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What’s actually going on with Halo Infinite’s graphics?

It’s fair to say that the response to Microsoft’s gameplay reveal for Halo Infinite in its July 2020 Xbox Games Showcase has proven divisive – to the point where even mainstream media are reporting about the mixed reactions, but looking at the core rendering technologies on display in the gameplay slice, what can they tell us about the presentation? If the game stands accused of looking ‘flat’, why is that and what can be done about it?

First of all, initial impressions matter and beyond the rendering on display, Halo Infinite’s presentation suffered significantly from the low quality livestream – the way that most of the audience will have initially experienced the content. “It’s very hard to show the full power and graphical fidelity of what Xbox Series X will be able to deliver for you over a stream. Go back and look at it in 4K60,” suggested Xbox games marketing GM, Aaron Greenberg to Inside Gaming (and picked up by IGN). Unfortunately, the only 4K60 asset available is still a compromised YouTube video but the point undoubtedly stands: reviewing the ultra HD version highlights a lot of detail that was blurred and smeared into non-existence via the livestream – and we do recommend checking out the better quality version.

Fine detail is only one element of the presentation under fire though. The main criticism levelled at the game seems to be that it looks ‘flat’ and ‘current-gen’. If that’s the case, a lot of the effect here is down to lighting, where 343 Industries’ new Slipspace engine transitions not only from a linear experience to an open world but also shifts to a fully dynamic lighting system. It’s a massive departure from Halo 5, which was mostly based on pre-calculated ‘baked’ lighting and shadows, backed up by a handful of shadow casting lights.

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It’s fair to say that the response to Microsoft’s gameplay reveal for Halo Infinite in its July 2020 Xbox Games Showcase has proven divisive – to the point where even mainstream media are reporting about the mixed reactions, but looking at the core rendering technologies on display in the gameplay slice, what can they tell us about the presentation? If the game stands accused of looking ‘flat’, why is that and what can be done about it?

First of all, initial impressions matter and beyond the rendering on display, Halo Infinite’s presentation suffered significantly from the low quality livestream – the way that most of the audience will have initially experienced the content. “It’s very hard to show the full power and graphical fidelity of what Xbox Series X will be able to deliver for you over a stream. Go back and look at it in 4K60,” suggested Xbox games marketing GM, Aaron Greenberg to Inside Gaming (and picked up by IGN). Unfortunately, the only 4K60 asset available is still a compromised YouTube video but the point undoubtedly stands: reviewing the ultra HD version highlights a lot of detail that was blurred and smeared into non-existence via the livestream – and we do recommend checking out the better quality version.

Fine detail is only one element of the presentation under fire though. The main criticism levelled at the game seems to be that it looks ‘flat’ and ‘current-gen’. If that’s the case, a lot of the effect here is down to lighting, where 343 Industries’ new Slipspace engine transitions not only from a linear experience to an open world but also shifts to a fully dynamic lighting system. It’s a massive departure from Halo 5, which was mostly based on pre-calculated ‘baked’ lighting and shadows, backed up by a handful of shadow casting lights.

Read more

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