Halo Infinite Preview Prints – Paste
Until 2015, I don’t think I ever owned a single Halo game. I borrowed the games from a friend, playing through the campaigns and trading the discs for the next one. Most of the time, however, I played at my friend’s house, cuddled in the dark after a midnight McDonald’s run, laughing with each other as we had a blast. Like many, my first experiences with Halo were social.
Over time, they became more lonely, until recently. I tend to hyper fix and switch between games. My review work only makes this easier, as I review and write mostly about games without constant updates and without thriving communities. The pandemic, the tendency to move away from couch co-op, and my own online friendships (often with distinct gaming hobbies) have allowed me to play mostly on my own. Even when I’m playing a game that has hit the nail on the head, it usually takes months after it’s gone from the conversation.
That’s not to say that I didn’t dream of living differently, however. I watched from a distance destiny and Final Fantasy XIV with jealousy, wanting to have a game that I could really care about and talk to a lot of people about. I started Warframe and downloaded Magic the Gathering: Arena with the promise that it would be the game I play regularly. None of this really stuck. My interest in older games and my constant change assured me that I could never really settle into one title to call my game “social”. Based on the recent overview, however, Infinite halo is being exactly that.
To some extent, this is not a testament to Infinite haloof quality, but a matter of extraordinarily good timing. I recently came across a small discord server where we mainly play Halo: Master Chief Collection. I’m not good at it, although I have my moments, but most of us on the server aren’t. Rather, it’s an excuse to get together or make new friends, around something we love to do. I already loved Halo, but playing with friends every two weeks solidified its special joys for me. I love Master Chief’s heavy gait. I like the contrast between the roar of the assault rifle and the “pew pew” of the plasma guns. I love the greens and steels of a land army swept away by galactic majesty. I love the inert and grandiose tragedy of the Spartan super soldiers, metal people destined to fight battles that are not entirely their own. It’s, basically, the perfect time for a new Halo to drop for me. Fortunately, if the preview is anything to go by, it’s more than a worthy successor to all that came before.
If you’ve played Halo, you understand the basics of how Infinite works. The basic weapon set is back. You still have to shoot through the shields to get to the Venerable Meat below. Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and two variations on checkpoints were the core modes available in the preview. If you’ve played a competitive shooter from the start, you’ve played variations of these modes. This familiarity, however, was a boon to the test. I felt comfortable enough to jump in, but also disoriented enough to notice the changes.
The two areas 343 Industries have improved the most over their previous games are aesthetics and weapon design. Halo 4 and 5 embraced the sparkle of the post-Star Wars prequel sci-fi. While HaloThe ‘s aesthetic could hardly be called unique, its combination of neon-infused alien technology, gritty American militarism, and vast natural landscapes generally succeeded in impressing. In later entries, that difference was flattened into the glow of a sparkling HD world. Expensive, yes, but sometimes it feels like the scale and the drama of HaloThe show was lost. Of course, there were still many who felt inspired. Halo 5The portrayal of the alien world of Sangheili is one of my favorite levels of the franchise. Nonetheless, the games often seemed brighter than substantial.
Infinite seems to have caught on, and its settings feel more scaled and naturalistic. Small alien chickens bypass abandoned markets, and tiny beavers lurk under ancient structures. The cards are colored, but faded and worn from age and degradation. It also has clues to the type of scale that made the Halo campaigns so convincing to me. Man-made hexagonal pillars protrude over natural-looking ravines and cliffs. Massive unknown structures hover around fields and mountains. It’s not all good, but it feels ingrained enough, which will hopefully make the campaign’s most spectacular elements more important.
In the past, most weapons in 343 games seemed tradable or derivative. Here is the Human Assault Rifle and here is the Alien Assault Rifle. Part of the appeal of Halo’s shooter, especially in campaigns, is the extent to which the weapons available change your strategy and your relationship with the environment. As guns grew alike, games lost some of their changing playfulness.
Fortunately, almost all of the guns that I have come across in Infinite filled a new niche. The Spiker, for example, is a clunky and powerful sniper rifle that can shoot vehicles as well. The new plasma rifle is a semi-automatic rifle; it’s a bit tricky to use but can tear enemies’ shields apart. You can charge the Ravager to temporarily coat part of the ground with fire, preventing enemies from passing or damaging vehicles. Use cases can be specific, but they also immediately feel effective. It’s an incredible pleasure to fight the right weapon at the right time.
This could, of course, crumble in the full version. A handful of cards and three or four cool weapons in no way represents the game as a complete item. However, all of this is a good sign of things to come. I walked out of the preview with confidence in what the game would be like when it released.
The most disappointing, but also obvious part of Infinite is the trash of current multiplayer games: battle passes, cosmetics, and XP boosts. Absolutely none of this is surprising; every Halo game since 3 had a variation of mechanics like this. InfiniteThe drift of Free-to-Play only makes it more inevitable. It’s invariably a part of playing Halo-scale games these days, but I really want the fun of a match with friends not to be adorned with meta bullshit.
There is also some stuff that I miss from the previous 343 games. I loved the expressive movement of Halo 5, being able to float in the air while aiming or boosting in turns. Infinite has a part of it; you can hurtle down hills and sprinting helps you gain momentum for jumps, but it feels like a step back from 5It’s heavy, mobile combination speed. To compensate, Infinite adds the absolutely fantastic grapple. It’s the kind of toy that feels so fun and essential, it’s hard to imagine how Halo has existed without it. Nevertheless, for its faults, Halo 5 took largely successful swings. It is both disappointing and predictable to see them seed in a more traditional setting.
Perhaps also, this homecoming will make the game a success. It’s exhilarating to ride the wave of something that I know is going to crash onto the shore with emphasis. Honestly, the last game I was so excited about was Anodyne 2: Back to dust, something I knew would be a lonely, contemplative experience. In a broader sense, I have a certain loathing for what Infinite halo will be. I know the ideological baggage of military-themed games. I know the game will be, in a way, a nightmare casino, filled with spend points and hooks for engagement. Yet what Infinite halo most likely will be for me, and for many others, a space to spend time with friends, without waiting outside of games and chatting. Games like Halo are just ships for something far more powerful and valuable. The game itself will resist this in a way, but it will adapt to it as well. I want a little more of something of this magnitude than a little joy that I can share with those I love.
Grace Benfell is an aspiring queer woman, critic and fan fiction author. She writes on her Grace in the Machine blog and can be found @ grace_machine on Twitter.