Halo Infinite: 3 things we liked (and 3 we didn't) about the gameplay demo

Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite (Image credit: 343 Industries)

During the Xbox Series X July event, 343 Industries showed off Halo Infinite gameplay for the very first time. Many of Halo Infinite's gameplay features, such as the usage of equipment pick-ups and a more open-world structure, were shown off. In addition, fans also got their first taste of new weapons, graphics, story hints, and more. After viewing the gameplay ourselves, we've developed some opinions about it — both positive and negative.

Here's a list of what we liked and what we didn't like about the Halo Infinite gameplay reveal.

Liked: The concept of open world Halo

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Perhaps the most exciting thing revealed by the Halo Infinite gameplay demo was the fact that the game will be taking a more non-linear and open world-style approach. Halo as a series has always been linear in nature, and it's exciting to see the franchise go in a bold new direction. The sandbox-driven nature of Halo can also suit an open world well, as Halo's wide array of vehicles, weapons, and pieces of equipment will no doubt provide players with a wealth of fun ways to tackle the dangers of a Banished-controlled Halo ring.

An open world-style structure also has the potential to enhance Halo Infinite's storytelling as well. A world full of interesting side secrets and hidden pieces of lore to discover can do a lot to flesh out the main story, and there may be smaller, self-contained stories to discover within the experience, too.

Disliked: Visual presentation

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

While what was shown for Halo Infinite is far from ugly, the game didn't look particularly "next-gen" in any respects. Certain textures, such as Master Chief's armor and the foliage in the terrain, looked stellar. However, many other things, such as some of the Banished soldiers and the level of detail on a lot of the weapons in Master Chief's hands, felt lacking. The gameplay demo overall looked quite flat, and it left many — us included — feeling underwhelmed.

The graphical experts over at Digital Foundry made an excellent analysis video on the demo and concluded that a lot of the "flat-looking" details are a result of the fact that most of the gameplay demo takes place in indirect sunlight. Because of this, most of the detail in textures is hidden by the way global illumination works in shadowed areas. However, this doesn't tell the whole story; even in direct sunlight, some textures still look rough and unrefined. On top of this, there's quite a bit of texture pop-in present in the footage, there are no first-person shadows on guns, and the game seems to have low LODs at far distances.

While real-time ray tracing — a feature that is coming to Halo Infinite after its launch — will fix the lighting issues, it can't fix the other problems mentioned in Digital Foundry's analysis. There's still time for 343 Industries to make improvements to the game, but we can't help but feel nervous about how the final product will turn out.

Liked: The confirmation of sandbox-driven gameplay

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Something incredibly exciting about Halo Infinite's gameplay reveal is that it confirmed the game will feature gameplay systems designed primarily around sandbox items that players can pick up and use, rather than innate abilities like Halo 5: Guardians' Spartan Abilities. While the ability to charge forward or smash into the ground explosively was fun in Halo 5, it caused a lot of balancing issues in the multiplayer due to the fact everyone could do it at all times. Additionally, it also made encounters in the campaign feel too focused around abilities instead of gunplay.

More sandbox-driven systems like the pick-ups in Halo Infinite will allow Halo's gunplay to shine more, while also providing players with interesting tools they can dynamically use to gain an advantage or turn the tables on a foe. In multiplayer matches specifically, pick-ups will give an edge to teams who control them. This will encourage players to strategize more and will reward players who play intelligently.

Disliked: The context behind the action

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

For Halo Infinite's first official gameplay reveal, it was rather anti-climactic for the objective to be to go destroy some anti-aircraft guns. This was the first good look of Halo Infinite that we got after five painfully long years of waiting, and for the first ever seen action to be centered around such a mundane objective felt pretty underwhelming.

It would have been much cooler and much more satisfying for the gameplay demo to be focused around something meatier in terms of story relevance. While I understand that 343 Industries probably doesn't want to give too much away about the narrative, we are only a few months out from the game's launch. Aside from the mention of an entity called the Harbinger and a place called the Auditorium by War Chief Escharum at the end of the demo in a cutscene, we know nothing more about the story than we did already, which is unfortunate.

Liked: The flow of combat

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Graphics concerns aside, Halo Infinite is simply a fun game to watch in motion. Animations look snappy and responsive, reloads look smooth and clean, and melee attacks look meaty and impactful. Overall, everything seems very fluid, and that's a very good thing in a gaming era where clunkiness can often ruin games.

We were also impressed by how balanced things looked. Obviously pre-release footage doesn't tell the whole story, but neither the player nor the Banished ever seemed under or overpowered. The player always seemed like they had enough power and health to push forward, but the Banished were doing enough damage and using enough strategy that you could easily imagine the player dying due to overextension or other reckless mistakes. Overall, Halo Infinite looks like a shooter that has an excellent combat flow, and that gets us hyped to play it.

Disliked: Size of the gameplay space

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Considering Halo Infinite is going to be taking a more open world, non-linear approach, we were hoping to see more of that shown off during the gameplay demo. While what we saw was cool, it doesn't deviate from the size and scale of a traditional Halo level. Master Chief drove a Warthog for a few hundred meters, fought some infantry, and rode a big elevator to an anti-aircraft gun. We saw him open a map that implied a larger playable space, but that's it.

We think fans would have been even more excited if Halo Infinite's open world elements were more front-and-center. Show Master Chief traversing a massive canyon with a Warthog and the Pilot in back shooting at Covenant patrols. Show him entering a shipwreck off of the beaten path and walking away with supplies or a piece of lore to show for it. These are the kinds of things that players expect from expansive non-linear enviornments, and we think Halo Infinite would have benefitted strongly from leading with that rather than leading with something more traditional.

Your thoughts

What did you think of the Halo Infinite gameplay reveal? What are some things you liked, as well as some you didn't? Let us know down below. Also, don't miss our article on 5 gameplay details you may have missed from the gameplay reveal.

Halo Infinite is expected to launch during the Holiday 2020 season on the Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and Windows 10 PCs.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.