Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an ambitious undertaking. It is more than just taking code from Halo CE and Halo 2 from the original Xbox and moving it to Xbox One. It is more than stringing those games together with Halo 3 and Halo 4 on the Xbox 360 to just get everything in one package. A panel at San Diego Comic Con showed us just how involved the process was going to be, and how much better it was going to look.
For Halo CE and Halo 2 anniversary editions, all of the original code is going to be used, said 343 Industries Senior Producer Dennis Ries. There will be no changes to the code, other than making sure players get the best possible experience on the Xbox One. He showed off the interface as it currently stands for the game, with all four games accessible through the menu, and the ability to do a “cross game” campaign.
“We have unlocked every mission, so it will be possible to begin playing Halo CE and continue straight through to the end of Halo 4,” Ries said. “But if you want to play specific missions, such as just the ones with vehicles, we will let you customize your play to just want you want to experience.”
In addition, 343 is bridging the stories together to make a cohesive fiction as players go through the games. They will then lead into Halo: Nightfall, the episodic live action movie being created to lead into Halo 5: Guardians.
Halo CE and Halo 2 Anniversary are also being built using two rendering engines, so at the touch of a button, players will be able to see how the game looked 10 years ago compared to how it looks now. From the images they showed, the massive leap in quality is expected, but still remarkable. It will be like playing a whole new game.
However, perhaps the biggest upgrade is in the cinematics, being handled by Blur Studios. All of the cinematics from the first two games are being redone, which meant 24 days of motion capture. And not only is everything being done with mo-cap actors, but it is being done in such a way to match the voice over without having to re-record the scripts.
A video was shown depicting an original scene for Halo 2, and then another video was shown displaying how Blur was taking that same scene and upgrading it. In all, more than a full hour of cinematics have been upgraded to full HD.
It was mentioned that with Halo CE and Halo 2 getting totally redone, that Halo 3 would look worse as a game from 2007, and Halo 4 to a lesser degree from the Xbox 360 era. Frank O’Connor, franchise development director on Halo at 343, said that was an initial concern, but importing the code from Xbox 360 to Xbox One brought out new visual aspects to the game that weren’t seen in the originals.
“In some initial playthroughs on the Xbox One, it is immediately obvious that Halo 3 and Halo 4 will benefit with greater fidelity,” he said. “Many things were in the Xbox 360 code, that weren’t as obvious when you played on that console. But now on the Xbox One, the visuals pop more.”
As for multiplayer, more than 100 maps will be available, including one from Halo CE that were never available on Xbox Live. The complete package will now have more than 4000 achievements and more than 30 new skulls to modify game play. Even the Zanzibar map will be remastered.
“This is a project we have wanted to do for some time,” O’Connor said. We have wanted to put the Halo story on one platform so that players can experience it all at once and in a higher fidelity than ever before. I’m glad we are finally able to do that.”
While the audience was thrilled with what they saw, there was still the nagging question of whether Halo will ever make it back to PC. “We get that question quite a bit,” Ries said. “Keep asking, but we don’t have anything to announce right now.”
Halo: The Master Chief Collection will be available exclusively on Xbox One on November 11.