Halo: The Master Chief Collection Needs To Fix Split Screen

The launch of the Xbox Series X meant one thing to me and my girlfriend: it was time to finish Halo.

When we started dating long-distance last year, we played through the entirety of Halo Reach on Legendary together. She’d never played much Halo beyond the first one, so I was excited to experience some of my favorite shooters again with her. We moved in together this past January, and bought a secondhand 360 within my first week of arriving. We picked up copies of the originals, then got to playing.

Unfortunately, life had other plans. We weren’t even through Halo 2 when COVID-19 came to America, and as we scrambled to move from her parents’ place into our duplex as lockdown hit, Halo fell to the wayside. When we were gaming, we wanted a nice escape like Animal Crossing, and weren’t exactly jazzed about jumping back into a loud, explosive, stressful shooter.

That’s why we took the release of the Xbox Series X as the perfect chance to “finish the fight,” as it were. We’d get the shiny new system at launch, install the Master Chief Collection, and blast through 3 and 4 together. It was a simple plan, and one we finished our Halo 2 playthrough for ASAP.

However, now that the day’s come and gone, and we’re playing Halo 3 together each night, something’s really hampering our enjoyment: the split-screen. A staple of the Halo series, split-screen co-op is handled very poorly in the MCC, and I really hope we get some kind of fix for it soon.

The main issue is that it’s too damn small. Should you choose to play split-screen, you and your partner are confined to a small box in the middle of the screen. Sure, that box is divided into rectangles that mirror the game’s normal aspect ratio, but I’ll be honest – I don’t really care about that. I care about the game making the most of whatever screen it’s on, which it certainly isn’t here. That “small box” is bookended on either side by jarring black pillarboxes, which look awful on a larger screen.

This is even worse during chapter breaks, when the game would normally just go into widescreen and reveal the chapter title. Here, that shrink into widescreen happens within that tiny square, meaning that you’re playing around in a petite rectangle for a few moments. It’s unsightly, especially considering how much work went into polishing up every other aspect of the game.

It’s also unnecessary. Games like Modern Warfare and Borderlands have offered split-screen without sacrificing much valuable screen real estate, and it’s kind of wild that one of the industry’s biggest marquee shooters can’t say that. Even more baffling is that the splitscreen on the older consoles is actually better, albeit more muddy and jagged thanks to being on old hardware. How is the “definitive” version of these games a marked downgrade in this department – especially when the included 1 and 2 remasters make full use of the screen?

I understand this probably comes from a desire to preserve a certain aspect ratio and/or a certain framerate, but honestly, that still doesn’t sit right with me. The Series X is a powerful console, and I’d hazard to guess it could run split-screen on a game from 2007 just fine. And in regards to the aspect ratio… I don’t really care? Stretch it a little? Make my FOV a little smaller? Give us a vertical split? Something, anything, would be better than what 343 did here.

My hope is that tomorrow’s Series X upgrade patch will give us a better alternative. Because right now, finishing the fight in co-op doesn’t feel as climactic as it should, and I’d like to actually enjoy the Halo we have now while we wait for Infinite.

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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.

She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.

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