Xbox Series X Halo Collection upgrades can't fill the Infinite void

The announcement of Halo: Master Chief Collection Xbox Series X enhancements leaves us thinking about what could have been.

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Microsoft boasts that the Xbox Series X launch lineup is the largest in Xbox's history. Except the most glaring issue is a lack of any must-buy exclusive heavy-hitters outside of the Gears Tactics console port. Halo Infinite was supposed to be that game, but after a mixed public showing and an internal assessment from Microsoft, the game was pushed back to 2021 and no major title was left to take its place.

On October 20, 343 Industries confirmed that an enhanced version of Halo: The Master Chief Collection is coming to Xbox Series X, and it boasts some impressive technical enhancements. It should offer an exciting preview of what to expect from Halo Infinite, even if it may feel like too little, too late.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection first released in 2015 and contains remastered versions of every mainline Halo game from 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved to 2012's Halo 4. The Xbox Series X and S enhanced version of the bundle won't be available in time for the launch of next-gen systems. Instead, the patch will be released on November 17, 2020.

Regardless, it's an impressive upgrade that will make the campaign and multiplayer every game in the collection run at a 120 FPS frame rate at a resolution of up to 4K. Both of those numbers are higher than the current industry standard, which is 1080p and 30 FPS. So it gives us a taste of what may be in store with Halo Infinite.

While its gameplay reveal was divisive mainly due to lackluster visuals, the game would have delivered in the resolution and frame rate department. That would have been important if it had actually been a launch title. Microsoft has confirmed that Halo: Infinite will run at 4K and 60 FPS at default. A tweet in July then confirmed that the multiplayer mode would run at 120 FPS.

Even better, the multiplayer for Halo Infinite is supposedly to be free-to-play. This was all revealed when a 2020 launch was still on the cards. A free-to-play Halo with a premium campaign would've been a massive win for Microsoft at launch and could've helped them recapture some of the magic that the Halo series has lost over the years.

For now, the biggest new console exclusives for Xbox Series X are Gears Tactics and Enlisted, as other games like Dirt 5 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon will also be on PlayStation 5, even if the PlayStation 5 versions are coming later. Delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic seem to have decimated the system's launch window lineup, as The Medium's release is not until December 10 and Scorn was pushed back to 2021.

Even though the PS5 has had problems with its marketing and pre-orders, as a console it seems more appealing as a day one purchase when its launch includes games like Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon's Souls, and Godfall. While Microsoft's system does appear to be more powerful, has some good multiplatform launch titles, and is bolstered by the fact that Game Pass is a fantastic deal, so it will be a fine system to pick up on launch day.

Still, it's obvious that console exclusives are the one key area where its launch pales in comparison to Sony. A free-to-play, 4K, 120 FPS Halo Infinite really would've changed that conversation, even if it was the only new Microsoft game there at launch.

The announcement of these excellent enhancements to the Halo remasters makes that delay sting even more. The Xbox Series X launch looks to mainly just be satisfying for those who have never owned an Xbox console before and will appreciate the next-gen enhancements more as the coolest looking exclusives won't be there at launch.

343 Industries and Microsoft did seem to think that a delay was the best option for Halo Infinite, so hopefully the game will be all the better for it. While the Xbox Series X's launch lineup is muted, things will hopefully start picking up steam as exclusives like Halo Infinite, Psychonauts 2, Avowed, and Everwild roll out.

Xbox Series X will be released on November 10, 2020.

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