Both of this year’s blockbuster FPSes, Call Of Duty: Vanguard and Battlefield 2042, launched with something up their sleeves: bugs. Even after some patches, these darn creepy crawlies aren’t shaken off so easily. These games are plagued by crashes, glitches, and general instability, to the point where playing them can be as fun as wading through a swarm of locusts.
Halo Infinite, though? The multiplayer component that had a bunch of flight tests? Pretty solid. Sure, a few bugs and matchmaking issues, but for the most part, it’s the most stable multiplayer FPS I’ve played this year. What was 343’s magic pesticide? Time. Simple as. Something Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 are only just catching up on.
In my Battlefield 2042 review, I said that it’s a game “that doesn’t feel ready yet”. Call Of Duty: Vanguard isn’t quite as riddled with performance issues, but I stll mention how “fragile” it feels in my Vanguard review. It’s funny, actually, as both express their difficulties in different ways. Battlefield 2042 seems slow and lumbering. You’ll clunk your hovercraft into a wall and it’ll spin into the stratosphere. If you’re too heavy-handed, the floor is at risk of falling through or sprouting a geyser that’ll spit you god knows where. Before you know it, you’ll fall through the earth into an infinite expanse.
Meanwhile Vanguard is thin by comparison. There’s just something about the game that’s light, almost to the point where everything seems like a hollow prop or a projection. I’m confident that if you prodded your operator, your finger would pass straight through them. I swear the game flickers for a second before it crashes to desktop. And if the crashes don't get you, other things will. Spawns are rotten, for instance.
I mean, just look at this:
Even a brilliant game like Forza Horizon 5 had its launch woes. Many who pre-ordered the Ultimate Edition on PC weren’t able to access the game early as promised, because it either wouldn’t boot up or crashed at loading screens. And then, when it launched for everyone, cruising around Mexico with your friends wasn’t as easy as rolling up with a four-door. By no means was Forza Horizon 5 as bad as Battlefield 2042, but you’d all need to park up in a matchmaking ferry and hope it didn’t steer off course. After a couple of hotfixes, things have thankfully calmed down, but man, it was another blockbuster launch with a less than solid landing.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer on the other hand? Astonishingly robust. Much like Master Chief’s dense metal frame, you could hammer it with thousands of players and it wouldn’t budge. I wasn’t able to make launch night because I had a badminton match to go to, but many of my friends were. As I went out the door, I’m pretty certain I mouthed, “Good luck with the servers, lads, heh heh heh!” to myself like a sly villain, as they all gathered in Discord for the evening's entertainment. I returned later to find they’d had a swell time and that there were no issues at all. Oh. Okay then.
Every time I’ve jumped into the game, it’s been as smooth as Master Chief’s nuts and bolts after their monthly oil up. I squad up with my buddies and I clutch fiery skulls and I have an uninterrupted time. We giggle, we shout, we watch our battle pass progress inch forwards. God, it’s great. This is a structurally sound experience with matchmaking and servers as solid as Chief’s fist to a Grunt’s rump.
Thing is, Halo Infinite benefited from an extra year of development time. After Craig The Brute got publicly roasted for being clean shaven at E3, the game’s release window slipped from November 2020 to December 2021. And while it’s hard to know how much time they poured into the multiplayer side of things, it’s a luxury that’s almost certainly helped.
Not to mention the few ‘flight’ tests Halo Infinite had over the last few months. These gave keen Halo Insiders like myself the chance to test out early portions of the game’s multiplayer in carefully controlled weekend sessions. While COD and Battlefield hosted betas, Infinite’s offerings felt more substantial. Namely, there were plenty of them, and they were extremely receptive to feedback from some of their long term fans. Again, this must’ve helped matters.
And of course, covid happened, but dev studios like Sledgehammer and Dice still have severe pressure to hit deadlines. They must stick to the schedule or the shareholders will stamp their feet. More and more we’re seeing these big games arrive with glaring issues and it’s clear the people working hard to bring us these amazing things need more time. Time to iron out issues - but also time to see these organisations shift their workplace culture in a much, much healthier direction.
I know this isn’t exactly a smoking hot take. This isn’t an earth-shattering revelation. I’m not emerging on my hands and knees from a burned-out cavern with a clock in my hands like I’ve just discovered crunch. I’m just echoing what so many people have championed for so long now: developers deserve to put out a game they’re proud of.
Without the luxuries of time, I watch as Battlefield 2042 desperately promises bug fixes. Over the next month or more, this is likely what we’ll come to expect, with community members providing most of the fun through their Portal creations. Meanwhile, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer can move onwards and upwards from the get-go, even if it’s lacking big features like Forge. Normally I’d be a bit like, “Man, the Halo package here is a bit slim,” but given the quality of the releases this year, I feel blessed by the simplicity and solidity of Infinite.