Late last week, there was a ton of news from 343 Industries, the developer behind Halo Infinite, and the Master Chief Collection. So much news, that one might say it is dropping as hot and heavy as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. Let us dig into some of it, shall we?
Halo Infinite Multiplayer
We received our first functional look at Halo Infinite during the Microsoft’s Summer Games Fest. The game was met with praise and criticism, but I would say overall the game is eagerly awaited. What was absent from the reveal was any mention of multiplayer. However, we were forewarned that only the campaign would be shown. Still, many are speculating as to whether or not Halo will include a Battle Royale mode. Some rumors were even in circulation on Twitter that the game may ship without multiplayer. Although, that was quickly discounted by 343. On July 31st, the official Halo account on Twitter announced that the multiplayer will be F2P and it will support 120FPS on Xbox Series X.
— Halo (@Halo) July 31, 2020
This news is massive for Halo players who enjoy the eSports side of the franchise as it will allow anyone who wishes to compete to play. It will also provide other eSport franchises, like Call of Duty, with some major competition. At present, Call of Duty’s multiplayer must be purchased with the full version of the game, however, the battle royale mode is free. I would speculate that Halo could be doing this for several reasons. The first is to put pressure on other franchises and make the game more accessible. The entirety of the game is already included in the Game Pass. Now late adopters or even those who are not yet bought into the concept of Game Pass will be able to play Halo multiplayer with their friends.
The second is to grow the eSports scene around the Halo games. Halo has always had a strong eSports presence in years past. Yet, in the year of COVID-19 and eSports growing and more popular than ever, the stakes have been raised to attract the attention of gamers and their audiences. With new challengers such as Valorant and Rogue Company joining the ranks of heavy hitters such as Apex: Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch, and League of Legends vying for the looks from eSports enthusiasts, Halo needed to come out in a big way to set themselves apart. Making their multiplayer F2P is a great strategy to get out in front of some of these franchises and put a highly celebrated franchise and eagerly awaited title into the hands of their fans.
The third reason is that perhaps Halo is working on a Battle Royal mode. We all know that BR’s print money. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a mode like this would eventually be included in the Halo franchise. I would bet my last dollar that it will happen. The conversation should really be around when is the appropriate timing. I am not privy to the inner workings of 343 Industries, but my opinion is that there should definitely be a BR mode for Halo and it should follow the successful launch of the campaign, multiplayer, and forge modes. These are the holy trinity of Halo. The campaign segment has been somewhat lackluster for the last couple of games. I enjoyed them but they did not capture the magic of the original trilogy. There is much at stake for the franchise riding on the back of the launch of this game. I would just like to see it be a success before these BR aspirations are pursued.
Hey! What about that multiplayer beta?
It seems that COVID-19 has had an impact on the game’s development phase, as indicated in the most recent news published on Halo Waypoint. It at least has impacted the plans for a large-scale flighting or multiplayer beta. It seems that the multiplayer beta is up in the air and 343 is not even sure if it will materialize. These betas are usually created late in the development of the game. They require manpower to be diverted from the final version of the game to create a small sample of the multiplayer to be shipped and supported live for a short time to test and optimize network connections, weapon balancing, etc.
Some companies are strong supporters of betas, and 343 has been historically, but in the year of 2020, it seems that the manpower cannot be spared to do this testing at present. 343 stated that they hope to have an opportunity for broader public hands-on before release. They also stated, “we’ll be relying on lighting and continued feedback and community partnership well beyond launch as we grow and evolve the game together”. It was also stated that the “demo” shown during the show will not be released to the public on a wide scale.
Graphics, Graphics, Graphics
It seems that the news drop that occurred on July 31, 2020, was keenly aware of the negative criticism around the visuals in the Halo Infinite campaign demo. It was one of the first items that were addressed. 343 highlights that, from their perspective, the majority of feedback has revolved around two key areas, art style, and visual fidelity. The update goes on to state the H4, H5, and Halo Wars 2 were met with strong community feedback regarding the legacy esthetics as they apply to the original trilogy of games. The fact that Halo Wars 2 was coupled into this topic took me by surprise. I also felt that the Halo Wars games were high-quality games but that they also had some flexibility in how the franchise is presented because of the game genre different and the fact that they are separate from the events of the Master Chief and Cortana. I digress.
343 does go on to emphasize their willingness to return to the spirit of the very first reveal of Halo: Combat Evolved that garnered wide praise and enthusiasm. This spiritual return to the original results in, “a more vibrant palette, cleaner models and objects with less “noise”, though it doesn’t mean less detail”. This area is non-negotiable, in my opinion, and 343 confirms their intention to stand by these themes although not everyone’s personal preference will be appeased. I must say, I did not realize how much I needed that classic MJOLNIR armor back in my life until I saw it in the reveal.
Visual fidelity was also a target for negative feedback. In particular, Twitter was full of comments on the graphics appearing to be flat, simplistic, and plastic-like. While the lighting may have felt dull and flat, with object pop-in 343 states that they realize that they have some work to do. A continued and ongoing effort will be in place during the final stretch of the game’s development that will raise the level of fidelity and overall presentation for the final game. The demo that was used in the reveal is nearly a month old. It is explained that many of the graphical elements and the game’s systems are still being finished and polished. Some of the feedback reaffirms the team’s dedication in those graphical areas, while some feedback brought new opportunities and considerations to the forefront that are being taken into account and resources are being brought to bear. The developers claim to be working on plans to address the feedback around detail, clarity, and overall fidelity.
Set a Fire in Your Heart
Any fan of the Halo franchise will tell you that the musical motifs of the games are influential components of what make these games successful. The soundtracks of the franchise have all been high quality. A strong argument can be made that Martin O’Donnell’s work on the cinematic reveals for Halo: CE propelled the game into the hearts and minds of gamers worldwide when the iconic “Halo Theme” was played. The musical composition of the Halo franchise is so successful that many people can hear the original themes and name the game in seconds. Because of all of this, many Halo fans are just as eagerly waiting to hear the new soundtrack for Infinite, and are just as excited about this as we are to play the game. I definitely fit into this category. Therefore, I was extremely excited to see that it has been announced that Gareth Coker, no relation that I know of, has been announced as a composer for Halo Infinite. If you are a fan of Ori and the Blind Forest/Will of the Wisps then you are probably familiar with Mr. Coker. The music in these games is phenomenal so I am looking forward to the musical adventure that Gareth will take us on. He has also worked on several Minecraft expansions, Ark: Survival Evolved, and Darskider Genesis. In the Q&A that was published on Halo Waypoint, Mr. Coker describes that he aims to lean on the legacy material for inspiration while creating new music that achieves synergy between audio and visuals that incorporates the storytellings, contextualization, and spacing.
Alongside this announcement, Gareth Coker’s track “Set a Fire in Your Heart” was released on YouTube. It is proof that Mr. Coker is right for the job. It strongly leans on those Halo iconic motifs while incorporating this dark booming baseline that serves as a motif for the Banished War Chief, Escharum. It is very menacing and stands in juxtaposition to the Master Chief and Halo themes that can also be heard in the track but are higher in pitch. The pacing in this track starts off slow with percussion and bass, bringing the Banshished threat to the forefront of the track. Then the pacing picks up and becomes more high pitched to flatten to almost a standstill. Then there is this sort of “Battle of the Bands” between the two themes of Master Chief and Escharum in this iconic back and forth of the motifs. The track is very exciting and climatic. I cannot wait to get my hands on the full album. Oh! There’s a game that has this music in it? Sign me up!