combat really evolved with Halo – but no one cared?

“Everything used to be better!” With “Halo”, it’s not hard to give in to the temptation to utter this phrase. Halo practically MADE first-person shooters on consoles. Twin-stick controls, open worlds, vehicles, regenerative energy, two weapons instead of bulging weapon wheels, offline and online multiplayer par excellence, and that unmistakable audiovisual bombast coupled with a deep (but ultimately rather overloaded and convolutedly told) sci-fi storyline created a unique overall package that continues to establish the franchise’s great reputation today, even though the last two spin-offs left a lot to be desired. After a six-year hiatus, the fundamental relevance of the series was recently up for debate after the first in-game scenes from Halo Infinite in late summer 2020 caused collective horror and the title’s postponement by a whole year. 

Whether the story, staging, and the new campaign in the open-word setting can tie in with earlier standards is currently being discussed everywhere and should not be our concern here. Because the true star of Halo has always been the gameplay, which once again sets standards in Halo Infinite and once again raises the question in me why even in 2021 so few studios still give a jerky Warthog ride to sensible aiming in a console shooter? The formula for this has been no secret for 20 years and is roughly based on the so-called “Reticle Friction”, a mechanic that ensures that the crosshair gets stuck when aiming or slows down as soon as you drive over an enemy with it. This receipt was already used in “Halo: Combat Evolved” and was refined by developer Bungie in their follow-up brand “Destiny”, spiced up, stirred once and now served up as a seven-course menu. As a convinced Aim-Assist-Klaus, I’m only too happy to get my hands on Halo Infinite again. It feels wonderfully smooth and catchy to glide from headshot to headshot with the controller, while I usually put the console versions of Overwatch, Wolfenstein, Battlefront, Battlefield, Battlefarm, Battlefirm or Battlefrontyard away in frustration after a short play time. In these titles, the old chestnut from the camp of passionate PC gamers hits the mark. First-person shooters on consoles? Lolski Podolski, much too imprecise! Who should play something like that? Apart from the fact that PC players also benefit from sophisticated aim assist systems and the so-called “bullet magnetism” in Destiny itself, the aiming aids in Halo Infinite apparently mean that PC players are even at a disadvantage in terms of aiming accuracy compared to console players in the currently still compulsively prescribed cross-play. A clever Reddit user has done some research based on and compared accuracy data. In his self-made graphic, he lists the best Halo players with controllers as well as the best players with mouse and keyboard and compares them with average players from both categories. Thereby, clear advantages crystallize for players who use a controller.

Nevertheless, I don’t consider mixed game servers with controller and mouse/keyboard players to be fun, and I don’t want to start a debate here. However, Halo Infinite proves once again that it has long been technologically possible to make first-person shooters so enjoyable to play that there is no shame in consciously choosing the controller as your preferred input method – even on a competitive level. In dynamic arena shooters like Halo or Destiny, fast aiming rarely leads to the goal anyway, since very few weapons kill with one shot. It’s more important to stay on the target despite all the hectic and continuous enemy fire. But even supposedly calmer shooter games would benefit considerably if developers would put more emphasis on adapting the controller controls sensibly. In times of cross-play, which seems to make mouse and keyboard support a common thing on consoles, I better not get my hopes up too high. However, as long as Halo and Destiny are needed to transport this unique gameplay feeling of a first-person shooter that I don’t even WANT to play on the PC, the relevance of both series will not be questioned. After all, “everything is still better today” here, although it shouldn’t be that way for a long time. 

Halo Infinite is the sixth mainline game of the Halo series and one of the outstanding first-person shooters of the year. Singleplayer and multiplayer were released separately, the multiplayer mode on November 15, 2021 and the story campaign on December 8, both on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

This post is also available in: German