The Return of Halo
With the start of August, comes the end of the first technical preview for Halo: Infinite, the highly anticipated new addition to the Halo series. Until the intended launch of Holiday 2021, Halo has been keeping fans hyped with multiple previews and even letting Master Chief join them on their commute to work.
In an effort to have a successful build at launch, the developers want multiple technical previews, or flights, to test the game at scale, address bugs, and get early feedback from players. The first flight (July 29-August 2) was available to many, though not every Halo Insider who signed up to participate in flights. Selected participants for flight #1 got a chance to experience Halo’s new mechanics, weapons, and maps with a fair share of glitches and nostalgia.
For this first flight, two modes were available: Academy, with a shooting range for weapon drills and Bot Slayer, a 4v4 PvE mode against Bots.
For Bot Slayer, three maps were released over the course of the flight: Recharge, Live Fire, and Bazaar. The difficulty level of the Bots increased as well, ending with Spartan level Bots. The test also introduced participants to the significant variety in customizations that will be available for players, including armor, weapons, and the AI, your voice companion as you play.
As to be expected, there were glitches; however, some were before the game even got in the hands of the players. The flight getting off to a rocky start with a several hour delay of the launch.
Patches were released throughout the flight to fix some of the large scale issues and reporting of any issues was heavily encouraged. For the last full day, to reward the players for shooting Bots all weekend, developers granted a few hours of Arena Slayer, a 4v4 PvP option, on the three released maps.
Overall, the reception was relatively positive with the acknowledgement that the game is in a pre-beta state and there is still a lot more work to be done.
The expectations for Halo: Infinite are overwhelming as it is considered the title to rescue the Halo series from obscurity and back into the limelight. Plagued by multiple issues with previous titles, 343 Industries acknowledges the importance of this title to establish Halo as a current major esports title and the necessity to recapture the heart of the nostalgic fans. Accessibility is a theme echoed throughout their media releases, announcing that Infinite’s multiplayer mode will be free-to-play. Also making plans for the esports ecosystem, they announced that players on mouse and keyboard will be allowed to compete with controller players. Though the goal is accessibility, crossplay at both a casual and a competitive level has mixed reactions as expected due to differences of the inputs such as with aim assist.
Current Halo pros and veterans like Sentinel’s Frosty are excited for the new title though its release could bring a fresh set of pros to the scene as well.
Teams like Sentinels and KC Pioneers, currently at the top of the NA Halo 5 scene, are expected to convert to and compete in Halo: Infinite once those tournaments are set.
So while we don’t know if Halo will make a resurgence as a dominant esport, we do know that there are many more flights to be had and much more work to be done to become a viable, stable game, worthy of all its hype, nostalgia, and reputation as part of one of the most influential video game series in history.