halo-infinite-gameplay-premiere-thoughts

After roughly two years since its reveal, we finally got our first look at Halo Infinite gameplay during Microsoft’s Xbox games showcase livestream. Infinite is a follow up to Halo 5: Guardians which wasn’t received too well by the Halo fan base for a variety of reasons, from a weak story and characters to the game’s monetization.

Halo Infinite has set out to put the wrongs right and recapture that Halo magic. With a new console generation, it being a launch title for the Xbox Series X and a new game engine (the Slipspace engine), a lot of weight is on its shoulders to impress. And this gameplay reveal was the first major step in getting people on its side.

As a long time Halo fan, I was excited to get a look. And after watching something like this what better to do next that talk about it? So here a some of my observations, impressions and thoughts on the Halo Infinite campaign gameplay premiere.

Combat Evolved Vibes

The gameplay opens with Master Chief and his pilot buddy (the one who saved him in the cutscene from E3 last year) crash landing onto a Halo ring. After said crash Chief steps onto the ring, gun in hand ready to take some alien names.

The player is now on a Halo ring in a big open environment full of wonder, discovery and mysteries to uncover.

Sound familiar? That’s because it is reminiscent of the second mission from Combat Evolved called ‘Halo’. The feelings I experienced when playing Combat Evolved back on the original Xbox haven’t been brought out by many other games. Not even Halo 4 or 5.

From what I’ve seen Infinite might just do it though, at least I hope it does anyway. The classic shield recharge noise is a small detail but it, along with the art style, did seem to help make Infinite look and sound like a classic Halo game.

Now, I hope Halo Infinite doesn’t just copy older games, with the familiar sounds and art to tricking us with nostalgia and our association of these things to Halo games of yesteryear.

The vibes the gameplay gave off give me reasons to believe this isn’t the case. I’m wishing for Infinite to be the Halo sequel we should have got, a game that captured what the Bungie Halos did so well while bringing exciting new gameplay to the table with an intriguing story to tell.

Opening Up

Halo Infinite appears to be opening up, with mission objectives placed around the Halo ring for you to complete how you want in the order you want.

This could potentially be the biggest change to the Halo formula. The closest thing would probably be Halo 3: ODST’s streets of New Mombasa and ODST kicked ass. The new open-world formula goes hand in hand with the feeling of discovery, which brings me back to the Combat Evolved vibes.

Though I am not 100% sold on this change as of yet. Going more open world is tough and it needs to be done right. The game needs to go open-world for a reason, not just for the sake of it. And it needs to take advantage of the gameplay opportunities that present themselves with open worlds.

The narrative may struggle with the new open setting. Especially with a game that is part of a series that has mostly leaned towards the more linear structure and used it to tell great in-depth stories in its universe.

If it is done right then it could be a great changeup, and it could make Infinite feel new without messing with the combat gameplay as much as Halo 5 did. I would still like to see some classic more linear levels throughout the story, similar to Gears 5.

Catch

Grenade throwing is a major pillar in Halo’s combat. Not a lot of things in gaming are as satisfying as a Plasma grenade stick, especially in multiplayer.

In Halo Infinite more than just grenades will be thrown. We see whoever was playing lob a fusion coil at enemies. I wonder if the coil can explode in your hand if shot?

The Chief wasn’t the only one tossing stuff around. At one point a Grunt holding two Plasma grenades comes flying towards the player. The Grunt met a nasty end when iw was shot midair and I can only guess faceplanted shortly after.

This all happened because Brutes can throw Grunts now. Projectiles Grunts add a new danger to be on the lookout for during shootouts, as well as taking advantage of the different species characteristics to make them feel unique and emphasise their different traits.

I like the look of both of these new features of battle. More options and tactics should create more scenarios when encountering enemies, and keep the action feeling new, but still like Halo.

Who doesn’t want to see a Brute throw a Grunt too? Don’t tell me you don’t.

Visuals

Let’s address the elephant in the room, the graphics. I’ve seen a lot of complaints that the visuals aren’t looking too great, especially for a first-party game on “the world’s most powerful console”.

I’ll agree that, yes, the demo wasn’t the best looker I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t please my retinas and leave me drooling over the thought of playing something so beautiful.

But it didn’t look terrible. When the lighting was right it looked better, meaning the issue could be caused in part by lighting. It’s been confirmed that Halo Infinite will receive a ray-tracing update sometimes post-launch which could help with the lighting issues. However, it won’t be in the game at launch, which is when the game will be judged, and shouldn’t a reason to ignore the graphics right now.

Graphical Expectations

I think the graphics complaints are so prevalent because of several reasons. One being the Xbox Series X and its power claims. It seems like the power is being talked up but not actually being shown. I think people expected it to show what the new system could do when it comes to what games can look like on it.

Another is the new Slipspace engine, it has been somewhat hyped up, with talks of it being “next-generation” and trailers saying “Powered By The Slipspace Engine”. It gave people the idea that Halo Infinite was going to look out of this world, which the demo didn’t.

If you look closely at some of the textures you can see details such as wear on Master Chief’s armour despite the game being from a first-person perspective. So it’s clear to see that care has gone into it.

The game is still a work in progress as well, and stream/video quality won’t be as good as the actual game. And at the end of the day, I’ll play it regardless if the gameplay is as great as that of pre-2012 Halo I can also forgive the graphics more if this happens to be the case.

Halo Infinite will be running at 4K 60FPS, and as someone who values the frame-rate in Halo, I’m happy with that.

Again, I don’t think it looked extremely bad and personally, I can forgive the visuals more if the gameplay is good. But I can see why people were disappointed with the visual quality. And I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit dissatisfied with the graphics that were shown myself. Microsoft didn’t do it any favours with this either by releasing screenshots like the one below.

Movement

One of the most controversial aspects of later Halo games is the way you get around. Sprinting and dashing were both a part of Halo 5 and they caused quite an uproar.

Movement has always been a big part of Halo, as it’s a crucial part of gunfights. In a game were headshots are everything, moving around can be the difference between getting the kill or getting killed.

Map design and movement go hand in hand. Map sizes and design have to fit with the way players move. When old maps return to newer games, as they usually do in Halo, more advanced movement can make the maps play worse. This isn’t just limited to Halo. Think Nuketown’s remake in Black Ops 4, it was altered because of the changes to traversal and the map suffered because of it in my opinion.

Gunplay has to also work around movement. Getting headshots on targets who are whizzing about like they’ve downed 30 cans of Red Bull is going to be harder. Weapons now have to accommodate for this with hit scan and high accuracy. This could lead to the issue of any weapons being usable at long range.

This is why the appearance of sprinting in the Halo Infinite demo has rubbed people the wrong way. Personally, I didn’t really want it in Infinite, but I’m actually kind of okay with it, at the moment anyway.

Running About

If the environment in the single-player is going to be big and expansive, having a bit of a speed boost may help get around it. For example, if you’re stranded without a vehicle, a slow walk may be a pain in the rear. But a speed boost could help relieve frustration.

I feel movement/sprinting is more of a multiplayer issue as well, this is why I said I’m kind of okay with it at the moment. We haven’t seen the multiplayer yet, so we don’t even know if sprinting will even be in it. We’ll have to wait and see how movement is handled in multiplayer for now.

Hooked

A grapple hook was also seen in the demo. It allowed the player to pull objects towards them as well as fire the grapple at a location or enemy and zip towards it or them.

Word on the street is that the grappling hook is a pick-up in multiplayer, so it could act as a power weapon of sorts. I think having it as a pick-up should stop everyone from zipping around. An idea I have to also stop this from happening is by making the grapple hook have a certain amount of uses.

In the single-player demo, it looked cool I’ve had fun with grappling hooks in other games so it could work here. Again, we’ll have to wait to see how it will play in multiplayer.

OOHHHH AUUU AUUU AUU AUUU URRR

There aren’t many original soundtracks in gaming iconic as those of Halo. From the choir-like chants, chilling noir-esque tunes of ODST, or the wailing guitar of Steve Vai from Halo 2. The soundtracks have always been excellent and have evoked a range of emotions.

This trend looks like it’s going to continue with Infinite. The score sounded and felt like Halo. Adding to the atmosphere, sense of wonder and general badassery.

Sinister Speech

Towards the end of the demo, we got a speech from what appeared to be a high ranking Brute in the Banished called Escharum. I’ve heard criticisms of this speech, with people saying said it was awkward.

But I have to disagree. I thought the speech was rather good. He seems generally happy, he seemed like he was trying to hide a smile while attempting to intimidate.

They were psyched to go up against the legend John 117 himself. While others have called him a demon and coward in his presence, this one wants Chief to fight, saying “set a fire in your heart Spartan, bare your fangs”.

Fingers crossed the fight we have against the Banished and this Escharum will be as epic as he says it will be.

Not Really Blown Away

After watching the demo, I can’t say I was blown away though. Although the gameplay left me feeling mostly positive about it, nothing blew my mind. Noting made me jump out of my chair in awe.

Although I said I could potentially forgive the graphics more if the gameplay was good, I am still concerned about it. It definitely caught me off guard in a bad way.

At Rest

But I’m definitely coming out of this gameplay showcase more at rest. I have my problems with 343 Industries other Halo titles so I was skeptical about this installment in the franchise.

The demo has me interested, wanting to see and hear more, which is a good sign. I’m on the more positive side of the scale when it comes to Halo Infinite at the moment, but I still have my concerns and questions.

What’s Next

I’ll try to wrap it up as this piece has gone on way longer than I thought it would. When it comes to something like a Halo reveal it happens I guess.

I want to see more, after seeing the single-player. But I really want to see the multiplayer, and I would like it to put me at ease about it, leaving me hyped to jump into some matches.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it, especially as it will be on a new console. It being on Gamepass day one helps solidify Gamepass’ value as well.

Even if you don’t pick up a Series X, Xbox One and PC versions will be available. Smart Delivery will also ensure a purchase of Halo Infinite will grant you versions on all platforms it will release on.

We may be playing Infinite for some time too, as 343 sees this game as a platform to update and support for years to come.

343 Industries studio head Chris Lee said when talking to IGN “We want Infinite to grow over time, versus going to those numbered titles and having all that segmentation we had before. It’s really about creating Halo Infinite as the start of the next ten years for Halo and then building that as we go with our fans and community”

It definitely sounds ambitious and may mean Halo Infinite is the only mainline Halo release we will see for a while.

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