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Playing through the Halo Masterchief collection on PC: Reach and Halo CE

Content of the article: "Playing through the Halo Masterchief collection on PC: Reach and Halo CE"

Hi patient gamer fam! I'm a lifelong PC gamer who played the original Halo when it first release for PC way back in the day, but haven't touched the series since (I've never owned an XBOX or Playstation). Now that the old Halo games are finally releasing for PC I decided to play through them to see how they've aged, what works, and what doesn't.

I'm playing them in chronological order from the lore perspective (and because that's how they're arranged in the collection), So I'll start with Reach, then CE, then on from there. As a note, this review will only focus on the single player campaigns.

Reach: Overall a fun game that is let down by some very sub-par sections, and doesn't quite live up to its full potential. The gameplay in this one is pretty good. Having only played CE prior to this, I was really impressed with the sheer number of different weapons available, and the number of vehicles you could pilot. The DMR was a solid, satisfying gun to use, which is good because the game almost always gives you one at the start of each level, and it's clearly meant to be the main weapon. Other weapons like the fuel rod gun and that purple needle-sniper thing were also super satisfying. Also, while the armor abilities were fun to use, I found them to be super uneven in quality. The only two abilities I ever really used were sprint and decoy. The decoy is particularly OP, as it just draws all enemy fire and lets you plink them down at your leisure.

The enemies were generally fun to fight, although I played this one on Heroic, and I really wish I had just done normal. It's not that heroic was particularly difficult, but enemies became such immense bullet sponges by late game. The high-class elites on the last few levels would take almost a whole DMR magazine of HEADSHOTS to kill, and if you weren't getting headshots, you'd use up nearly your entire reserve of ammo just constantly clicking away to kill a single enemy. On this difficulty virtually anything that's not a headshot is a total waste of your ammo, and killing hunters is an absolute headache. Again, they're not hard, but you just have dance around them for literally 10 minutes trying to get flanking shots over and over again until they finally go down. It slows down the gameplay immensely. This is actually a complaint I'll have for many games in the series.

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The story was good, but it could've been more. Having a squad of spartans to help you fight was a welcome change to the marines you need to babysit in CE, and while the characters were generally very tropey and cliche, they fit the bill for the scenery-chewing, popcorn munching action flick the game's plot put forward. I also appreciate that they tried to make it about an all-out war on the planet against the covenant, but was a little bummed that they never put you in the thick of it during that war. There was one cut scene where a giant force of humans was racing across an open desert to fight a giant force of covenant, and I was excited to be in that huge battle with hundreds of covenant and marines and vehicles everywhere, but then the game just drops you into a special-ops sidequest which ended up being a pretty standard "Go behind enemy lines and take out x or y objective so the main force can win the day" sort of mission. I want to be IN THE MAIN FORCE, not skulking around shooting grunts. I get it was probably a technical limitation to displaying such a big battle at once, but it would've been awesome.

My only real gripes about this game (aside from the bullet spongey enemies on higher difficulties) are the scripted sections where the game forces you into boring vehicles. Particularly the space dogfight section, the rooftop helicopter mission, and the way the very final mission ENDS WITH A FORCED STATIONARY TURRET SECTION. Seriously, for the last fight to be you sitting in a turret shooting gallery for 5 minutes is a complete atrocity. To me, this game is at its best when it gives you options and lets you tackle fights on your terms, be it vehicles, on foot, stealthily, guns blazing, what have you. When you're forced into a vehicle to kill wave after wave of boring respawning enemies, it gets old fast.

Reach TL:DR – Overall a fun game that is let down by some very sub-par vehicle sections, and doesn't quite live up to its full potential.

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HALO: Combat Evolved: This game is the only one of the series I played before, many many years ago. And this new remaster of it holds up surprisingly well. I really like the updated graphics, and though there is some noticeable wonkiness (particularly in the human characters looking weirdly ethereal), overall it looks better than the original.

One thing I realized when playing through that I didn't notice the first time I played it is how light on content it is. Just 8 usable weapons, 8 enemy types (including the 3 types of flood and the sentinels), and really only 7 distinct levels, with three of them being reused later in the game with slightly different enemies and textures. By the end, seeing the same environments re-used did get a bit repetitive, but I really didn't mind everything else.

Despite how little there actually is to this game, the gameplay holds up VERY well for a game that is almost 20 years old. Every weapon fills it's own distinct niche and they're all satisfying and punchy and fun to use (well except for the assault rifle, which despite looking cool and being fun to shoot, is just pitifully inaccurate with poor damage). By the same token, the four different covenant enemies are so distinct and just dripping with personality. The way the grunts come out shooting and then just run around like idiots after you kill a few of them, or the distinct "wooahh-bwuh-bwuh!" sound the elites make when they spot you. Then jackals snipe you from a distance while the elites dodge around with plasma rifles and the hunters play defensive until you get close and they charge. Honestly the enemy AI and personality in this game is better than in many modern shooters, which is saying something. These enemies were all present (and fun) in Reach too, but they also threw in a whole host of other random enemies I've never met, none of which were nearly as memorable or interesting, which watered down the experience a bit.

Another big up I will give to the masterchief collection version of this game (and all the other games) is the skulls you can activate to change specific difficulty settings. I already talked about how I find the combat on normal too easy, but the enemies on hard just to be annoying bullet sponges. Well I discovered the skulls here, and I was able to play the game on normal while activating the two skulls that remove all auto-aim and make the enemies attack faster and more often. This got me much closer to the difficulty type I want in games, and I'll definitely be using the skulls in the next campaigns.

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Halo: CE TL;DR – A bit short with some regrettable repetitiveness towards the end, but very solid gameplay with some of the most memorable enemies and weapons in all of FPS-dom.

That's all I've made it through so far – I'll post reviews for Halo 2 and 3 next if people are interested. In general, these games are pretty fun and if you're a fan of tight, straightforward sci-fi shooters, I would definitely recommend playing through the campaigns of the MCC.

Interested in hearing what everyone else thinks of these games as well!


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