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Can Halo Infinite Battle Sony’s Arsenal?

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Gamers have lined up to heap scorn upon Halo Infinite after witnessing an extremely underwhelming first gameplay trailer at last week’s Xbox Serie X games event. It sparked an immediate social media pile-on, with many fans claiming Halo 3 – released all way back in 2007 – had better graphics. Even Domino’s Pizza jumped on the bandwagon by posting a savage meme that poked fun at Halo Infinite.

It was a distinctly inauspicious reveal event from Microsoft, which is relying upon Halo Infinite to help it win the latest round of console wars. The PS4 wiped the floor with the Xbox One in the previous generation, thanks largely to the wide array of exclusive titles it boasted. Microsoft made several blunders – it could not compete on price, the Kinect was a disaster, and it lost consumer trust due to a spying fiasco – but a lack of exciting exclusives was arguably the main reason for its downfall.

Microsoft is determined to return to the ascendancy this time around. However, Halo Infinite is supposed to be the jewel in its crown as it seeks to seize the initiative in the early stages of the battle, and the reaction to the gameplay trailer has cast doubt upon its ability to lead the Xbox into a glorious new era. Can it compete with the arsenal of exclusives that Sony will line up for the PS5?

Exclusives Assemble

Sony will offer gamers a number of exclusives from first-party studios. Many are sequels, such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Gran Turismo 7 and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Gamers will also be able to enjoy the Demon Souls remake, Destruction AllStars, Astro’s Playroom, Horizon Forbidden West, Returnal and Sackboy: A Big Adventure.

There are plenty of timed exclusives, coming out on PS5 first, including GhostWire: Tokyo, Godfall and Bugsnax. It is an impressive line-up, and the onus is on Microsoft to react.

The Xbox Series X will come to market with Halo Infinite, Stalker 2, The Medium, CrossFire X and a few others. They will not exactly be Xbox Series X exclusives, as they will launch on all Xbox models, but the Xbox Series X version will boast the highest fidelity.

Current Xbox exclusives such as Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves will be automatically upgraded to Xbox Series X standards too. Yet a great deal rides upon the success of Halo Infinite, which is designed to offer gamers a seriously compelling reason to choose the new Xbox over the PS5.

No Deaf Ears at the Studio

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Microsoft executives would therefore be forgiven for wincing when reading the reactions to Halo Infinite’s big reveal. One joker posted a particular brutal Tweet: “After we saw the Halo Infinite, we decided to cancel the PS5 and keep the PS4, as it has better graphics than XSX” – Sony rep.

The game’s developer, 343 Industries, insisted that the complaints are not falling upon deaf ears. It also reminded gamers that Halo Infinite is a work in progress, and that significant improvements will be made before it launches towards the end of 2020.

“I’ve been in your shoes,” posted narrative experience director Dan Chosich.

I know what it’s like to have expectations built and feel let down,” Chosich said. “I want you to know your voice matters and is heard. You’re not falling on deaf ears. I always want to live up to the legacy that [former Halo development studio] Bungie pioneered. I personally care a lot about honoring that.”

Full Speed Ahead

Chosich’s points are valid. The studio has taken the complaints in its stride and insisted that the final product will be a lot sharper. It is also worth bearing in mind that graphics do not make or break a first-person shooter. Gameplay will always be a far greater concern, but as the poster boy for the next-gen Xbox you would really expect Halo Infinite to dazzle with its aesthetics.

Now passionate fans are calling upon Microsoft and 343 Industries to delay the launch of Halo Infinite. They fear that it is being rushed, and they do not want to be left with a substandard game.

That could prove to be alarming for Microsoft, which will be hell-bent on seeing Halo Infinite lead the charge from day one when the Xbox Series X goes on sale. Yet it now threatens to turn into another PR disaster: if reviewers and gamers savage Halo Infinite upon release, it could damage the Xbox Series X’s chances of gaining early momentum in its battle with the PS5.

Gamer’s radars will be finely tuned, and they will swiftly seize upon any weaknesses in Halo Infinite, so 343 Industries will need to make it perfect. There is clearly a lot of work to do.

The Big Question

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Does the studio have enough time to turn Halo Infinite from the butt of a thousand jokes into the most exciting game of 2020? That is the million-dollar question.

If 343 Industries nails it, the new Xbox should make a flying start to life, Halo Infinite could become an all-time classic and it may even become a big competitive gaming title, replete with pro players, esports betting and lucrative tournaments.

If it goes wrong, Halo Infinite will be an embarrassment, and Microsoft will be hamstrung in its chances of winning the next-gen console battle. The pressure is on.

Yet Xbox marketing general manager Aaron Greenberg came out swinging. “Listen, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” he said. “It’s July, we’re far from Holiday [the new Xbox and Halo Infinite are scheduled to launch in “Holiday 2020”], you’re seeing a work-in-progress game.

“It is a work-in-progress. I can tell you, because we see build check-ins every week, and they make progress week after week, so between now and Holiday it’s just going to get better and better. That said, I thought it looked great, I thought it sounded great.”

Gamers that watched the trailer would beg to differ, as would the veteran critics at Domino’s Pizza. Only time will tell if Halo Infinite can compete with the arsenal of exclusives that Sony will line up for the PS5, but right now the Sony executives will be feeling quietly confident.

 

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