With the Master Chief Collection launching tomorrow for the Xbox One, I thought I would go over the four individual games included in the game. I’m going to be focusing primarily on the multiplayer side of things, mainly because there’s a lot to talk about. Story-wise, the greatness of the games is well documented – the successes of the franchise largely is responsible, at least I think, for keeping the Xbox afloat early on. The multiplayer side of the games kept them in disc trays for a lot longer. That said, let’s start diving into the game that got it started, Halo: Combat Evolved.
Way back in 2001, there were still some questions if a First Person Shooter could really excel on home consoles. GoldenEye 007 showed it on a much smaller scale – it was really Halo that proved you can have a real solid, competitive experience on consoles – there’s a reason that MLG ran with Halo for years. Over the years, the franchise has become a generational game – it’s been going strong for 13 years after all. Because of that, there’s a strong chance that there are players out there who never got the chance to play the original with their friends, system linking their Xboxes and playing multiplayer for hours. So I thought I’d run through a couple of the better maps from the game, as well as some of the tactics that used to be commonplace in Halo that have kind of phased out of the game a bit.
First up, let’s talk tactics – a big part of recent Halo multiplayer has been using armor abilities and jumping in combat. Well, way back in the day, there were no such things as armor abilities, so toss them out. The other big change is with jumping – in the original Halo jumping was a great way to lose a firefight. Your jump height is higher in that game than later ones, meaning you were hanging up there, unable to adjust direction quickly longer. What you’re really going to need to learn is how to strafe, and toss in some crouches. Strafing is easily the most important skill you’ll need in Halo multiplayer – and really it extends across the whole franchise. The other thing that long-time fans will know about is the differences in the weapons from the original to now. The bigger ones being the Shotgun and Pistol, along with the Plasma weapons. The Shotgun in Halo has changed over the course, becoming a more close range destroyer – it’s fantastic at holding a hallway down. In the original Halo, the Shotgun was so much more than that. The range on the original Shotgun is much longer than you might expect – making it a much more versatile weapon. It’s a power weapon that needs to be controlled, just like the sniper and rockets – learn it, and use.it. The Plasma weapons, which really I’m talking more about the Plasma Rifle and the Ghost’s Plasma cannons, in the original Halo game had an added slowdown effect with them. It really shows up while you’re trying to rotate around – basically dropping your sensitivity a bunch. Finally, the Pistol in Halo is probably the best all around weapon in the game. It’s a three shot kill, assuming you get head shots. It’s got a scope for precision aiming, it’s got a good fire rate, and the recoil is totally manageable. Switch out the Assault Rifle for a different gun, keep the Pistol and you’ll dominate.
Next up, let’s talk about a few of the maps that I think you’ll really see a lot of online from the first game’s selection. First, the map that’s probably become the most recognizable map in the whole series, Blood Gulch. It’s a box canyon, that’s symmetrical – perfect for bigger games of CTF. You’ll see Warthogs, Scorpions and Ghosts flying all about the map – especially since Halo didn’t have destructible vehicles. A good sniper can really hold down an offensive attack, and having a good driver can flip the tide of the battle. Learn the sight lines from the caves, where you head is visible from and where it isn’t; know when to use the teleporters, and what to expect when you pop out from one. Also, be prepared for sore players if you manage to pick up the power weapons they want – this is a notorious map for poor sportmanship, especially with the Sniper at the start.
Another map I fully expect to see lots of is Chill Out. It’s a total different style map from Blood Gulch; instead of a large open map, you have a smaller, more close range focused map. Shotguns and Pistols are dominant, along with good grenade work. Learn the flow of the map – knowing when to hit the warps to make a big move can really help out if the game is slipping away. Also make sure you keep an eye on the Rockets and Overshield – letting an opponent get those can really make for a bad day. Chill Out is a really great map for CTF – we used to play 10 caps, Shotguns only, with no shields and unlimited grenades – and it was always coming down to 9-9. Tense games are always fun games – playing it online is going to be a blast.
Another big map that will probably show up plenty, especially in the big team objective hoppers, is Sidewinder. Another map we always used to play at LAN parties, Sidewinder is one of the biggest maps in the series. You’ll need good drivers and gunners to mount a successful offensive, or a really good stealth guy. Using the Active Camo in the mountain tunnel was always my preferred option for infiltrating the enemy base – and using the divider to hop in a waiting Warthog with the Flag. It’s a map that is perfect for one sided objective games, with tons of different options to get around the map. Sniping is really important, but again – keep an eye on the Rockets, since a good Rocket can clear out the sniper nest, as well as the bottom floor. Keep an eye on players that might stick their Warthog into their base – the sightlines aren’t great with it, but as it’s indestructible, it can really muck up an attack.
One last map to talk about is probably my favorite in the game – Hang ‘Em High. Despite being an interior map, it’s actually really large. It’s a symmetrical, square map, with lots of vertical sightlines and flanking routes. It plays really well with larger party sizes, and it’s got a good balance of combat options. Shotguns can kick some ass, snipers can lock down a spawn, a good flanker can get around behind (especially using the Active Camo) and there’s also Rockets that can really cause some havoc. One of my favorite games to play is Rockets CTF, we usually played to 5 – the flag physics in the first game really made for some crazy moments. A Rocket kill from across the map can not only save the score, but thanks to the explosion, the flag could really end up just about anywhere. It’s a hectic game mode, but far from the best on Hang ‘Em High – that would be Pistols only. It’ll get your skills with the gun up quick, and you’ll almost always have a close match.
One last point I want to make – if you’re picking up the Master Chief Collection and you haven’t played the first game, you really need to spend some time with it. The story is phenomenal, with one of the best final levels I’ve played. There’s really only one weak multiplayer map, with tons of potential game variants to come up with awesome games to play.