I’ve played Halo: The Master Chief Collection off and on—more off than on—since it released in 2014. The serious connectivity issues that persisted well past launch were one thing, but the game also hit that fun wall all first-person shooters hit. Sometimes it takes months or years, but the run-of-the-mill players always abandon ship for the next big thing. Left in their place are a smaller group of dedicated and ridiculously skilled players—those who land headshots with closed eyes and eat triple kills for breakfast. It’s inevitable, and Halo is no exception. This weekend, though, things were different.
Now, I wouldn’t describe myself as a good or a bad Halo player. If anything, I’m aggressively average. Over the course of six games, my multiplayer kill-death ratio has hovered around 1.0. (Okay, fine, for The Master Chief Collection, it’s 0.996.) That’s about as middle-of-the-road as one gets. I can probably keep pace with you and your friends, but against the god-tier people who stick around first-person shooters long after last call, I don’t stand a chance.
Halo’s frenetic matches were a case study in exactly that. Once upon a time, playing Slayer felt like playing an actual game, one where you’d regularly not know who the winner was until the last 30 seconds of a match. Then the hoi polloi left, and team games regularly resulted in scoreboards of 50–17 (or worse). Eventually, like a friend who suddenly gets way too into EDM, Halo’s community stopped being any fun to be around. We drifted apart. Why should I wait five minutes for a match only to end up against players who would kill me as quickly and easily as Chief kills wayward Grunts?
Maybe you’ve had a similar Halo experience. If so, take my advice and boot up The Master Chief Collection (and its 73GB update) right now.
After last week’s first look at Halo Infinite gameplay, I found myself afflicted with the Halo itch. (Despite the suggestions of my colleague Ian Walker, no, turns out CVS doesn’t have a cream for that.) So, on Thursday night, following Microsoft’s big event, I redownloaded Halo: The Master Chief Collection—and haven’t been able to put it down.
I don’t think I’m the only one. Maybe it’s that I just haven’t played much Halo in 2020, but, in the wake of new Halo news, the community feels more vibrant than ever right now. Over the weekend, matches queued up in seconds, rather than minutes, like they used to. No matter what I played—Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 4, Halo: Reach, Oddball, Capture the Flag, Headhunter, Big Team Battle, Slayer, you name it—I had no trouble finding other Spartans to play with. On multiple occasions, I tried to change my Spartan’s color scheme and got booted out of the customization menu because other players joined up so quickly, causing the match to start. What’s more, I always queued up with a new set of strangers each time, instead of repeatedly playing against some jerk named Mister420Halo69.
The matches were more fair than they’ve been in a while, too. Sure, in some games, I got my ass handed to me, but it never felt unfair. I could specifically point to a mistake I made (who goes against an energy sword with a gravity hammer?) as opposed to wondering, in shock, how I died three times in 20 seconds without firing a single bullet. In other matches, I handed the asses—something that certainly wouldn’t happen in Halo’s previously deity-occupied wasteland. Halo, at least at the moment, is a game again. And it feels so good to be back.
If you, too, are feeling the Halo itch, hop into The Master Chief Collection while the getting’s good—you know, before the inevitable happens again.