Halo Infinite Accessibility
Halo Infinite is the most accessible Halo game to date, but the clumsy implementation of its vast array of accessibility settings leaves it drastically rough around the edges.
Score5.5 out of 10
- Good subtitle options
- Simple management and menu navigation
- Scan for objectives feature is nice when it's clear
- Multiplayer maps are contained and fun
- Small HUD and text
- Subtitles need to be bigger
- Waypoints are hard to see
- Directional indications are rough
- Tiring open-world on top of fast-paced combat
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!?” I shout out loud to my TV, staring at a group of bruised marines I’ve just saved from a camp as they stare right back at me. I’ve listened to their audio cues, looked for waypoints, rummaged through menus for objectives, and still cannot find where these marines are meant to go. Halo Infinite is a wonderfully enjoyable shooter that excels at keeping the Halo combat it’s known for intact, but the vast number of accessibility settings available are implemented clumsily and unfortunately don’t work in tandem with the gameplay.
If you caught my preview that went live the other week, my experience only covered the first 4 campaign missions and I was already having a hard time on account of small text, tiny waypoints, and other hard-to-see elements. Now, with more time with the single-player campaign and also the multiplayer open beta on Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, these are my thoughts on how Halo Infinite handles accessibility.
Note: This review mostly focuses on the single-player portion of the game.
Boot up, Spartan
From the first boot, following a mandatory “Press A-Button to continue” to proceed past the title screen, you’re dropped into the Halo Infinite accessibility menu. From here, you’re also given the option to navigate through all of the other available sub-menus should you want to go more in-depth with your preferences. Sadly, there are no previews for certain options such as UI changes and subtitle adjustments, but what is available sparks hope before gameplay has even started.
However, with the number of options in Halo Infinite in addition to Xbox’s prominent push and standards for accessibility in both its consoles and games, it’s easy to assume that this game is accessible on the surface. But it’s important to note that the number of accessibility options available does not determine if a game is accessible, and Halo Infinite seems to be a perfect example of that.
Edge of your sofa gaming
Let’s start with one of my biggest complaints, the tiny visual elements throughout the game. While you can increase the UI text size through presets, it really only makes a difference to the menu text itself. Although it does also increase text size across the rest of the game, it’s not by much and still what I’d consider small. I found objectives, lore, and location information all incredibly inaccessible to me unless I was sat on the floor by the TV like I used to do when playing the original Halo on my tiny silver analog TV as a kid.
The HUD feels over-stylized with glows and blurring on top of white text on light blue backgrounds. All my information from the text to button-prompts feels very hard to make out due to the stylization in addition to the fact it’s all so tiny. Switching between grenades and tools is only achievable for me if I am either at the edge of my seat leaning in toward the TV, or if I don’t care what I’m switching to and just press the swap input.
For waypoints, the main objective appears in the form of a yellow diamond with a distance counter displayed underneath it. However, in trying to keep the interface as minimal as possible —I assume— the waypoint will only be available should you press the AI Scan input that sends out a digital pulse highlighting electrical elements in the world and any main objectives elements such as the waypoint diamond or structures you need to destroy, for example. Thing is, this waypoint diamond is also small, and its minimal design blends into the greenery of Halo Infinite’s large world which could have been avoided with a larger marker, outlines, and shadows.
Moving to the TacMap, pressing Back on the controller opens a satellite view of the entire map where icons have thin outlines that are hard to see and blend into the textures with text detailing locations and more. There are other areas to navigate to here such as upgrades and collectibles, but it’s worth keeping in mind these menus don’t pause the gameplay, so it’s pointless looking through while in a hostile area.
Good Subtitles That Aren’t Large
Halo Infinite does have decent subtitles for the most part. You can adjust their size with a few presets, you can assign a background to them with a limited opacity slider, you can choose to have them focused on the story dialogue only, or include additional lines of dialogue. You can also assign colors to the subtitles, either highlighting the speaker label, highlighting the subtitle, or even highlighting both.
The main issue here comes in the form of size really. At their largest, the subtitles don’t feel large at all. With the game being incredibly fast-paced when in combat, having subtitles giving clues for the next objectives while trying to survive from enemies flanking while also trying to read the subtitles can be a nuisance.
Thankfully, I have my subtitles set so the entire subtitles and speaker labels are set to highlight as colors, this allows me to know if the important ally subtitles —in blue— are worth reading, or ignore the taunting red from enemies.
One of the marketing points for Halo Infinite is its large open-world 343 Industries has adopted as opposed to the series usual linear action. But frustratingly I found that an open-world doesn’t suit the Halo gameplay at all and often found myself turning the game off for frequent breaks.
If you decide to run into areas and attack willy-nilly you’ll likely end up ambushing yourself with flanking enemies, so trying to hang back and ease your way through is the better tactic. But even then, as stealth is not an option, you’ll wind up alerting the entire area, and this doesn’t just include enemies in your immediate area, you’ll also have enemies hiding on a cliffside with snipers or RPGs making sure you’re constantly moving instead of sitting pretty behind cover.
While smaller areas that are more contained feel somewhat more bearable, Halo Infinite becomes a nuisance through its directionality. I have very little idea where enemies are, and with them being scattered around so much I find myself having to wander over hills, mountains, and through tiny woodlands to find the last of the taunting aliens.
The most help for enemy direction comes in 3 ways. Firstly, through the damage-indicator wheel that appears when taking damage. Secondly, through following enemy plasma bullets or lasers back to the enemy’s rough location. Thirdly, through the mini-radar in the bottom corner. The thing is, this “mini-map” is largely unhelpful the majority of the time as it is just a grey circle with red dots to signify nearby enemies, and these dots only appear with every automatic pulse that’s emitted — like one of those fancy military sonars if you will.
There is a device you unlock during the fourth mission that I noted in my Halo Infinite accessibility preview which enables you to see nearby enemy life forms, and later upgrades increase its radius and even allow more than one to be thrown out. The trouble is, enemy outlines through walls feel, once again, thin and need options to increase their thickness and brightness.
As noted, there’s no stealth, which means there’s a focus on all-out action, which includes a lot to contend to. Running for cover, smashing aliens in the face, keeping eyes on your shield, picking up weapons and ammo, lobbing grenades, using the Grappleshot to evade or engage, completing your objectives, etc. And honestly, after the tiring slog from point A to point B, even with the clumsy vehicles and vertical traversing, I’m way too tired to engage in combat when it does come about. Fast travel does exist, but only between unlocked and eligible locations.
The Grappleshot is a new tool for Halo players, allowing the user to attach to surfaces or enemies and reel themselves in or just swing around like Spider-Chief. There are just some issues with how this works, when the Grappleshot is available to use and can be attached to something, a yellow indicator appears on the reticle. This indicator is horrendously small and a lot of the time, as with earlier complaints, when in the heat of battle you’ll probably wind up like me, trying to attach to surfaces it won’t latch onto because I couldn’t see the yellow indicator.
On the plus, it’s a great tool for making traversal somewhat less arduous and gets you to places efficiently when it works, allowing you to usually go in a straight path rather than around large mountains peppered with enemies.
Look, using a controller vibration to add another later of immersion is cool and something more developers are starting to experiment with. What isn’t cool is when that immersion becomes a befuddled mess because of too much experimentation. If I’m playing a game as the main character, I want to feel what they feel in addition to important cues like Uncharted 4’s vibrations for completed puzzles.
In Halo Infinite, the cutscene vibrations seem to make no sense sometimes and appear to have been thrown in just for the hell of it. At one point my controller vibrated to indicate footsteps of the Echo 216 pilot walking on a metal ramp despite Master Chief having walked off the frame. Another moment had me feeling the heartbeat of a dying character lay opposite me, although in honesty maybe Master Chief was analyzing the heartbeat.
It just felt unnatural and jarring a lot of the time and didn’t make me feel attached to Master Chief. I’d have much preferred to see 343 Industries utilizing vibrational cues for more beneficial situations. For example, indicating nearby Spartan Cores or confirming tasks had been completed which could have helped with accessibility for Halo Infinite — or even having a stronger lock on what Master Chief was feeling.
On the topic of immersion, there are speed lines that are enabled by default that appear to signify when you’re sprinting through the world, but for me, they feel awful and make me feel blah when playing. I turn them off, but a bug appears to keep turning them back on. Xbox and 343 Industries are aware of this bug, however, and hopefully, it’ll be patched by launch.
Halo Infinite handles management fairly well, the most I find myself struggling to manage is locating ammunition podiums or choosing different weapons as a last resort. Even then, you’re only allowed 2 weapons at a time so it’s not entirely complicated which is better than rummaging through inventory slots as you would if it was a looter shooter.
Upgrading is handled nicely with simple layouts and explanations, and the customization of your Spartan and equipment for online games is handled very well with visuals for different parts and hardly any clutter on the UI.
Multiplayer Spartan Fun
That brings me to multiplayer. We could have run a multiplayer-focused piece in November when the open beta went live but decided to hold off and keep it for this review. The reason being is because there’s a strange contrast between the 2 modes in which Halo Infinite accessibility in multi-player feels stronger than it does in its campaign. While the usual issues such as small text and hard-to-see Grappleshot indicators remain, the fact that the matches are so contained to smaller playing areas makes it a more enjoyable and Halo-esque experience.
Even the Big Team Battles mode is more manageable as a shooter than the single-player modes large open-world and allows you to assign yourself different tactics, from going on the offense or just defending. And because I’m not having to trawl through that large open-world searching for hidden aliens, I feel more comfortable in knowing action is always a stone’s throw away.
And what’s wonderful if nearly every weapon I seem to use highlights enemy players that are in view down the iron sights with a full-body shader —when they take damage— to make them stand out from the environment and other friendlies.
I will say, there’s a strange feeling with aim-assist in that there appear to be no settings for this, but instead, aim-assist is built-in by design, but it’s so light and so inconsistent that it’s always a question of whether it actually exists. Half the time it feels more like it’s been designed to serve as a gentle nudge that there’s an enemy.
While there is narration, from what I’ve fiddled with so far, it doesn’t really feel useful in that it seems to struggle to keep up with the frantic gameplay. It does narrate objectives nicely, but prompts for weapon and ammo pickups and interactions feel like they get lost with the constant movement required during combat. And there doesn’t appear to be anything for helping with targeting or cues.
This was especially prominent to me when the multiplayer open-beta went live and I saw numerous videos of blind players seemingly struggling to understand the environment and getting kills through luck. Having some audio cues could help when an enemy is targeted, and directional audio cues could help with traversing.
I feel like Halo Infinite is not wonderful for accessibility, which is a shame as in the same vein Halo Infinite is the most accessible Halo game to date. The features that are available could have made for a wonderful experience had they been implemented well and complimented the gameplay. Instead, it feels as if the core game was designed first with accessibility being tacked on later down the line without much testing or input.
If you’re after a game where you can focus on shooting the shit out of aliens, this is probably for you. I’m personally not feeling as if I’m able to follow the story outside of cutscenes because of the pacing and barriers I’ve noted above, mostly the directionality and legibility of on-screen elements.
The open-world style doesn’t seem to fit with the game, and the fast-paced combat on top of the tiring exploration makes for a very tiring experience. My review score might seem a bit tough, but if you’re wanting a modern and accessible Halo experience, focus on the multiplayer portion of the game for now.
A review copy of Halo Infinite was provided by the developer / publisher.