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Halo Infinite’s season 3 ray tracing update is here, and looks kinda underwhelming

Sir, polishing this light

As promised last year, Halo Infinite’s season 3 update has arrived with a new ray tracing option for us PC folks. Although it was announced as part of a promo event for AMD’s Radeon RX 7000 GPUs, Infinite’s ray tracing works on any graphics card that can usually handle RT effects; all you need to do is download the update and flick it on in the display settings.

Granted, it’s not the most visually sumptuous form of ray tracing I’ve clapped a visor on. Reflections and global illumination are unchanged, as it’s only sun shadows – shadows cast using a simulated sun as the light source – that get the RT treatment.

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This can add a bit of extra environmental detail, as you can see in the shots below. Especially with ray traced sun shadows on its High and Medium settings, shadows are more visible where they logically should be, and are better defined without looking unnaturally sharp.

You can also see below how ray tracing touches up the shadows cast by the Mongoose ATV, so that they’re not a pixel’s width away from separating from the wheels entirely. Its finer details, like the brush guard, are also more visible with the new, upgraded setting.

Let’s be honest, though, these are not major enhancements to how Halo Infinite looks. Not every game is going to be a Control or a Portal with RTX when it comes to the breadth of RT effects, but you’d be surprised how much work a single sub-setting can do. Just last week I was fiddling about Doom Eternal’s ray traced reflections on the Steam Deck, and even with unchanged shadows and lighting, these still made a noticeable difference for the better. Not counting the performance cost, mind.

Halo Infinite’s new sun shadows don’t look bad at all, but they are easy to miss, especially in the boing-boing-blast chaos of multiplayer. And they still have their pound of framerate flesh: at Ultra/1440p but without ray tracing, my RTX 3070-based test rig averaged 115fps in the Bazaar map. With ray tracing, that fell to 95fps, a tax of 17%. Obviously a card like the RTX 3070 can handle that but it could prove difficult to pay if you’re on an older, weaker (but still ray tracing capable) GPU like the RTX 2060. Remember, trace rays at your own risk, and potentially under parental supervision.

It should be noted that season 3, titled Echoes Within, features much more besides. There are new multiplayer modes, Escalation Slayer and a Bandit-only version of Tactical Slayer; a new semi-auto rifle; new maps for Arena and Big Team Battle modes; a new piece of deployable equipment that releases a sphere of holographic smoke (seems to me like a hologram or smoke would have done the trick by, but hey, have both); loads of cosmetics, some contained within a 100-tier battle pass; and a handful of bug fixes and balance changes. Here be the patch notes.

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