Halo Infinite's latest technical tests are in full flight. Last weekend, the action kicked off with the trio of maps we saw in the initial preview, backed by new game maps, offline training options and the surprise debut of a new 'Behemoth' map. The testing continues this weekend, and the arrival of big team battles is enticing. Based on what we played, the console versions are looking more impressive overall - and there's good news in terms of improvements to the game's performance modes on Xbox Series X and, perhaps surprisingly, Xbox One X.
However, the truth is that for the most part, the technical make-up of Halo Infinite is mostly unchanged from the game's multiplayer test debut. So, to recap, Xbox One S is clearly the most challenged version. It attempts to run at 1080p but has aggressive dynamic resolution scaling, independently shifting pixel counts on both the horizontal and vertical resolutions. This can look rather rough, a situation not helped by a 30fps cap that sees new frames delivered unevenly, adding extra choppiness. However, it is Halo Infinite, it is playable and while you'll be disadvantaged playing against Xbox users on any other console, it is still enjoyable.
Xbox Series S? Again, it is mostly unchanged from the first time we saw multiplayer code and runs smoothly at what is essentially a locked 60 frames per second. There are no 1440p pretensions here - you're getting a consistent 1080p experience and while dynamic resolution scaling is still used, it's hard to find areas where consistent drops are noticeable. However, the 120Hz mode found in the first test flight is gone. When we first took a look at it, it actually ran more smoothly than the Series X equivalent mode but resolution could hit lows of 540p. Perhaps 343 Industries is having a rethink.
In the meantime, Series X's performance mode is clearly in a much better state than it was before. With the exception of one-off frame drops (essentially invisible to the human eye), it's a 120 frames per second lock, with a DRS window of around 1080p to 1440p. Aside from some 60fps animations, the movement and fluidity is brilliant, the visuals hold up nicely despite the fluctuating resolution and overall, it's a triumph. Interestingly, accessing 120fps is achieved via the quality/performance toggle that didn't work at all in the first preview. This time, the option does work, allowing you to swap between 60fps and 120fps modes but only if the dash is set to 120Hz output. Unsurprisingly, if you're set to 60Hz output, you'll get the quality mode only - which seems to offer an 1800p-2160p dynamic scaling range. Both options are basically running flawlessly and right now, Series X offers the premier experience.
But perhaps the biggest surprise in the latest round of testing is Xbox One X, which looked impressive in its debut with visuals that were close to the Series X experience but was limited to 30fps - with far fewer frame-pacing issues than the One S versions. You got the looks, but fundamentally, a high speed first-person shooter running at 30fps doesn't feel so good and puts you at a disadvantage against Xbox Series players. Again, the quality/performance toggle has been fixed and the surprise is that the latter option now offers 60fps - which isn't quite as stable as the Series experience but is very, very close indeed. Again it seems similar to the Series X performance mode running at half of the frame-rate, with a matching 1080p to 1440p dynamic resolution range. 60fps held up even in the wider Behemoth map, which is more open and with vehicles. Performance can drop into the high 50s but the improvement over the quality mode is transformative.
Based on last week's showing at least, it's PC that is concerning. First of all, similar to the first flight, running with v-sync on a 60Hz screen requires using the 60fps limiter in-game, which actually seems to run at 57-59fps instead, causing stutter (overcome only by turning off v-sync and enabling it with the GPU control panel). View weapon animations often seem to refresh at a lower rate than the rest of the game, while we found that even on low settings at 1440p, an RTX 3090 could not consistently run the game at 120fps, with evidence suggesting that the GPU is not close to full utilisation. We'll take a look at this weekend's update, but our experience from last week was not positive.
And that's very much the exception and not the rule, because certainly from a multiplayer perspective, Halo Infinite is shaping up very, very nicely on consoles. Aside from the rough-around-the-edges base Xbox One version, everyone gets the chance to play a properly engaging, brilliant arena shooter that feels fast, fluid and responsive. It's Xbox One X that surprised us most this time around and it's good to see that the machine's capabilities have not been overlooked - and that there is a route forward there in matching the baseline performance of the new wave of machines. Indeed, in several respects, it's out-pointing Xbox Series S in terms of graphical features.
Yes, there are some rough edges (graphical glitching and 'stuck' bots on last-gen machines, performance/quality toggles that need to be manually reset every game), but the game debuted strongly when we first saw it and the improvements seen this time around are impressive - and we'll definitely be there for this weekend's testing. And if you haven't tried it yet, now's a great time to jump onboard. PC users will require a code from an existing insider to gain access to the action but if you have an Xbox console, simply download the Insider app and you should be good to go.
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