Microsoft first showed gameplay footage of their upcoming flagship FPS, Halo Infinite, back at an event that was pitched as a first look at what’s so special about their upcoming next-generation console, the Xbox Series X. It didn’t quite succeed at that, where the game looked OK, but certainly not anything groundbreaking. After Microsoft had spent months hyping up the Xbox Series X as “the most powerful console ever”, people had expected them to have at least something that would demonstrate that power, and Halo Infinite was not that.
In response to this backlash then, developer 343 Industries have published a blog post addressing the subject head-on. Along with a host of different topics, 343 acknowledge all the criticism of the graphics and pledge that the final game will look significantly better.
“First, we want to acknowledge that yes, we’ve heard the feedback coming from parts of the community regarding the visuals in the Halo Infinite campaign demo. While we see and hear far more positive than negative, we do want to share a bit more context. From our perspective, there are two key areas being debated around the community – overall art style and visual fidelity.”
This seems about right to me, some of the criticism has been centered around the decision to not really attempt any kind of new style with the graphics. At a glance, the location we saw in the first gameplay footage from Halo Infinite could have very easily been set in some of the same places from earlier Halo games. It’s perhaps intended as a back to basics approach, returning the series to its roots, but a lot of people had perhaps hoped to see more evidence of the series moving forward, rather than repeating what has worked in the past. Obviously this is a matter of personal preference, but I can see people being reasonably disappointed that it’s Grunts and Elites strewn around what could easily be a section of The Silent Cartographer.
“With Halo Infinite, we’re returning to a more ‘classic’ art style which was a key message going back to the very first reveal that garnered enthusiastic and positive responses. This translates to a more vibrant palette, “cleaner” models and objects with less “noise”, though it doesn’t mean less detail. While we appreciate this may not be everyone’s personal preference, we stand by this decision and are happy to see it resonating with so many fans around the world.”
On the visual fidelity angle, it’s maybe tougher to dismiss as just a matter of personal preference. Perhaps it’s suffering somewhat from having been billed as the strongest reason to spend a bunch of money on the most powerful console ever made, to have instead only turned out to look like a normal regular Halo game. We don’t know exactly how long is left between now and release, but they will have most of the rest of the year to continue to work on Halo Infinite, and they say that it will look better by the time it comes out:
“Negative feedback in this area includes comments around characters and objects appearing flat, simplistic and plastic-like, lighting feeling dull and flat, and object pop-in. We’ve read your comments, we’ve seen the homemade examples of retouched content, and yes we’ve heard the Digital Foundry assessments. In many ways we are in agreement here – we do have work to do to address some of these areas and raise the level of fidelity and overall presentation for the final game. The build used to run the campaign demo was work-in-progress from several weeks ago with a variety of graphical elements and game systems still being finished and polished. While some of the feedback was expected and speaks to areas already in progress, other aspects of the feedback have brought new opportunities and considerations to light that the team is taking very seriously and working to assess. We don’t have firm answers or outcomes to share yet but the team is working as quickly as possible on plans to address some of the feedback around detail, clarity, and overall fidelity. The team is committed and focused on making sure we have a beautiful world for players to explore when we launch.”
It feels to me like if they wanted to use the caveat of “oh this is old don’t worry about the graphics needing more work”, it would have perhaps been a better idea to mention that prior to showing the footage, rather than after. The game is not that far off the release, and they’ve already said that effects like ray tracing aren’t going to be added until post-release. There’s still time for improvements to be implemented, but it’s unlikely we’re going to see any huge fundamental changes to the visuals.
It does somewhat make Microsoft look disorganized given that they set the date for the reveal of Halo Infinite gameplay footage, but apparently didn’t first check whether it was actually ready to be shown.
Graphics isn’t the only area we’re getting an update on though, with some extra details about other elements in the game discussed in this blog post too.
For me, whenever I think back to playing the older Halo games, my first memory is a local split-screen coop, blasting through the campaign with a friend. 343 have confirmed that 2 player split-screen is returning to Halo, and they’ll also support four-player online coop:
“Campaign will support 2 player splitscreen and online 4 player co-op. Yes, you can play on your couch with a friend.”
There are a bunch of other details discussed in the blog post, check it out for all the latest announces about Halo Infinite.
We don’t know the exact release date yet, but we know it will coincide with the release of the Xbox Series X, which is due out Holiday 2020. It will be releasing on for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC via either Steam or the Windows Store.