What you think of a given Halo will always, at some point, come to the question of the Warthog. Over its run on the series Bungie gradually perfected the handling and weight of this battlefield battering ram, striking a near-perfect balance between speedy, slidey traversal and spartan-crunching firepower that was always a joy to be a part of.
There's a special moment that often happens in Big Team Battles where, as a new Warthog spawns, three players rush it and you take off with the full complement: driver, gunner, and the wooden spoon position of side-gunner (hey it's still fun!) We all know how it rolls: Sometimes you're barely out of the gates before a well-placed grenade sends your ride careening through space towards an explosive end; Sometimes a Rocket ruins everything instantly. And then sometimes you're in Warthog heaven, as a driver who knows what they're doing tears lazy loops around isolated enemies and the gunners feasts on multikill medals, ten minutes of unforgettable last-minute swerves and countless kills feeling like thirty seconds.
Rich Stanton: But here's the thing. Halo Infinite's Warthog doesn't do it for me. I've been playing this series forever and driving the Warthog is among my favourite things to do: I'm ashamed to say I once changed my Xbox Gamertag to The Hog Man (my mate was called Gunner Justice). The Infinite Warthog doesn't feel heavy enough for me, and its backend a little erratic. I'm not saying I'm the best driver in the world, and there's something to be said for it being me needing to adjust rather than the game, but the way this thing's tail-end swings round doesn't feel right.
I don't think it's a total bust by any means: There's still a lot of what I love about the Warthog in Infinite's new model, and there are definitely brief stretches where it feels like the good stuff. On the flats and going full-pelt at some distant foes still feels fantastic. It's when I start to lean into turns and slide this thing around that it starts to feel like there's no real heft to it, like this giant armoured jeep containing super soldiers is more of a plastic toy. I've got really frustrated a few times at rockier elements of the scenery also, which has seen it on occasion behaving like—gasp!—the Mako.
Nat Clayton, Features Producer: Egregious Mako slander aside, you're not wrong. The Warthog, like so many of Infinite's vehicles, feels a little flimsy, a little too toylike. It doesn't have the same heft it used to have, instead skimming awkwardly over rocks without a sense of real momentum. It turns too skittishly, it stops too suddenly, and feels like an oversized go kart. 343's sound designers have pointedly drawn from real-world engines with this Warthog, but the Warthog isn't a real car. It's a beast, and it should roar like one.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: Heft really is the word here, and what's missing. I feel like the warthog controls may actually be the tightest they've ever been, weirdly, yet at the same time it barely seems like it's making contact with the ground? Given how powerful all of Infinite's guns sound, it's kinda weird, now that I think about it, that I can't hear the tires grinding over turf. Is this a ghost hog?
Nat: Here's the thing. The Halo 3 warthog wasn't just good, it might be the best videogame car ever made. I could write ten thousand words on how it throws its weight around, fishtailing around corners and taking 50-foot drops like it was nothing. While not indestructible, it could take a beating. Infinite's Warthog, meanwhile, feels like it'd fall apart in a light breeze. The Warthog is the kind of car you'd want to trust with carrying you to safety across an exploding alien superstructure, and I'm just not getting that here.
Wes: Are we crazy arguing for the warthog to be harder to control? Given Infinite's pretty cramped Big Team Battle levels, maybe that Halo 3 warthog's ass sliding all over the place just wouldn't have worked. But it really has lost that feeling of being a beast with untameable physics. I'll defend the destructibility, though: I think it fits Infinite's sandbox well to have vehicles in the fight for a shorter time. They're still plenty powerful, just less likely to dominate in the hands of a driver who escapes with a sliver of health every time.
Morgan: I love Halo as much as ya'll, but I think we need to take the rose-tinted glasses off the classic Warthog. I played through every Halo with a friend last year and, holy crap, I had forgotten how terribly the Warthog controls throughout every Bungie game. Sure, it feels hefty and its flippability is part of the fun, but it is a very bad car. Its wonkiness goes way overboard, and it's reliability goes out the damn window when you're in any actual danger.
I shouldn't have to feather the throttle on our main transport option just so the slightest curb won't send us into a barrel roll. I shouldn't have to say a prayer every time we hit a jump that it won't turn into a double frontflip explosion! The unpredictability can be fun in the campaign, but the Warthog really starts to get in the way during more punishing missions and multiplayer.
For these reasons, I'm glad 343 made Infinite's Warthog more like a car. Make no mistake: I've already flipped the thing three dozen times, but now it only happens when I've really mucked it up. Agreed that it totally feels less weighty and therefore less Warthog-y, but it's absolutely for the better. I think it largely does still feel like a Warthog, but just one designed to be operated by humans. Also, the chaingun on the back is so much better. No more spraying an inaccurate fire hose of bullets!
Wes: I think it's specifically the warthog and mongoose that feel off in Infinite—the ghost feels a bit different here than in past games, but the power of its guns and the boost speed immediately registered as right to me. And the ghost still seems to have some heft to it. So if it's just the warthog and mongoose that drive like lubed up Hot Wheels cars, is there any chance 343 tweaks their physics in a future update? They've said this Halo's going to be a platform for the future, but have the vehicle physics in a Halo game ever been changed post-release?
Rich: It is time. And I disagree with Morgan about Bungie's warthog, with the greatest respect, in the most fundamental way. This thing wishes it had some of that swing.