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Halo Infinite’s reveal proves that Xbox isn’t doing enough

The big reveal for Halo’s next instalment showed off lacklustre graphics and dated gameplay. It’s clear that Microsoft isn’t keeping up with Sony.

Microsoft premiered eight minutes of brand new campaign gameplay from its upcoming Halo reboot, Halo Infinite, yesterday evening as part of a livestreamed reveal event. We also got a glimpse of a handful of new smaller, indie titles, as well as the announcement of a new Fable game.

Some of what was shown off certainly was compelling. Obsidian’s obvious attempt to take on Elder Scrolls looks intriguing and Yuji Naka’s latest project Balan Wonderland gives me serious Mario Odyssey vibes. There are a few strong projects here, but compared to Sony’s recent run of stellar single-player exclusives and narrative driven experiences, Microsoft’s line-up is looking thin on the ground as we gear up for the next generation of consoles.

The reveal for Halo Infinite – which will be one of the Xbox Series X’s flagship titles – was met with mixed reactions online. The graphical capabilities on show were underwhelming, to put it mildly, with frequent pop-in and delayed texture load ins for trees and fog effects. Halo Infinite’s stripped back art style feels uninspired and many took to Twitter to comment that something about it just looked off. This closeup of a grunt that wouldn’t be out of place in a 2007 title has been memed to death, and the Halo subreddit is full of concerned fans.

A lack of exclusives or compelling games

Considering that Halo Infinite is supposed to be one of the main justifications for buying Xbox’s next console, the technical issues and dodgy lighting effects don’t fill me with confidence. Microsoft’s approach to its hardware has been frustratingly lacklustre over the last decade or so as it continues to prioritise Game Pass, cross platform, and PC compatibility over compelling first party games, and Halo’s unimpressive showcase is further evidence to suggest that Microsoft simply isn’t doing enough to retain a hardcore fanbase.

While Sony continues to invest heavily in large-scale top tier works like Last Of Us 2, God Of War, Spider-Man, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted, and Ratchet and Clank reboots, Microsoft tends to lean solely on Halo and Gears of War, both ageing franchises that can no longer carry a console on their own. The Series X will have no exclusive games and all of the titles shown off yesterday will be available on other platforms.

There’s no real justification for purchasing an Xbox over anything else anymore. It’s a deliberate strategic move that’s meant Microsoft has diminished as a games provider and is now more about subscriptions and services rather than actual games. The company’s CEO Phil Spencer has cited Google as its biggest competitor and it’s clear that Xbox isn’t fussed about console sales if it has big numbers of consumers buying into Game Pass.

What does this mean for the future of console wars?

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Microsoft taking this approach.

The days of 360 and PS3 rivalry are well and truly over and today it seems the industry is more co-operative in general. Each of the big three – Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony – all seem to want different things from their business practices today, which means less competition and more variety between systems. Different options and experiences for consumers is definitely a good thing, and a subscription based platform for Xbox is great value for money.

It’s just a shame that all this has to come at the expense of new, exciting projects from Microsoft. Halo Infinite really is the only big name that’s billed for the Xbox Series X and even then it won’t be an exclusive. Comparing its low-res textures and pop-in to the graphical fidelity of current PS4 games shows just how far behind they are in terms of quality – and console sales will probably suffer as a result.

If anything, Halo Infinite and its uninspiring reveal yesterday makes clear that Xbox isn’t in the same lane as PlayStation, and it isn’t all that interested either. Console wars and overly competitive rivalries are a thing of the past, for better or worse, and we may just have to accept that Microsoft isn’t the champion of great titles like it used to be.

The good news is that Halo Infinite will be available on Xbox One, PC, and Xbox Series X, and will be part of Game Pass, so it probably won’t cost a pretty penny to play. That’s if you do actually want to play it, though.


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