When Microsoft and 343 Industries gave the world a more in-depth look at Halo Infinite, players and games media alike were less than pleased with how the game looked. Despite Infinite being designed to run on the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X|S consoles, the graphics showcased were comparable to an Xbox 360 title, with the weapon textures and enemy designs looking particularly dated.
The response to these graphics lead to 343 re-working the game and enhancing the visuals to deliver what that original gameplay reveal had failed to provide. Later in 2020, 343 announced that Halo Infinite would be delayed until 2021 for the sake of continuing to improve the game, with 343 providing monthly updates to keep us excited for the Master Chief’s next adventure.
It’s safe to say that the delay was a disappointment for many, given that Infinite was originally planned to be a launch title for the Series X. Nevertheless, fans of the franchise knew they wouldn’t be satisfied with the look of the game as it was presented earlier in the year.
Last week, we received the February update from 343 which included a few screenshots to show how the graphics look, and what was showcased looked spectacular. One of the more obvious improvements on display was how different the environments looked. Grass no longer looks blurry and undefined, instead standing out as a beautiful feature of the setting thanks in part to Halo Infinite’s time-of-day lighting system.
This system is a new graphical addition to the Halo franchise that was in the works before the game was delayed. When Infinite’s World Design Lead John Mulkey was asked about the impact of the new system, he stated that it “allows  to create artistic scenes and settings that have vastly different visual tones and moods depending on which time during the cycle you encounter something.”
The texture quality in the screenshots posted by 343 is nothing short of awe-inspiring. While these screenshots were taken from a PC build of the game, it’s doubtful that the Xbox Series X version will look much different.
With this first screenshot, we are given a look at Infinite’s version of the Sniper Rifle, as well as a locale featuring the iconic Warthog vehicle. Just from a glance at the weapon, it’s apparent that this is a significant improvement over the previous gameplay demonstration. The gun is far more detailed, letting us see small details like the shading on the side and the textures that give it a battle-worn look.
As mentioned before, the ground textures and the appearance of grass look much more defined, to the point where someone can point out a single strand of grass. Little additions such as these not only make the environment look magnificent, they could serve to test the limits and capabilities of the Series X going forward.
Looking at this next picture, there’s a greater sense of the functionality of the lighting systems created for Halo Infinite. While it’s certainly impressive how the light can reflect on the grass and give it darker shadows based on its placement, the true highlight is the detail visible on the cliff along the right side of the photo.
One aspect of the photo that blows us away is the sheer draw distance on display. We know that Halo Infinite will feature an explorable environment, but seeing the extent of what’s visible for players may reignite excitement after Infinite’s initial debut silenced some of the fans.
Most games of this caliber put a lot of resources into textures for weapons and environment and they go overlooked. Taking this photo for Halo Infinite into account, these improvements should make players’ first time experience with the game incredible and have them staring at the environment more often than normal.
Then there’s this picture of the Zeta Halo, which was intriguing in its own way. While this is just a piece of concept art depicting what 343 are working towards, some of the details within this photo seem to hint at the development team’s exact ambitions.
343 has not confirmed whether or not Halo Infinite will feature ray-tracing capabilities, but this photo suggests that it may be possible. We’re inclined to believe this from observing how the lighting is reflecting on the floor and on some of the walls, as well as some of the red projection being highlighted on the left wall. If true, this means 343 has been going back and bringing every visual detail in line with an overall shinier and more defined look, even while trying to align it with the typical Halo iconography.
Last but not least, we have this collection of photos, which also appear to showcase the time-of-day lighting system. It’s further evidence of just how splendid this game will look during every moment.
Taking a step back from the lighting aspect of these images, it’s worthwhile to look at the trees and plant life in the top screenshot. Each plant looks lifelike and incredibly detailed, along with the trees that stand beside them. In addition, the sky shown here looks better than the one visible everyday in reality. The way this game is able to build upon the familiar Halo experience with a world that seems livable and vibrant is inspiring to no end.
We do not know the specifications of the PC that the game ran on, nor did 343 clarify. The only thing that was confirmed is that the game was running in 4K . However, given that Halo Infinite will launch on PC as well on consoles, this feels like a fantastic sign that the graphics being shown off here are close to those we will be able to experience when Infinite releases later this year.
Halo Infinite still doesn’t have an exact release date, but they have been delivering their monthly updates through Halo Waypoint every month in 2021 so far. In its most recent update, members of the development team stated that in the remaining months before launch, they are focusing on polishing items, working on bug fixes, and wrapping up final tasks. That seems like a good indication that the delay really has given 343 some time to breathe and a chance to refine this game as much as possible.