Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

ONE30 minutes after playing Halo: Infinite online beta last week, I got a shocking, almost incredible realization: I’m pretty good at the game. I had just evaporated two enemy players with a grenade that I had thrown in a perfect arc to catch them together and completely unaware. The brutalist formality of the level design meant that I could get into a sharp angle, and exceed their lines of sight until the last moment. I then picked up the flag and drove it all the way back to our base, jumping and avoiding bypassing incoming fire. That was my third picture tonight.

In modern shooting games like Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite and Apex Legends, older players like me tend to be completely ruined by teenagers. With Halo Infinite’s multiplayer mode, it’s the other way around. In early interviews around the game, developer 343 Industries talked about how they thought of Infinite as a spiritual reboot of and love letter to the first three Halo titles, which were released between 2001 and 2007. We play on our turf now.

Old-school Halo’s design goal was not realism or even variation: it was fun and feels. You got a limited number of perfectly balanced weapons and abilities, so you did not have to worry about perks, stats, builds or loadouts. Instead, all the complexity came from the way the weapons worked perfectly with the game’s physics and environments to offer a range of new possibilities. The sacred trinity of gun, grenade, and melee actually provided a vast arsenal of attacking capabilities, just as the basic kick / punch moves did in many old, high-quality 2D combat games.

This is something that Halo Infinite’s fight remembers perfectly. All complexity is systemic rather than inventory. “Every player starts with the same loadout, and there are no cooling-down abilities,” says game designer and Halo veteran Dan Pearce, my favorite person to talk to about shooting games. “No matter what tools you have access to, the other team also has access to. There are no surprises, you do not have to think about whether you would have landed that killing or not if you had had the same weapon accessories as your opponent. “

New tactical options… Halo Infinite.
New tactical options… Halo Infinite. Photo: Microsoft

“So no matter how a match goes, there is always a new way you can think about your feet and maybe turn the tide. Destroying someone who has stolen your flag with a rocket launcher feels not only fair but also smart. “Both you and the enemy were equally entitled to that weapon, it was you who decided to seize it first, and now that choice will inform the rest of the battle.”

This careful revisionism extends to the way players move through the world. In classic Halo multiplayer, the pace comes down to where the goals are, rather than how fast characters actually run and jump – something the series has lost sight of in recent years. As Pearce explains, “Halo 5 radically expanded and accelerated the player’s movement possibilities … It was extremely close to possibilities in a way, so I feel distracted from the central battle loop that Halo as a series is known for. The Spartans in Halos 1 to “3 is much more fluid than I think many people remember. There is a slow awareness of the way players should move in the previous games that modern shooting games do not really demand.”

That, I think, is why older players are doing so well with Halo Infinite. It revives the muscle memory from the first Halo games, such that their pacing would not leave you relying solely on instinct and lightning-fast reaction speeds. Meetings tend to be more involved and more multifaceted than the shooting parties in Warzone and Apex Legends, where face-offs are over before you can blink.

Halo Infinite is also reminiscent of the classic competitive multiplayer card design of the early 2000s. The environments are totally artificial – they are not designed to look like real locations, they are self-reflective playgrounds designed to provide exciting, varied encounters. Excellent new maps like Recharge, Streets and Bazaar are like malls in the way they use levels, sight lines and different ceiling heights to create intrigue and keep people moving. These are the spaces I remember, not just from Halo, but from the earliest days of competing first-person shooters: Such as the Unreal Tournament and Quake Arena.

“I cut my game design teeth back on Halo 3’s Forge mode back then,” Pearce says. “It was a very simple map editor that mostly gave players access to only very basic objects and geometry. Thousands of incredible maps came out of these tools because Halo is best when the maps are clean, simple and balanced.”

It is important that most of the new features added to Halo infinite fit perfectly into the classic style of play – such as dynamo grenades that create a harmful electric field and close passing vehicles. Meanwhile, the grab hook, perhaps inspired by Titanfall, is a whole new way of getting around that allows you to lock onto walls, vehicles and other players and then zoom over to them. It’s faster than the conventional Halo hop, but the way it opens up new tactical possibilities is typical of classic Halo design. As Pearce says, “when you intervene in an enemy vehicle and kick the driver out and steal it for yourself, you can ‘t tell me it’s not Halo all the way to the marrow.”

Eventually, of course, the teens will catch up and learn the old ways of the Halo warriors. They will understand that in this universe it is not just about combining dozens of weapon parts into very personal weapon loads, occupying over damage per. second and then turbo-jump through a series of millisecond long meetings in an absurd African village level. Halo is about what the players themselves bring into the experience with their experiments, accuracy and thoughtfulness; it’s about how all the systems can come together in explosive 30-second battles.

Those are the things I remember from exciting Halo 2 and Quake Arena sessions all night long, long ago. It’s fun to be back there, but also to be right here in the now, where the old quirks and visual limitations have been resolved, and where there are many more players to surprise with perfectly hurled grenades.

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