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'Halo Infinite' team on graphics criticism: 'we do have work to do'

The studio is also well aware of 'Craig.'
Nick Summers, @nisummers
July 31, 2020
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343 Industries has responded to fan concerns that Halo Infinite, the next instalment in the beloved shooter franchise, doesn’t look particularly ‘next-gen.’ In a blog post, community manager John Junyszek said the team in Redmond had “heard the feedback” shared by disgruntled fans after the Xbox showcase. “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,” he said.

Halo Infinite opened the Xbox showcase — a long-awaited event focused on first-party titles for the Xbox platform, including the upcoming Xbox Series X console – with a campaign demo that showed Master Chief battling his way through a forest and mountain-covered planet. Many viewers were intrigued by the structure of the game, which appears to be more ‘open world,’ but horrified by the seemingly-simple visuals which looked flat and ‘last-gen.’ “Halo Plastic Edition,” one YouTube viewer commented last week.

343 Industries brought up two points in its blog post. First, the team is intentionally shooting for a ‘classic’ style that’s less like the last few games — Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians and Halo Wars 2 — and closer to the original Master Chief trilogy. That means “a more vibrant palette, ‘cleaner’ models and objects with less ‘noise,’” Junyszek explained. The aesthetic shift shouldn’t mean a loss of detail, though. “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,” he added.

Fan concerns go beyond the art style, though. The demo showed a fair amount of object pop-in, and an extensive video by Digital Foundry explained some of the issues and shortcomings with the game’s lighting system. In short, Halo Infinite uses ‘dynamic’ lighting, a more expensive and technically ambitious alternative to ‘static.’ The problem is that much of the campaign demo took place in a gloomy valley out of the sun’s reach. With little to light the weapons, vehicles and enemies — and no static lighting tricks to save the day — everything looked a little lifeless.

343 Industries has watched the Digital Foundry video and agrees with its assessments “in many ways,” according to Junyszek. “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,” he explained. It’s not clear exactly what the team will be refining or changing to address some of these issues, though. “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,” Junyszek said.

In the blog post, 343 Industries also confirmed that it’s well aware off ‘Craig’ — an enemy in the demo which, if you stop the gameplay footage at just the right moment, looks comically bad in front of Master Chief. Since the Xbox Games Showcase, Craig has become a hilarious meme which, while mostly good-natured, does underline the game’s perceived problems. “We’ve all laughed very hard at the nonstop stream of Craig memes the community is cranking out,” Junyszek wrote in the blog post.

It’s not the first time that Microsoft has addressed the game’s visual shortcomings. Chris Lee, the studio head at 343 Industries, told Polygon last week: “We’re definitely still very much in development. We have some polishing and tuning that the team is working on to really bring the full potential of the experience to our fans later this year.” If you haven’t already, the studio recommends watching the version of the campaign demo that was uploaded to the official Halo YouTube channel, which looks substantially better than the one livestreamed during the Xbox event.

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