“We have made the difficult decision to shift our release to 2021 to ensure the team has adequate time to deliver a Halo game experience that meets our vision,” says Chris Lee, studio head of Halo Infinite, in 343’s latest development update. Fans reacted negatively to Halo Infinite’s demo in June, saying even 10-year-old Halo Reach is more visually appealing than Infinite’s outdated graphics. With a holiday 2020 release date, those last-gen graphics would have shipped with the game in its ready state. Now, 343 has time to deliver.
343 is hoping to recapture the feeling of Halo: Combat Evolved but, ironically, Infinite’s graphics are only marginally better than the original’s. Character models and textures aren’t up to par with Microsoft’s boasts regarding the Series X’s power. Many people found Halo Infinite’s style dull, muddy, and poorly rendered. From the flat blocky faces of the brutes to the toy-like plastic assault rifle, the demo left a lot to be desired. The environment, while expansive, didn’t even affect objects and creatures. It looked like an unfinished rendering.
While Halo Infinite was confirmed for release alongside the Xbox Series X these holidays, people were disappointed with the look of this supposedly next-gen title. If the Series X is so powerful, Infinite should be the most visually impressive Halo to date…at least, that was the reasoning in the minds of millions, before feasting their eyes on the demo. With the addition of new weapons, and items such as the Doom-like grappling hook, Halo Infinite has the makings of a wonderful game; it just needs to look better.
Another thing to keep in mind is the desire for 60FPS gaming, especially in competitive multiplayer titles like Halo. The delay could allow developers to fix bugs while making sure the game runs smoothly at 60FPS, even with graphical updates. No easy feat considering its vast open world, and even more difficult at higher resolutions. Gamers these days want graphics and performance, and after investing in new consoles they deserve it.
343 confirmed a planned post-launch update to bring ray-tracing to Halo: Infinite, which could definitely help the title’s case. The company also stated Infinite will be the only Halo game on the Series X for some time, as it plans to make the title “the start of [its] platform of the future.” The delay to 2021 could mean the game launches with ray-tracing baked in, either way, expect continued updates long after its release.
Xbox Marketing Manager Aaron Greenberg says everyone should watch the 4K/60FPS version of the demo, though, it’s only a slight improvement. Resolution can’t fix ugly, blocky textures, muted colors, and bad lighting. The delay itself signifies 343’s, and thankfully Microsoft’s, understanding that the game needs more time in the oven. COVID-19 and the switch to remote working impacted the entire industry heavily this year, however, it’s not an excuse for the game’s terrible graphics. Halo Infinite has been in development for years and should show it by now.
Everyone knows about it, and there’s been some well-deserved attention in recent years. Crunch culture is when developers are pushed to their limits to meet deadlines. Employees aren’t necessarily forced to work the outrageous 80-hour weeks or 14-hour days, but working only 40 hours a week and letting work and duties pile up month after month isn’t really an option when there’s a deadline. It’s understandably easy to get excited over a game, especially when it’s the next big Halo, but devs are people too.
“The decision to shift our release is the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting us all this year. I want to acknowledge the hard work from our team at 343 Industries, who have remained committed to making a great game and finding solutions to development challenges. However, it is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday,” says Chris in the same update.
It’s clear 343 wants to dish out the best experience possible, but if making the release deadline means forcing employees to work obscenely long shifts, the company made the right call. Crunch culture should be avoided always, but crunch in 2020 would be doubly cruel. Many developers are struggling alongside everyone else, learning to work from home, caring for sick family members, or healing from sickness themselves. Everyone’s having a hard time, and while a fully realized Halo: Infinite this year would be nice, it’s both unrealistic and unethical.
Fans took one look at Halo: Infinite’s demo and started complaining, rightfully so. Microsoft and 343 received that feedback and likely pondered on whether people’s expectations could be met by these holidays. Delaying the game means a choice to meet the graphical needs of gamers, while preserving both the physical and mental health of the developers working on the project. This delay is a good thing and will lead to a better end result. After all, less stressed and healthier people work better than those deprived of sleep and free-time.