Halo Infinite Multiplayers Quality and Polish Show That Delaying It Was the Right Decision

Halo Infinite Multiplayer's Quality and Polish Show That Delaying It Was the Right Decision

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Dan Webb

What a difference a year makes, eh? It's just over twelve months since Microsoft announced a delay for Halo Infinite, something that seemed completely implausible at the time. This came after a less-than-stellar response to Infinite's debut gameplay demo, and amid the backlash, an internet meme and embarrassment for Microsoft was born: Craig the Brute.

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Delaying Halo Infinite, which was meant to be a launch title for Xbox Series X|S, was unthinkable at the time. This was the only Microsoft Studios launch exclusive. It was to be a major Xbox Series X|S title - something for the platform-holder to pin the hopes of its new console on, to ensure it could start out with a bang. Instead, the Xbox Series X|S launch began with a whimper, but what seemed like such a brave decision last year, is now starting to pay off. The early surprise launch of the Halo Infinite Multiplayer 'Beta', is probably the most polished video game experience I’ve experienced in quite some time.

In the year that Halo was delayed, we saw numerous controversies stemming from games that had been unduly rushed out of the door. Had the developers followed Microsoft and developer 343 Industries' lead, I’m almost certain that the results would have been completely different.

An obvious example is Cyberpunk 2077, which endured a car crash of a launch on last-gen consoles, at the backend of 2020. It’s the first game in quite some time (in fact, I'm struggling to remember another) that was pulled from the PlayStation Store until it passed a minimum standards test. What's heartbreaking about Cyberpunk 2077, is that beneath all of the launch day bugs, the rough frame rate, and other performance issues, was an incredible game – it's one of the few experiences I played in 2020 that stuck with me.

The atmospheric sci-fi world, the synth soundtrack, the stellar acting – every element combined to make Cyberpunk 2077 one of the most memorable games I've ever played. But what people will remember more than anything of, is the game's botched release. In fact, Cyberpunk 2077 has now almost become its own adjective, to be forever cited as an example of what can happen when a new game arrives half-baked. Of course, it's worth mentioning that coronavirus has posed a significant factor in affecting development cycles, and some delays and issues can be attributed to the global pandemic.

“GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is the Cyberpunk 2077 of 2021” is a headline that's been doing the rounds online recently, confirming that developer CD Projekt RED's ambitious open world has already become a watchword for slapdash, broken releases – it's not a good look. It does neither game any favours, of course, Rockstar's remastered crime sandboxes being tarred with the same brush as a game that was practically unplayable on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, before it was patched into an “acceptable” state.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy should have been a glorious celebration of three iconic games, but instead it's given rise to numerous Twitter threads highlighting developer Grove Street Games' corner-cutting game design, ridiculous bugs, and other bewildering discoveries to be found, seemingly around every corner. Rockstar Games has spent decades setting a high standard of quality, establishing an idea that their games are platinum-status, promising a level of polish and sheen above and beyond almost anything else.

That reputation has been tarnished with a single release (in a similar way to CDP and Cyberpunk), and the worst thing is – in the case of the GTA remasters and Cyberpunk 2077 - both scenarios could have been avoided. Both could have done what 343 and Microsoft have done with Halo, giving the project another twelve months in the oven (indeed, Rockstar imposed a one-year delay on Red Dead Redemption 2, and the resulting game is rightly hailed as a masterpiece).

Neither Rockstar or CD Projekt RED did, and now they're paying the price, likely having to spend years convincing consumers it was a one-off. To be clear, Rockstar and CD Projekt RED aren't alone in this. The reason both stand out as specific examples is due to the expectation that comes with the products they release. But I could sit here for hours and rattle off games with less than ideal launches, whether it’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Outriders, Marvel’s Avengers, Battlefield 2042, Fallout 76, eFootball, and so on, and that’s just during the last year or two. I’m still waiting for SEGA and Sports Interactive to fix a game-breaking bug from Football Manager 2021, an issue that basically nuked my 100-hour save and all of its back-up data – something acknowledged on the game's forums, followed by complete radio silence. It’s easier to ignore than to fix, right? It’s why I, an avid football fan and massive Football Manager player, am done with the franchise.

The fact it’s happening more often now is a worrying trend. Back in the Assassin’s Creed Unity and Red Dead Redemption days (everyone remembers the horse lady and cougar man, right?), this kind of thing was an isolated incident. Now it’s just a Tuesday.

But enough with the bad, let’s focus on the good: and that’s the sentiment that people have towards Halo Infinite now, which let’s be honest, needed to get the fans back on board after Halo 5 and the fudged launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Halo Infinite was perhaps the most important game in the franchise’s history, with so much pressure on 343 to return to the hallowed glory days of Bungie.

Happily, I’m having as much fun now as I did with the multiplayer during the Halo 2 and 3 era. What helps is the level of polish that's been applied by 343, ensuring that Infinite has emerged as a slick and frenetic shooter. Sure, we won’t know the full impact the delay will have had on Halo Infinite's campaign until it launches on 8th December, but from a multiplayer perspective, that extra year seems to have done the trick, serving as a welcome reminder that good things come to those who wait.

Comments
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  • LOL...what is that thing supposed to be? is it clobberin' time? someone at MS/343 had to be havin' a laugh.
  • These opinion pieces feel like someone saying "clocking out for the day, everyone keep up the good work!".
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