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Xbox One affected Halo Infinite's visuals, but not its ambition

Published: 17:44, 27 July 2020
Updated: 17:47, 27 July 2020
Master Chief standing next to another Halo Infinite character
Halo Infinite

The response to Halo Infinite continues to run a gamut of emotion, while broader questions are being asked of Microsoft's PR strategy and the nature of their cross gen release support. But Infinite's ambition should not be dismissed.

We think it's fair to acknowledge that there's value in questioning the close up texture work of an ugly Brute, or the seemingly unpolished draw distance of a supposedly next gen title, but these criticisms are all rooted in visual fidelity. 

If ones expectation of Halo is that it's a technical showpiece designed to sell hardware, then it would be reasonable for you to be disappointed. But that metric is framed by the idea that Microsoft feel the same way about the idea of Xbox Series X that you do.

For players beating the console war drum, the end of this year is a bare knuckle cage match between PS5 and Series X, where the terms of engagement are rooted in raw horsepower and titles that show off why these boxes are powered by graphical wizardry. 

But when you view the Xbox Games Showcase through a prism of Game Pass, it becomes clearer that Microsoft are more interested in selling subscriptions than machines under your television.

We've seen time and again their focus is on cross gen releases, muddied somewhat by confusing messaging and a lot of these games likely being further away than we think. 

But with Halo Infinite, a game which has been confirmed as a cross gen title since its 2018 announcement, the notion that people are surprised by a perceived lack of graphical prowess is odd, to say the least. 

Microsoft Four soldiers passing through a circular construction in Halo Infinite. It's bigger than you think, seeeeee.

Halo Infinite has to run on a base Xbox One, and despite its massively increased scale and smooth framerate, it still doesn't feel like a sudden step back from Halo 5: Guardians. 

That game, despite it's numerous problems and lack of split screen support, was visually impressive and ran well. Halo Infinite is on par with its performance, whilst totally opening up the play space and bringing back much requested local play. 

Infinite even takes things one step further by scaling up to 4K on better hardware, while still maintaining its feature set and a smooth 60fps, with the promise of ray tracing support and future content expansion. It's being billed as a spiritual reboot that evokes the beginnings of the franchise. 

Now, one can absolutely be entitled to wish every game looked like The Last of Us: Part 2, and there's nothing wrong with calling out the manner in which a supposedly next gen supported title is being presented. 

However, when you compare the ambition of its mainline predecessor to what 343i are now trying to achieve with Infinite, it makes me wonder what they could have possibly done that would have been good enough? 

Halo's art style has never shot for photo realism. The tenets of Halo's innovation as a franchise (at least for us) are in scaling PC FPS keyboard mapping to a controller, and unifying online play through the original version of Xbox Live. That's what has defined this series. 

So when 343i present Halo Infinite's campaign with a non linear mission structure, best in series performance, and pitch it as an evolving platform rather than a traditional sequel, it feels like there's a lot more going on with this game beyond flat lighting and disappointing enemy faces.

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