When fans look at Halo Infinite, Microsoft wants nothing more than for them to think of the original 2001 game. Not only is Halo Infinite being marketed as a “spiritual reboot” that goes back to series roots, the newly-revealed cover art also harkens back to the days of Combat Evolved. The nostalgia play has one purpose, and that’s to convince everyone that, despite recent franchise misfires, the developers do know what makes a Halo game good.
This might explain why 343 Industries opened the Xbox Games Showcase with Halo Infinite footage that is heavily reminiscent of Combat Evolved’s opening level, which is also Warthog-focused. The problem? Halo Infinite looks almost too similar to prior generations of video games, when developers loved muted palettes that could blend right into some military camo, plus the occasional neon color accent. It’s no wonder, then, that many fans on social media have found themselves underwhelmed by the graphics on display. Many onlookers are pointing out how flat the game looks, or dunking on the textures and details via memes.
This is a little ridiculous... pic.twitter.com/jupzGeslBI— Steven Oliveira (@SneakersSO) July 23, 2020
A 10 year difference. Left is Xbox 360, right is Xbox series X. Yes, Halo Infinite does not look good. pic.twitter.com/MXBQxuj7in— InternetLoaner (@InternetLoaner) July 23, 2020
Killzone mercenary (Ps vita 2013) vs halo infinite (Xbox one x the post powerful console in the market 2020) pic.twitter.com/gPb5UzRGwd— Jack The Ripper (@MrLightningVolt) July 23, 2020
Digging the way halo infinite looks pic.twitter.com/z0UqE1QEeC— Geo #BlackLivesMatter (@BombosMedallion) July 23, 2020
How did this happen?— Shao Jun Stan Account (@LazerzZHD) July 23, 2020
Halo 3 vs Halo Infinite pic.twitter.com/R7Oa8FGksu
To some degree, the jokes are unfair. The visuals accomplish exactly what they set out to do, which is remind us of classic Halo. We also can’t yet speak to how well the game plays, which is always the most important bit. At the same time, with Microsoft constantly touting that the Xbox Series X will be the most powerful console ever, expectations have been set high for their flagship game. People want to see what the next-gen console can do, especially if they’re going to drop hundreds of dollars for some new hardware. And right now, some fans don’t think Halo Infinite is moving the needle.
But there’s a more existential question at play here. Halo Infinite could have greater graphical fidelity, or a million shiny bits and bobs for us to gawk at. But the aesthetic itself — that blocky, borderline cartoonish design of enemies and weapons, coupled with the light-blue HUD — is outdated. Much in the same way that Gears of War’s chest-high cover is embedded into the DNA of its beefy bros, Halo’s aesthetic is tied to a different era of video games. Without a restyling of the game’s art direction, Halo is doomed to look out of place with modern video games.
Halo Infinite does indeed remind people of Halo: Combat Evolved now, but perhaps 343 Industries got it a little too right.