Developer 343 Industries
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Format PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series
They say you can’t go home again, that if you return somewhere after a long time away, it’s never how you remember it. As we rack up the first of many Killing Sprees in Halo Infinite’s first technical preview, however, we’re not so sure that’s true. The territory might be new – Live Fire, a tangle of ramps, towers and gangways wrapped in drab training-facility theming – but everything else feels like home. The crunch of a melee hit connecting with the armour plate of an opponent. The lazy, tumbling trajectory of a frag grenade. The precise number of Needler shards you need to embed beneath someone’s skin before they’ll explode in a cloud of pink. All of this imprinted onto our brain by endless hours of practice, the intervening decade apparently having done little to shift them from our muscle memory.
This familiarity should be a criticism. At a time when we often lament the lack of chances being taken by developers, surely it is hypocritical to celebrate Infinite for so perfectly imitating its predecessors? But the difference here, we’d contend – somewhat guiltily, as if caught with fingers in the plasma-grenade jar – is that nothing else out there feels quite like Halo. Including, arguably, the previous two Halo games.
From what we’ve seen, Infinite is shaping up to be the Halo equivalent of The Force Awakens. The return of a cherished series, arriving in the wake of some significantly less cherished entries and then a long, appetite restoring pause. Much like Abrams’ film, there’s the feel of a loving tribute act, less interested in the new than restoring the former glory of the old. But, well, we’re rather fond of The Force Awakens.
The key is not simply replicating the old signifiers, whether it’s a desert planet and a cantina packed with aliens or the sound of a plasma pistol and an announcer throatily celebrating your latest triple-kill. Anyone can do that. No, it’s about understanding the essence that set your source material apart in the first place. That’s much harder. But this first taste of Halo Infinite suggests that, in multiplayer at least, the developer has both halves of the equation nailed down.
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