The Infinite Zenith

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Halo Infinite: The Spire and Pelican Down at the Halfway Point

“We all fail. We all make mistakes. It’s what makes us human.” –Master Chief

Upon entering the Conservatory and fighting through the Banished forces within, Master Chief and The Weapon encounter Despondent Pyre, Zeta Halo’s Monitor. Despondent Pyre is destroyed whilst warning Master Chief of a new threat that Zeta Halo holds, and Master Chief encounters the Harbinger shortly after. She explains that her people, the Endless, were incarcerated on Zeta Halo, and the Banished have been working to rebuild a facility that will liberate them. Along the way, they are assisted by Adjutant Resolution, but upon learning that the Master Chief’s goal is to destroy Zeta Halo, outfits himself with a Sentinel battle mech and attempts to stop the Master Chief, who ultimately destroys his armour. After Master Chief deactivates the spire, it begins to collapse, and while he manages to escape thanks to Esparza’s arrival, their Pelican is shot down. Frustrated, Esparza expresses his want to escape by locating a functional slip-space drive. Master Chief reassures Esparza and promises that after he deals with the Banished anti-aircraft guns, they’ll look for a slip-space drive together. After the guns are disabled, Esparza reveals that all of the slip-space drives are non-operational, and moreover, he’s actually not a pilot: during the battle on board the Infinity, panic took him, and he stole a Pelican. Master Chief confides in Esparza that he was unable to stop Cortana, and the pair set off to destroy the remaining spires on Zeta Halo to stop its reconstruction. Having now spent an additional six hours since I last wrote about Halo Infinite, I am now a ways further into the campaign, and at the time of writing, I’ve now captured all of the forward operating bases. In addition, I’ve taken down all but one of the high value targets, and I’ve unlocked enough Valour points so that I’m able to call in the AV-49 Wasp, a UNSC VTOL that, alongside the Banished Banshee, allows for unparalleled ease of exploring Zeta Halo’s surface. Having access to the Wasp means one thing becomes apparent: before I continue on with the remainder of the campaign missions, it’s time to finish gathering Spartan Cores and Mjolnir cosmetics now that I’m able to freely fly around Zeta Halo.

One detail that became particularly enjoyable in Halo Infinite is the presence of weapon variants, which are modified versions of common weapons that cater to a specific play style. Some of the weapon variants are straight upgrades of their common counterparts, offering improved firepower, accuracy or firing rate, while others alter the base weapon’s functionality. The Volatile Skewer I picked up is a Skewer whose projectiles are explosive, while the M41 Tracker is able to lock onto vehicles. These weapon variants offer additional variety for Halo Infinite and allow players to play according to their preferences to a much greater extent than was previously possible. The incentive for unlocking weapon variants is built right into the heart and soul of Halo Infinite: Valour Points from completing secondary objectives will give access to most UNSC weapon variants, while high value targets provide the remainder. This gives players the encouragement they need to really explore Zeta Halo (as opposed to just blasting through the story missions) and those who take the time to check out every nook and cranny of Zeta Halo will get the most out of their experience, being rewarded for their troubles in a fair manner. In this way, Halo Infinite creates a highly immersive environment that brings the Halo franchise to new heights; exploration isn’t mandatory, and it doesn’t bloat Halo Infinite‘s runtime in any way, but instead, it provides a chance to really build up Master Chief’s arsenal, abilities and a bit of the backstory behind how things are since Cortana’s actions devastated the galaxy during the events of Halo 5: Guardians. Having now reached a point where I am able to explore freely, I find that Halo Infinite has absolutely lived up to expectations, and the open-world segments of the game have allowed me to play Halo in a way that advances the franchise in an impressive new direction.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I left off in Halo Infinite, it was New Year’s Eve, and I’d just finished clearing out the Excavation Site of Banished. I’d brought with me the Gravity Hammer and Ravager used to defeat Bassus into the labyrinthine interior of the Conservatory. Almost immediately, the silence inside the Conservatory overtook me, and it hit me that I’d not been inside a Forerunner structure in quite some time.Beyond the first set of doors, I find a deceased Spartan and a new armour ability, the drop wall, which can be deployed to provide cover from one direction.

  • The drop wall provides cover from enemy fire briefly, but adds the bonus of allowing Master Chief to continue shooting through them. In a pinch, deploying a drop wall can mean the difference between life and death, and I’ve managed to extricate myself out of deadly situations by making use of the drop wall when my shields had failed. At this point in Halo Infinite, I’d already fully upgraded my Grapple Shot and shields. The improved shields aren’t normally noticeable, especially if one comes under heavy fire, but when fully upgraded, it allows one to survive things that would otherwise be instant death. I’ve found that I can now escape being stuck with plasma grenades or a sword lunge now that my shields are maxed out.

  • 343 Industries did a phenomenal job of portraying Forerunner interiors: exploring the interior of the Conservatory brought back memories of playing Halo: Combat Evolved with classic visuals, and I’m especially fond of the lighting effects. Artificial lighting inside Zeta Halo’s interior gives the impression of sunlight streaming through windows into the cavernous hallways, and in these tight quarters, I swapped off my weapons for more mundane, but practical weapons. Halo Infinite generally does a fine job of balancing the weapons, and most of them have some utility. The Mangler is great as a hard-hitting pistol, and in fact, the only weapon I’ve found to be ineffective is the Disruptor.

  • When required, I’ve found that the classic Covenant weapons are actually quite effective in a fair range of scenarios. The Needler retains its ability to super-combine and instantly kill even shielded foes, but unlike its predecessors, the Halo Infinite Needler’s projectiles no longer home quite as aggressively on targets. The exception is the Pinpoint Needler, whose projectiles are a walking cheat-code and moreover, can lock onto multiple foes at once. On the other hand, the Banished Pulse Carbine is weakly homing and can eliminate shields quickly. Combined with the fact that one can recharge its battery now, this is actually a viable weapon to have around.

  • The energy sword, an iconic Elite weapon, retains all of its classic mechanics; it is a one-hit kill on all but the toughest foes, but the lunge distance is reduced. In multiplayer, this weapon is highly sought-after as a power weapon, but in Halo Infinite‘s campaign, it is less effective owing to the fact that every kill with the sword depletes its battery by ten percent, regardless of whether or not the kill was on a Grunt or a Brute. As such, while I will use the sword where my ammunition is depleted, I generally will not pick the weapon up.

  • The Bulldog is the UNSC’s go-to close quarters weapon in Halo Infinite, and it is devastating in narrow corridors and small rooms. A single pull of the trigger will put most foes on the floor, and speaking to its firepower, even the Brutes will be seen wielding the Bulldog despite their disdain for humanity. Conversely, in the wide-open areas of Zeta Halo, the Bulldog is next to useless. However, there is a variant of the Bulldog, the Convergence Bulldog, which has a choke that reduces spread. Together with a larger magazine, this Bulldog is a longer-range option that still retains the standard Bulldog’s traits.

  • As I make my way deeper into the Conservatory, I encounter Zeta Halo’s Monitor, Despondent Pyre. Although this Monitor appears helpful and desperate to stop the entity known as the Harbinger, it is promptly destroyed. Recalling that it took a Spartan Laser to permanently kill Guilty Spark, whatever killed and dismantled Despondent Pyre must be a foe to reckon with. Shortly after this revelation, Master Chief and the Weapon come under attack from the Gasgira, informally known as Skimmers. These foes are new to Halo – they share similar traits as the Harbinger’s species and functionally, are a cross between the Drones and Grunts.

  • After escaping the ambush, Master Chief pushes further into the facility in order to track down the Harbinger, and along the way, encounters another deceased Spartan. The mystery of who is killing Spartans with such brutality remains a mystery for now, although Master Chief assures the Weapon that he’ll be able to handle whatever comes their way. Every time, the Weapon’s analysis indicates that the Spartans were cut down by an unnaturally powerful energy blade, implying that it’s probably an Elite that’s been doing this, and cutscenes have shown that there is one Elite that Escharum respects: Jega ‘Rdomnai.

  • A pair of Brutes appear, and while the Weapon wonders if they’re the Spartan killers, Master Chief replies no. At this point, I’d been short of ammunition, but luckily, there was a cache of weapons in the large hall where this fight occurs. I ended up using the Cindershot to take one of the Brutes out, then picked the Scarp cannon off his body and used its firepower to take down the remaining Brute. The Scrap Cannon is a turret that fires large spikes, and the longer the trigger is depressed, the faster it will fire. On the other hand the Cindershot is a hard light grenade launcher of Forerunner origin, and while it is quite powerful, its bouncing projectiles do take some getting used to.

  • After Master Chief confronts the Harbinger, he is promptly defeated and thrown back onto the surface of Zeta Halo. The goal next is to reach the Spire and deactivate the Ring’s reconstruction mechanism. For the time being, I took a moment to enjoy the sunset here: more so than any Halo before it, Halo Infinite takes visual effects to an entirely new level. The first trailer for Halo Infinite was announced back during June 2018, and despite its short runtime, foreshadowed a gorgeous environment. It is not lost on me that during this time period, my first startup was on its last legs. I’d been working on both a mental health questionnaire app, and a generic app for pain reporting at the time, although the lack of clients meant funds were rapidly dwindling.

  • Halo Infinite thus fell from my mind: the 2018 trailer had been an impressive tech demo, it gave almost no hints of what the story was going to be about. Halo 5: Guardians had released to general disappointment owing to its disjointed story, and left players on a massive cliffhanger that had seemed as difficult to resolve as the cliffhanger Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi left viewers with. The games themselves won’t answer this directly – after Halo 5, the Infinity escapes, and Dr. Halsey managed to create a new AI that would be able to put an end to Cortana’s rampage. While this is somewhat successful, elsewhere in the galaxy, the Banished become a powerful threat. This ultimately leads to Atroix clashing with the Infinity at the beginning of Halo Infinite. There’s a great deal of lore, but using the timeframes allows 343 Industries to do a soft reset on things and focus on the most important elements: a clean story and consistently good gameplay.

  • Here, I square off against Adjutant Resolution after he goes rogue upon learning of Master Chief’s aim of destroying Zeta Halo. He dons a Sentinel suit that confers combat capabilities, but despite this suit’s firepower, there are several weak spots: shooting out the arms and central core will damage it. The fight was fairly straightforward for me, although I will note that Kotaku’s Ethan Gach struggled with the encounter. Games journalists encountering difficulty with even the most trivial of tasks in video games is not a new phenomenon, and it is no surprise that most gaming outlets have writers who would prefer to talk about things like representation and the narrative’s political statement rather than discuss things like game mechanics, map design and equipment balance. The end result is unsurprising, but for any moderately competent gamer, Adjutant Resolution will not be a challenge on normal difficulty.

  • By the time Halo Infinite‘s gameplay was shown, it was July 2020, and I had been working from home for a second startup amidst the global health crisis’ first wave. Halo Infinite had looked flatter than I’d expected, but the gameplay still looked solid. Indeed, once I reached the Pelican Down mission, the site of the 2020 E3 demo, I found that while everything looked much improved over what had been shown during the E3 demo, the gameplay was more or less identical. I had been sold on Halo Infinite after that demo – the Grapple Shot was a novel addition that revolutionises how movement in Halo worked, and the ability to reel in things like weapons and fusion coils increased the game’s pacing. Older Halo titles were very slow and clunky, having been designed for older consoles, but with advances in consoles, this is no longer a constraint.

  • I ended up walking around the valley, marvelling at all of the details here that had been first portrayed during the E3 demo. Unlike the demo, which started Master Chief off with the assault rifle and pistol, I had a Commando and Sentinel Beam from my last mission. However, I was similarly playing at sunset, and upon ascending the elevator to the first of the guns, I ended up using my drop wall to similarly stop a Brute with the Ravager, before riding it up to the Banished camp near the gun. The Halo Infinite E3 trailer is another example of where the finished product actually ends up surpassing what was shown – DOOM Eternal had previously done this, and in retrospect, I’m glad that 343 Industries ended up taking the extra year to really polish the title.

  • From the sounds of it, the core mechanics and story were already in place by the time of the E3 conference, but other aspects were not fully ready yet. An extra year ended up being the right amount of time for 343 Industries: they were able to completely improve lighting and textures with this time, and by the time Halo Infinite‘s open beta was available, the game was in a satisfactory state from a technical standpoint, more than ready to be released. The missing features, specifically co-op mode and the ability to replay missions, was somewhat disappointing; considering that Halo Infinite handles more like The Division than earlier Halo games, there is precedence for how these elements can be implemented, but on the flipside, I have heard that both functions are technically working – like the remainder of Halo Infinite, 343 isn’t releasing them until they’re confident it works as expected.

  • I ended up commandeering a Ghost and rode it up to the power core for the first AA gun. Upon reaching this area for the first time, I was treated to Escharum’s iconic speech. In addition to portraying the Brutes as a glory-seeking, but honourable species, Escharum’s first speech also acts as 343 Industry’s challenge to the players, to experience a legend in the making that will push them to their limits. Escharum’s remaining speeches aren’t quite as rousing, but they do portray the Brutes as being a much more fleshed out species than Bungie had ever done: in this area, 343 Industries has done very well, and admittedly, Escharum’s speech was actually one of the main reasons why I’d considered Halo Infinite as something to pick up shortly after launch.

  • Halo Infinite‘s Hunters are tougher than their predecessors: they’re now completely covered by armour plates, and like their predecessors, can deal as much damage as they can take. Careless players will burn through their entire ammunition supply without scratching one, so a bit of strategy is involved wherever Hunters are concerned. The easiest approach is to blast them with power weapons like the rocket launcher, or else focus fire on a specific spot to knock the armour plates off, then shoot the exposed areas. Players with vehicles can also deal damage to Hunters effectively, and making use of fusion cores in the area, in conjunction with the thrusters and grapple shot to get behind them, is also a viable trick.

  • The 2020 E3 demo portrayed Master Chief preparing to knock out one of the AA guns, but here in Halo Infinite‘s completed campaign, players will have a chance to go through all three of them. Because of the distances that separate the AA guns, walking between them can be a bit of a lengthy process. A vehicle makes all the difference here, and it is helpful to remember where one left their ride for this part of the campaign. Here, I take off in pursuit of an Elite major, whose dialogue can be seen on-screen: the enemies of Halo Infinite lack the menace they conveyed in Halo: Reach and Halo 4. In the earlier games, foes spoke their own tongues, but here in Halo Infinite, enemy dialogue is all rendered in English. Elites and Brutes have great lines, as do the Marines.

  • The dialogue from the Jackals is passable: they’re obsessed with whatever bonus money they’ll get from a job well done, but the lines do extend on their personalities. On the other hand, the Grunts are hilarious. Halo Infinite will gently mock players for dying to Grunts with comedic lines (“I’m alive and he’s not? It’s a miracle!”). However, the best line in the entire game comes from the propaganda towers: the Grunt running the show will ask about the WiFi password (implying the Banished have WiFi), and as the Master Chief destroys more towers, the Grunt will even try to plead with Master Chief about not destroying any more towers.

  • If it turns out that Halo Infinite was delayed so they could get these Grunt lines into the game, I’d be completely okay with that. Here, I’ve finished taking out all of the AA gun right as the morning sunrise allows light to fill the valley and glint off a large hexagonal construct in the distance. Hexagonal pillars dominate the landscape of Zeta Halo, and while the folks of Reddit are struggling to understand their significance, a little lore suggests that they’re the result of reconstructing Zeta Halo’s structure. These are placed first, and then terrain and vegetation is overlaid on top of it to create a natural environment. Their jutting appearance stands in stark contrast with the wilderness and serve to remind players that the Halo rings are artificial constructs.

  • Once all three guns are destroyed, Master Chief must face Tovarus and Hyperius, two Brutes bearing the Spartan Killer moniker will appear. Fighting one boss at a time is already challenging enough, so two seems outright impossible. However, I was able to survive this fight because Hyperius enters the fight on a Brute Chopper, and boss or not, it is possible to hijack his vehicle using the Grapple Shot. I thus seized the Chopper and used it to annihilate him, as well as his entourage, before focusing fire on Tovarus. Tovarus is armed with a scrap cannon and is lethal up close, but at a range, one can dodge his attacks while returning fire.

  • In the end, I used the Skewer to drop his shields, and then whittled his health down using the battle rifle. I’m not sure if it was a bug, or luck, but Tovarus used his jetpack and took refuge in the crashed wreckage of what appears to be a UNSC ship. After reaching the platform here, he remained there for the remainder of the match, and I ended up using the drop wall to create cover while hammering him with the battle rifle. Once the Spartan Killers are dealt with, Master Chief will speak with Esparza, who admits he’s no pilot, and compared to Master Chief, he’s a failure. Master Chief demonstrates the extent of his humanity and compassion here by talking to Esparza, who regains enough of his composure to decide that he’s willing to help Master Chief achieve their goals.

  • Once the anti-air guns are down, Master Chief will turn his attention to the second spire. However, the Harbinger has locked it down, and the Weapon must recreate the data sequence from Forerunner signals in order to decrypt its code in order to override the lockdown. My gut feeling told me that this was the best time to now focus on going around the open world and collect anything of value. For me, the main goal here was simply to finish all of the outposts, take down every last high value target, acquire all of the Spartan Cores and as much Valour as I could before pushing onwards with the missions.

  • While this task can seem quite daunting, the combination of air vehicles and fast travel actually makes things a lot smoother – I simply fast travel to a forward operating base, pick out a Wasp, and in moments, I’m in the skies, flying over streams, boulders and forests to the site of interest. When the Wasp isn’t available, a Banshee will also do in a pinch. The Banshee is faster than a Wasp and can be boosted, while the Wasp has better manoeuvrability and is easier to control. Both vehicles are great for taking players from point A to point B, but the Wasp’s ability to hover, and the fact it can be freely spawned at forward operating bases, makes it the vehicle of choice for me.

  • Because completing side quests like high value targets and outposts provides access to stronger gear, Halo Infinite appears to gently guide players down a path where the focus is to reach Pelican Down first, then take some time exploring the open world, before continuing on with the actual campaign itself. Players who choose to focus on the campaign and skip the open world aspects won’t necessarily be punished for it: the armour abilities are great, but at the end of the day, Halo Infinite is a first person shooter, and that means the skill that matters most is a steady aim and a well-practised trigger finger. I don’t imagine that having boosted shields or the best possible drop wall will be too helpful against Escharum or the Harbinger of Truth if one can’t even shoot straight.

  • Moments like these are why Halo Infinite absolutely excels in its single player experience: I’d just finished off a high value target in a field of red flowers and was left with one foe, standing in the middle of the clearing. A few rounds from the battle rifle was enough to wrap this mission up, and I’ve found that it is possible to take down a lower-ranking Brute in as little as one burst if one’s aim is true. Throughout the campaign, I’ve found the battle rifle to be my go-to weapon for almost any situation: one burst will finish a Grunt and any unshielded foe, and when paired in conjunction with a faster-firing weapon like the pulse carbine, players can be ready for most situations.

  • There’s actually an achievement for reaching the highest point available to Master Chief on Zeta Halo called “Nosebleed”, and I actually ended up unlocking it while exploring around for Mjolnir lockers near forward operating base delta. The fact that players can ascend the hills and cliffs speaks volumes to what’s possible, and I will note that even on my nine-year-old desktop, the fact that Halo Infinite looks as gorgeous as it does is an impressive feat, speaking volumes to the optimisations that went into making the game run well on a variety of hardware. Being nine years old, my desktop has been with me through many things, and to be honest, I’m surprised it continues to run as well as it does. With this being said, I have noticed that the CPU heats up a lot more quickly now than it did even two years ago, even with regular cleaning.

  • As such, while nothing is set in stone just yet, I do plan on building a new PC once I’ve had the chance to settle in to my new place. With the Intel twelfth generation CPUs out now, and motherboards becoming available, I’ll probably start shopping around for parts shortly after the move, and then pick out the parts. The criteria for this machine is simple: it needs to beat out a machine with the Ryzen 9 3900X and the RTX 2070, all the while staying under 1500 CAD (prior to warranty for mission critical components and the OS itself). I’ll elaborate on why this is the minimum I am building against in a later post and return to Halo Infinite: for the last outpost, I ended up calling in a Scorpion so I could dispense an unparalleled amount of destruction using the tank’s main cannon, making the outpost trivially easy to sort out.

  • While vehicles in Halo Infinite are powerful, they’re not invincible: here, I took the Wasp on over to the Myriad, a pair of Hunters with firepower far surpassing those of ordinary Hunters. Guides suggest using a Scorpion to deal with them, and while this is the most feasible way I can think of, I ended up improvising. My original goal was to use the Wasp’s rockets to whittle them down, and while this allowed me to take down one of the Hunters, I’d sustained a little too much damage and was forced to bail. Vehicles do make it clear when they’re about to explode, so I was able to escape in time, and with Master Chief’s luck, I managed to pick a rocket launcher from a dead Brute, using it to finish off the second of the Hunters.

  • The prize for defeating what are probably the toughest of the high value targets is a Backdraft Cindershot: this variant allows the Cindershot’s projectile to break down into explosive submunitions, making it great for clearing rooms out. I stopped to admire the jaw-dropping scenery of Zeta Halo before continuing on with my quest to upgrade my abilities and open up as many options as possible before heading into the next act of Halo Infinite. Having just passed the halfway point, I’m quite excited to see where everything is headed, and knowing that I have spent the time to earn a small edge means once I do continue, I’ll have the confidence in being prepared enough for whatever lies ahead in Halo Infinite.

At this point in time, the only things I have left to do in the open world is to deal with the remaining handful of high value targets, collect enough Spartan Cores to fully upgrade all abilities, and amass as many Mjolnir cosmetic upgrades as I can. Once this is done, I will continue with finishing off the story missions of Halo Infinite and consider both the latest instalment’s contributions to the franchise, as well as what this means for Halo. So far, the game has proven to be superb in all regards. The gameplay feels responsive, crisp and fresh. Movement is smooth, and the gunplay is visceral. Moreover, Halo Infinite runs well even on my aging desktop. During my time in Halo Infinite, I only experienced one crash, and this merely sent me back to my desktop, as opposed to blue-screening my computer. The optimisations that went into Halo Infinite are impressive; the game looks amazing, but it also runs extremely well on hardware that’s almost a decade old. With a more recent configuration, Halo Infinite would likely run even better. Quite simply, the game has been worth the cost of admissions, and I anticipate that altogether, I’ll get a grand total of around thirty hours out of Halo Infinite by the time I finish the campaign missions. While the lack of an ability to replay missions or co-op with friends, something that was possible in earlier Halo games, is a noticeable omission, I now fully appreciate why 343 Industries was not able include these features during launch. Halo Infinite‘s open world is vast, and tracking player positions for a smooth co-op experience would entail additional work, while the intrinsic open world approach in Halo Infinite similarly means that additional thought would need to be given towards how to best allow players to revisit missions they’ve previously completed. There is a great deal of precedence out there (e.g. The Division, Far Cry) for how to approach this, but owing to 343’s focus on delivering the best possible experience in the base game, one cannot fault them for wanting to leave these additional features on the “would be nice to have” list: I would much prefer to have a responsive movement system and good weapon handling available now, as opposed to a scenario where Halo Infinite had shipped with co-op and replayable missions that came at the expense of core mechanics like movement and weapons.

Halo Infinite: Reconquering Zeta Halo, Ascending the Tower and Entering the Conservatory

“I am the Harbinger. All that you know shall be undone.” –The Harbinger

After Outpost Tremonius is captured, Master Chief makes his way over to other regions of the Banished-held surface, clearing out local commanders and assisting groups of surviving UNSC marines along the way. Upon receiving a signal from Spartan Griffith, Master Chief heads to the Tower, where he defeats Elite Chak’lok in combat to rescue Griffith. In doing so, Master Chief learns that the Banished have successfully excavated a Forerunner facility referred to as the Conservatory. Master Chief makes his way over to the excavation site and shuts down a Banished mining laser before entering the Conservatory itself. This is where I stand in Halo Infinite after ten hours of play: while there is a story to be experienced, I’ve found myself enraptured by Halo Infinite‘s open world: Zeta Halo is beautifully crafted, and attention paid to details is impressive. Open areas are vividly portrayed, from the most distant mountain right down to the flowers at one’s feet. Day and night cycles completely change both the aesthetic and the combat style one requires to adopt: by day, enemies are awake and will patrol their facilities actively, but by night, guard is doubled as some foes sleep. Foes will taunt the Master Chief, and allies will express excitement at the player’s arrival. Levels themselves are intricately designed, and the campaign missions set within the open world are seamless: after I cleared out a nearby fuel depot, I headed on over to Chak’lok’s tower where, after neutralising all of the patrolling Banished, I simply went inside to fight Chak’lok and liberate Spartan Griffith, without once encountering a loading screen. While my aging PC encountered a few frame drops, performance on high settings has been generally smooth, and moreover, firefights themselves feel immensely satisfying. Having now made some satisfactory progress into Halo Infinite, I enter the Conservatory, ready to see what the next step of Master Chief’s adventure entails.

Overall, Halo Infinite‘s open world aspects feels a great deal like Far Cry: there are forward operating bases to capture, and scattered throughout the world are collectables, combat encounters and upgrade points that confer bonuses to the Master Chief’s armour. These aspects are simple in their implementation, but in practise, Halo Infinite provides a fantastic chance for players to simply explore Zeta Halo and blow things up as they are encountered. Completing tasks also confers Valour Points, which unlock additional options at forward operating bases. Players can initially call in Mongooses and recover the MA40, but as they complete tasks, more powerful options can be called in, as well; at the time of writing, I have access to the Battle Rifle and Commando, as well as the standard Warthog and marines that can accompany Master Chief. Altogether, the fact that the UNSC is on the backfoot here, in conjunction with an open world, should create a lonely experience, of overwhelming odds to overcome, and convey the sense that the former UNSC Infinity’s soldiers are waging desperate war of resistance. However, this actually doesn’t happen in practise, and Master Chief never feels alone in this game. Wildlife can be encountered. Esparza is always on station to drop things off for Master Chief, and The Weapon herself feels distinctly like a younger, more naïve version of Cortana: still competent and knowledgable, uninformed in some things but otherwise retains Cortana’s sense of humour. Marines will loyally accompany Master Chief to objective, manning guns and providing cover fire, as well as make the occasional amusing quip (especially if Master Chief swaps out one of their guns for a sidearm). Similarly, while the Banished are presented as a powerful foe, in combat, they will taunt the Master Chief and exchange trash talk with the Marines. Halo Infinite is a rich experience that shows how much effort was placed into creating an immersive, novel experience that is still Halo: in fact, I have heard that 343 Industries had intended Halo Infinite to be a reimagining of what Bungie had originally wanted to do with Halo: Combat Evolved after the game transformed from an RTS into an FPS, and by all counts, 343 Industries have succeeded in bringing an old vision to life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Whereas Halo 4 wasn’t even set on a Halo Ring, 343 Industries returns Halo Infinite to its roots by having Zeta Halo play a much more prominent role in things. Here, I gaze out at the curvature of the Halo ring – when I saw this for the first time in Halo: Combat Evolved, it was a sight to behold: other games of the time had a flat horizon or were otherwise set in narrow corridors, so seeing something of this scale had been breathtaking. In that time, I dabbled in some game design as a part of learning game engines for my thesis, and nowadays, I am aware that Halo: Combat Evolved simply had made very creative use of skyboxes to create what would be an iconic part of gaming.

  • With this being said, Halo Infinite‘s return to a Halo bring brought back all of that wonder and amazement to me in full – I may know how skyboxes work now, but the fact that Halo Infinite recreates all of the feelings I had when stepping out onto Installation 04 for the first time as a secondary school student. Here, I prepare to rappel down a cliff sheer: thanks to advancements in Master Chief’s Mjolnir Armour, falling damage is no longer a concern, although since fall damage is a factor in other games, I usually don’t like jumping down great distances.

  • After taking Outpost Tremonius, Zeta Halo opens up to players immediately, and to guide things along, Master Chief will be asked to take out Ransom Keep, a chop-shop of sorts where the Banished are salvaging parts from UNSC vehicles for their own ends. Taking on these areas entails clearing them out of Banished, destroying their assets (such as these fuel tanks), and then fending off any reinforcements that show up. Hidden away around these locations, and Zeta Halo in general, are audio logs, Spartan Cores and Mjolnir lockers: while the initial goal surrounding an objective might be simple enough, searching for everything before clearing an area can take some time.

  • Red markers indicate the arrival of Banished drop pods: everything from Elites and Grunts can arrive to reinforce existing forces, but most challenging of all to deal with are the Brute berserkers, who will rush straight for Master Chief after deploying. They possess no ranged weapons, but are immensely durable and can pummel Master Chief to death if allowed to close the distance. There isn’t any one strategy to use against these foes: circumstances dictate what works best, and I’ve found that chucking fusion cores or making use of grenades, in conjunction with the upgraded Grapple shot’s ability to stun ensnared foes and melee attacks, can make short work of these foes.

  • I ended up finding a Scorpion Tank at Ransom Keep and used its massive firepower to make short work of the Banished foes to secure the site, before wandering off to see if I could find a Spartan Core on the nearby hill. I ended up finding a VK78 Commando, an automatic rifle that is a solid precision weapon. I’ve found that weapons like these are actually better for dealing with the weaker enemies like Grunts and Jackals: a single shot will knock them out. Unshielded Brutes also go down fairly quickly, but against shielded foes, it’s better to use these semi-automatic weapons in conjunction with a plasma weapon. The Pulse Carbine has become a reliable weapon in this area, having the advantage of being a relatively common weapon.

  • The Halo Infinite Scorpion handles very similarly to its Halo 4 and Halo 3 iterations, where players only have access to M512 90 mm cannon. Previous Halos gave players a coaxial machine gun, as well, but this made tank drivers overpowered against infantry and vehicles alike. Instead, to fully use a Scorpion’s power, two operators are needed. One touch I particularly liked about Halo Infinite is the fact that, after every shot, the Scorpion will spit out the spent shell casing before the autoloader prepares a new one for firing.

  • After I cleared Ransom Keep, I ended up capturing another forward operating base right as the sun began setting. The fact there’s a day-night cycle in Halo Infinite is impressive, and it adds considerable character to the game. 343 Industries had indicated that they were looking to add dynamic weather, as well: players would’ve experienced overcast skies, fog and even rain during their trek across Zeta Halo’s surface. I do not believe this was ever implemented, since I’ve only ever seen stunningly gorgeous daytime weather, and a nighttime sky that is at once exotic and breathtaking; even without additional weather, Zeta Halo looks amazing.

  • Here, I’ve finally picked up the BR75 Battle Rifle, an iconic weapon that debuted in Halo 2. The original BR55 was as burst-fire weapon that required a modicum of skill to use, standing in contrast with the fully-automatic assault rifle, and in multiplayer, the Battle Rifle became the tool to become familiar with. The Battle Rifle has changed over the years in terms of performance and appearance, but in Halo Infinite, it most closely resembles its Halo 2 iteration, being a powerful medium range weapon. This weapon pairs very well with the Pulse Carbine or Assault Rifle, giving players plenty of options at different ranges.

  • When Master Chief rescues squads of marines pinned down by Banished forces, Valour points will be earned. I initially thought that these would be a currency that I could then put towards certain unlocks, but as it turns out, Valour points handle more like experience points, and accumulating a certain amount will automatically unlock weapon and vehicle call-ins. In the time I’ve put in, I’m able to call in the Battle Rifle and what’s called a “Gungoose”, a Mongoose armed with a pair of forward-facing, slow firing cannons that can deal massive damage.

  • Some folks have suggested calling in Sentinel Beams and handing those to marines, then calling in a Razorback and drive around with five marines around. The result is supposed to make playing Halo Infinite trivially easy, but I’ve found that doing things like this takes the fun out of the game. As it was, I am more than content to stick to my style of play: while I’ve got a Sentinel Beam variant and the Razorback unlocked, I’d much rather stick with my usual method of picking foes off from a distance before switching over to CQC.

  • After clearing out the forward operating bases and collecting as much stuff as I could in the first area, I finally turned my attention towards Chak’lok’s tower. The campaign missions set in the open world are surprisingly smooth; switching over from the open world to the tower’s cavernous interior was seamless, as was the firefight leading up to the confrontation against Chak’lok, an Elite warlord with an arrogant attitude, a cloak and an energy sword. I will note here that watching TheRadBrad’s playthrough of this mission was ultimately what cemented my decision to get Halo Infinite.

  • I had already been quite confident that I would be picking up Halo Infinite at launch, but wanted to get a measure of how the game handled and see what the missions were before diving in for myself. Watching TheRadBrad cleared up some questions I had, and also showed me that Halo Infinite was going to be fun; in his playthrough, TheRadBrad manages to kill Chak’lok, but an exploding shock barrel kills him after, sending him back to do the fight over. I was fortunate in that I only needed one attempt: I made extensive use of shock coils to lower his shields, and then hammered him with the assault rifle and battle rifle to finish the fight. Despite Master Chief’s efforts, Spartan Griffith cannot be saved, but he learns of something called the Conservatory, leading Master Chief to the next area of Halo Infinite.

  • During the mission at Chak’lok’s tower, I ended up coming across the shock rifle for the first time: this weapon is a long-range electrolaser and is effective against both shields and vehicles. However, during my play through, there were few targets to use this weapon against, so I’ve not really had much of an opportunity to really try it out: at present, it’s the basic weapons like the assault rifle, battle rifle and pulse carbine that have proven to be most versatile.

  • I’m a little ashamed to admit that in the beginning, I didn’t have any idea how to get over to the next area: a gap leading into space separates the area with Chak’lok’s tower from the next, and I initially thought that I could build up some speed using a Mongoose, then exit said Mongoose and attempt to use the grapple-shot to latch onto the  other side. In the end, I just needed to approach a bridge, fight off the Banished guarding things, and that was sufficient to open up the new area. Here, I’m rocking the S7 Sniper Rifle: like its older counterparts, the sniper rifle is a powerful weapon for long-range combat, being balanced out by a small magazine capacity and rare ammunition.

  • Once in the new area, I set about clearing out forward operating bases so that I could fast travel more readily. Once forward operating bases are captured, nearby points of interest are also revealed on the map, so it makes the most sense to secure those first and then decide how to best tackle everything. Here, I enjoy another sunrise en route to rescuing a squad of marines; Halo Infinite looks jaw-dropping with its visuals, and speaking freely, I’m surprised my machine can run the game as well as it does. This moment really highlights the incredible detail paid to lighting, and under the first light of day, my battle rifle’s textures are thrown into sharp relief, making the weapon’s resemblance to its Halo 2 counterpart all the more evident.

  • Amidst a field of yellow flowers, I fend off all of the Banished forces attacking the UNSC marines, earning myself some additional Valour points in the process. Throughout the course of Halo Infinite, I’ve found that the default assault rifle has actually proven itself to be an excellent all-around weapon, and it has taken some time for me to get past my initial thoughts on it: the Halo: Combat Evolved assault rifle handled more like a submachine gun, while the pistol behaved like a marksman rifle, and in most Halo games, I’ve actually swapped off the assault rifle for something else at first convenience because of my original experience. On the other hand, Halo Infinite‘s assault rifle feels like a proper weapon that hits hard at close to medium ranges.

  • During one high value target hunt, I ended up picking up the Volatile Skewer, a variant of the Skewer whose projectiles explode on impact. Weapon variations in Halo Infinite add variety to the gameplay, ranging from altering a weapon’s functionality to simply improving its overall performance. Completing high value target hunts reward Banished weapon variants, while Valour points are needed for unlocking UNSC weapon variants. The Volatile Skewer is particularly fun, since it can be used to eliminate entire squads at once if one picks their targets well; common Skewers are a one hit kill on most enemies, so if one were to aim for a Brute commander standing among a squad of Grunts and Jackals, a single shot could conceivably take everyone out.

  • Here, I switch over to the Stalker Rifle, a cross between the Covenant Carbine and Beam Rifle that I grew up around. This weapon is primarily found with Jackal Snipers, but unlike Halo 2‘s Jackal Snipers, who were armed with Beam Rifles that could one-shot players, the Stalker Rifle requires three headshots to kill, and wielders give away their position when aiming down sights: the weapon emits a laser sight of sorts. For most combat situations, I scavenge weapons off defeated Banished forces, use them to achieve a goal and then return to pick up the weapon I’d dropped for it.

  • This approach allows me to conserve on kinetic ammunition for my UNSC weapons: while weapon resupply is possible thanks to ammo crates scattered throughout the world, I’ve not tested to see if they’re one-use only, and as such, during my play-through, I’ve only used them to top off before a boss fight or campaign mission. For everything else, I end to run UNSC weapons until I run dry, then I switch over to whatever weapons I can scavenge from the world. The plus side is that Banished weapons are quite effective, and there are instances where the Banished will swallow their pride and utilise scavenged UNSC weapons, too.

  • The fight against Balkarus was particularly challenging, since he’s accompanied by Brutes and Elites wielding the Ravenger. This weapon handles most similarly to a grenade launcher, firing rounds of incendiary plasma in an arc and dousing an area of impact with hot, damaging plasma. I was actually at quite the disadvantage, since I was using UNSC weapons that were better suited for engaging common enemies, but fortunately for me, there was a weapons locker nearby with a few Ravengers. I subsequently utilised this with the grapple-shot to end the fight, earning me another weapon variant.

  • Today is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2021. From a personal standpoint, 2021 was a fair year for myself; I’ve not hung out with many friends in person, and my physical fitness isn’t what it was before because all the gyms are closed, but on the flipside, I also was able to better my career and finances, and in the process, became a homeowner, too. During this past year, I also achieved the impossible by going through the whole of Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny; this is something I wouldn’t have thought possible, but thanks to encouragement from friends in real life, and the anime community I’ve become a part of, I was able to finish the Cosmic Era in whole.

  • Being able to do something like this means finishing a journey that was some fifteen years in the making, leaving me in a position where I’m able to both keep up with my friend in discussions surrounding the Cosmic Era, and be ready for the upcoming Gundam SEED film. Encouraged by this, one of my anime related goals for 2022 is to make my way through Ah! My Goddess in full, as well as Love Hina, and on the topic of finishing things from my childhood that I never finished back then, I also managed to set up the PCSX2 emulator. Armed with the BIOS dump from my PlayStation 2, I’m now able to play my old PlayStation 2 games on PC, and this means I can actually begin going through Ace Combat 5 and, as time allows, Ace Combat 4.

  • After picking up some patches to disable deinterlacing, tuning the video settings and getting the controller bindings configured, I powered on the emulator and entered the game. At this point in time, I have a working emulator: things run at a smooth 60 FPS, and everything looks sharp. The controls are a little tight, and I don’t have the same level of finesse as I did in Ace Combat 7, but after an hour’s worth of setup, I can finally begin my journey through a game I’ve been curious about for the past fifteen years. I still vividly recall borrowing an Ace Combat 5 strategy guide from my library back in the day, and during university, I remember spending time watching YouTube videos of Ace Combat 5‘s final missions when I should’ve been studying for organic chemistry.

  • It does feel like there are unlimited possibilities now as I go through something that, a decade earlier, I only could’ve dreamt of trying for myself. I have plans to write about my Ace Combat 5 experiences in the future, but for now, I’ll return to Halo Infinite, where I’d just found a Forerunner Artefact and sent it back for decoding. The night sky can be seen here, and it is stunning. The skybox designs remind me of star-forming nebulae seen in astronomy books, making the night skies feel a lot more exotic, worthy of Halo.

  • The final mission I’ll highlight in this post is the dig site. The goals for this mission are simple enough: stop the Banished mining laser, which is powerful enough to cut through Forerunner metal. While the goal itself appears straightforward, Master Chief is faced with an entire Banished armada, and it’s going to take some creative thinking, spatial awareness and a steady aim in order to come out triumphant. With that being said, this mission was absolutely fun, and I had a blast shooting at everything that stood between me and the objective.

  • During the course of my travels through the open world, I found and defeated Thav ‘Sebarim to unlock the Arcane Sentinel Beam. This weapon is deals more damage than a standard Sentinel Beam at the expense of consuming ammo faster and having a smaller ammo pool to begin with. After attempting to deactivate the laser, The Weapon finds that there are two regulators that must be destroyed first, and unsurprisingly, destroying the exposed regulators will cause Banished reinforcements to appear. It is here that the Sentinel Beam shines: a short burst will vapourise foes and thin out crowds.

  • Once all of the regulators are destroyed, Master Chief must return into the tower and deactivate things again. However, Bassus makes a sudden appearance. He is counted to be one of the hardest in the whole of Halo Infinite because of the fact that this fight takes place at extreme close quarters, the range that Brutes excel in. Bassus prefers to rush players with his Gravity Hammer, and this leaves players with very little space to make use of more powerful ranged weapons. Guides suggest that there is only one viable way of beating Bassus: use the Pulse Carbine and Needler.

  • On my first encounter, I was completely unprepared; I came to the fight wielding the battle rifle and Commando, and unsurprisingly, because neither weapon is suited for damaging shields, I got wiped. I subsequently switched on over to a Ravenger and a Rushdown Hammer in anticipation of close quarters combat. This approach differs greatly from what is suggested, but since I’m playing on normal difficulty, I am afforded with a little more creative freedom. I utilised shock grenades to slow him down so that I could use the Ravager and drop his shields.

  • Once Bassus’ shields fall, a few strokes of the Gravity Hammer are enough to finish the fight. With Bassus done, I returned my attention to disabling the mining laser, and subsequently finished this mission off. Before returning here, I explored the mission area to ensure I’d found all of the items of note: in a given mission, my priority is to locate all of the Mjolnir lockers and Spartan Cores, with the audio logs being a “nice to have”. Thus, with the mission done, I headed for the waypoint on my screen and prepared to continue on with Halo Infinite.

  • I thus pass through the Forerunner wall that the Banished were trying to drill through with their mining laser, and entered the Conservatory. I didn’t bother swapping out my weapons, so it appears that as I continue, I am going to have to change out my weapons for something a little more appropriate. With this post in the books, I’m quite excited to continue: Halo Infinite has completely modernised the Halo experience, and I’ve had zero complaints with the campaign so far. This is my last post of 2021, and I look forwards to seeing what lies ahead in 2022, both for myself and this here blog.

At this point in time, I’ve fully upgraded my grapple-shot and shields with the various Spartan Cores I’ve found throughout the world, found several interesting Banished weapon variants as a result of taking out high value targets and have spent nearly eight hours in the open world of Zeta Halo just exploring the superbly detailed, West Coast-like environment. The openness of Halo Infinite has meant that there is no shortage of things to do or check out, and while this makes for an unparalleled experience, of providing players with the near-total freedom to play as they wish, that Halo Infinite has an open world component to it has also meant that I’m getting distracted by just how gorgeous Zeta Halo is. I could be content just running around Zeta Halo with a Battle Rifle and Skewer, ruining the lives of all Banished that cross my path, as I search for every last weapon variant and Spartan Core available to me. The fact that Halo Infinite has created this compelling of an experience speaks volumes to the effort that went into bringing Halo into the modern age, and it is saying something that a part of me wants to just stay in this open world forever. However, being a Halo game, complete with a lore and the need to unearth whatever the Banished’s machinations are, I do need to push ahead and continue on with the story. Having now entered the Conservatory, I saw my first loading screen since the first few missions: Halo Infinite has done a fine job of breaking things up, and given what I’ve seen, I am expecting that the Conservatory will be a more traditional, linear mission. After about ten hours of Halo Infinite, then, I can say with confidence that 343 Industries has stricken a great balance between the open world and linear missions to give players a hitherto unmatched experience. Having found a good amount of the collectibles and upgrades, it’s time for me to continue on with the story and see what about the Conservatory makes it so valuable to the Banished. Halo: Combat Evolved had presented players with the Flood as an expected surprise, and a part of me can’t help but wonder what game-changing experience lies ahead, in the labyrinthine interiors of Zeta Halo.

Halo Infinite: Initial Impressions, The Banished, A New Weapon and Setting Foot on Zeta Halo

“The missions change. They always do.” –Master Chief

In the chaos resulting from Cortana’s actions in Halo 5: Guardians, a former faction of the Covenant known as the Banished attack the UNSC Infinity, led by the warlord Atroix, attacks and destroys the UNSC Infinity. Atroix defeats the Master Chief and casts him out into space, where a UNSC pilot, Fernando Esparza, locates him. Their Pelican is captured by a Banished warship, prompting Master Chief to board the warship and disable it. While the Master Chief is working to take out the warship, a beacon is received, hinting at the presence of a “weapon”. Making his way through the cavernous interior of Zeta Halo’s massive interior, Master Chief locates the source of the signal and finds a Cortana-like AI calling herself The Weapon. She explains that her original directive was to delete Cortana and then herself, but somehow managed to survive the process. The Master Chief retrieves her and fights his way to Zeta Halo’s surface, defeating the warlord Tremonius in the process. After clearing out a Banished camp, The Weapon explains that the Banished have taken over UNSC outposts on the surface of Zeta Halo and suggests that clearing them out will give them an advantage as they make to ascertain how many survivors remain from the UNSC Infinity’s destruction. This is Halo Infinite‘s campaign after two-and-a-half hours of gameplay, marking the first time a new Halo’s been available on PC at launch since Halo: Combat Evolved was released, and while 343 Industries’ previous instalment, Halo 5: Guardians, was met with cool reception for introducing a meandering, convoluted story, Halo Infinite makes a bold effort in returning the franchise to its roots. The end result, coming six years after Halo 5: Guardians, shows that for their part, 343 Industries had been successful; the story continues on with the dynamic between Cortana and Master Chief that Halo 4 had portrayed, while at the same time, placing the events on a Halo ring that the series is named after. With a promising new narrative and a return to an iconic setting, Halo Infinite‘s campaign is off to a strong start; everything about Halo Infinite is faithful to the original aesthetic, while at the same time, properly bringing Halo into the modern era.

At the heart of Halo Infinite is a responsive and smooth movement system. In earlier Halo games, movement felt sluggish and slower. Players were limited to walking and jumping. By Halo: Reach, sprinting was added as an armour ability, and this subsequently became an integral part of the game in Halo 4. However, contemporary shooters have very evolved movement systems: Titanfall seamlessly combines wall-running with standard movement, and Battlefield introduced the idea of being able to vault over fences by jumping near them. DOOM similarly implemented a ledge-grabbing feature, where players could automatically catch onto and pull themselves up a ledge if their jumps landed them nearby, and DOOM Eternal further improved this mechanic, making it possible to move around a map in a creative manner. Halo Infinite enters this realm by introducing the grappling hook, which allows Master Chief to latch into and pull himself towards a surface quickly. In addition, Master Chief can also grab onto an enemy with the grappling hook and rappel in for a quick kill, or else pull nearby items close. The grappling hook of Halo Infinite is an upgrade over DOOM Eternal‘s meat hook, which similarly extended gameplay options. A more versatile movement system in Halo Infinite means that map designs can be more creative, allowing keen-eyed players to fully utilise their environment in order to be successful. Together with a visceral and tactile combat system, Halo Infinite is a winner in gameplay: firefights feel immensely satisfying, and the game makes every effort to communicate the results of a player’s actions clearly. Red hit markers are used to let players know when they’ve scored a kill, allowing for attention to be redirected to a new target. The firearms are diverse and unique, creating an environment where picking one’s weapons matter again. Halo Infinite also marks the first time the series deals with boss fights in a traditional manner: before Master Chief can exit Zeta Halo’s tunnels, he must first fight Tremonius, who has a larger health pool and stronger energy shields than standard enemies. The introduction of proper boss fights in Halo adds variety to the game and punctuates moments of exploration and classic firefights with with platforming and strategy. Mechanically, Halo Infinite is built on solid foundations, adding enough new features to modernise gameplay while at the same time, making the core elements of a high standard. In the knowledge that the basics in Halo Infinite are nailed, I can focus my attention on exploration and progression into the story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Whereas Halo 4 presented a humanity filled with a newfound confidence, Halo Infinite‘s humanity is scattered, hunted and defeated. This is emphasised for the player’s benefit right at the beginning: the UNSC Infinity, mightiest of humanity’s vessels, is under siege, and Master Chief himself is being ragdolled by Atriox despite putting up an impressive showing. The atmosphere Halo Infinite conveys, of humanity being forced onto the backfoot, is consistent with the feeling that originally accompanied the original Halo games.

  • The first mission is set inside a Brute warship, and right out of the gates, I am reminded of Destiny‘s Cabal, whose gargantuan frames and utilitarian ships share parallels with the Brutes’ designs seen in Halo Infinite. Long characterised as a barbaric, war-like species, Brutes favour aggression and strength over finesse, and while Brutes tend to look down on humanity, they aren’t above picking up human weapons off their foes on the battlefield. Here, I wield the Mangler, a mainstay Brute sidearm that fires massive spikes at foes. The weapon is extremely powerful and handles similarly to a slower-firing version of the Halo: Combat Evolved pistol, but with a lower firing rate and projectile drop to balance things out.

  • The UNSC assault rifle in Halo Infinite is the MA40, an evolution of the MA37 seen in Halo 5: Guardians, which is itself a successor to the assault rifles seen in earlier games. An all-around performer, the MA40 is a fast firing weapon with less spread than its predecessors. It is able to hit targets further away with greater reliability than its predecessors, and carries enough ammunition to, in conjunction with grenades, make short work of a crowd of Grunts and Jackals. During this first mission, the entire setting is in the narrow corridors of a Brute warship, bringing to mind how Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 both started in claustrophobic spaces (the Pillar of Autumn and Cairo Station, respectively).

  • The tradition was broken in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, but Halo 4 has players start in side the Forward Unto Dawn. I actually enjoy these missions because Halo has always excelled in presenting wide-open environments, and coming from the narrow confines of a starship, or the vast caverns Forerunners had built, into a pristine bit of wilderness has always been the most breath-taking moments of a Halo game. Halo Infinite is touted as being a ways more open than any of its predecessors, allowing the game to capitalise on the wonderous setting, but for players beginning their journey, one must get through the first two missions.

  • While this can feel a little arduous, the first two missions actually act as an opportunity to familiarise oneself with Halo‘s newest toy: the grappling hook. This versatile tool has multiple applications, ranging from reaching hard-to-reach places to being able to pull distant items closer. One particularly amusing feature is the fact that the grappling hook can actually latch onto enemies and stun them, leaving them open to attack. When used in conjunction with closing distance, the grappling hook behaves a great deal like DOOM Eternal‘s meathook.

  • The Revenger is a new weapon that fires searing plasma bolts over short distances: projectiles arc and are affected by gravity. This weapon is powerful but cumbersome, and I found its utility to be in softening up groups of enemies before finishing them off. Unlike earlier games, plasma now deals damage to players for a few moments after it is discharged, and it takes a few moments for the plasma to evaporate. This shows how far Halo‘s come: small details like these bring Halo Infinite to life, and also alters the ways players approach the game in subtle ways.

  • The Needler makes a welcome return, and like its predecessors, it is capable of super-combining to create devastating explosions that can kill even Brutes. Once Master Chief reaches the warship’s control room and finds that he is unable to cleanly disable the tractor beams holding Esparza’s Pelican in place, he decides to destroy the ship instead by overloading its engines. The Brute warship begins disintegrating, but the Banish seem unfazed. In the end, Master Chief cannot make it back to Esparza, but fortunately, Esparza is around to pick up up outside the warship’s wreckage.

  • Halo Infinite doesn’t allow players to replay completed campaign levels, and while this decision does seem strange, it appears that 343 Industries was focused on making the core experience solid first, before adding back long-standing features. Like co-op, 343 Industries is suggesting that being able to replay campaign missions to completely collect audio logs, Spartan Cores and other items will be added later on. For me, this is perfectly okay, since I do not expect I’ll be finishing Halo Infinite‘s campaign so quickly that I’ll be replaying missions again for completeness’ sake.

  • After Master Chief retrieves a new communique, Esparza consents to drop him off on Zeta Halo, feeling that whatever weapon Master Chief might be able to acquire could be helpful in getting them both home. Contrasting the utilitarian interiors of the Brute warship, Forerunner architecture is angular, smooth and features plenty of clean lines. In this second missions, Elites are encountered for the first time, and like their classic incarnations, equip energy shields and side-strafe to evade attacks. Classic techniques like the plasma pistol overcharge and any headshot will quickly dispatch them, as will seven Needler rounds.

  • During the open beta, I was a little underwhelmed by the Pulse Carbine: this weapon is basically the Storm Rifle from Halo 4, but fires in four-round bursts rather than on full automatic. The burst properties were quite unknown to me in the beta, but now that I’ve had a chance to get into the campaign, I’ve found that it handles like the Battle Rifle: a single burst at close range will kill weaker enemies, and a burst will also disable a Jackal’s shields. Three bursts will drop an Elite’s shields. The weapon initially appears tricky to use, but the weapon has a very unique property: the plasma rounds travel faster the further they are allowed to travel and the plasma rounds weakly lock onto targets, making it a superb medium range weapon.

  • This past weekend marks the halfway point from the start of December to Christmas, and this past weekend, I enjoyed my first-ever day off since 2017. I ended up using that time to fully finish the Master Grade Kyrios, a process that took five hours from start to finish, and altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed the build. The kit is incredibly detailed, feels solid and looks amazing. Yesterday, I spent most of the morning waiting for new beds and mattresses to arrive, and then by evening, I attended the company Christmas party at a local Italian restaurant. Dinner started with Arancini (stuffed rice balls), Tuscan Bruschetta (a flatbread with tomato, basil, olive oil and a dash of vingear), and a Caprese Salad. The centrepiece was grilled Chicken Parmesan with seasonal vegetables and potatoes, which was superb.

  • After dinner and a desert Saltinbocca, there was a live show, as well. I didn’t arrive home until half an hour to midnight; while I’d been quite exhausted from a longer day, it was also a great chance to get out and celebrate with the team: I had the chance to converse with people I’d not met in-person previously, since we’d been working from home, and the food was fantastic: Italian food is something I don’t have often, and when done well, different dishes have completely different, vivid flavour profiles. With this Christmas party in the books, I only have one more week of work left before my winter vacation begins. I anticipate spending this time handling the remainder of the furniture delivery and assembly, as well as hitting IKEA to pick up any smaller items we’ll need for the new place.

  • In the spare time I have, I’ll aim to continue on with my blogging and wrap up what remains to be written about. This naturally will extend to include Halo Infinite: I am hoping to make a bit of headway into the open world and check out Zeta Halo for myself. Here, I’ve found the Stalker Rifle, a cross between the Beam Rifle and Covenant Carbine from earlier Halo games. This weapon is actually a joy to use, being a highly reliable solution for longer ranges than the automatics and burst fire weapons. In earlier Halo games, I always carried a good medium range weapon and then paired it with whatever the situation demanded. For now, I am holding onto the assault rifle and pulse carbine to fulfil the role of a solid medium range solution.

  • As Master Chief progresses through Zeta Halo, armour upgrades and Spartan Cores will be found. The latter unlock acccess to different abilities that augment the Mjolnir armour’s functionality, while the latter improves an ability’s functions. The approach taken in Halo Infinite brings to mind the likes of Far Cry, which has similar mechanics. For now, I’ve found that the grappling hook to be an ability I am making extensive use of, so I’ll probably focus on getting this one fully upgraded before looking at the other abilities.

  • A few weekends ago, shortly before Halo Infinite was due to launch, uncivilised and counterproductive discussions were occurring on social media, to the point where people were issuing threats against those who disagreed with them, led moderators to temporarily put a hold on all discussion. It was actually shocking to see people defending this level of negativity: someone actually went so far as to claim that excessive negativity is a “human right” because it’s supposedly the “the only mechanism by which people can campaign for, and achieve change and improvement”. This is soundly untrue: change and improvement comes from people acquiring the skills needed to make a tangible difference, and then working hard to reach a point where said change and improvement can be implemented.

  • As it stands, excessively negative individuals have no inherent value to society. This holds true for those who tear down game developers, and it certainly holds true of those who pull anime apart pixel-by-pixel. Criticism is only valuable if it offers a course of action, such as a suggestion for improvement, and in their absence, defenders of negativity are not meritorious of consideration for the simple fact that their aim isn’t to be constructive, but rather, to gain notoriety. Here, I square off against Tremonius: the two Jackals accompanying him can be a distraction, so I finished them off first, before using the Skewer against him. The presence of boss fights in Halo Infinite is a first, but I found this first one to be most enjoyable, a change of pace from the usual firefights.

  • Once Tremonius is beaten, Master Chief will board the elevator and ascend to the surface of Zeta Halo. Players will be greeted with a verdant evergreen forest and blue skies, but there’s little time to enjoy the scenery. This forward operating base is crawling with Banished, and Master Chief must clear them out. However, even if one is short on ammunition after the fight with Tremonius, there’s a plasma turret up on the cliff overlooking the Banished-held territories below. This turret handles similarly to the turrets of older Halo games and will make short work of foes, at the expense of reducing mobility and forcing one into third person mode.

  • After clearing out the first group of enemies, I came under fire from more Banished on the cliff above. They’re standing closely to a bunch of fusion coils, so I ended up burst-firing the assault rifle to set these off, allowing me to easily clear them out without needing to close the distance. This area is meant as an introduction to the sort of world Halo Infinite offers players, suggesting that for a given problem, there are always several solutions one can utilise to complete their goal. The only thing that Halo doesn’t do well is stealth, but beyond this, having a semi-sandbox is going to be quite exciting.

  • After realising the power that amassed fusion coils can provide as a force multiplier, I ended up reaching the platform, waited for the Banished to arrive, and then detonated one of the fusion coils. Upon exploding, these created a chain reaction that cleared out the entire launch pad, leaving a handful of stragglers that could then be mopped up without much effort. In this way, I ended up taking this forward operating base, which, according to in-game documentation, is an area where players can fast travel to, resupply and link up with allied forces.

  • While the possibilities are quite varied, I think that my approach now will be to finish off the side quests and unlock as much of the map as I can before pursuing the story missions. This way, I will have the best possible amount of armour abilities unlocked for the campaign ahead. Here, I’m wielding the Hydra Launcher I picked off Tremonius; this weapon was introduced in Halo 5 and is described as a multiple missile launcher. I’ve only used it to one-shot Brutes, since it handles more like a shotgun than an anti-armour solution. However, unlocking a forward operating base does mean I gain access to more weapons, and this means I’ll be able to kit myself out with my preferred weapons before attempting whatever lies ahead for me in Halo Infinite.

From my two and half hours of time spent in Halo Infinite, it is early to say what themes and motifs Halo Infinite covers. However, I can say that what I’ve experienced has been fun so far, and as such, 343 Industries’ decision to delay Halo Infinite by a full year was a decision that proved wise and appropriate. When the game was showcased in June 2020, it was met with mixed reactions: on one hand, the gameplay and mechanics looked amazing. However, the visuals proved to be a point of contention: Halo Infinite did not particularly look like a modern game, and while the world assets and the lighting looked sharp, textures were still quite lacking. Realising the potential for disaster on account of all the memes that followed, 343 Industries astutely took Halo Infinite back for additional work rather than insisting on a 2020 launch. The end result speaks for itself; Halo Infinite is the smoothest-playing and best-looking Halo game made to date. Textures are more detailed, character models are less uncanny, and overall, Halo Infinite feels precisely what one would expect Halo to be. While the game does have a few flaws (the inability to replay campaign missions, absence of co-op mode and a poorly thought-out progression system for the multiplayer come to mind), overall, once I set foot on Zeta Halo and captured Tremonius as a forward operating base, all of these issues melted away as I began considering what my next actions should be: I can continue to clear out areas of the map and make travel easier by finishing the side missions, or I can press forward with the story and see how The Weapon and Master Chief’s experiences unfold, delving deeper into the secrets that Zeta Halo contain. One thing is for sure; seeing the distinctive curvature of the Halo ring on the horizon, rendered using modern game engines, is an absolutely astounding sight to behold.

Battlefield 2042: Twelve Hours of Solo All-Out Warfare and First Impressions

“All great beginnings start in the dark, when the moon greets you to a new day at midnight.” –Shannon L. Alder

Buckshot sails past my teammate and into my skull, sending me back to the deployment screen. In past Battlefield games, I’d be shown the foe who killed me, and I would wonder if that player had been lucky, skilled, or if their level was low, using cheats. However, there’s no time for such thoughts here in Battlefield 2042; I decide to spawn into the M1A5, and moments later, I’m back in the heat of combat. This time, I’m protected by composite armour in all directions. I proceed to single-handedly slaughter an entire capture point on my own and buy my team some breathing room, but in that time, the enemy team has managed to begin capturing another point on the map. I immediately race over, leaving a trail of dust and destruction in my wake. Battlefield 2042 represents a dramatic departure from the class-based multiplayer shooter that DICE had perfected over the years. For one, it is now possible to play solo on a private instance, and this alone has made Battlefield 2042 a relaxing experience. This year, the mantra “at my own pace” has dominated my discussions. I am happiest when taking in entertainment in the manner of my choosing, and Battlefield 2042‘s solo modes have provided exactly this. The AI bots I join in a given match play as humans would. They capture objectives, fire on me when I draw near and duck for cover when I return fire. While their performance can vary, they can be challenging and unpredictable like human players, but unlike human players, possess no ill-will towards me. No AI bot has yet killed me from across the map with a shotgun, camped in a single spot all match to spawn frag teammates, or singled me out in text chat for a fight. For this reason, Battlefield 2042 is fun; spared the trouble of having to deal with an excessively zealous enemy team and teammates who can’t perform, players who believe camping is a legitimate strategy and folks who count on cheats to gain the upper hand, I am able to properly play Battlefield 2042 at my own pace. The pressures associated with multiplayer evaporate as I am able to focus purely on a goal for that match. If I’m intending to give a newly-unlocked weapon a go, I can equip the base weapon and not worry about being destroyed by players using the optimal loadouts. If I wish to rank up my tanks, I can park on a capture point and hammer away at foes towards the unlock thresholds without try-hards from the other team destroying my tank with air-to-ground missiles. In fact, the absence of highly proficient pilots means for the first time in a Battlefield game, I’ve been able to learn how to fly, as well. Previously, I’d be shot down by enemy pilots who’ve unlocked everything for their air vehicles of choice within seconds of spawning in to an aircraft, but the AI bots in Battlefield 2042 lack the same level of aggression, giving me a chance to learn how to fly in a live match.

The solo experience is a complete breath of fresh air from previous titles, where I’d necessarily need to play against overly-determined foes who care only about their stats, and Battlefield 2042 has met expectations in this area. Similarly, thanks to two post-launch patches from DICE, gunplay has become sufficiently smooth so that assault rifles can perform at medium ranges. Performance is, for the most part, satisfactory – my aging hardware still runs Battlefield 2042 on medium settings. In this way, I’ve spent twelve hours playing against AI bots in the solo All-Out Warfare mode, and I’ve reached level 18. Over these twelve hours, I’ve played enough to determine that Battlefield 2042 is sufficiently satisfying so that I will be continuing with the game as it continues to mature and grow. Battlefield 2042‘s launch has been rough, and I’ve heard that since launch, player count has decreased by upwards of seventy percent. The game is one of the most negatively reviewed games on Steam, and day after day, endless Reddit threads are created, instructing others not to buy the game. While most of it is irrelevant or overblown, some of these feedbacks have merit: Battlefield 2042‘s problems lie predominantly in performance issues, lack of essential quality-of-life features like a server browser and scoreboard, and the fact that solo modes offer drastically reduced experience points compared to multiplayer proper. These are the sorts of things that should be slotted under DICE’s “high severity, high priority” fixes. The other point that I’m in agreement with are the map designs the new All-Out Warfare maps. While the maps themselves are visually stunning, there is far too much empty space between congregation points. This means that for most players, the average match will consist of sprinting to a capture point, perhaps scoring a few kills and then dying instantly to a sniper, or sprinting to a capture point and being killed by an enemy helicopter along the way. There’s no buildings or vegetation to provide cover for moving infantry, and there’s not enough vehicles, like quad bikes, to allow squads an accessible means of swiftly moving between capture points. I also find myself unable to join a squad of AI players, resulting in long walks should I ever die. The recurring joke, that Battlefield 2042 is a virtual track-and-field simulator, holds true in solo All-Out Warfare; in the absence of a vehicle, I tend to stay at one capture point because of how long it would take to hoof it over to the nearby control points, even on the smaller maps solo players are provided with. A bit of extrapolation would find that larger maps would be very difficult to traverse. It would be phenomenal for DICE to address these issues in their maps: Battlefield V initially had similar problems, and without dramatically changing up maps, DICE had fixed these issues by providing a handful of respawning motorcycles at capture points and adding fences, foliage and trenches to make it easier for infantry to move around in. The community appears to believe otherwise for the present, but DICE’s track record speaks for itself: Battlefield games typically start out roughly, and then improve over time. As such, it is likely the case that over time, Battlefield 2042 will improve – maps will be updated to handle better, basic UI elements will return, and, if my luck holds, optimisations will be introduced so even older rigs like mine can run the game with reasonable frame rates.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because I spent a total of six hours on the Orbital map during Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, I’ve elected to play on different maps. Playing multiplayer proper means utilising Battlefield 2042‘s matchmaking system, and from what I’ve heard, this approach makes it really tricky to play on one’s preferred maps. Unfortunate player can get stuck on the same map two or three times in a row; as such, having a proper server browser would be mandatory. In my case, since I’m playing solo, I have the choice of picking which map I play on every time.

  • Here, I play on Hourglass, a sand-swept portrayal of Qatar’s Doha. Massive skyscrapers can be seen in the distance, and although the illuminated city is gorgeous, there is a lot of open space on the map, making a  vehicle mandatory. In earlier Battlefield games, I’ve commented that one thing I enjoy most about a well-designed map is that there is enough variety to accommodate all combat options without favouring any one weapon type or play-style. The larger maps of Battlefield 2042 openly favour vehicles, and early in my experience, I found that I could single-handedly control the tide of battle if I were to spawn into a tank: here, I destroy an enemy vehicle and earn myself a killtacular in the process.

  • The experience gain in solo mode might be stymied, but the flip-side is that unlocks for weapons and vehicles progress normally. This makes solo a great place to become familiar with weapons and vehicles; when something is initially unlocked, there are no additional options available for it, and its handling might require some time to get used to. Previously, trying newly-unlocked weapons out on human servers would be painful, since I’d be destroyed in the blink of eye by folks playing better weapons. Conversely, here in solo All-Out Warfare, I am afforded the chance to get used to a base weapon. Here, I shoot a helicopter out of the sky with the M1A5, the American MBT, in a manner reminiscent of my Battlefield 3 days.

  • Kaleidoscope is set in Songdo, South Korea, and it is another map where there is a large central business district surrounding the actual map itself, a large open park with little cover. The park area offers next to no cover, and one can be attacked from all angles even if they are cautious; people report that nothing is more frustrating than surviving a harrowing firefight at close quarters with another squad, only to be picked off by distant snipers. These events have led some to express a wish for DICE to modify the maps. While the maps themselves cannot be easily changed in terms of layout, simple changes like adding trenches, fences and foliage as cover would make a massive difference.

  • These small changes would allow for more close-quarters environments and also break up the line of sight for snipers, forcing snipers to play more strategically. DICE has previously done something similar in Battlefield V: the Panzerstorm map was notorious for favouring vehicles, and anyone who spawned into a tank could decimate infantry unchallenged. The map was later altered so trenches and fences broke up open fields, giving infantry flanking routes and allowing them to sneak up to vehicles in order to counterattack.

  • I can now say that the AI bots in Battlefield 2042 are definitively a cut above the bots in other games I’ve played: Battlefield 2042 bots can traverse the maps well enough to capture objectives and force players to respond, will reprioritise their focus if I fire on them, and utilise their equipment when appropriate. I have died on several occasions to bots that would astutely swap over to their M5 Recoilless Rifles and hammer my tank with rockets, and similarly, enemy tankers immediately stop firing on infantry with their coaxial MG and change over to their MPAT rounds to take me out when I arrive.

  • This isn’t to say that AI bots can replace human players: there are some moments where the bots can become pretty bone-headed as a result of limitations in their decision algorithms: towards the end of a given Breakthrough match, AI bots will always just congregate on the capture point in the aim of keeping players from capturing it. Allied bots similarly seem to have a problem rushing in to take the points, and as such, the end of a match on some maps becomes impossible to win on my own. However, other maps give me a chance to drive a vehicle onto the capture point and finish the match off quickly.

  • Having now had the chance to try the PBX-45, I’ve found it a superbly reliable and enjoyable weapon to use. The base weapon has low recoil is low, high firing rate and good hip fire accuracy. When aiming down sights, tap-firing the PBX-45 allows it to reach out further than one would imagine. The PBX-45 is inspired by the LWRC SMG-45, a next-generation submachine gun firing the .45 ACP rounds and entered production in 2019. Battlefield 2042‘s weapons are all inspired by existing weapons, but rather than going with venerable classics such as the HK416 or AK12, DICE has opted to go with cutting-edge weapons.

  • Here, I drive a tank on another match of Breakthrough on Breakaway, which is set in Antarctica’s Queen Maud Land region. As it turns out, Shōwa Station (as seen in A Place Further Than The Universe) is also located in Queen Maud Land. Battlefield 2042 supposes that by 2042, illegal drilling operations will have occurred here. For me, Breakaway is probably my favourite of the Battlefield 2042‘s maps; besides sporting excellent scenery, there’s actually a bit of cover to utilise in between the different capture points. Despite being a snowy, icy map, Breakaway is broken up with rocky regions and a massive drilling platform, adding variety to the map.

  • It turns out that the bolt action rifles do have penetration; I found this out when I landed a double kill with a single shot while pushing towards the final set of capture points. While solo All-Out Warfare is fine for levelling up even with the constraints in mind, the fact that everything is so far apart means that firefights are less frequent. I would like to see DICE implement deathmatch options for both multiplayer and solo/co-op in All-Out Warfare, as it would offer players a means of focusing purely on unlocking attachments for their new weapons.

  • For me, the biggest problems in Battlefield 2042 at this moment are performance issues and the fact that progression in Battlefield Portal is restricted. Things like aesthetics can be improved over time, and DICE historically has a good track record when it comes to fixing bugs surrounding ballistic properties and UX. I bought Battlefield 2042 for the fact that one can play against AI bots, and in this area, the game does handle in a satisfactory, if less-than-ideal, manner. However, being restricted in experience gain is a bizarre decision, and the outcome is that a vast majority of players, like myself, are punished by the actions of a few number of players.

  • The solution for experience farming is, theoretically, a simple enough concept: if a server alters AI behaviour and attributes like health to beyond a certain threshold (e.g. setting AI to stand still or having less than half of normal health), then XP is automatically disabled for that server. Otherwise, progression equivalent to that of solo All-Out Warfare would be permitted. This approach would allow solo players to be rewarded for spending time in the game, while only punishing those who abuse Battlefield Portal‘s capabilities. This would be the optimal solution, but in the absence of such an implementation, I still see myself playing Battlefield Portal on its own: everything in this mode is fully unlocked from the start and ready to go for players.

  • For the sake of exploring every map, I ended up swinging by Discarded, which is set in Alang, India. This map features the rusting husks of derelict cargo ships that are being decommissioned and scrapped for parts. The ships themselves are massive, and their labyrinthine interiors are perfect for close quarters combat, whereas outside, wide open spaces on the muddy coasts facilitate sniping and vehicular combat. The extremities in the maps justifies the presence of a + system, which is the colloquial name for the menu that allows for weapon attachments to be swapped on the fly, just like in Crysis. While the system was initially questioned, I’ve actually found it to be quite powerful.

  • Even though I’m presently only able to switch between a handful of sight, barrel and under-barrel types, being able to switch out a holographic sight for long range optics and exchange a suppressor for a heavy barrel has meant I could change my optimal combat range when going from the interiors of a ship, to the wide open plains surrounding each vessel. The + system actually does add a bit of nuance to things, and picking attachments to best suit one’s play style at certain ranges enhances Battlefield‘s weapon customisation system. As players unlock more options for their weapons, it is possible to have an assault rifle handle more like a submachine gun for unexpected close quarter situations with a change to the equipped ammunition and barrel attachment, for instance.

  • During one match of Conquest on Discarded, I ended up boarding an attack helicopter and scored my first-ever kill with a helicopter in any Battlefield game. Until now, the presence of other players meant I never had the chance to learn the controls. While the AI bots are smart enough to train their anti-air guns and missiles towards the sky when I fly, they are nowhere nearly as persistent as human opponents. In this way, I learned how to move the helicopters and get it to go exactly where I wanted it to go, and I also got a better measure for the weapons available from the pilot’s seat.

  • Back on the ground, I will remark that Angel is the best specialist, bar none, for solo All-Out Warfare; his passive ability is to revive downed allies faster and bring them up with their armour topped off, while his equipment allows him to call in a loadout crate. This ability is the most mundane of the specialists, but in practise, it is also the most useful of the abilities. I am now able to switch weapons and gadgets outright if a situation changes: if I am pinned down in an area, I can call in a crate and switch over to the medic loadout, then as soon as I extricate myself, I can return to an anti-armour role. Similarly, if opponents begin engaging me from ranges beyond what I’ve configured my assault rifle to do, I can pop over to a DMR or bolt action rifle.

  • The initial smart rockets attack helicopters have access to are underwhelming and require a few hits in order to kill, but I ended up getting the hang of them. My goal now is to unlock the 70 mm anti-personnel rockets for both factions, which lack anti-armour properties but would be particularly lethal against infantry. Generally speaking, an attack helicopter is at its best when there’s another player occupying the gunner’s seat: they can focus on an anti-infantry role while I deal with vehicles. In the absence of a gunner, and in the knowledge that the AI aren’t overly aggressive about anti-air combat, I have also found success by raising the helicopter’s altitude, switch to the gunner’s seat to clean up infantry on the ground, and then return to the pilot’s seat so I can steer the helicopter back into the air for another attack run.

  • It feels a little unusual to run a predominantly support player without LMGs, and Battlefield 2042 has a rather disappointing two LMGs available for players to unlock at this point in time. The LMG that I do have access to right now, the LCMG, is a decent option to run, and I’ve found it to be quite useful for clearing areas out; on Kaleidoscope on Breakthrough, the last capture point is located on the roof of a skyscraper, and this creates an unusual situation where the defenders are guaranteed to win because the allied AI have no chance of breaking through in a concerted fashion. However, the placement of enemy AI also means that one could capitalise on their behaviour to score kills and work towards their weapon progression.

  • A week ago, it was Black Friday, and I ended up going shopping for new bed frames and mattresses, where I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I saved a hundred dollars on my bed frame. This weekend, the day was spent finishing off the Christmas shopping – I finished most of mine back in the first week of November, having anticipated that supply chain problems could make Christmas shopping considerably more difficult. At present, there are only a few odds and ends to look after, and gifts for the folks most important to me are already secured, leaving me to leisurely browse the local mall. Winter has also begun arriving in my region: the past week had been snowy, and today saw -6ºC temperatures with gentle flurries.

  • A Cantonese-style dinner wrapped up what was a relaxing and somewhat brisk day –  sweet and sour pork with mayonnaise and apricots, beef brisket and daikon, seafood Chinese broccoli and 小炒皇 (jyutping siu2 caau2 wong4, a stir-fry with fish, shrimps, chicken and deep-fried tofu) ended up being the perfect way to take the edge from a cooler night. This weekend is a bit of a breather from the recent flurry of activity, and in the weeks upcoming, the goal will be to finalise the furniture for our new place. The beds, wall units,  couches, coffee table, desks and shelves are good to go, so all that’s left are night tables, shelves for the bedrooms and dining table. Once those are bought, I can capitalise on that vacation time to begin building the furniture, and then begin moving some personal effects over.

  • Sniping in the open beta was a little inconsistent, but with the fixes that have occurred since Battlefield 2042‘s launch, sniping has become a superbly enjoyable activity. I miss the days when the game would give players bonuses for landing headshots from extreme ranges: besides rewarding sharpshooting and skill, it was also an elegant way of telling players their headshot distance. Here, I nail a shot on an AI bot from about 200 metres away; bullet drop in Battlefield 2042 is less pronounced than it was in Battlefield 3 or 4, although this is purely something I’m saying based on observation, and I feel that I’ll still find it useful to spend more time with bolt action rifles.

  • Because I’m certainly not a skilled pilot by any stretch, being able to hop into a match of solo Breakthrough or Conquest and practise flying in the context of a live match has been remarkably helpful. In previous Battlefield games, this simply wouldn’t be possible, and while tutorials are offered, I’ve found that like real life, I tend to learn best when given a chance to apply the basics towards a tangible objective. This is how I picked up C# and Unity for the Giant Walkthrough Brain and how I became a self-taught iOS Developer.

  • The sandbox environment in Battlefield similarly is conducive for self-driven learning, and looking back, this is something I’ve come to enjoy from all of the Battlefield games I’ve picked up. According to the blog’s archives, I wrote about my first impressions of Battlefield V about three years ago. Back then, I found the most frustrating aspect of the game was player visibility. Beyond this, I was hopeful that DICE would continue introducing new content to the game, and while Battlefield V ended support a year-and-a-half into its life, the game did end in a decent state. While visibility was never adequately addressed, DICE did fix a host of issues with Battlefield V, leaving it in a playable state after support for the game was dropped. Unfortunately, the game succumbed to cheaters, and after that final match on Al Marj Encampment in mid-June last year, I’ve never returned. Had Battlefield V offered a solo mode with AI bots, the story would be very different.

  • At around this time three years earlier, I had just accepted a new job offer and had a few weeks to myself. Besides sleeping in and perhaps spending a little more time playing Battlefield V than I would have otherwise, I also decided to take the bus downtown to get a feel for the route one morning. That day, I also ended up enjoying a delicious Lobster and Scrambled Eggs poutine from a local breakfast institution, as well as explore the then newly-opened central library, where I spent the entire morning reading Reader’s Digest’s Treasures of China, a beautiful coffee table book that showcases the beautiful landscapes and dazzling cultural artefacts of China. I’d given up hope of reading that book again, but thanks to a bit of holiday magic in the present, that book will be joining my private library this Christmas along with Smithsonian’s Space, another book I’d been longing to buy.

  • Like Battlefield 2042Battlefield V‘s launch was a bit rough, and players back then similarly decried the lack of content and numerous bugs. However, since DICE did add extensively to Battlefield V‘s content and patched out the more critical bugs, the game became much more immersive: the Pacific Update stands as one of my favourite expansions to any Battlefield game ever. Owing to this history, I hold similar expectations for Battlefield 2042 and will anticipate that with time, more primary weapons, sidearms and maps will be added to the game. For now, though, I am content to work through the unlocks that are available, and here, I manage to score a killtacular on enemies chilling in a vehicle using the M5 Recoilless Rifle. AI bots are fond of gathering in vehicles, making multi-kills quite common.

  • The SVK is modelled after the SVCh (Snaiperskaya Vintovka Chukavin), a Russian designated marksman rifle manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern. The real world equivalent is designed to supplant the SVD marksman rifle and unlike its predecessor, is a modular weapon that can accommodate different calibres and possesses a Picatinny rail, allowing it to mount different attachments. From what I’ve seen of the SVK so far, it hits harder than the DM7, but has a reduced magazine capacity. The default optic is also a little tricky to use.

  • Conversely, the AK24 is an excellent assault rifle: par the course for the Kalashnikov derivatives, the AK24 has a slower firing rate and more recoil than the M5A3, but in exchange, hits harder per round and is more reliable at range. In the beginning, I only had the iron sights for it, but as I’d mentioned in the open beta post, iron sights no longer bother me quite as much as they did during my Battlefield 3 days: being forced to use iron sights in Battlefield 1 and V has seen to it that I’ve adjusted, and in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, not having a sight also meant being able to equip an alternate attachment instead.

  • While I’ve yet to unlock the attachments that bring out the best in the AK24, even having a few attachments to bolster the weapon’s performance slightly is welcome. Shortly after unlocking the AK24, I returned to Revival to see how the weapon handled, and that particular match was exhilarating: my team had fallen behind early on, but thanks to my captures, we held the lead until late game, when the opposing team managed to sweep victory from under us by the margin of five tickets. The outcome was as lifelike as any match against human opponents.

  • As such, while Battlefield 2042 still needs a bit of work before I’m ready to step into the realm of multiplayer, the solo mode has proven to be satisfactory, offering me a modernised sandbox environment to play in without worrying about rampant cheaters and juvenile players plastering memes into text chat. As such, I see no merit in paying too much heed to the non-stop vitriol that is being generated on social media; at the end of the day, I’m having fun, and that’s all that matters. I have seen that Battlefield is most enjoyable with some mates, but since most of my friends don’t have an interest in this series, I’ve spent the whole of Battlefield 341 and V on my own. This has never diminished my experience in any way, and admittedly, it is fun to see how far I can get on my own.

  • Having now gained a rough idea of how Battlefield 2042‘s solo modes handle, I do see myself returning, at my leisure, to unlock things and have a good time in my private sandboxes, away from a community that has only become more negative and unbearable since I last wrote about Battlefield. I don’t play Battlefield for a living, and I don’t tie my self-worth to my performance in a video game, so I see little reason to participate in that particular side of the community; so long as the game provides me the large-scale sandbox experience I’ve come to love, I will continue to enjoy it. Finally, DICE has announced that a new map will be joining Battlefield 2042 – this map is called “Exposure”, and I am rather looking forwards to checking it out. This time around, thanks to the presence of a solo mode, I am similarly confident that I’ll be able to easily explore the map once it becomes available.

My impressions after spending twelve hours in Battlefield 2042 have been largely positive, thanks in no small part to the fact that it is now possible to get a private All-Out Warfare session going. Here, the limitations that affect the larger multiplayer mode are not as apparent. Map sizes are slightly smaller, and vehicles are always available, making travel a little easier. I’m squaring off on a server of 63 AI, rather than 128 human players, so performance is similarly less of an issue. For this reason, I do see myself staying in the solo All-Out Warfare experience for the foreseeable future. While being killed by cheaters and having to contend with youth whose vocabulary seems limited to memes is annoying, the main reason why the AI bots remain appealing is simply from the fact that my machine is aging and therefore, unlikely to be able to keep up on a server of 128 human players. While perhaps speaking poorly of Battlefield 2042‘s multiplayer component, these observations also serve to show how powerful AI bots have become. We are now at a point where I am able to play a convincing match against AI bots without ever encountering human players, and although the AI bots are still limited (allies and foes alike do not adapt to situations as quickly as humans would), I’ve nonetheless had a solid time so far. The biggest impediment right now is the fact that experience and unlocks are constrained right now thanks to the actions of a few impertinent players creating “1 HP EASY XP FARM” modes and flooding Battlefield Portal with these servers during the game’s early access period. The problem was exacerbated by unethical gaming journalists promoting these modes as a means of quickly levelling up during this timeframe, harming the experience for the remainder of the players. The reduced XP has made it far slower to unlock new weapons and gear, as well as outright preventing attachments from being unlocked in custom TDM experiences. So far, this has not been an impediment, but as I continue to level up, and the experience required for each successive level increases, I imagine that I will be feeling the effects of this more severely, the further I level up: DICE and EA did assure players that they would have full access to progression regardless of which modes they play, so it is imperative that progression be returned to Battlefield Portal such that it is at least similar to what it is in solo All-Out Warfare. DICE has had a history of sorting out issues to create increasingly stable and consistently enjoyable games, so I am hoping that Battlefield Portal and solo All-Out Warfare will receive their own fixes in the near future. In the meantime, I will continue advancing through Battlefield 2042 at my own pace – Battlefield 2042‘s latest patch was a major one and addresses a large number of in-game issues that improved gameplay in a tangible way, and most excitingly, added vehicular combat TDM to Battlefield Portal. This particular mode has been of great interest to me – it will now be possible to properly set up a server where I can simulate the outcome of pitting myself against AnimeSuki’s conceited Mädchen und Panzer World of Tanks clan to settle a decade-old argument, and I have a special discussion in mind on this matter once I get that game mode set up.

Battlefield 2042: The Private Portal Experience and A Return To Noshahr Canals

“Don’t be discouraged by a slow start. It offers the time and testing you need to lay the right foundation for success.” –Michael Hyatt

It’s December 2013, a few weeks after the Black Friday sale on origin, and I’d just picked up Battlefield 3 for eight dollars. After joining a match of conquest on Caspian Border, I decide to look around the server browser and see what other modes there were: team death match (TDM) on Noshahr Canals dominated the browser when I narrowed the results down, and out of curiosity, I joined such a server. The fierce firefights among the shipping container captivated me, and in the months coming, TDM in Noshahr Canals became a mainstay of my Battlefield experience; the close quarters environment the map provided afforded me with instant action, standing in stark contrast with conquest, which requires one to travel great distances. In this way, for a little bit of Battlefield excitement during moments where I didn’t have time to sit down for a full match of conquest, Noshahr Canals TDM proved perfect, allowing me to blow off some steam before returning to my coursework. In this way, my open studies term ended, and I accepted an offer to enroll in graduate school; during this time, Battlefield 3 continued to entertain me, and overall, I would go on to tally 137 hours before Battlefield 4 caught my attention. Over the years, I’ve greatly enjoyed the time I spent playing through Battlefield 4, Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V, although none of them quite had the same magic as being able to just spawn in on Noshahr Canals and unwind. When Battlefield 2042‘s Portal mode (Battlefield Portal for brevity) was announced, DICE immediately had my attention; Battlefield Portal allows players to create game modes tailored to their own liking, and although the mode is still quite limited in terms of features and options, it has allowed me to faithfully re-create the Noshahr Canals experience that I remember from my time as a graduate student. Thus, despite Battlefield 2042 launching to unfavourable reception, after assessing things for myself, I’ve determined that now is the appropriate time to kick off my journey into Battlefield 2042 by putting my own private Noshahr Canals TDM server to the test. However, things weren’t all going to be sunshine and rainbows: when Battlefield 2042 became available, players immediately set about flooding Battlefield Portal with experience farming servers. This created a situation where, because they had taken up all of the available resources, other players were unable to initialise their own instances. Moreover, DICE’s response to these farms was to outright disable experience gain and progression. At the time of writing, progression is available to a limited extent, and DICE has managed to address the issue of server instances overwhelming their hardware; after I finished setting up Battlefield 2042, it was a suspenseful few seconds as I went over to my list of private experiences and requested a new instance for my own AI bots-only server.

Moments later, I smiled broadly: my instance had begun, and right away, I was captivated by the immersion and aesthetics. Battlefield 2042‘s portrayal of Noshahr Canals is entirely faithful to the original. The aesthetics and handling are identical to what I remember from Battlefield 3, as are the weapons and sounds. During the duration of my first match against AI bots, I felt as though I were back in graduate school, running around and blasting people when I was supposed to be reading papers for my thesis. The AI bots actually do put up a decent fight, as well. However, my server latency was quite high, and the hit registration is quite inconsistent, especially at longer ranges. Moreover, Battlefield Portal doesn’t yet provide all of my favourite maps from the old classics, and many of the weapons I came to love are unavailable. The hit detection is a known issue affecting Battlefield 2042, and while it was mildly jarring against AI bots, it is clear that against human players, where millisecond differences can mean the difference between a victorious firefight or being sent back to the spawn screen, bad hit detection is a major game-breaker. DICE is said to be working on a fix at this time, along with a host of other issues the game is facing in the performance department. While my eight-and-a-half year old rig is able to run Battlefield 2042 (I’m hitting about 50 FPS on medium-high settings), I have heard that people with current-generation hardware are actually getting only slightly improved performance to my machine, despite having hardware upwards of two to five times more powerful. This can be immensely frustrating, since it does show that Battlefield 2042 is poorly optimised, or even unoptimised. Moreover, the UI feels unwieldy and cumbersome: things that could be accomplished in a single mouse click require two or three clicks, and some things that look interactive are not. The lack of a scoreboard is also quite noticeable; even though I am playing against AI bots, it is helpful to know how many deaths I’ve taken during the course of a match. While the game launched in a difficult state, DICE has had a history of consistently improving their titles over time, and their best Battlefield games similarly had rough starts, before becoming polished to the point where they’re now remembered as the best Battlefield games ever made.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open my Battlefield Portal experience with a kill from the venerable M16A3, Battlefield 3‘s best assault rifle; the M16A3 I remember had low recoil, high damage and a high rate of fire, making it the perfect weapon for beginning players. However, as memory serves, I switched over to the Heckler and Koch M416 almost as soon as I unlocked it. While both weapons are excellent, the reason why the M416 appealed to me was because both Russian and American factions would be able to use it, and I could therefore unlock attachments for the weapon more easily.

  • Battlefield Portal‘s implementation of things is such that Noshahr Canals handles exactly the same way as I remember from eight years earlier. I am able to knife my way through the chain-link fences of Noshahr Canals, and barriers where I’d expect to be able to vault over are similarly impassible, as they once were. With classic mechanics returning, I swapped over to the M416 and had a grand old time with it, winning my first-ever match against the AI bots and earning myself an achievement in Steam.

  • Battlefield 2042 is the first Battlefield since Bad Company 2 to be available on Steam out of the gates, and being able to utilise Steam’s built-in screenshot command was remarkably convenient. Since I upgraded to Windows 10 back in May, FRAPS no longer worked with DirectX 12, and so, I’ve been using Rivatuner for screenshots in games outside of Steam. This did have its disadvantages, as it required MSI Afterburner, and this had been causing my machine to suffer from Blue Screens more often than I’d like. After uninstalling MSI Afterburner, my machine’s become a ways more stable, but it is clear that it’s reaching the end of its lifespan.

  • For Battlefield Portal, I have noticed that I am averaging around 50 FPS, and the game has not given me any trouble in my matches so far. However, an old nemesis, high ping, has returned – I’m not sure if it’s a deficiency in servers in western North America, but every time I’ve spun up a private server for my matches, I am eternally stuck with pings of above 150 ms. On any normal server against human players, I’d probably be kicked for high ping, but since this is my server, and AI bots couldn’t care less, I was able to continue playing on my matches.

  • I found that in TDM, the AI bots are actually quite convincing to play against: unlike Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War or Halo Infinite, where I was massacring the bots wholesale, Battlefield 2042‘s bots actually put up a good fight. They can move about the map and shoot with accuracy resembling that of a human’s, rather than getting stuck in the map and shooting with perfect accuracy, as was common to AI bots of an older era. Altogether, the bots are sufficiently sophisticated as to make AI bots-only TDM entertaining.

  • For kicks, I ended up switching over to the recon class during one match and equipped the M39 EMR, a semi-automatic marksman rifle returning from Battlefield 3. Since TDM requires more CQC, I swapped over to the ACOG sights, but it became clear that sniping wasn’t quite as precise as I remember: there were a handful of moments where I would line up a headshot and fire, only to get no hitmarkers and deal no damage. With semi-automatic rifles, the wonky hit detection is most noticeable at longer ranges, while automatic weapons demonstrate how unsteady they can be because of an issue with bloom.

  • Here, I empty my P90 into a foe, depleting my magazine in the process. Back in the day, I could clean out three people with a single magazine – the extremely high bullet deviation in Battlefield 2042 is a known issue, and it makes firefights highly inconsistent. In previous years, I’ve prided myself on being consistently skillful in Battlefield, standing in stark contrast with players of gatcha games like Kantai Collection and Genshin Impact. I have no patience for games where there is a significant luck component, and at least in older shooters, one’s performance and enjoyment boils down to skill rather than chance.

  • Watching bullets bloom around in a random fashion takes the skill out of a firefight – at long ranges, one lacks the confidence that they’ll be able to nail down a target, and in close quarters, it can mean that one takes more bullets than expected to overcome a foe. In a mode where teammates are not able to resupply me, this is especially challenging, since I am running out of ammunition far more quickly than I had in Battlefield 3.

  • On the flipside, when things do work out in Battlefield Portal, they work extremely well, and here, I give the engineer class a go – the SCAR-H is every bit as fun as I remember it was. Back in Battlefield 3, the SCAR-H was a hard-hitting carbine with a low firing rate, making it more effective at long rangers compared to other carbines available to the engineer. To overcome the bloom, I ended up falling back on the old trick of tap-firing to help me control recoil better. Over time, I imagine that I’ll reacclimatise to the recoil mechanics of Battlefield 3; at the time of writing, I’ve just spent a shade over two hours in Battlefield 2042.

  • With two hours in the books, while I’m certainly not familiar with Battlefield 2042 and its mechanics just yet, I have seen enough to know that I am happy with my purchase and will be continuing to play this game to more fully experience the single-player aspects. The presence of AI bots means that I no longer have to commit several hours per week to unlock everything; earlier Battlefield titles had recurring events that I needed to direct a nontrivial amount of time to, and these days, dedicated gaming time is something I do not have a whole lot of. As such, knowing that Battlefield 2042 does offer options for me to play at my own pace is most welcome.

  • The transition away from gaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I have mentioned that being offline has actually been most cathartic. Earlier today, I stepped out to begin doing a cleaning of our new home – most of the place has been wiped down now, and it’s just the bathrooms left. We also ended up taking some detailed measurements ahead of purchasing new furniture. After this comes vacuuming and clearing things down once more, and then the furniture shopping can begin. Because this took much of the afternoon, the sun had set by the time we decided to call it a day, and we ended up grabbing an old classic, Southern Fried Chicken with gravy and fries, washed down with a tall glass of ginger ale, for dinner.

  • We’ve also begun watching the latest 007 movie, No Time To Die; this movie had been delayed several times, and while it was originally to première back in April 2020, the global health crisis resulted in the release being pushed back to November 2020, and then in January, the release date was further changed to October 2021. The rationale was that the film was an integral part of the box office, and while originally, there had been no plans to make the film available on streaming platforms, No Time To Die did end up becoming available on November 9. The home release is scheduled for December 21 of this year. One wishes that more anime films would do the same, although this is a pipe dream at best, and as for No Time To Die itself, other than a completely disappointing opening theme, the film itself is solid in all other areas, worthy of any James Bond film.

  • Back in Battlefield Portal, I’ve switched over to the support class and equipped the M240B light machine gun. I equipped the bipod, mounted up and began shooting at distant foes, landing a few kills after finding that tap-firing has returned; because of how bloom currently works, automatic weapons are always accurate with their first bullet, and by tapping out two to three bullets, I am able to reach out further than if I keep the trigger down. The M240B isn’t the M249, which was my preferred LMG back in the day, but it remains a solid choice.

  • Besides the M240B, players can also equip the M60E and the Type-88 as a part of the support class. It is not lost on me that the weapon variety in Battlefield Portal is significantly less than what Battlefield 3 originally provided; at launch, there were seven LMGs compared to the three in Battlefield Portal. I am hoping that over time, more classic weapons and maps will be added to the mode. In particular, being able to run Metro, Seine River and Grand Bazaar would be particularly welcome: besides Noshahr Canals and Caspian Border, these were the maps I had grown very familiar with prior to picking up the Premium Pass.

  • Here, I manage a triple kill (three kills in rapid succession) on Ai bots hanging out in the container area using the SPAS-12. This shotgun makes a welcome return, and in Battlefield 3, was introduced with the Close Quarters expansion (which was my personal favourite). After I unlocked it, it quickly became my go-to shotgun because it had the tightest spread of any shotgun, allowing it to remain reliable at longer ranges than other shotguns. The other mainstay, the 870 MCS, is the most powerful shotgun on a per-shot basis.

  • Running the recon class and the M98B, chambered for the .308 Lapua Magnum rounds, brings back memories of a Firing Range post series I ran many years ago for Sword Art Online‘s Sinon, who ran with a PGM Hecate. The Firing Range posts were my attempt at replicating LevelCap’s Loadout series, where he ran with iconic setups from TV shows, films and novels to see how they’d perform in Battlefield. However, since anime loadouts were never covered, I figured I’d try my hand at them. The closest equivalent I could have in Battlefield 3 was the M98B, and at the time, I’d just reached a high enough rank to unlock the weapon. While capturing screenshots for the discussion, I ended up going on my first-ever killstreak to earn myself a combat efficiency ribbon.

  • The Firing Range series never really took off, but now that Battlefield Portal is here, assuming more content is added to it (by way of new maps and weapons), it could be fun to bring back the Firing Range and try out things from Sora no Woto or even Girls und Panzer. In fact, one of the possibilities about Battlefield Portal I had been particularly excited about was the prospect of being able to do a 1-versus-20 faceoff, featuring one modern MBT against twenty WWII-era Panzer IVs and Tiger Is. Being able to finally simulate what would happen against Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi’s beloved tanks would have finally allowed me to put to bed the tired adage that Sumeragi was an expert on all things.

  • For the time being, however, I’m not sufficiently versed in Battlefield Portal‘s online editor to put together such a mode: I would need to have a means of expressing the logic to spawn players directly into vehicles and then preventing them from exiting their vehicles. In fact, I’m not even sure if this is possible in the current editor. Originally, air superiority existed in Battlefield 3, where players would spawn into a jet and were unable to exit, creating vehicle-only combat. The same rules would hypothetically allow for a tanks-only match, and I am hoping that, if it is indeed the case that such a mode is not presently possible, it is added in the future.

  • Assuming this to be the case, I would also love to run a single Battlefield 2042 soldier armed to the teeth with modern AT weapons, against twenty German tanks, just to prove that Panzerfahren on its own is not representative of modern warfare (which largely follows a combined arms doctrine) and therefore, Sumeragi should not be treating Girls und Panzer as an anime requiring military expertise to understand. Until such a time as when Battlefield Portal becomes flexible, there is still quite a bit to do. I’ve got a few modes set up to play classic conquest on Bad Company 2 and 1942 era maps as well, and Battlefield 2042 also offers a solo mode for conquest and breakthrough.

  • Altogether, I will be continuing on with my Battlefield 2042 journey over the next few months, and my next aim in this game will simply be to explore maps in the solo mode. There is limited experience gain here, and the objective is simply to get my weapons up as far as the cap will allow. Once I’ve had a chance to try the All-Out Warfare modes, I’ll be returning in December to share my thoughts on things like gunplay and map design, once DICE has had the chance to smooth things out. Finally, it is worth mentioning that I also picked up Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut alongside Battlefield 2042; the game is on sale for 85 percent off right now. I’d played through the original back in 2014, and as we near the Giant Walkthrough Brain’s tenth anniversary, it does feel like Human Revolution will be worth revisiting, as well.

Battlefield 2042, especially though Battlefield Portal, has shown that the game does have the potential to be the definitive modern military shooter I’ve been looking for: the inclusion of AI bots are Battlefield 2042‘s most significant feature, and originally, DICE had indicated that players would be able to unlock everything even when playing purely AI bots. With this now disabled, DICE appears to have reneged on their original promise about Battlefield Portal. With this being said, Battlefield Portal already has everything unlocked for the classic mode, and while there are serious issues with hit detection, it does not feel as frustrating as it could be against human foes. Overall, having been around Battlefield for almost a decade as a casual player, my ultimate metric for determining whether or not a given experience is worthwhile is fun and immersion. More serious players are right to hold DICE to a higher standard to ensure that game mechanics are polished, and that their experience is as smooth as possible. For me, however, I play intermittently, to blow off steam and unwind; what I’ve seen in Battlefield Portal is promising and looks to precisely fit the bill for what I seek. Ultimately, so long as DICE addresses the performance issues and bugs, I could see myself continuing with this game for a very long time: Noshahr Canals TDM comprises of around three eighths of the time I spent in Battlefield 3, and the ability to play against AI bots, away from cheaters and overly-serious streamers, means that Battlefield Portal offers that fine balance between the large-scale sandbox experience Battlefield is best known for, and the personalised individual experience I’ve come to look for in games. While I won’t claim that Battlefield 2042 is in an acceptable state at present, I remain optimistic that over time, the more critical issues will be addressed, and I will have the game I’ve been dreaming of having; a place to mess around with new concepts and re-live old memories alike, all at a pace of my choosing. Those first few matches on Noshahr Canals were promising, and despite the current flaws in Battlefield 2042, not having to play against cheaters and try-hards is a breath of fresh air, precisely what I look for in games with longevity.