After taking part in a few hours of the Halo Infinite multiplayer technical flight – basically a fancy term for a beta test – I came away with only a few thoughts. It definitely plays like Halo through and through, with you and several other super-soldiers facing off in small arenas with a variety of firearms, grenades and equipment at your disposal.
There are a few new weapons and abilities, but, otherwise, it does very little to distinguish itself from the last decade of Halo games aside from some very spiffy graphics. That’s good and bad – on one hand, it’s best not to diverge too far from a tried-and-true formula.
On the other, the whole time I was playing, I wanted to either be playing something fresher or embrace the nostalgia and fire up 2007’s Halo 3 or 2010’s Halo: Reach. A fresher, similar title does exist, and the name of the game is Splitgate.
Splitgate is an arena shooter very similar to Halo, but it has the added twist of players being able to place two portals in various spots on the battlefield – once planted, players can use these portals to flank, shoot enemies from unexpected angles and what-have-you.
This one twist adds a plethora of new strategies, arguably reinvigorating a dying breed of first-person shooters – the majority of FPS gamers have moved onto battle royales. The game entered early access on Steam in 2019, and although Splitgate initially struggled to maintain a solid player base, the game exploded in popularity when the beta build hit consoles in July, surpassing 600,000 downloads in its first week.
Indie developer 1047 Games had not prepared its servers for such an influx of players, which went offline numerous times over the course of a month as it scrambled to make the game support 100,000 simultaneous online gamers.
1047 Games initially planned to call Splitgate done a few weeks after the July beta but ultimately chose to have the title remain in an indefinite beta until it is more confident calling it a full product. The game’s small explosion in popularity gave the team newfound motivation and inspiration after Splitgate had largely flown under the radar for more than two years.
Although Splitgate does not sport the same level of polish or anywhere near the graphical fidelity of Halo Infinite, I’m honestly more interested in the new indie game than old reliable. Beyond just these two games, the industry as a whole suffers from brand recognition being such a major selling point – no matter how good a game is, it can easily be missed by consumers if it’s too similar to massive franchises like Call of Duty, the Legend of Zelda and Assassin’s Creed.
The fast-paced platformer formula of Sonic the Hedgehog has been emulated in recent years by the likes of Spark the Electric Jester and Freedom Planet, but both series struggle to compete with the blue blur despite Sega’s continual output of mediocre Sonic games. Frankly, the hedgehog has more bad games than good at this point – yet brand recognition keeps the series alive and well, even when challenged by superior new IPs.
When it comes to dethroning successful, decades-old franchises, it seems timing is everything. The “metroidvania” genre is a remarkably unclever portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, and in the yearslong absence of new games from either franchise, indie titles Hollow Knight and Dead Cells saw a surprising amount of success.
Hollow Knight began as a modest Kickstarter title and went on to sell 3 million copies while Dead Cells has managed to maintain an impressive 89/100 Metascore based on 36 critic reviews. In this current age of AAA publishers pushing out all too many lazy remasters and buggy new releases, it’s nice to see small studios pulling their weight more than ever.
And if these indie efforts compete with big-name games for sales, maybe they’ll be forced to innovate a little more. Super Mario keeps it fresh every time, but the same can’t be said for the likes of Battlefield, Pokémon and countless others. That’s why I’d like to see Splitgate succeed more than Halo Infinite.
Riordan Zentler can be reached at riordanzentler.com.
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