Halo: The Master Chief Collection sure is pretty

4 min read


If there’s one common complaint amongst gamers these days, it’s that most new releases are about as short as I am. Which is a lot. Few games offer real replay value these days, with most of them done in one and put away to gather dust and buyers remorse. Halo: The Master Chief Collection however, is one such game that won’t be clocked within a day. It’s a lengthy compilation of upgrades and online multiplayer. And the entire franchise has come a long way.

Digital Foundry has done another hands-on, detailing the technical adjustments and tweaks that bring two generations of Halo games to the Xbox One. Here’s what they had to say about each Halo game in brief:

Halo 1: Combat Evolved

The original Halo essentially takes the form of a direct conversion of the Xbox 360 Anniversary Edition, released in 2011. Innovative in many ways, a key component of the title was the ability to switch between the classic and remastered views at any point with just a single button-press. However, there were limitations in play – specifically an 1152×648 resolution plus a 30fps cap. Both of these restrictions are removed in the revised Anniversary Edition, which targets a full 1080p60 while retaining the retro ‘switcheroo’ feature.

At other points, it’s clear the engine itself can’t sustain 60fps, introducing stutter of a different kind. Other elements of the scene – such as the obvious shadow cascade that sees some very noticeable pop-in – also remain unchanged from the Xbox 360 version. Look beyond the issues though, and what’s fascinating is just how well the basics hold up even in the modern era. Halo: Combat Evolved may lack the refinements found in each subsequent sequel, but the gameplay here is still golden – Bungie got the fundamentals soright, and despite some of the rendering glitches, 60fps works here, elevating the experience.

Halo 2

The only tangible compromise in the new Halo 2 concerns resolution – Saber settles on a 1328×1080 framebuffer, which produces rather interesting results. Upscaling artefacts are limited to the horizontal axis only, and the upscaling filter to make up the difference is pretty good. Since supporting the classic ‘insta-switch’ is apparently a key component in the resolution reduction, we would still have preferred this to have been an optional mode – with removing it restoring full 1080p – but as it happens, perhaps other developers might want to look at the results of a similar horizontal upscale in favour of the 900p ‘default’ we see in many multi-platform titles.

Treyarch did something similar in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on Xbox 360, upscaling from 880×720, and the results were pretty good there too, though the benefits of full multi-sampling anti-aliasing were definitely a key component in that effect working.

Halo 3

Based on the Sierra 117 level we can show you at this point, Halo 3 is the surprise package. While it takes a while to get used to the angular, low-poly models, the sheer quality and style of Bungie’s original art shines through and is presented without compromise: the sub-HD 1152×640 framebuffer(s) of the Xbox 360 original simply can’t compare to the pristine 1080p offered by the new game. In addition to that, the anti-aliasing technique works beautifully in smoothing off the distracting upscaled jaggies of the original.

Halo 4

Our first impressions of Halo 4 are of refinement – everything is sharper and smoother – but the reality is that there were fewer issues hanging over from the last generation in need of redressing. In its new 1080p60 guise, Halo 4 is both a celebration of 343’s accomplishments (we’d almost forgotten how good the performance capture and facial rendering was) but also an example of the remastering uncanny valley we also saw in The Last of Us on PS4. When it looks good, it’s simply stunning, but lower quality assets – mostly ground textures in the Infinity stage – do stand out as incongruous, particularly when texture filtering doesn’t show quite the improvement we would hope for.

I recommend giving the full article a read, it’s quite fascinating technical stuff. We’ll have a review tomorrow of Halo: The Master Chief Collection for you. I’ve been sinking many an hour into it over the last two weeks as it is, and I’m dying to talk about it without being murdered by NDA ninjas.

Last Updated: November 6, 2014

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