Following the completion of all of the Master Chief Collection's (MCC) PC ports in 2020, Halo developer 343 Industries has opted to take a live service approach with the MCC moving into the future. The game has flourished under this new direction. It has become one of Microsoft's greatest hits, but some players, such as PC Gamer's Natalie Clayton, feel that 343 Industries' decision to add live service elements to the game detracts from what makes it special in the first place. They argue that if the MCC is meant to stand tall as a time capsule for the Halo shooters of yesteryear, adding in colorful skins, armor suits from Halo Online, and new maps that were never in the original games intrudes on this vision.
I understand where these fans are coming from, but I don't agree with their arguments. Here's why I think the MCC's status as a time capsule is still being preserved, and also how the live service model 343 Industries has chosen is benefitting not just the game itself, but also the entire Halo community.
Everything new is optional
While it's one thing to say that many of the new skins and armor sets don't mesh well with the overall aesthetic of the older Halo games — in fact, I agree with this view — claiming that the MCC's status as a time capsule is being infringed upon by these cosmetics is disingenuous. This is because shortly after introducing these unlocks, 343 Industries added a setting that allows players to toggle the cosmetics on or off. Switching the new armors, skins, and more off makes it so that players using them in multiplayer appear as default Spartans or Elites, and it also makes all of the weapons and vehicles on the battlefield sport their normal look. With this, you can make it so that you never have to see the new cosmetics at all.
The new Halo 3 map from Halo Online, Waterfall, is also only available in Custom Games. This means that players don't have to worry about it popping up in matchmaking if they're not fans of the map. It's possible that this is going to change according to 343 Industries, but considering the fact that the studio implemented a toggle for the cosmetics, I imagine they'll probably make one for Waterfall and any other maps that get added to the game in the future, too.
Don't overlook the benefits
Secondly, I think that many people focus too much on things like the vibrant skins and outlandish armor sets without considering some of the clear benefits of 343 Industries' live service approach. Over the course of 2020 and 2021, the developer has added (and then improved upon) tons of new quality-of-life features that few of the games in the MCC had originally. Some examples of these include FOV sliders, 3D customization menus, in-game viewmodel adjustments, crossplay between Xbox and PC, and more. A Challenges system was even added that encourages players to play through the Halo games using specific weapons, vehicles, or strategies. These challenges make the games feel more replayable overall since as you work to complete them, you'll likely have to try out new, fresh playstyles.
A lot of these features wouldn't exist if the developers at 343 didn't continue to support the game beyond just porting all of the games to PC. Many of them (and those coming soon, such as the custom games browser) are only there because 343 Industries has chosen to commit to the MCC long term.
It makes the wait for Halo Infinite less painful
Finally, it's important to look beyond the MCC and think about the franchise as a whole. Halo Infinite was originally supposed to already be in players' hands. With its delay into 2021, many Halo fans were left disappointed and frustrated that they would have to wait another year before being able to play the series' next big entry. The live service elements of the MCC help alleviate some of that frustration by offering players new things to enjoy in the games they know and love.
It's true that nothing will be able to completely make the sting of Halo Infinite's delay go away, but 343 Industries devoting some resources to give Halo fans something to get excited about is nevertheless pretty cool. It's something that the developers didn't have to do, but the fact that they did shows that the studio is trying to make the wait for Halo Infinite as enjoyable as it can be. I believe that benefits the Halo community greatly.
What do you think? Do you agree that the live service elements of the MCC enhance and improve the quality of the game? Let me know.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is available now for $40 on Xbox and PC. It's easily one of the best Xbox One shooters available, so you should absolutely pick it up if you haven't already.
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