With several years since the last major Halo game, it's time to start looking forward to the franchise's future. Microsoft's beloved first-person shooter series is due for a new entry, with development underway behind closed doors. Halo Infinite's showing at E3 2019 didn't reveal a lot, but there's still plenty of information that we do have.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for previous Halo titles.
Halo Infinite: Development and reveal
Halo Infinite is the next major entry to the mainline of Halo games, following on from 2015's Halo 5: Guardians. The game's debut trailer opened Microsoft's E3 2018 press conference, providing the first look at the Master Chief in three years. We then got another new trailer during E3 2019 that gave us a much closer look at Chief's new armor and introduced some small story hints. Then, during the Xbox Series X July event on July 23, 2020, the first ever gameplay footage of Halo Infinite was presented.
With the Halo franchise assigned to 343 Industries after Bungie's shift to Destiny, Halo Infinite will also be developed solely under the same roof. Based in Seattle, Washington, 343 Industries remains one of Microsoft's flagship game development studios, having worked on Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians, and Halo Wars 2, among other titles. Comprised of hundreds of employees, including veterans of Halo franchise, the team houses a powerhouse of talent in the first-person shooter space.
Halo Infinite is built on the new "Slipspace Engine," developed internally at the studio alongside the game. The in-engine reveal trailer focused heavily on showcasing its potential, indicating the game will offer a significant visual upgrade over previous titles. 343 industries has also stated that the Halo Insider Program will be used for public tests of Halo Infinite before it launches.
Halo Infinite's campaign is being led by Joseph Staten, a Halo series veteran who has worked on the original games made by Bungie extensively. Meanwhile, the multiplayer is being led by Pierre Hintze, who has previously served as the head of publishing for Halo: The Master Chief Collection. In terms of music, Halo Infinite is being scored by Gareth Coker, Curtis Schweitzer, and Joel Corelitz. The former composed for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Schweitzer has worked on games like Starbound before, and the latter contributed to the soundtrack of Death Stranding. Three sample tracks have been released so far: Gareth Coker's "Set a Fire in Your Heart," Curtis Schweitzer's "Reverie," and Joel Corelitz' "Through the Trees."
Following news of Halo Infinite's original lead Chris Lee resigning, 343 Industries has launched a new series of blog posts called "Inside Infinite" that are intended to provide fans with a closer look at the development of the game. The first of these articles was released on December 8, 2020.
Halo Infinite: Story
Halo Infinite will follow the story that began in Halo 5: Guardians, in which Cortana returned with an army of ancient and powerful Forerunner war machines called Guardians, which she began to use to force the galaxy into submission. It's unclear what precisely the plot may be, but we do know that the game will take place on Zeta Halo, which is one of the remaining Halo rings. Also, in the E3 2019 trailer for Halo Infinite, Master Chief was rescued from the vacuum of space by a stranded Pelican pilot. The pilot has been stated to be a juxtaposition of Master Chief; whereas he is a supersoldier, the pilot is the most "human" type of character ever created in the Halo universe. This juxtaposition between the two is sure to make for plenty of interesting moments in the story. Later in the trailer, the pilot proceeded to show him a view of a partially destroyed Halo ring through the cockpit and tells Master Chief that "we lost," indicating that a past battle was fought over the Halo ring. The Halo Infinite gameplay shown off at the Xbox Series X July event confirms that this battle was against the Banished faction. This faction was introduced in Halo Wars 2 and was lead by the Brute Atriox, but it appears that the Banished now have a new leader called War Chief Escharum. Additionally, the Banished are also allied with a mysterious individual or group called the Harbinger, though no information about the Harbinger is known. The Banished and the Harbinger aim to control a location called the Auditorium, which we also don't know anything about just yet. There's also a fair chance that the Flood will be present, though the evidence that supports this possibility is far from concrete.
We also know that there is will be more than one named Banished foe taking on Master Chief, as 343 Industries has shared concept art of an Elite blademaster named Jega 'Rdomnai, who serves as part of the Hand of Atriox.
Speaking in an interview, Franchise Director Frank O'Connor admitted the studio received "some digs for storytelling in Halo 5," indicating a new approach for its successor. Expanding, O'Connor acknowledged fans generally "wanted more Chief," after Halo 5's focus on Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris. At the reveal, Microsoft once again emphasized Chief will play a vital role in the title, and the two trailers and gameplay footage we have so far seem to confirm this as the case as they primarily focus on the Spartan.
Halo Infinite: Gameplay and features
The campaign gameplay footage of Halo Infinite, shown during the Xbox Series X July event, was filled with interesting revelations. For one, the game will have an open world-style setting complete with backtracking for exploration, and players are given a full map to use for navigation. Players will also have the ability to pick and choose missions to play based on what was shown on the map screen, though it's likely that there will still be a linear story progression. Additionally, Master Chief can now use equipment pickups such as grappling hooks or deployable shields that can be found and upgraded in the world, similar to Halo 3. In an interview with IGN, Studio Head Chris Lee commented that "We do have a light upgrade system for Chief as he explores this ring. He'll be able to upgrade equipment items. The grapple and the drop shield that we showed are kind of in that concept of a spiritual reboot that harkens back to the equipment system in Halo 3. Those are two new equipment items that Chief will be able to find and use as you play through the game." 343 also confirmed that these items would be making their way into the multiplayer, but their implementation will be different compared to how they'll work in the campaign. Notably, locational damage may be in the game as well, as Chief is seen shooting a charging Brute's legs to force it to stop. Finally, new weapons were shown off in the gameplay reveal, including a new UNSC rifle called the Commando and a shotgun called the Bulldog, as well as two Banished burst-fire plasma weapons and one revolver-style firearm. Following the gameplay showing, it was stated that Halo Infinite's campaign will be larger than Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians' campaign put together. Enemies will be able to use elements of this expansive sandbox as well, so players will be kept on their toes.
Further details about the game's sandbox were provided in 343 Industries' January 2021 update. In this post, members of the studio's sandbox team explained how the overall goal with Halo Infinite's sandbox is to make each weapon, vehicle, and piece of equipment fulfill a specific role that would give the player strong and unique advantages in combat. However, the developers are balancing these sandbox elements carefully so that nothing feels overpowered and that players will ultimately have a fair chance against enemies or other players no matter what they're using. Additionally, the developers are also focusing on making each sandbox tool simple enough for beginner players to understand and benefit from, while also adding nuances to them that will allow experienced players to master the tools and gain an edge. In the campaign, there will also be a dynamic reactive spawning system for AI that ensures the challenges you face will be appropriate for the arsenal that you're carrying. Based on information from the developers' March 2021 Inside Infinite article, there will also be a dynamic audio threat detection system that ensures the player can always hear weapons being fired directly at them loudly and clearly, as well as a custom-built acoustic system that realistically simulates how sound should travel in the game's environments. The game will even support spatial sound technologies like Dolby Atmos, which is a first for the franchise.
The world of Halo Infinite's wide open sandbox was discussed more by 343 Industries in its February 2021 Inside Infinite update, with the ring of Zeta Halo being designed around "Legacy" and "Simplicity" and to look like the Pacific Northwest. Also, the developers have talked about how there will be a day/night cycle in place alongside different biomes that add marshy swamps, highlands, and more to Halo Infinite's overall environment. There will also be caves, abandoned bases, Forerunner structures, and more to explore as optional objectives.
In terms of multiplayer, there isn't much that we know just yet aside from the fact that things like the grappling hook will be usable. However, the developers did provide fans with a first look at one of Halo Infinite's multiplayer maps, which you can see in the above image.
Though split-screen for cooperative play was absent from Halo 5: Guardians, it will be present with Halo Infinite. Speaking at DICE Summit in 2017, studio head Bonnie Ross discussed painful learning experiences, stating that future entries will "always have split-screen going forward." In Halo Infinite, players can enjoy a two-player local split-screen. Online, up to four players can play together.
In terms of customization, Halo Infinite will feature a system inspired by Halo: Reach's according to comments made in a developer stream in 2019. This will be good news for most Halo fans, as Halo: Reach's armor customization is often thought to be the best in the series. In addition to this, Halo Infinite will also feature a "coating" system that allows players to apply a set of colors and textures to their armors, weapons, and vehicles. Notably, 343 Industries has confirmed that there won't be any "loot boxes or randomness" present with Halo Infinite's various rewards, and there won't be any for the gameplay systems either.
Halo Infinite: Release date, pricing, and more
At E3 2019, it was revealed that Halo Infinite would launch in Holiday 2020 alongside Xbox Series X. However, due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on development, the game has been delayed to 2021. Specifically, the game is now slated to release in Fall 2021. A tease from 343 Industries' founder Bonnie Ross hints that the release date might be November 15 specifically, which would be cool since it's the 20th anniversary of Halo: Combat Evolved's original launch. However, that isn't confirmed.
In terms of other platforms, it will be available on all Xbox One consoles, as well as on PC via the Microsoft Store and Steam. Recently, a preorder for the game was revealed on Best Buy's website that includes an exclusive Master Chief statue and a SteelBook case.
Since the new Xbox Series X is said to support ray tracing and up to 8K resolution, Halo Infinite will likely have these features. During the Xbox Series X July event, it was confirmed that Halo Infinite will run perfectly at 60 FPS and will be significantly more detailed than Halo 5: Guardians was by Chris Lee. 343 Industries has also confirmed that the multiplayer for Halo Infinite is capable of running at 120 FPS on Xbox Series X (and most likely PC, too).
343 Industries has stated that Halo Infinite's multiplayer will be free-to-play, but the cost of the campaign half of the game is currently unclear. The game will also be available with an Xbox Game Pass subscription like other first-party titles from Microsoft. In line with many of Microsoft's "games-as-a-service" titles, also expect regular updates and content drops in the months, or years, following release.
In terms of what the future holds, 343 Industries has made it clear that Halo Infinite will be a sort of platform for future content. In an interview with IGN, Chris Lee stated (prior to his resignation) that "Halo Infinite is the start of our platform for the future. We want Infinite to grow over time, versus going to those numbered titles and having all that segmentation that we had before. It's really about creating Halo Infinite as the start of the next ten years for Halo and then building that as we go with our fans and community." He also stated that the game would receive a free raytracing update after launch.
An infinite wait lies ahead
Details on Halo Infinite may currently be limited, but keep an eye out for further information in the months ahead. What are you looking for from the next Halo game? Drop into the comments section with your thoughts.
Updated March 26, 2021: Added new information from 343 Industries' latest Inside Infinite article.
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