In July, fans finally got a look at the gameplay of Halo Infinite, the next major chapter in the beloved first-person shooter franchise. Touted as a showcase for the power of the Xbox Series X, the game has been positioned as the next-gen console’s flagship title. Unfortunately, while the long-awaited gameplay demo should have been a victory lap for Xbox and developer 343 Industries, it’s actually become a hotly debated topic among Halo and Xbox fans.
The major point of contention on social media, forums, and across game outlets? Halo Infinite‘s art style and graphics, which some fans have criticized as a “step back for the series” and not what they expected from a next-gen game. Some on social media have even created a meme inspired by one of the Brutes in the demo who has (unfortunately for him) become the poster child for Halo Infinite‘s “current-gen” graphics. Meet Craig the Brute:
Eurogamer’s tech-centric vertical Digital Foundry has also chimed in, dissecting the demo’s use of dynamic lighting and shadow effects to explain why the footage might have looked a bit “flat.”
Since the demo dropped online, 343 has been very open about its approach to the game’s visuals. In a closed-door Q&A after the release of the demo, 343 creative director Chris Lee said that the studio had chosen the brightly colored, Halo: Combat Evolved-like art style on purpose, saying it “harkens back to some of those iconic looks that we’ve had in Halo.”
The art style isn’t the only way in which Halo Infinite is recalling the past. In the nine-minute demo, we watch as Master Chief shoots and melees his way through ranks of Covenant enemies with assault rifles, shotguns, plasma weapons, and the franchise’s iconic, high-precision pistol. We watch as he maneuvers a Warthog across the rocky landscape of a Halo ring, mowing down Grunts and Jackals on his way to take down one of three land-to-air cannons. The demo even mirrors an early mission in Halo: Combat Evolved where Master Chief has to save three groups of stranded space marines after they crash land on the first Halo ring. It’s more than clear that 343 is looking back to chart the future of the series.
Now, in a new blog post on Halo Waypoint, 343 community manager John Junyszek has further addressed Halo Infinite‘s art style and what the studio is doing to improve the game’s graphical fidelity and presentation.
“Based on our learnings from Halo 4, Halo 5, and Halo Wars 2 – along with strong community feedback – we decided to shift back towards the legacy aesthetics that defined the original trilogy,” Junyszek explained. “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.”
Junyszek noted that, after the debut of the gameplay footage, 343 had heard “far more positive than negative” feedback, but he also admitted that there was still work to be done when it comes to the game’s graphical fidelity.
“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.”
Junyszek echoed what Xbox Marketing general manager Aaron Greenberg told Inside Gaming in the hours after the gameplay demo was released, stressing that the game was still a work in progress. While Greenberg suggested that it was difficult to present the game at its graphical best over a live stream anyway, Junyszek explained that “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.”
The 343 staffer reiterated the team’s commitment to the Halo community and making Halo Infinite the best experience is can be.
“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.”
Junyszek also revealed that, while the team is shooting for 4K 60 fps on the Xbox Series X, PC gamers will have more freedom to push the graphical fidelity of the game.
“As PC players expect, there will be plenty of settings that you can tweak to create the experience you want and we’ll have even more details on that in the coming months.”
While it does sound like Halo Infinite‘s art style is here to stay, it’s good to know that 343 is working hard to improve on other aspects of the game as the release date gets closer. Hopefully, we’ll get to see another look at the game when things are a bit more polished.
The 343 community manager concluded the blog spot on a lighter note, giving fans an update on Craig, who seems to not only be coping well with being meleed in the face by Master Chief but also all the attention he’s gotten since: “We’ve all laughed very hard at the nonstop stream of Craig memes the community is cranking out. Craig is thick-skinned and seems to be taking it in stride though all of this fame and attention seems to be going to his head.”
Halo Infinite is coming to Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.