestly, the only real issue was vehicle missions. be it a fighter jet, a bike, or a tank, vehicles simply do not handle well in this game. At least with a keyboard and mouse combination, they insist on floating around and rolling over. Sometimes I wondered if I’d be better off on foot. But when you can get the driving right, it’s very satisfying indeed.

All things considered, the Halo games deserve their place in the military SF canon. For sure, there are worse ways to spend a few dozen hours, and the remaining secrets are just enough to tempt me back in after a break.

2 responses to “GAME REVIEW: Halo: The Master Chief Collection”

  1. Bookstooge Avatar

    I played some with my bro when he got an xbox. It was fun but by that time my video game days were pretty much done so it never reignited a new wave for me. I can’t imagine trying to play it on the pc. It was made for the xbox controller, and boy, did you need both hands and all those buttons!


  2. MONTHLY ROUNDUP: April 2023 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

    […] Game: Halo: The Master Chief Collection […]


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