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How to think about Halo Infinite (Gaming)

by Schooly D, TSD Gaming Condo, TX, Friday, July 24, 2020, 10:39 (14 days ago) @ Kermit

Cross-posting from HBO

I watched the campaign reveal and came away feeling basically nothing. Nothing got me excited but by the same token, nothing really upset or disappointed me. I thought about why that might be and the obvious explanation came up first: it's been a long time since the franchise offered me anything compelling and I've become apathetic/disinterested.

But that's not the whole story. There is something else at play, and it explains both my personal apathy and so much that was shown in the trailer: Halo has gone from being a video game franchise with toys to being a toy franchise with video games.

This metamorphosis was well underway by the time of Halo 4 but it's taken a huge step with H:I

Point 1: The Minecraft Aesthetic

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A lot of people see the flat polygons and make jokes about "is this next-gen??" as though a Triple-A developer forgot how to do graphics. No, it's intentional: the blocky aesthetic will work very nicely with toys and other plastic playsets.

Point 2: The Open World, Under Construction

This point is less obvious but I feel is still worth considering. Think back to when you were playing with GI Joe or other action figures as a kid. The whole narrative and setup of the characters and structures was an ad-hoc, random composition. You get out the Command Tower and decide to place a couple of Gun Turrets and a Wall to prevent your sister's Rainbow Brite Army from taking the nearby village, slaughtering thousands. And there's a submarine base, why not.

This concept works better, more naturally, if the source video game behaves like this from the start. You can obviously have toys of characters, vehicles, and structures from a more linear and narratively driven game, but things are more in harmony if the game is already setup in an open world format. And even better, it appears from the media we've seen that the ring itself is constantly under construction, where its layout is constantly changing.

Point 3: The Big Bad

Characters sell toys. Important characters sell more. Both the Didact and Pvt Chips Dubbo are characters in the Halo franchise, but one of them will sell a lot more toys than the other. This should be in your mind when the Big Bad Brute is front and center in the marketing. Halo 1 technically had a main villain, but it was a gradual revelation (343GS didn't appear until halfway in) aided by a plot twist. The game's story was still more about your desperate attempts to survive in an unknown world: part fact-finding, part shooting, and part surviving.

Halo 2 had the Prophets, Gravemind, and Tartarus. But again, these enemies were revealed organically as the story unfolded.

Halo Infinite puts the Big Bad front and center. This is not "helpful floating orb on mysterious ring eventually turns out to be a very big threat." This is He-Man and Skeletor, Lion-O and Mumra, red panda and pumpkin. It's cheesy and low-effort but it's going to sell action figures from Day 0.

Point 4: That Stupid 117 Decal

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This is my weakest point but it bugs me enough to mention it. I'm sure you can think of three or four explanations for why "117" should be awkwardly slapped on his breast but it sure does feel like it's there mostly to allow for easy identification during the War of Rainbowland Aggression.

Anyway. This is not a "I HATE GAME" post, since again I'm mostly feeling apathetic. But I thought I'd share my thoughts here in case you felt the same way and were wondering why. Rather than being a disappointing entry in the franchise as you knew it, it's a competent entry in some other franchise which doesn't interest you.

Side note: I'm thinking about getting a weekly MCC night going between now and H:I launch. 343 has done very well to make the PC offering playable. I'm leaning towards Thursday or Sunday nights but you can chime in with your thoughts.


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