The latest Halo Infinite update is a major step in the right direction

Platforms: Microsoft Xbox Series X | Microsoft Xbox One | PC
The latest Halo Infinite update is a major step in the right direction

After almost half a year of minimal information and hardly any communication from 343 Industries, Halo fans finally received their first major update on Halo Infinite since July. The blog post, titled “Inside Infinite – December 2020”, featured new screenshots and a ton of info about the game, and a lot of it is pretty promising. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at the most important things we learned from the update and discussing what the future of Halo Infinite looks like now that we’ve finally been given some more info. 

Visual Enhancements

Initially, Halo Infinite didn’t quite manage to impress with its graphics and this was one of the main reasons for the delay. 343 have assured us that they’re working on all kinds of visual improvements, with Neil Harrison, 343's Director of Art Management, stating that the team is working on things like “indirect lighting, material response, foliage and tree rendering, clouds, level-of-detail transitions and character fidelity”. He goes on to say “the feedback was humbling, and it pushed us to look at additional opportunities for improvement”.

Predictably, the gameplay demo we saw in July was an unfinished look at the game, but with more time on their hands 343 seems committed to visual enhancements across the board. The blog post also touches on the art style, and shows off a close look at some classic Halo weaponry. 343 seems to be going for a blend of classic and modern Halo designs, marrying the two together in a pretty sleek way. They’ve even confirmed the brutes will be getting a visual overhaul with some beards and hairdos. Rest in peace, Craig.

The Release Date

Halo Infinite will be releasing in Fall 2021. This might seem like quite a long way away, but this ensures 343 have enough time to polish up the game to a higher standard. One of Halo 5: Guardians’ biggest mistakes was a rushed release with a lack of content. That game didn’t have Forge or various classic multiplayer modes like Big Team Battle at launch, and a lot of content was slowly released over time. Infinite will be receiving updates over time, but hopefully, the longer development time means when it releases it’ll be a complete package.

There’s also a possibility of Halo Infinite coming out on Halo: Combat Evolved’s 20th anniversary (November 15th), which would be a pretty neat way to celebrate it. Bonnie Ross, Head of 343 Industries, hinted at the potential release date on Twitter, but we should probably take this with a grain of salt for now. Personally, I predicted a September 2021 release when I heard the game was delayed, but we’ll have to wait and see.

First Look at Multiplayer

We also got our first look at multiplayer in this blog post. 343 shared a couple of screenshots of a new multiplayer map and we can see a few interesting things in these images. Firstly, we get some really nice looking in-game images that allow us to see some of the visual improvements. It certainly looks like a step up from the screenshots we saw back in July. We can also see some players running around in-game, giving us our first look at multiplayer Spartans.

We also got confirmation of a couple of interesting power-ups on the map. An icon for the Grappleshot and what I’m assuming is Active Camouflage can be seen in the picture below, suggesting these abilities will be pick-ups on the map similar to equipment from Halo 3. We don’t know much about the multiplayer gameplay so far, but this is a pretty significant return to one of the main features in Halo 3’s multiplayer. I’m sure many fans will be happy to see this, and it’ll be interesting to see how they combine modern Halo gameplay with classic features like power-ups.

Armour Customisation

There’s a lot to touch on in regards to customisation, not least of which are the awesome new screenshots we got showing new armour sets and designs. It looks like 343 are returning to the level of customisation we saw in Reach, with individual armour pieces like shoulder pads, visor colours, utility and more. They’ve also added some grittiness and wear-and-tear to the armour pieces, making them look less like the plastic aesthetic from Halo 4 and Halo 5. This is a huge step in the right direction for customisation. Halo 5 had way too many indistinguishable helmets and chest pieces, and the more classic-inspired helmets failed to capture the designs of the originals in a satisfying way. The new armour combines the Halo Reach and Halo 3 aesthetics with a more modern twist, which looks way better in my opinion.

However, traditional colour customisation won’t be making an appearance in Infinite. Fans generally weren’t pleased with the announcement that colours are being replaced by coatings (skins that offer unique designs and colour combinations, some of which will be available to purchase with real money). The Halo series has had options to choose your own primary and secondary colours for a long time and this feels like an unnecessary change designed for monetary purposes. Hopefully, there’s a wide range of coatings available to unlock for free. If not, 343 have definitely made the wrong decision here, as fans won’t take kindly to having to pay for colour combinations they’ve been able to use for almost two decades. 343 have acknowledged that this allows for less “player control”, but they remain committed to the idea that coatings will ultimately increase the depth of customisation.

The armour itself looks fantastic, though, and I can’t wait to see what other designs they bring to the table. 343 have even hinted at other kinds of customisation beyond weapon skins, armour and vehicles, so we’ll have to wait and see what else they have up their sleeves.

No Loot Boxes

Thankfully, 343 also confirmed Halo Infinite won’t have any loot boxes or any way to pay for in-game power. Halo 5’s REQ packs still linger in some fan’s minds, and it’s refreshing to know there won’t be anything like that in this game. Of course, we still haven’t seen much of the monetisation model in Infinite, but at the very least we know random loot and gameplay enhancements are off the table.

This will be a relief to anyone wary that 343 might be cramming a bunch of random loot boxes into Halo Infinite. Of course, there are still micro-transactions, but with the game being on Game Pass and the multiplayer being free it’s pretty clear Microsoft has to make their money somewhere. I’m holding out hope that it won’t be as intrusive as other games, and 343’s statement about a player-first focus is certainly promising. Ryan Paradis, Design Director for the Live Team, said: “think of all the games we’ve all played that have random rewards, ask people to play a way they hate just for a new shiny, or weaponise FOMO against the player.” He goes on to say “everyone should enjoy their time in Halo Infinite”, which is certainly a sentiment I can get behind, and one I hope they can follow through with.

The Campaign is Complete

Finally, we were given a bit more info about the game’s open-world campaign. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering the game was supposed to come out in November 2020, but the campaign is apparently finished and the new Creative Director, Joseph Staten, described his experience of playing it. He said “Everywhere I looked, I saw choices: Do I explore off the golden path? Assault that Banished war base guarding the valley pass? Follow a flight of Forerunner Sentinels into that unexpected cavern? Rescue a squad of marines dug-in and desperate halfway up that mountain? Or do I keep pulling the mainline story thread that feels epic and intimate at the exact same time?”

This all sounds incredibly promising, and I’m excited to see how the campaign looks after some more polish thanks to the delayed release.

Overall, 343 have done a pretty solid 180 from earlier in the year. It remains to be seen whether the end product will live up to the hype, but it’s safe to say 343 are on the right track. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the game and hopefully they keep us more updated from this point on as we get closer to release. Microsoft really needs Halo Infinite to be a hit, and the fans have waited a long time for a new instalment. Only time will tell how things turn out, but this update was a great step in the right direction and a pretty good teaser for things to come.

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