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Halo Infinite: finally, a multiplayer shooter for grownups – The Guardian

Halo Infinite: finally, a multiplayer shooter for grownups

Keith Stuart

Fed up of getting destroyed by teenagers whenever you play online? The more tactical, slower-paced combat of Halo Infinite makes older players feel at home again

Halo Infinite multiplayer beta

About 30 minutes into playing the Halo: Infinite online beta last week, I had a shocking, almost unbelievable realisation: I am quite good at the game. I’d just vaporised two enemy players with a grenade, which I’d thrown in a perfect arc to catch them together and totally unaware. The brutalist formality of the level design meant that I could come in at an acute angle, skirting their sightlines until the very last moment. I then took up the flag and ran it all the way back to our base, jumping and dodging around incoming fire. It was my third capture of the evening.

In modern shooter games such as Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite and Apex Legends, older players like me tend to get absolutely destroyed by teenagers. With Halo Infinite’s multiplayer mode, it’s the other way around. In early interviews around the game, developer 343 Industries talked about how they thought of Infinite as a spiritual reboot of and love letter to the first three Halo titles, which were released between 2001 and 2007. We’re playing on our turf now.

Old-school Halo’s design aim wasn’t realism or even variety: it was fun and feel. You were given a limited number of perfectly balanced weapons and abilities, so you didn’t have to worry about perks, stats, builds or loadouts. Instead, all the complexity came from the ways the weapons worked perfectly together with the game’s physics and environments to offer an array of emergent possibilities. The holy trinity of gun, grenade and melee actually provided a vast arsenal of attack options, just like the basic kick/punch moves did in many a quality old 2D fighting game.

This is something Halo Infinite’s combat perfectly recalls. All the complexity is systemic rather than inventorial. “Every player starts with the same loadout and there are no abilities on cooldown,” says game designer and Halo veteran Dan Pearce, my favourite person to speak to about shooter games. “Whatever tools you have access to, the other team has access to as well. There are no surprises, you don’t have to think about whether or not you’d have landed that kill if you’d had the same weapon attachments as your opponent.”

Emergent tactical possibilities … Halo Infinite.

“So no matter how a match is going, there is always some new way you can think on your feet and maybe turn the tide. Obliterating someone who’s stolen your flag with a rocket launcher not only feels fair, but smart. Both you and the enemy had equal claim to that weapon, you were the one who decided to grab it first, and now that choice will inform rest of the match.”

This careful revisionism extends to the way players move through the world. In classic Halo multiplayer, the pacing comes down to where objectives are rather than how fast characters actually run and jump – something the series lost sight of in recent years. As Pearce explains, “Halo 5 radically expanded and sped up the movement options for the player … It was extremely dense with options in a way that I feel distracted from the core combat loop that Halo as a series is known for. Spartans in Halos 1 through 3 are a lot floatier than I think a lot of people remember. There is a slow deliberateness to the way players had to move in those earlier games that modern shooters don’t really demand.”

This, I think, is why older players are doing so well with Halo Infinite. It reignites the muscle memory of those first Halo games, the way their pacing wouldn’t let you rely purely on instinct and lightning-fast reaction speeds. Encounters tend to be more involved and more multifaceted than the bulletfests of Warzone and Apex Legends, where face-offs are over before you can blink.

Halo Infinite also recalls the classic competitive multiplayer map design from the early 2000s. The environments are totally artificial – they are not designed to resemble genuine locations, they are self-reflexive play spaces constructed to provide exciting, varied encounters. Excellent new maps such as Recharge, Streets and Bazaar are like shopping malls in the way they use levels, sightlines and differing ceiling heights to generate intrigue and keep people moving. These are the spaces I remember, not just from Halo, but from the earliest days of competitive first-person shooters: the likes of Unreal Tournament and Quake Arena.

“I cut my game design teeth back on Halo 3’s Forge mode back in the day,” says Pearce. “It was a very simple map editor, which for the most part gave players access to only very basic objects and geometry. Thousands of incredible maps came out of those tools because Halo is at its best when the maps are clean, simple and balanced.”

Importantly, most of the new features added to Halo infinite fit in perfectly with the classic play style – such as dynamo grenades, which create a damaging electric field and shut down passing vehicles. Meanwhile the grapple hook, inspired perhaps by Titanfall, is a whole new way to get around, allowing you to latch on to walls, vehicles and other players and then zoom over to them. It’s faster than the conventional Halo jump, yet the way it opens up emergent tactical possibilities is typical of classic Halo design. As Pearce says, “when you grapple on to an enemy vehicle and kick the driver out, stealing it for yourself, you cannot tell me that isn’t Halo right down to the marrow.”

Eventually, of course, the teenagers are going to catch on and learn the old ways of the Halo warriors. They’ll understand that in this universe, it’s not all about combining dozens of gun parts into highly personal weapon loadouts, obsessing over damage-per-second ratings and then turbo-jumping through a series of millisecond-long encounters in an absurd African village level. Halo is about what the players bring into the experience themselves with their experimentation, accuracy and forethought; it’s about how all the systems can come together in explosive 30-second fights.

These are the things I remember from thrilling all-night Halo 2 and Quake Arena sessions long, long ago. It is fun to be back there but also to be right here in the present, where the old quirks and visual limitations are ironed out, and where there are a lot more players to surprise with perfectly flung grenades.

  • Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is free to play and available now on Xbox and PC; the single-player game is released on 8 December.

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Juarno Augustus helps Northampton pull the plug on sinking Bath – The Guardian

Juarno Augustus helps Northampton pull the plug on sinking Bath

  • Northampton 40-19 Bath
  • Danny Cipriani and Ben Spencer both injured
Juarno Augustus dives over for his second and Northampton's fourth try and Bath can only watch on.

It is not only raining but pouring for Bath. For weeks they have been struggling to find a win. Now they are struggling to field a senior team.

Northampton ran in six tries as Bath sank to nine defeats from nine league matches this season and by half-time they had lost their half-back pairing of Danny Cipriani and Ben Spencer to injuries.

Their woes began before the first whistle sounded, with their lock Josh McNally withdrawing during the warm-up. Cipriani left the field for a head-injury assessment and never returned, Spencer went off with a serious-looking problem to his right arm and in the second half the lock Mike Williams was forced off after a blow to his head.

With such a long injury list, it was not what Bath wanted – especially with a date to face Leinster in the Champions Cup next Saturday.

“It’s very early to tell but they are all relatively significant injuries, I would suggest,” said Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper. “Sometimes you look at things and think ‘What’s going on?’ But I will never let anybody say a word against the application that the players showed.”

Bath’s last win in the Premiership was when Northampton visited The Rec in June, and apart from a brief wobble at the start of the second half this did not look like an occasion when Bath were going to break their duck.

Not that the Northampton director of rugby was ecstatic with his side’s display. “Our performance was probably only six out of 10,” said Chris Boyd, whose side now sit third in the table.

“We did well enough to get a good victory but it certainly wasn’t vintage.”

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Indeed, Saints were wasteful in attack at times and had they been more ruthless it would have been an even grimmer afternoon for Hooper and Co.

Bath are in a very public search for a defence coach and the opening 15 minutes provided compelling evidence of the need for that appointment. Saints found space down the wings far too easily. Tommy Freeman fed Rory Hutchinson for try while fans were still taking their seats, then Freeman crossed for a touchdown of his own.

How fortunate Bath were to have Sam Underhill on the field. While his team lacked coherence, the England flanker ran hard, tackled harder and polished off a lineout drive to get his team on the board.

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Ted Hill, the Worcester captain, believes his side are changing perceptions about the club after their narrow 32-31 victory over Wasps highlighted their improvement since October’s 66-point drubbing at Northampton. 

That defeat prompted the recruitment of Steve Diamond as lead rugby consultant and since then the Warriors have lost only one of their four league matches and put 68 points past Bristol in the Premiership Cup having won just one game all last season. 

“We are putting some results together and that breeds confidence,” said Hill. “We know we still have a lot to do, but we are moving in the right direction. It is a reflection of all the hard work everyone is putting in and it is good that we are climbing the table. People have a perception about us when it comes to the league and results like this will change it.” 

Worcester held on to win after Jimmy Gopperth missed a late touchline conversion. Wasps, who were 18 points behind with 30 minutes to go, were without 18 injured players. Worcester now switch their attention to the European Challenge Cup. They start their campaign at Newcastle on Friday night having secured a league draw there last weekend. 

The wing Ollie Hassell-Collins scored a hat-trick as London Irish continued their good run with a comfortable 43-21 victory over Newcastle. The Exiles have now lost just one of their last eight games in all competitions and they were clinical in running in six tries at the Brentford Community Stadium. 

Adam Radwan, the England wing, was a late try scorer for the Falcons but Irish backed up last week’s victory at champions Harlequins. The London Irish director of rugby, Declan Kidney, said: “Ollie has been motoring for us and I’m glad for him, but all of those tries were good team tries.”

Saints had the bonus point in the bag before half-time, with their No 8, Juarno Augustus, scoring either side of a yellow card for Williams.

Lewis Boyce salvaged an iota of respectability for Bath just before the break with a try from short range, but at 28-12 the contest already felt sealed in Saints’ favour.

The tries continued to flow after the break and Bath briefly threatened a revival. Will Stuart touched down after the hooker, Sam Matavesi, was sent to the sin-bin for offside, but Courtnall Skosan responded with two tries for the hosts to settle the home crowd’s nerves.

Boyd offered a consoling message for Hooper. “We went through a lean time last season during Covid and it’s tough being a coach and a player in that environment,” he said. “But at the end of the day they will come out of that hole.”

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AI Is Discovering Patterns in Pure Mathematics That Have Never Been Seen Before – ScienceAlert

We can add suggesting and proving mathematical theorems to the long list of what artificial intelligence is capable of: Mathematicians and AI experts have teamed up to demonstrate how machine learning can open up new avenues to explore in the field.

While mathematicians have been using computers to discover patterns for decades, the increasing power of machine learning means that these networks can work through huge swathes of data and identify patterns that haven’t been spotted before.

In a newly published study, a research team used artificial intelligence systems developed by DeepMind, the same company that has been deploying AI to solve tricky biology problems and improve the accuracy of weather forecasts, to unknot some long-standing math problems.

“Problems in mathematics are widely regarded as some of the most intellectually challenging problems out there,” says mathematician Geordie Williamson from the University of Sydney in Australia.

“While mathematicians have used machine learning to assist in the analysis of complex data sets, this is the first time we have used computers to help us formulate conjectures or suggest possible lines of attack for unproven ideas in mathematics.”

The team shows AI advancing a proof for Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials, a math problem involving the symmetry of higher-dimensional algebra that has remained unsolved for 40 years.

The research also demonstrated how a machine learning technique called a supervised learning model was able to spot a previously undiscovered relationship between two different types of mathematical knots, leading to an entirely new theorem.

Knot theory in math plays into various other challenging fields of science as well, including genetics, fluid dynamics, and even the behavior of the Sun’s corona. The discoveries that AI makes can therefore lead to advances in other areas of research.

“We have demonstrated that, when guided by mathematical intuition, machine learning provides a powerful framework that can uncover interesting and provable conjectures in areas where a large amount of data is available, or where the objects are too large to study with classical methods,” says mathematician András Juhász from the University of Oxford in the UK.

One of the benefits of machine learning systems is the way that they can look for patterns and scenarios that programmers didn’t specifically code them to look out for – they take their training data and apply the same principles to new situations.

The research shows that this sort of high-speed, ultra-reliable, large-scale data processing can act as an extra tool working with mathematicians’ natural intuition. When you’re dealing with complex, lengthy equations, that can make a significant difference.

The researchers hope that their work leads to many further partnerships between academics in the fields of mathematics and artificial intelligence, opening up the opportunity for findings that would otherwise be undiscovered.

“AI is an extraordinary tool,” says Williamson. “This work is one of the first times it has demonstrated its usefulness for pure mathematicians, like me.”

“Intuition can take us a long way, but AI can help us find connections the human mind might not always easily spot.”

The research has been published in Nature.

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AI Is Discovering Patterns in Pure Mathematics That Have Never Been Seen Before – ScienceAlert

We can add suggesting and proving mathematical theorems to the long list of what artificial intelligence is capable of: Mathematicians and AI experts have teamed up to demonstrate how machine learning can open up new avenues to explore in the field.

While mathematicians have been using computers to discover patterns for decades, the increasing power of machine learning means that these networks can work through huge swathes of data and identify patterns that haven’t been spotted before.

In a newly published study, a research team used artificial intelligence systems developed by DeepMind, the same company that has been deploying AI to solve tricky biology problems and improve the accuracy of weather forecasts, to unknot some long-standing math problems.

“Problems in mathematics are widely regarded as some of the most intellectually challenging problems out there,” says mathematician Geordie Williamson from the University of Sydney in Australia.

“While mathematicians have used machine learning to assist in the analysis of complex data sets, this is the first time we have used computers to help us formulate conjectures or suggest possible lines of attack for unproven ideas in mathematics.”

The team shows AI advancing a proof for Kazhdan-Lusztig polynomials, a math problem involving the symmetry of higher-dimensional algebra that has remained unsolved for 40 years.

The research also demonstrated how a machine learning technique called a supervised learning model was able to spot a previously undiscovered relationship between two different types of mathematical knots, leading to an entirely new theorem.

Knot theory in math plays into various other challenging fields of science as well, including genetics, fluid dynamics, and even the behavior of the Sun’s corona. The discoveries that AI makes can therefore lead to advances in other areas of research.

“We have demonstrated that, when guided by mathematical intuition, machine learning provides a powerful framework that can uncover interesting and provable conjectures in areas where a large amount of data is available, or where the objects are too large to study with classical methods,” says mathematician András Juhász from the University of Oxford in the UK.

One of the benefits of machine learning systems is the way that they can look for patterns and scenarios that programmers didn’t specifically code them to look out for – they take their training data and apply the same principles to new situations.

The research shows that this sort of high-speed, ultra-reliable, large-scale data processing can act as an extra tool working with mathematicians’ natural intuition. When you’re dealing with complex, lengthy equations, that can make a significant difference.

The researchers hope that their work leads to many further partnerships between academics in the fields of mathematics and artificial intelligence, opening up the opportunity for findings that would otherwise be undiscovered.

“AI is an extraordinary tool,” says Williamson. “This work is one of the first times it has demonstrated its usefulness for pure mathematicians, like me.”

“Intuition can take us a long way, but AI can help us find connections the human mind might not always easily spot.”

The research has been published in Nature.

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