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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 How can Halo Infinite be a next-gen experience if it has to run well on outdated hardware?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 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.

19 Comments
  • Great article. I totally agree with you.
  • This does make me wonder if the delays are related to this. If they didn't need to be stringent to maximize with XB1's smaller resource pool, could the game have been finished more easily for just the Series X, rather than needing to wait on a release? It's obvious that limitations would come into play. Given the game would have normally been planned for a 2018 release, you are likely right that it was already being planned around XB1 hardware anyway. Long-term, I do wonder if they could segment expansions behind loading screens on the original XB1 architecture to bring in new things, but have them in a seamlessly expansive world on the Series X. Maybe that's beyond the technical abilities of what they can do for a cross-gen title, but that would be kind of neat.
  • No, it won't. That isn't how game development works. Phil Spencer said it. Developer after developer said it. You even touched on why it won't. How about naming the article "why Backwards Compatibility won't hold Halo, or any game, back" instead of the click bait title? You should educate people as to why so we don't have to have this silly debate every generation.
  • You should try to read it again. The CPU is definitely holding it back.
  • Yes it will
  • So the answer is yes, of course. I mean developing a game for a console that's not out yet BUT having to optimize it for a product that was out in 2013... It's just common sense
  • Hopefully they start moving towards the tick tock cycle of releases for consoles to mitigate this in future generations. I've argued for a while that they should have made the One X it's own platform and guarantee backwards compatibility for it for longer than the original One or One S.
  • I am one of the few people who maxed out their friends list on Xbox, I would love to see it able to load properly whether its on console or the phone app. This gives me hope, but I won't hold my breath.
  • The weak ass Jaguar CPU already hold back the current gen and now Microsoft is bringing it to the next generation. I still think that it is a bad idea especially for a semi open world.
    And no future content doesn't change the first impression. The campaign is very important for me and they can't change it with updates.
  • I think the issue in the media and this article also points to the same thing, is Halo Infinite is an Xbox One game. It didn't even start development with Series X in mind. It started development in 2015. 2 whole years before Xbox One X even launched this Gen. As development of the gane has gone on, it's turned into a cross Gen game. As it's release ended up near the new Gen launch. It's an Xbox one that's getting enhanced for Series X. Not a Series X game that is being scaled down. Now the next Story expansion they release for it in say 2023/4 will be a Series X built addon. I mean all in all in reality, Halo Infinite can't be held back by the Xbox One, when it is in fact an Xbox One game from concept. If anything I'd say getting devkit for Series X late 2019 early 2020 and then Covid is more likely the cause of the delay. The Series X version has no doubt delayed the Xbox One version from releasing.
  • "Halo Infinite has been built from the ground up to take full advantage of Xbox series X"
    Chris Lee, Studio Head of Halo: Infinite
    https://www.gamereactor.eu/halo-infinite-opens-the-xbox-games-showcase/#... "Brand new games built natively for the Xbox Series X such as Halo Infinite."
    https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2020/06/25/xbox-series-x-full-power-of-conso...
  • That's fantastic to know. So what your saying is in 2015 when development started ( one X released in 2017) that it was somehow designed from the ground up for a console that was only in the talk phase of down the road. The slips pace engine was designed for next Gen tech, but don't believe for a minute that Halo in 2015 was designed from the ground up for a console that wasnt even in the drawing board. The Xbox One X was in drawing board phase in 2015.
  • " So what your saying is ..."
    I am not saying anything. These are direct quotes with links directly from MS. ;)
  • Clearly that's incorrect. Anyone with half a brain knows the SERIES X wasn't even a drawing board in 2015.
  • It was a mistake to say it was built from the ground up. The Slipspace Engine is built for next Gen. But when development started in 2015 there was no Series X to build the game for. So until devkit in Xmas 2019 Halo Infinite has been designed entirley for PC and Xbox One.
  • half a brain? Are you calling MS liars then? Are they saying that to mislead consumers?
    But clearly you don't seem to understand how development works. If you think they started coding the game in 2015, then I can't help you. Between the people who made the game and a blind fanboys who often lies and makes up stuff, I know who I'll listen...
  • Yes I am. It's not difficult to work out. It started development before Gears 5. The developer has clearly tried to rectify the backlash some were giving the gameplay showing. But the time line speaks for itself. It's physically impossible for it to be designed from the ground up for a console that wasn't even designed when they started making the game. Unless you have a time machine that can travel at 88mph. Halo 5 started development 2 years before One X released. And 4 years before any devkits were sent out. In fact Phil Spencer said they were still making design choices for Series X in early 2019. The final specs weren't finalised till late 2019. The only games built for Series X or PS5 from the ground up will be titles that started development in 2019. That's why Spiderman Morales for example is the PS4 engine with upgrades.
  • LOL You have no idea what you're talking about. All you're just doing is doing damage control by speculating things.
    MS said this and posted this BEFORE any backlash.
    You clearly have no idea how game development works. They didn't start to make the game in 2019. lol Anyway, like I said, between the Studio Head of Halo: Infinite or MS's official XB site and a compulsive liar like yourself, I know whom to believe. In fact you're probably one of the last person I'll believe when it comes to gaming stuff... :) Bye
  • Ahahahaha. Even Digital Foundry said the same exact thing I said. It's built from the ground up for Xbox One. It's common bloody sense. Seriously. It's clear as day it's built from the ground up for Xbox One.
    Here's is Digital Foundries analysis on the delay of Halo. What is actually happening is Sony fanboys like yourself are trying to make out Halo Infinite was built from the ground up in 2015 for a console that didn't even exist on paper. I trust you about as much as a chocolate fire guard. You sir need to get your head out of Sonys backside and think logical sometimes. You sit have no knowledge of game development. Certainly nothing in comparison to Digital Foundry. Who very clearly do know what they are talking about. And completely saybthe opposite of what your trying to impose. It's been designed 100% for Xbox One first, then in late 2019 cross genes towards Series X. https://youtu.be/lkCbqqXoVKs