The Christmas Halo Effect

It’s looking like we’re going to be in for a rainy Christmas this year, so couch surfing seems like a given, and some light gaming is in order. I have a bazillion things on my personal backlog, but… I need to relax a little, so traipsing around a Forerunner ring again is much more appealing than any of them right now.

A view of the gorgeous landscape and the installation I trashed earlier, as seen on my Windows laptop.

I spent the past couple of days trying out Halo Infinite on xCloud, and even though my setup is a (I now have it running on my NVIDIA Shield, which is wired out to the Internet via gigabit fiber), it has been a grand experience, with two caveats:

  • As a veteran, I still wish I could use a keyboard and mouse (using the controller is frustrating to the point where I decided to shamefully play on Easy mode to have a chance of surviving some of the tougher stages). And it’s not about the aiming for me as it is about the (in)ability to do controlled turns in a pinch, which makes melee combat (and beating some bosses) a pain.
  • The campaign gameplay itself feels a little predictable: slog through tunnels/countryside, mop up occasional pockets of resistance, meet boss under stressful circumstances that don’t really allow for personal rapport, shoot everything that moves while turning various knobs, cutscene, rinse, repeat.

But I quite like it. The grapple adds a vertical dimension that also appeals to my personal gaming history (and affords a nice way to get a tactical advantage that also appeals to the sniper in me).

It is visually stunning, and hardly noticeable that I’m experiencing it both streamed and likely down-sampled.

Most (un)noticeably, even when playing on a (largeish) TV I have not seen any video artifacts even when multiple small, high contrast things are moving about on screen (a typical H.264/5 worst case scenario, even if they weren’t projectiles heading your way).

The interesting thing for me is that I’m now at a tipping point where getting an Xbox (Series S) for Christmas was a scenario I actually considered, because I can play Halo Infinite, Control and No Man’s Sky on xCloud casually and at my own pace but would like to do it without a jury-rigged setup–plus I take so long to make it through a game that I fear they might be taken out of rotation before I’m done.

Idle Reflections on the Gaming Market

Either way, Game Pass is a pretty good deal if you can spare the time.

I somewhat can’t, and tend to game erratically, averaging maybe something like a Sunday every two months, so I’m pretty certain that I don’t need dedicated hardware for it (unless it’s an official , which might be interesting).

But oh boy, am I certain Apple is by having refused to take xCloud onto the App Store–they have completely lost the boat on gaming, and even though we still subscribe to Apple Arcade (which the kids play on their iPads, so it’s decent value), my Apple TV hasn’t been turned on for the express purpose of playing games for the entire year.

So yes, Apple lost the living room gaming market (in case they ever really cared about it, which I’m pretty positive they didn’t).

In the meantime, if you like to watch documentaries on gaming history (which is something I’ve been getting into thanks to noclip), there is a pretty nice six-part series on Xbox itself that was put up last week.

Just in time for a rainy day or two (or at least five).

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