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Spartan Locke vs. Master Chief — New Halo 5 ads | Release date unveiled

343 Industries’ recent release of Master Chief and Spartan Locke Halo 5 advertisements show a near-identical narrative — but with the roles of each character reversed.

Though the multiplayer struggled to deliver in 343i’s most recent release (The Master Chief Collection), the quality of the campaigns in the Halo franchise looks to remain as well-made as they’ve always been with the most recent trailers throwing a major twist in the entire story that Halo has revolved around.

Master Chief is shown almost as the “bad guy” in the trailers with Spartan Locke implying the destruction of the human city is on the shoulders of the Chief. How involved Spartan Locke’s part in the Campaign is still unknown, but with the mirroring images of both of the super soldiers being displayed throughout all of the advertisements it looks likely that the story could be split between the two characters 50-50. It’s possible Halo 5’s single player will be similar to that of the Halo 2 campaign when the Arbiter took on a significant role in the story.

Check out the trailers below:
Spartan Locke

Master Chief

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Halo 3: ODST is on its way to Xbox One | New Halo 2 map screenshots

The Master Chief Collection has finally reached a point where it offers a solid gaming experience with smooth matchmaking and multiplayer gameplay. As 343 Industries issued their early apologies for the chaotic nature of the game’s release they promised dedicated updates to improve things, and some small bonuses as well.

Those small bonuses were the Halo 3: ODST campaign and an additional Halo 2 Anniversary map.

In 343i’s latest community update a new content update was promised for April alongside some server-side fine-tuning as they remain committed to avenging the underwhelming release back in November 2014.

The developers have released a handful of screenshots showing their progress in regards to ODST and the Halo 2 map, Relic.

Halo 2 relic HD 1

Halo 2 relic 1Halo 2 relic 2

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343 Industries celebrates successful Halo 5 beta | Multiple gameplay changes coming

20 million matches played, 2.5 million hours logged — after a borderline disastrous start to the next-gen Halo experience, 343 Industries staged a major turn-around with an extremely successful beta that brought a better quality game than the “finished” product of Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

Halo 5 beta info graphic

After taking feedback from the fans through the Halo Community Feedback Program (HCFP) 343i has made some significant changes to the upcoming continuation of the Halo franchise.

The base movement speed and strafing of Spartans is a bit quicker now, but the top sprint speed was reduced.

Weapons have various general changes. The Sniper now has less delay to look down the scope, the DMR scope position has been altered to improve general visibility, and some of the most exciting news is the return of SPNKr Rocket Launcher. The rocket will appear in the game as a “legendary version” of the standard launcher.

A variety of minor background tweaks and changes will also be incorporated into the final release.

Outside of gameplay, post-death replay of your Spartan and Spartan “chatter” will be included as an opt-in feature.

The devs have worked to make the matchmaking system more efficient and balanced with better skill matching and faster matches.

Halo 5 will be encompassing all these changes and more in the mutliplayer experience with a new seven-tier competitive skill rating system. The new system puts a heavy emphasis on team-play.

Philosophically we believe that in a team sport the only thing that should matter is wins and losses. We also believe that incentivizing players to prioritize their own individual stats in a team game can undermine team play. – Executive Producer Josh Holmes

For more info and details on how the new skill rating system changes the Halo experience check out the community blog update on Halo Waypoint.

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New playlist updates coming soon to Halo: The Master Chief Collection

343 Industries continues their work to improve the Halo experience with their most recent community update bringing improved matchmaking in content updates and promises of new playlist additions.

Those part of the Xbox Preview program will get a sooner look at the upgrades to the online play while a public release date is promised for February.

In addition to improved lobbies and matchmaking, more mutliplayer modes are to come as well. Team Snipers, an objective-only playlist, and a cross-game Rumble Pit playlist are confirmed to be added soon, while the highly coveted Team Doubles is still being held off to a later date.

Beyond the Master Chief Collection, 343i is looking towards their future as they build an “extensive list of improvements for [Halo 5].” An upcoming blog update by Executive Producer Josh Holmes will be showcasing the details of what the developers are looking at as they approach the continuation of the Master Chief saga.

Halo Waypoint
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Microsoft’s free month of Xbox Live for The Master Chief Collection owners being rolled out | 343i improves game stability

It’s been over two months since its release, and though things have improved for The Master Chief Collection technical issues still plague the Xbox One exclusive.

It seemed like it would be a sure “slam-dunk” for Microsoft when the game was first announced at E3 in 2014, but as the forgiveness from fans began to die out, the game publisher and developer gave some form of retribution with a free month of Xbox Live that is just now being sent to owners of the FPS.

Keep in mind that this is just the beginning of 343i and Microsoft’s apology to fans as the Halo 3: ODST campaign and a Halo 2: Anniversary iteration of the map Relic will also be given out as well.

While the extras are good to have, 343i is still at work trying to wholly correct their faults with the game’s multiplayer.

The most recent patch by the developer again addresses stability issues throughout the game and continues to improve matchmaking troubles.

Full list of changes and improvements from the patchnotes:

MATCHMAKING:
  • Improved matchmaking search success rates.
  • Made an update to reduce instances of “Awaiting Privileges” matchmaking errors.
  • Made an update to ensure player counts more reliably match the expected numbers for each playlist.
  • Fixed an issue where player would sometimes appear to be searching in an incorrect “FIND GAME” screen.
  • Added countdown sound effect to the voting timer.
GENERAL MULTIPLAYER:
  • Made several improvements to party joining through the in-game Roster.
  • Made an update to ensure that the mute icon is visible while in Matchmaking.
  • Fixed an issue in Halo 4 where players could equip the same weapon as their primary and secondary weapons.
GENERAL CAMPAIGNS:
  • Made several improvements to stat tracking for Halo: CE, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4.
  • Made changes to Halo 3 and Halo 4 scoring to ensure that players are not penalized for destroying empty vehicles.
GENERAL MENU:
  • Lowered the music volume level in multiplayer menus.
  • Fixed an issue where friend emblems in roster would show up as default when exiting a game session.
  • Made updates to UI and menus to improve multiplayer status messaging, such as when a player joins your lobby.
CONTROL LAYOUTS:
  • Made an update to the Halo 2: Anniversary “Legacy” Stick Layout.
STABILITY:
  • Made stability improvements across multiple titles for campaign and multiplayer.
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New maps, new weapons, more changes in the Halo 5 beta

343 Industries has brought some Halo excitement again just over a month from the Master Chief Collection’s struggling release.

The Halo 5 beta is out and will continue for another three weeks as it showcases the progress the developer has made so far with the title, and lets fans aid in working out the kinks of a game as important to the Xbox platform as any other.

With the promise of a more refined experience along with the shoe-in improved visuals everyone can expect with the first Halo game designed for the new generation of consoles, Halo 5’s new gameplay elements stray a bit from what some may expect from Halo games.

Contrary to every installment over the past decade+, the continuation of the Master Chief saga adds some very different elements such as the ability to aim-down-the-sights on every weapon, and a tweaked sprinting mechanic that inhibits shield recovery.

Along with some minor default control scheme alterations, the combat changes certainly change how players naturally approach different scenarios.

While the game is still in beta and subject to improvements and other various adjustments down the line, 343i has displayed a desire to create a “new” Halo experience to match the trends that other first person shooters are following, while also adding their own minor twists on things.

Other than the new gameplay, the additions multiplayer wise are what we can typically expect from any Halo game with new maps, weapons, and abilities to add a bit more variety to the classic formula.

The Halo 5 public beta will run from December 29th until January 18th, while the full game will release late 2015.

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Halo Master Chief Collection owners receiving ODST campaign for FREE

Halo ODST campaign is coming to Xbox One via the Halo Master Chief Collection as a thank-you to Halo fans from 343 Industries. (Photo/halo.bungie.net)

Console-tion gift!

343 Industries announced Friday that it will be updating and releasing the Halo ODST campaign to Halo Master Chief Collection owners, along with a handful of other gifts as a thank-you to fans for sticking by the game, despite all of the issues that have plagued it since its release in early November.

The free campaign will only be accessible to those who purchased the game from its launch until Friday, December 19.

Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries, announced the news in a blog post, “A Thank You to Our Fans from Bonnie Ross” on Xbox’s official website:

“Last month, I promised the Halo and Xbox community that addressing the matchmaking issues and other bugs impacting players’ experience with Halo: The Master Chief Collection was our #1 priority…This has been a humbling experience and highlighted how we as a studio can – and need – to do better for Xbox fans around the world.  We are so grateful to our fans who have stood by our side and we appreciate all of your patience as we worked through these issues. As a token of our appreciation and to thank fans for the continued support and understanding, we will be offering the following items.”

In addition to the Halo ODST campaign, which will be upgraded to 1080p and 60 FPS, MCC owners will receive a remastered Halo 2 “Relic” map, one month of Xbox Live Gold and an unique nameplate and avatar, which will be available in the next content update.

All of the additions–except for the exclusive in-game nameplate and avatar–for early adopters will not be available until next year. The campaign and the “Relic” map are expected to hit consoles in Spring 2015, while the free month of Live will either be credited directly to your account or sent as a redeemable token through the Xbox One early next year.

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Is the Master Chief Collection finally fixed?

The Master Chief Collection has been plagued by too many glitches and technical issues to count but the compilation of multiple recent technical issue fixes may have resurrected the title.

While things aren’t totally perfected, the multiplayer is in-fact functioning in a manner that is at least passable. Players can at least and flow through the different multiplayers without being kicked from each party of players. There are less issues with finding a game, and teams are often more balanced.

The question is it too late? It’s been nearly a month since the release of the Master Chief Collection, and many players have expressed their grief with the issues with many suggesting that they have given up on trying to play it at all anymore.

The recent gigabyte update addresses multiplayer issues like players being separated during split-screen play and other general stability issues in parties, game chat, and stat tracking.

343i has to be hoping that players will forgive their initial start to the re-invigorated Halo experience, and rejoin the players that have stuck around through the frustrating times.

Full list of improvements and changes below:

MATCHMAKING

  • Made improvements to the reliability of Matchmaking parties.
  • Local split-screen players will now always be on the same team in Halo 2 Matchmaking.
  • Made an update to allow players to use Voice Chat during loading screens in Matchmaking.
  • Made an update to ensure that players are not forced into an incorrect party after encountering an issue in Matchmaking.
  • Resolved an issue where the “Winning Team Won” text was shown in the Carnage Report.

ROSTER

  • Made fixes to reduce the amount of time it takes to update the Roster:
  • Players will now be discovered sooner after starting the game.
  • Changes to the roster will be more immediate to better reflect friend activity.

PARTIES

  • Made several improvements to party joining and management.
  • Resolved an issue where players that were in a party could not join another party from the Roster.
  • Made changes to ensure that parties cannot exceed the maximum party size of a playlist.
  • Made an update to ensure that Party Leaders can assign a new Party Leader or Kick a player from their party.

CUSTOM GAMES

  • Made a change to ensure that teams selections are correctly carried over in Custom Games.
  • Made an update to ensure that player settings do not revert to a previous state after completing a Halo 2 Anniversary Multiplayer match.
  • Made an update to ensure that players do not disconnect  after completing a Custom Game.
  • Resolved an issue in Custom Games where parties would disband if some players were playing in Split-Screen.
  • Made a change to ensure that Halo 3 Custom Game variants display correct author information.

HALO: CE

  • Made various changes and improvements to Halo: CE multiplayer hit registration.

ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Made an update to ensure that the “Legend Slayer” achievement unlocks when prerequisites are met.
  • The “Pacifist” Achievement will no longer be awarded for resuming “Assault on the Control Room”.

STABILITY IMPROVEMENTS

Made a variety of stability improvements across the following areas:

  • Matchmaking
  • Custom Games
  • Campaign Playlists
  • Main Menu

CONTROL SCHEMES

  • Updated the Halo 2 “Green Fingers” Button Layout.
  • Updated the Halo 2 Anniversary Multiplayer Recon Button Layout.

MISC.

  • Made improvements to stat-tracking.
  • Improved language support for Norweigan, Spanish, German and Japanese.
Details: Halo Waypoint

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection – Struggling online servers lead to frustrating launch | Review (UPDATED)

Halo The Master Chief Collection is at first glance one of the best deals ever to hit the Xbox platform. Containing every game of the Master Chief saga and encompassing all the multiplayers into one easily accessibly interface.

This is what was expected of the first-person shooter upon its initial launch and while the collection of games does execute the single-player aspects of Halo extremely well, the multiplayer and inconsistent servers hold back the game from being all that it should have been — at least until the developer is able to address and optimize the online gameplay.

Campaigns

Through one menu, almost everything Halo awaits.
Through one menu, almost everything Halo awaits.

If you’re buying Halo to re-experience the beloved story of Spartan 117 and Cortana, then you’ll be enthralled by the Master Chief Collection. With upgrades all around, more detailed story telling through terminals, and an intuitive interface that connects all the games, the Campaigns of the Master Chief Saga are excellent on this Xbox One port. The experience is easy to jump straight into, and 343i allows for players to play any mission in any order they so please.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary & Halo 2: Anniversary

A game that some say was the primary force behind the original Xbox’s success, Halo: CE may be over a decade old, but excellent gameplay mechanics persist over the years and the addition of contemporary graphics make the classic story fun to play again.

The ability to switch between the original visuals and the updated looks is quick and lets players appreciate just how many upgrades that 343i has made to the game.

The audio is tuned as well albeit just slightly in Halo 1. The sounds themselves are virtually the same. The iconic soundtrack still plays just as it did 13 years ago.

Halo CE: Anniversary ports the Xbox 360 remastered title to the Xbox One with little-to-no issues.
Halo CE: Anniversary ports the Xbox 360 remastered title to the Xbox One with little-to-no issues.

While this is the first time many are getting to play the Anniversary edition, the Xbox 360’s iteration of Halo: CE Anniversary had some surprising features not present on the Xbox One. Given how much greater the emphasis Microsoft has had on the kinect on their new console, the MCC version of the game leaves out the original Anniversary kinect commands like “scan” and “analyze.” The commands weren’t particularly that vital, but still an interesting niche non-the-less.

Adding in the “terminals” that were first utilized in Halo 3, the recreation of the original Halo utilizes them in a more eye-candy fashion with quick cutscenes describing some background on the game and foreshadowing what the future holds as you progress — as opposed to that of Halo 3’s abstract text logs. The terminals here actually don’t operate in-game as they once did. Instead, the console will take you to a separate app to view the clips. This seems unnecessary as the original Halo Anniversary had the clips play straight from the game itself without having the players actually leave the open game.

As a singular entity, Halo: CE Anniversary is fantastic, and offers a captivating story with gameplay that is still on-par with other games of today. Its level progression is great, and while there will be some minor A.I. issues and bugs along the way, nothing is significant enough to jar the experience loose.

Halo 2: Anniversary's campaign stands on the same level as other top shooters available today.
Halo 2: Anniversary’s campaign stands on the same level as other top shooters available today.

What is rightly regarded as the most anticipated part of the collection, Halo 2: Anniversary operates in the same vein as that of Halo: CE Anniversary, and much of the appreciation for the game is the same.

Some sounds of the game are entirely re-done and the soundtrack is upgraded as well, but the visuals are what everyone will notice immediately. With the same one-button switch between the old and new graphics, the improvements are incredibly evident.

When played in sequence Halo 2: Anniversary stands out among the rest. Most would be astontished to find the game core of the game is truly identical to the decade old title. The gameplay and graphics are as good as any current FPS available today.

The in-game graphics are fantastic, but the CGI cutscenes by Blur are absolutely incredible and allows first-time players to experience an even deeper immersion into the Halo universe.

The addition of terminals to Halo 2 is identical to that of Halo 1 and again takes you to the outside app to view the cinematic.

Halo 2: Anniversary could have easily stood on its own as a $60 game just as Halo 1 did on the Xbox 360. To see the game bundled with all the other titles is a tremendous bonus

Halo 3 & Halo 4

While they don’t quite get the anniversary treatment, both are great additions to help players fully enjoy the story of Master Chief, and help build the anticipation for Halo 5.

When the Xbox 360 released and the first footage of Halo 3 was revealed, the graphics of the game were above and beyond most of what had been seen on the Xbox platform. Now, when you re-play through the campaign and complete Halo 2: Anniversary with the awesome Blur Studios CGI cut-scenes, you’re thrust into the off-putting lower quality world of Halo 3.

It isn’t awful, but in comparison it just doesn’t seem to keep up with the quality of the other games — especially during its own cut-scenes.

During gameplay minor visual tweaks have improved things a bit, but nothing all that noticeable. Most people will not notice any differences outside of the improved resolution.

Halo 4 itself was strangely exciting. Out of all Halo’s this is still the most suited to the contemporary play-styles that most games have today. The graphics are the same as they once were, but at 1080p 60 FPS, everything looks fitting of being on the new-generation of consoles.

343i ability to re-master these classic Bungie titles’ campaigns and port their own Halo 4 story onto the Xbox One is marvelous.
If this review ended here, the Master Chief Collection would likely receive a very high rating. If you’re a person who’s looking to buy The Master Chief Collection to play some of the best games available on the Xbox platform, this is an awesome buy and a must have game for the Xbox One.

Multiplayer

Update: Over the subsequent months following The Master Chief Collection’s release the multiplayer aspects of the game have vastly improved and any negative impact it has on the game is now nominal.

For all the campaigns do well, the multiplayer does just as well… if only we could get to it. With every single multiplayer map included — even those from the Halo: CE PC game — The Master Chief Colllection’s multiplayer promises so much and does deliver on setting them up.

Halo 2 Anniversary remakes some classic maps from the original 2004 release.
Halo 2 Anniversary remakes some classic maps from the original 2004 release.

In addition to the previous maps, six re-mastered maps in the Halo 2: Anniversary style bring some new life to the Halo franchise..

When you are able to get into a game, the maps are all the well-made designs we’ve come to expect from Bungie and 343i. The mixture of the new and old keep a great balance of falling back to memories of the first play through some players had and the upgraded style that fits the new-age FPS style.

Unfortunately, the servers struggle to manage the influx of players, and even now as the amount of players begins to dwindle down, the servers still leave players waiting for extended periods of time (10+ minutes) for just one single match. Often times when a match is found, the player balance is uneven, and without ranking systems players are constantly thrown into a mishmash of general players with no guide of who is an experienced veteran of the game and who is a new-comer.

As the game launched there were a variety of game modes that promoted classic game-types like team-swat and rumble pit, but since the dismal launch for the multiplayer the game modes have been removed with promises of addressing overall playability of online modes first and foremost and addition of more game types later on.

With how much the multiplayer was loved by fans this is a recipe for failure. Halo 2’s multiplayer, which was what hooked many players onto the Xbox Live platform and enticed many players into buying the Master Chief Collection in the first place is fantastic, and many of the multiplayer game-types that are still available remain centered around the second game of the franchise.

For all the faults the game has with connecting and the server-side technical problems that hold a smooth experience back, every single one of the multiplayer games is exceptional when you do get into a match.

The weapon balance is excellent through the all of the games. The control schemes are easy to manage through universal controller set that players are granted to change to whatever they prefer.

Customization isn’t quite as in-depth as it once was. Rather than allowing players to create custom armor configurations like they had with Halo 3 and 4, an assortment of all completed armor sets are available for players to choose is instead made available already unlocked.

The game itself is very well made and, if not for the server issues, would feel like a finished product.

It’s definitely improving though. With each patch the online matchmaking finds games quicker and small bugs are cleaned up, but its still not quite where it needs to be.

But as of now, 343i will need to keep churning out updates as fast possible to keep the fanbase satisfied.

As the technical issues are sorted out and the developers work to get the game running smoothly, The Master Chief Collection essentially delivers on only half of the game. The single-players are well-done and allow players to experience the riveting story of the Halo games. But despite what it does well on the campaign fronts a reliable patch is still needed to create a more fluent online experience.

8.8/10

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343i studio head issues apology to Halo fans for The Master Chief Collection’s turbulent launch

The issues with the Master Chief Collection's server issues hold fans back from fully enjoying the classic multiplayer.
The issues with the Master Chief Collection’s server issues hold fans back from fully enjoying the classic multiplayer.

Halo is objectively the greatest exclusive franchise on the Xbox platform, and with how dedicated the fans are seeing such a troublesome launch of the Master Chief Collection has resulted in a barrage of complaints and grievances with the developer.

Today, the studio head responded with a personal apology for the multiplayer issues of the first-person shooter.

“With the initial release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, however, we have not delivered the experience you deserve.  I personally apologize for this on behalf of us all at 343 Industries.  Our team is committed to working around the clock until these issues are resolved.” — Bonnie Ross

343 Industries has done the best they can to try and resolve the situation with almost daily updates, and patches to try and fix their server issues. Up to this point, no significant improvements have been made. While some report slightly more efficient matchmaking, the multiplayer issues are far too major for most players to notice a difference at all.

Bonnie Ross went on to speak of their plans to keep fans informed on their progressions with addressing the server-side fixes and game-content updates.

“Know that we’re trying to be as nimble as possible to put fixes in place.  We are planning multiple server-side tweaks and game content updates over the coming weeks.  Looking forward, I want to give you a high-level cadence of the latest updates we’re currently working on.”

While it is a positive to see 343i showing such dedication to bring the “experience “fans” deserve,” these problems at release are so impactful, it may have been better for Microsoft if the game was delayed by a few weeks to give fans an immediately enjoyable game.

Check out the full apology here