343 Industries have their work cut out for them.
A lot was riding on Halo Infinite’s recent reveal. The two years separating the game’s initial announcement and its recent gameplay reveal were dotted by next to no official updates, and a truckload of rumours and speculation, and with Infinite being pegged as a spiritual reboot of a massive yet troubled franchise – one that will be kicking off the Xbox Series X’s life as a launch title no less – the stakes for Microsoft were definitely high.
It’s fair to say that the reveal could have gone better. A lot better. To be clear, Halo Infinite doesn’t look bad by any means. It looks like more Halo, which is a good thing, especially for fans of the series. But there were many who were hoping that Infinite would be Halo’s Breath of the Wild moment, its God of War 2018 moment, when the series would shed its ageing skin and move into new and exciting directions. That is definitely not what the recent gameplay reveal hinted at.
To be fair though, there’s so much yet that we don’t know about Halo Infinite. There’s a few months still to go before it launches, and 343 Industries are promising big things, so there’s every chance that the game ends up impressing much more with subsequent showings than it did with its first one. But there are some notes that 343 Industries are going to have to hit to do that, to ensure that they win over everyone that’s been left underwhelmed by Infinite’s first impression. Here in this feature, we’re going to talk about five big things that we feel they need to focus on to do that.
Let’s start with the most obvious one:
IMPROVE THE VISUALS
More than anything else, it’s Halo Infinite’s visuals that have caught the most flak since the gameplay debut. Again, it doesn’t look bad… but it doesn’t look great either. It looks sort of flat, like a mid-gen Xbox One game, which may not have been such a bad thing about a year or so ago, but is a huge blow against a major first party game claiming to be the flagship launch title of the Xbox Series X (a console that Microsoft reminds us is the most powerful one in existence every chance it gets).
343 Industries have said that the demo that was recently shown off was from an earlier work-in-progress build of the game, while they’ve also already made promises – multiple times – that Halo Infinite’s visuals are going to improve between now and then. Art style has always been a more important to Halo’s graphics than raw tech, and that’s something 343 are going to have to be very mindful of, but sure enough, they also need to ensure that they make good on their promises of improving the tech side of things as well.
Ray-tracing won’t be in the game at launch, which is a big bummer – and especially disappointing considering, once again, that this is an Xbox Series X launch title – but there’s other improvements that can be made to Infinite’s visuals. Character models need to be improved, environments need more detail, the effects need to be more dynamic, animations need to be much smoother- more than anything else, 343 Industries need to make sure that the next time they show Halo Infinite in action, it looks much better than it did during the Xbox Games Showcase.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE OPEN WORLD
That Halo Infinite will be open world – or at least have open world elements – is something that’s been in the leaks for a while, and that was confirmed during the gameplay reveal. Of course, we still don’t know the full extent of the open world nature of the game either – whether it will be a fully open world game or just have larger, more open ended sections every now and then remains unknown for now. Let’s just call it open world for convenience’s sake for now.
But whichever one it ends up being, 343 Industries need to do a better job of telling us why that is a big deal. Sure, Halo in an open world setting sounds incredibly exciting on paper, but Infinite’s gameplay demonstration didn’t lean hard into that aspect. From what was shown of that game, it looked like more Halo… and also there was a map?
Open world can be a game-changer for Halo Infinite, especially if the entire game is set on a Halo ring, so that’s something 343 Industries need to spend more time talking about. Tell us how big these environments are, tell us more about their dynamic nature and how that might affect gameplay, tell us about exploration, tell us about the side activities. Being open world should be a huge point in Halo Infinite’s favour. 343 Industries need to capitalize on that potential.
MAKE SURE THE STORY’S NOT A MESS
Story has been an integral part of the Halo franchise for as long as it’s been around, but ever since 343 Industries took the reins from Bungie, things have been a bit of a mess (to put it mildly). Halo 4 inexplicably demanded knowledge of the novels, without which vital plot beats would have simply flown over your head, and Halo 5: Guardians only doubled down on that- though it’s story was a big disappointment in other ways as well.
343 Industries need to course-correct with Halo Infinite– and based on what they’ve said so far, they definitely seem to be making an effort to do that. Even though Halo Wars 2’s The Banished are going to be central antagonists in Infinite, the strategy game is, based on what 343 have said, not required reading, and the fact that this is being considered a spiritual reboot of the series that’s clearly meant to drawn in large numbers of people would suggest that it will have a less convoluted story that’s easier to follow.
Of course, building on past narrative developments is important, and it goes without saying that 343 Industries shouldn’t forget about the fans who have heavily invested in the series’ larger narrative and want to see payoff for that investment. Striking a balance between doing that and not going overboard with it like they did with Halo 4 and 5 will definitely be tricky, but it’s something that 343 Industries will have to do. Based on what they’ve said, that is what they’re doing, but that’s easier said than done.
IMPRESS US WITH MULTIPLAYER DETAILS
Of course, you can’t not talk about multiplayer when talking about Halo, and thankfully, recent rumours about Infinite launching without multiplayer have been confirmed to be false. This is going to be a massive part of the game, and it’s what’s going to keep it going (if all goes well) long after launch (more on this in a bit).
Details so far have been scant, with the recent gameplay demo having been focused on the campaign. To state the obvious, 343 Industries will have to make sure that when they talk about Halo Infinite’s multiplayer – which they obviously will not long from now – they knock the ball out of the park. Multiplayer is a huge part of any Halo game, and it’s crucial that Infinite makes a much better first impression on that front than it did with its campaign, especially given the fact that a beta is looking highly unlikely at this stage.
Thankfully, early signs are encouraging. As disappointing as Halo 5 was, it got a lot of things right with its multiplayer, and according to Xbox boss Phil Spencer, Halo Infinite is going to continue to build on that. Of course, we have to mention the fact that the multiplayer is going to be free-to-play and will run in 120 FPS, both of which are major bonuses no matter how you cut it. With the multiplayer being free, perhaps we can expect better monetization models (maybe a Battle Pass) than what we got with Halo 5.
TALK ABOUT POST-LAUNCH
“Live service” has become a dreaded phrase for most people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with live service models – in fact, when done right, it can be a great thing – but the way most developers have handled it so far hasn’t filled people with a lot of confidence. 343 Industries have said that Halo Infinite is going to be their platform for more Halo content for the next ten years, and that they’re not going to be working on new Halo games during that point. That statement simultaneously breeds confusion and nervousness.
As far as the latter is concerned, there’s only one thing to be said- don’t screw it up. Don’t let being an ongoing platform be an excuse for a shoddy launch, make sure good content is delivered at a steady clip, and all that stuff. We all know the deal by now. The question that’s more important here, though, is- what exactly does it mean for Halo Infinite to be 343’s Halo platform for the foreseeable future?
That question is easy to answer on the multiplayer side of things, but what about the single player content? Halo Infinite is supposed to be the conclusion to the Forerunner saga, but it’s also apparently going to set up new stories that will be told in the future. What exactly does that mean? Expansions? If so, will they be free or paid? What’s the scope of these new stories going to be? Should we expect smaller episodes, mid-sized expansions, or full-fledged new narrative arcs? Of course, we’re not expecting a full road map or anything before the game is even out, but if this is the direction 343 Industries want to take, they need to be clearer about what it’s going to mean for the game.
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