Microsoft finally pledges to update Halo: Master Chief Collection… next year

Enlarge / We really, really hope 343 pulls off 60 frames-per-second split-screen combat in 4K with this anthology’s long-awaited Xbox One X patches.

In 2014, the Halo: Master Chief Collection anthology launched as a much-needed lineup filler for the struggling Xbox One. But fans’ hopes of a lovely, 1080p collection of four classic Halo games, including a remastered take on Halo 2, were soon shattered by a litany of matchmaking hiccups, bugs, and other issues.

A series of patches in the game’s first year resolved some issues, particularly with online matchmaking, but in spite of continued complaints about the anthology, Microsoft hasn’t put out a H:MCC patch in over two years. And the company failed to capitalize on Xbox One X hype by implying in July that the anthology wouldn’t see any 4K-specific updates for that new console.

Thankfully, on Tuesday, Microsoft changed its tune.

During a Halo community livestream event, the series’ developers at 343 Industries confirmed that H:MCC will finally receive comprehensive patches to both fix outstanding issues and add support for Xbox One X-specific upgrades like 4K resolution. The developer will roll out a “public flighting program”—essentially, a rapid patch-and-test program that series fans can opt into—starting “next spring.” 343 says these updates will also tap into “Xbox platform advancements” that have launched since H:MCC‘s release, but it didn’t clarify exactly which ones. (I assume support for Mixer, the Microsoft-owned rival to Twitch, will be among those.)

But how comprehensive will the fixes be? For example, will the Halo 2 Anniversary Edition receive updates to make its remastered content run more efficiently, especially in split-screen mode? Will Halo 3: ODST, which was given away to angry fans as a mea culpa in early 2015, receive any Xbox One X updates, as well? Will we see true 4K support for all of the anthology’s games in both single and multiplayer modes? And can we expect updates to smooth out the myriad use cases that can bugger up while trying to enjoy H:MCC, particularly its wonky LAN mode? (The latter still requires an every-few-seconds ping to Xbox Live’s servers, which has made it a pain in the butt to run our own basement-party LAN parties with the anthology.)

Those answers will have to wait until 343 invites fans to “test [H:MCC‘s updates] in the wild at large scale” at some unnamed point in spring 2018. In the meantime, the livestream also showed off more of what to expect from Halo 5: Guardians’ next major content update on November 7. That’s the same day as the Xbox One X’s launch date, and unsurprisingly, 4K was the term of the day, as Halo 5 will receive a visual update that brings the game’s internal resolution up to 3840×2160 on Xbox One X.

It's not an offline LAN mode, but it's better than nothing... right?

Enlarge / It’s not an offline LAN mode, but it’s better than nothing… right?

A new “local server” app will launch to support local Halo 5 play in November, as well. This creates a kinda-sorta LAN mode, though instead of just letting Xbox One consoles (old and new) connect directly to each other, they must all connect on the same LAN as a single, Internet-connected Windows 10 PC running the new app. 343 says the design should “provide the same game experience that our pros get at a tournament” due to the fact that all networking will occur entirely on the local-network level. While this arrangement requires use of Xbox Live, it doesn’t require a paid Xbox Live Gold account.

343 took two years to add Oddball to <em>Halo 5?</em> Goodness.

Enlarge / 343 took two years to add Oddball to Halo 5? Goodness.

And, hey, Oddball is coming back to the game on November 7 as a dedicated, officially supported mode, complete with newly recorded narration and the classic skull-as-a-ball (seen above).

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