Halo Infinite's early December campaign launch saw the arrival of a massively anticipated title that delivered on many levels, but couldn't shake many of the technical issues we highlighted throughout the preview/flighting process. However, towards the end of February, the Halo Infinite Season 1 mid-season update arrived, promising a fix for one of our biggest issues - the fact that first-person animations operated at a lower frame-rate than the rest of the game.
So where does Halo Infinite stand in the here and now? The truth is that while key problems are addressed with the arrival of the recent patch, there's still a range of issues that haven't been touched, to the obvious detriment of the presentation - especially evident in the single-player campaign.
Let's be clear here though: there's nothing game-breaking as such in our line-up of criticisms - the fundamentals are there, but there's just the nagging sense that the polish typically associated with a mega-budget release isn't there. And to an extent it still isn't, despite improvement. HDR is a good case in point - Dolby Vision support for Halo Infinite didn't look right at launch. There is improvement - the dynamic range doesn't look so clipped now - but the game still looks unimpressive in HDR mode, which is surprising bearing in mind that titles such as Forza Horizon 5 and especially Gears 5 and Ori and the Will of the Wisps just look absolutely tremendous.
There's a similar sting in the tail with Halo Infinite's fix for the lower frame-rate animations, especially evident in actions such as lobbing a grenade, mantling, crouching or reloading weapons that occupy a lot of screen real estate (the rocket launcher and spiker, for example). Interpolation between keyframes seemed to be missing in the flighting period and the launch, but the good news is that has been completely fixed. The thing is that related issues elsewhere have not: cutscenes in the campaign still have distracting judder where even when a new frame is rendered, camera movement and character animation is not.
Even basic stuff doesn't seem to work as it should: the initial pre-rendered movie cinematic runs at 30fps, but it does so with no consistency in frame-times. It's clear that a lot of work went into that video sequence, but the playback software for that FMV isn't working properly. Black levels were wrong at launch - and they still are.
Meanwhile, there are still core problems with the presentation of new frames on both PC and Xbox. The PC game's v-sync option needs to be set in order to tap into the excellent dynamic resolution scaling implementation. However, using that option causes sporadic frame drops. This can be overcome with a GPU driver-level v-sync, but then DRS doesn't function properly anymore - it's something that's been present and reported on for many months, yet it's still unfixed. Meanwhile, on Xbox, something in how Halo Infinite presents new frames causes stutter issues at 120Hz with VRR active - the game drops frames, but rather than delivering smooth updates like other titles running under VRR, it still appears jerky. Variable refresh rate at the system level works, but Halo Infinite's frame delivery doesn't seem to allow for smooth updates.
So looking at the mid-season update, there's definitely progress - smooth first-person animations are essential for the quality of the presentation, bearing in mind that they're crucial to the experience. However, there's still so much left to do and we have to wonder how much of this is down to Halo Infinite effectively being two games in one with multiplayer effectively operating as a 'game as a service', perhaps explaining why campaign isn't receiving the same kind of attention. That may change once the co-op mode is released - and it would be great to see the technical issues with the campaign addressed before that crucial upgrade is released.
Will you support the Digital Foundry team?
Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.
Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of £4.50. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.Support Digital Foundry