Will Halo Infinite's Xbox One version compatibility hold it back?

Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Earlier in 2020 in an interview with MCV, Xbox Games Studios' Matt Booty revealed that for the next two years, Microsoft games would be cross-generational and would release on both Xbox One devices as well as the newer, more powerful Xbox Series X. Halo Infinite, the next mainline entry in the Halo franchise, and arguably the biggest Xbox game on the horizon, is one such cross-gen game. But while many Halo fans see the ability to play the next Halo on Xbox One as a pro-consumer blessing, others see this direction as worrying. How can Halo Infinite be a next-gen experience if it has to run well on outdated hardware? And how can Halo Infinite be a "platform for the future" if it's going to be shackled to it?

Phil Spencer dismissed cross-gen concerns like these, citing the diverse hardware ecosystem of the PC gaming market as an example of how games like Halo Infinite won't be held back by the Xbox One. However, while some of the fears are off the mark, other concerns have some merit. Here's a look at the truths behind the complicated question of whether or not Halo Infinite will be held back by its Xbox One compatibility.

So, will Halo Infinite be held back?

Halo Infinite

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

When it comes to the graphical side of things, the answer to the question is simple: Xbox One will not hold back Halo Infinite. This is because the Xbox Series X and the Xbox One family of systems share a development environment (often referred to as ERA), and 343 Industries will be able to scale Halo Infinite's visual quality up and down across Xbox consoles with Xbox Smart Delivery. Future versions of the game may migrate to GameCore OS, Xbox Series X's next-gen development environment, but as for now, that isn't the case.

Smart Delivery functions similarly to how the Xbox One X can have different assets and settings to the Xbox One S versions of the game. This is how, for example, Halo Infinite will have ray tracing on the Xbox Series X even though the Xbox One won't be able to handle it. Here, Phil Spencer's comparison to PC gaming holds true, as PC games are designed to scale similarly depending on the strength of your GPU.

Graphically, Halo Infinite won't be held back by the Xbox One. However, the older CPU is limiting.

However, the question becomes more complicated when it comes to things like the number of AI on-screen, AI complexity, and physics systems. These are all driven by the CPU, and unlike graphics, these things won't scale. Therefore, Halo Infinite's maximum potential in these areas will be limited by what's possible on the Xbox One. It's also worth noting that Halo Infinite will have to be designed around the Xbox One's 8GB of DDR3 RAM, which is slower and less capable than the Xbox Series X's 16GB of DDR6. There are some tricks developers can use to mitigate these constraints — for example, the original Titanfall used Microsoft's cloud tech to add more AI to the game without impacting performance — but overall, the limitations are there.

Something I think is important to consider, though, is that the game 343 Industries wanted to make could have been possible on the Xbox One's hardware anyway. We've seen developers deliver some absolutely incredible, expansive, and stable games on Xbox One over the years despite its aging hardware — including open-ended shooters like Metro Exodus and Far Cry 5, which is looking like the type of game Halo Infinite will be. At least for the vanilla game, I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that 343 Industries' vision isn't being limited by Xbox One.

What about the future?

Halo Infinite

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

It seems crazy to think that Halo Infinite, a game that's meant to be the next ten years of Halo, won't end up facing significant problems due to Xbox One compatibility as time passes. After all, 343 Industries will no doubt want to expand and improve upon the game, but pushing the boundaries of what's possible on the Xbox Series X years down the line can't happen if the game has to also run well on Xbox One.

Xbox One compatibility may not last far into the future.

Something many people forget, though, is that Halo Infinite's Xbox One compatibility was never confirmed to be something that would last. It's very likely that the base game will be supported on Xbox One systems, but then future pieces of content such as campaign expansions or new expansive multiplayer game modes will be Xbox Series X exclusive. Similar things have happened in the past; Grand Theft Auto V content stopped releasing on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 two years into the game's lifespan, and the original Destiny's final expansion, Rise of Iron, was made exclusive to Xbox One and PlayStation 4. With Project xCloud, Xbox One owners may also be able to play Halo Infinite through streaming, allowing 343 Industries to go above and beyond in the future without having to worry about Xbox One performance.

Conclusion: Yes, technically, but don't be worried

Halo Infinite Chief Marine

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

Ultimately, while it's true that the older CPU and RAM of the Xbox One will technically limit what's possible in Halo Infinite, I don't think fans should be worried. It's hard to imagine that Halo Infinite will disappoint in the gameplay department because of Xbox One hardware when you look at all of the amazing games that have come out on the console already, and 343 Industries has the ability to scale Halo Infinite's visuals up and down based on what system you're playing it on.

In terms of the future, I highly doubt that Microsoft and 343 Industries will choose to not improve upon Halo Infinite just so it can keep running on Xbox One. Especially when you consider how cross-gen games in the past have eventually been sunset, the likelihood of that not happening here is very, very low. This is especially true thanks to the potential of Project xCloud, which would allow Xbox One owners to enjoy the future of Halo Infinite through streaming.

Your thoughts

What do you think? Are you concerned that the Xbox One will hold back Halo Infinite, or do you think that fans are worrying too much? Let me know.

Halo Infinite is expected to release in 2021 on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and Windows 10 PCs. It was originally slated to come out during the Holiday 2020 season, but it was delayed, which we thought was the right move.

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.