When Microsoft and 343 Industries announced last week that Halo: The Master Chief Collection was headed to PC, and even to Steam, I was quietly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It couldn’t be quite as good as they were describing, right? While the entire Halo series up to Halo 4 is headed to Steam, remastered, starting with the excellent prequel Halo: Reach, an irritatingly vague statement from Microsoft (as reported by Kotaku here) suggests it won’t part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program. This means that anyone who already owns it on Xbox One will have to double-dip. At least they’re taking beta beta sign-ups over on the Halo Waypoint site here.
The beta sign-up requires a little bit of leg-work on the user’s part. Being Microsoft, they want a DXDiag file to verify your system specs. Beta testing may be starting sooner than expected, and 343 apparently plan on working through the games in (narrative) chronological order. That means Halo Reach first, then Halo 1 and 2 (fully remastered to modern spec, or you can play with the original, chunky Xbox graphics), followed by Halo 3, Halo ODST (a shorter but slightly more open spin-off campaign) and lastly Halo 4. That’s a lot to chew on, and all of them can be played in co-op.
There’s still no word on whether Windows Store or Steam players will be able to play with each other, or interact with Xbox players either. In a perfect world, cross-play would be allowed by default for all co-op modes and optional for competitive play, but we’ve yet to see how Microsoft will be running this. So far, most games with Steam and Microsoft Store versions are separate ecosystems. Windows Store users can play with Xbox owners, but Steam players are off on their own. Hopefully Microsoft will consider changing that for this most co-operative, multiplayer-heavy of bundle releases. Satya Nadella, tear down this wall.