The big Halo Infinite showcase during the Xbox E3 2021 show has finally arrived, bringing fans Halo Infinite's multiplayer gameplay reveal, a closer look at the story and characters, and an overall showcase for Halo Infinite's improved visual presentation.
For the most part, I loved what was on display, although I was disappointed by the absence of campaign gameplay. Here's what I thought of the E3 2021 gameplay reveal overall.
Halo Infinite's multiplayer looks fun as hell
The multiplayer gameplay looks like it's going to be a hell of a good time. Many fans were nervous about 343 Industries' approach to multiplayer with Halo Infinite since Halo 4 and Halo 5 were both very controversial, but Halo Infinite looks to be returning to the franchise's design roots by placing a strong emphasis on sandbox items like weapons, vehicles, and pickups rather than intrinsic abilities that players can make use of at all times.
I particularly love how creatively some of the pickups were used in the trailer. Using a grappling hook to snag power weapons from range or reflecting charged plasma pistol shots back at opponents using some sort of reflection shield is exactly the type of dynamic gameplay that can emerge from a sandbox-driven shooter.
Halo Infinite's multiplayer looks like a hell of a good time.
I'm also a big fan of some of the changes that 343 Industries is making to core multiplayer design decisions. I expect that the choice to make Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle mode have 24 players instead of the traditional 16 will make the mode feel more exciting to play (as long as map sizes are adjusted to compensate for the higher player count), and the fact that Halo Infinite will feature AI-controlled bots that players can practice against or use to fill up missing slots in Custom Games matches means that players will have more ways to train their skills and unbalanced teams will be less common overall.
We were also very intrigued by the decision to get rid of team colors in multiplayer so that players can show off their cosmetics. It might seem controversial, but if the colored friend-or-foe outline system that's replacing them works well, player expression will get a big boost in Halo Infinite's multiplayer.
Halo Infinite's visuals look significantly better
Compared to last year, the game's graphics look nothing short of gorgeous. The game's clean and stylized-but-detailed art direction is a perfect fit for the series, and everything from texture work to lighting and visual effects all looked great. Halo Infinite looks vibrant, colorful, and full of life, and that's everything I'm looking for in a Halo game.
It's abundantly clear that 343 Industries heard fan feedback on the visuals back in 2020 and has been working to improve things significantly ever since. It will be interesting to see how the game looks under closer inspection when it launches later this year, but based on what was shown at E3, I have high hopes that the graphical presentation will be incredible.
Why was Halo Infinite campaign gameplay absent?
However, what disappointed me was that there was zero campaign gameplay shown off. This is shocking considering that the game is supposedly launching within the next six months. Halo Infinite's creative, non-linear open world approach to its campaign is one of the most unique things about it. Yet we haven't actually seen any of its systems in action at all.
It's strange and frustrating that Microsoft and 343 Industries aren't marketing the campaign's gameplay more at this point, and it, honestly, makes me a little nervous. Hopefully, in the months leading up to release, the developers will have more to share.
The lack of campaign gameplay at E3 2021 is frustrating.
Speaking of the campaign, I really loved how "human" Master Chief was in the campaign trailer as he treated the bodies of dead UNSC Marines with care while moving past them or collecting their weapons. That being said, I think it's kind of messed up to pair Chief up with "The Weapon," an AI that looks and sounds like Cortana — the person that emotionally manipulated and imprisoned him during the events of Halo 5. I get what the developers are going for by making Cortana's prediction that Chief would be given a new, different Cortana-style model in Halo 4 come true, but given the context of Halo 5, it doesn't sit right with me. Maybe my mind will change about The Weapon when I experience the story in full, but for now, I'm conflicted.
Ultimately, while I loved what I saw from Halo Infinite in terms of multiplayer gameplay and visual presentation, I'm not a fan of how campaign gameplay was completely absent, and I'm also feeling conflicted about The Weapon too. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
*Hopefully, Halo Infinite will be one of the best Xbox games ever. We're looking forward to getting our hands on it when it comes to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One consoles, and Windows 10 (and Windows 11) PCs later this year. You can preorder the game now for $60, but keep in mind that if you're only interested in the multiplayer, it will be completely free-to-play. There's also a Halo Infinite beta coming in Summer 2021 you can sign up for (check our guide on how to sign up for Halo Infinite's beta for more details). *
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