Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Both of this year’s blockbuster FPSs, Call Of Duty: Vanguard and Battlefield 2042, were launched with something up their sleeve: bugs. Even after a few patches, these damn creepy crawls are not so easily shaken off. These games are plagued by crashes, failures and general instability, to the point where it can be just as fun to play them as wading through a swarm of grasshoppers.

Halo Infinite dog? The multiplayer component that had a lot of flight tests? Pretty solid. Of course, a few bugs and matchmaking issues, but for the most part, it’s the most stable multiplayer FPS I’ve played this year. What was 343’s magic pesticide? Time. Simple as. Something Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 are just catching up with.

In my Battlefield 2042 review, I said it’s a game “does not feel ready yet”. Call Of Duty: Vanguard is not quite as full of performance issues, but I would still like to mention how “fragile” it feels in my Vanguard review. It’s actually fun as both express their difficulties in different ways. Battlefield 2042 seems slow and tedious. You slam your hovercraft into a wall and it will spin into the stratosphere. If you are too harsh, the floor risks falling through or sprouting a geyser that will spit you god knows where. Before you know it, you will fall through the earth to an infinite expanse.

Meanwhile, Vanguard is thin in comparison. There’s just something about the game that’s easy, almost to the point where everything seems like a hollow prop or a projection. I’m convinced that if you pushed your operator, your finger would pass right through them. I swear the game flickers for a second before going down on the desktop. And if the crashes do not get you, other things will. Alleys, for example, are rotten.

I mean, just look at this:

Even an ingenious game like Forza Horizon 5 had its launch issues. Many who pre-ordered Ultimate Edition on PC were not able to access the game early as promised because it either would not boot up or crashed at loading screens. And then, when it was launched for everyone, cruising around Mexico with your friends was not as easy as rolling up a four-door. Forza Horizon 5 was by no means as bad as Battlefield 2042, but you should all park in a matchmaking ferry and hope it does not crash off course. After a few hotfixes, things have thankfully calmed down, but man, that was another blockbuster launch with a less solid landing.

Halo Infinite’s multiplayer on the other hand? Amazingly robust. Like Master Chief’s tight metal frame, you could hammer it with thousands of players and it would not shake. I was not able to make the launch party because I had a badminton match to go to, but many of my friends were. When I walked out the door, I’m pretty sure I said, “Good luck with the servers, boys, heh heh heh!” to myself as a cunning villain as they were all gathered in Discord for the evening’s entertainment. I returned later to find out that they had had a bulging time and that there were no problems at all. Oh. Okay then.

Every time I have jumped into the game, it has been as slippery as Master Chiefs nuts and bolts after their monthly oil up. I team up with my peers and I grab burning skulls and I have an uninterrupted time. We giggle, we shout, we see our fight go inches ahead. God, that’s amazing. This is a structurally sound experience with matchmaking and servers as solid as Chiefs fist to a Grunts butt.

The thing is, Halo Infinite benefited from an extra year of development time. After Craig The Brute was publicly shaken for being clean-shaven at E3, the game’s release window slipped from November 2020 to December 2021. And while it’s hard to know how much time they’ve spent on the multiplayer side of things, it’s a luxury that is almost certainly helped.

Screenshot of the remastered Vice City from Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy has not gone so well either.

Not to mention the few ‘flight’ tests that Halo Infinite has had over the last few months. These gave eager Halo Insiders like myself the chance to test early parts of the game’s multiplayer in carefully controlled weekend sessions. While COD and Battlefield hosted beta versions, Infinite’s offerings felt more comprehensive. There were plenty of them, and they were extremely receptive to feedback from some of their long-time fans. Again, this must have helped things.

And of course covid happened, but developer studies like Sledgehammer and Dice still have serious pressure to meet deadlines. They have to stick to the schedule, otherwise the shareholders will step on their feet. We see more and more that these big games are arriving with glaring problems and it is clear that the people who are working hard to bring us these amazing things need more time. Time to solve problems – but also time to see these organizations move their workplace culture in a much, much healthier direction.

I know this is not exactly a smoking hot take. This is not an earthquake revelation. I do not appear on hands and knees from a burnt out cave with a clock in my hands, as if I have just discovered crunch. I’m just repeating what so many people have been fighting for so long now: Developers deserve to release a game they’m proud of.

Without the luxury of the times, I see as Battlefield 2042 desperately promises bug fixes. Over the next month or so, this is likely to be what we’re going to expect, with community members providing most of the fun through their portal creations. Meanwhile, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer can move forward and upward from the start, though it lacks great features like Forge. Normally I would be a little like, “Man, the Halo package here is a little slim,” but given the quality of the releases this year, I feel blessed by the simplicity and solidity of Infinite.

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