While rumours suggested that a special Anniversary Edition of Halo 2 would be revealed at E3 this year, marking the tenth anniversary of the hugely successful sequel, Microsoft is, it seems, several gigantic leaps ahead of its fanbase. At its press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, the company instead announced the Master Chief Collection, a bumper Xbox One release containing every Halo title from Halo: Combat Evolved to Halo 4, all running in HD 1080p.
Along with the four games, the package will also include a live-action digital series produced by Ridley Scott, which fills in the story between Halo 4 and Halo 5. Furthermore, Purchasers will get access to a competitive multiplayer beta of Halo 5: Guardians, the latest instalment of the series, due in autumn 2015.
Set for release on 11 November, the entire collection is delivered on a single Blu-ray disc. All the original co-op, campaign and multiplayer modes will be included, which means gamers will have over 100 competitive multiplayer maps to fight on. Developer 343 Industries has also added that everything will run at 60 frames-per-second, with multiplayer maps taking advantage of dedicated servers.
"Each of the experiences is contained within a single unified user interface," said creative director, Frank O'Connor. "It will allow you to select any of the levels from any of the games at any difficulty setting in single-player or co-op.
We also decided to curate, in a museum fashion, interesting takes on the gameplay. So if you want to play all the Warthog missions consecutively or in any order, that's a curated campaign playlist that you can select."
Multiplayer is apparently handled in a similar way, allowing purchasers to play custom matches from any game and any mode. "We've had to take unique approach to matchmaking," said O'Connor. "When the maps and the modes come up, players will be able to vote on what they want to play. So if most people select Team Slayer from Halo 2, that will instantly launch, it's all completely seamless."
Halo 2 remastered
The collection includes the Anniversary Edition of Halo 2, which has been augmented in a similar style to the re-release of Halo: Combat Evolved, complete with terminals to provide new backstory snippets. "It will have two engines running simultaneously," said O'Connor. "The original and the Xbox One version of that engine; and you can switch back and forth in the middle of a game, as you could in Halo Anniversary." Meanwhile, the soundtrack has been re-recorded by the Skywalker Orchestra, and six maps have been re-designed and updated by original multiplayer designer Max Hoberman.
"I think the thing we're most excited about is our new live-action digital series, Halo: Nightfall," said studio manager Bonnie Ross. "It introduces some new characters and a story that drops you off at the doorstep of Halo 5.It's a tool that allows us to show how the past and future of Halo are moving together."
Halo fans will remember the previous live-action content, Halo: Forward Unto Dawn. "This is aimilar in format but the scale is much bigger," said O'Connor. "It's a standalone story, but it introduces a brand new character who's going to feature quite prominently in Halo 5 Guardians. It connects the stories in an interesting way, but it's also more engaged in the current Halo universe than Forward Unto Dawn, which was almost a historical piece, it was showing you the origins of the universe. This is a snapshot of what's happening right now."
In May, Microsoft announced Halo 5: Guardians, which will take the multimillion selling sci-fi series into the next-gen console era. The new game features series hero Master Chief, an augmented super-solder who saves humanity from an alien aggressor, alone and disillusioned with his past.
The new collection is, according to O'Connor, specifically designed to bring gamers up to date with his journey. "It's kind of a big ask to require players to follow one single storyline through three console transitions," he said. "It's always been frustrating that you can't have the whole story in one place, so new players have an onboard point. But now you can play it how you want. Everything is unlocked.
"That's a huge amount of content. And everything is going to run at 60fps on dedicated servers, and at 1080p; it's higher fidelity across the board thanks to a number of polish passes we're taking on the graphics."
According to Ross, fans will notice that not only have there visuals been enhanced, but there is also extra cinematic story content. "Xbox One gives us the ability to create a cohesive, connected experience like we've never been able to before. There's a new prologue and epilogue that seeds the story up to Halo 5.
"We think this is a pivotal point in who MC is. If you pay much attention to the Hero's Journey, MC is really at the very start. He is the augmented hero, but he's also human - that's a story we're interested in. His past plays a critical role in his future, we wanted to think about how we could connect his past to the future. What he thought of his past may be different than what it really was.
Although the price wasn't confirmed during the event, Xbox spokesperson, Larry Hyrb later tweeted that the price will be $60 or £50.
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