Halo Infinite campaign: Gameplay, open world, and story explained

Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

As the Dec. 8 release date for Halo Infinite inches ever closer, Microsoft has continued to drop new details surrounding the game's multiplayer. The Halo Infinite beta even provided the first hands-on opportunity, with follow-up tests centered around Halo Infinite's Arena PvP experience and the Big Team Battle mode. Developer 343 Industries has even drilled down to the specifics of Halo Infinite's Battle Pass for an insight into that full launch day experience.

For a long time, the same couldn't be said about Halo Infinite's campaign. Details about the $60 singleplayer package were largely absent from developer videos and blog posts, and aside from the game's introductory cutscene and a few cinematic shots, there wasn't new footage since its July 2020 unveiling.

Thankfully, that has changed, as the developers recently released a campaign overview that gives fans a close look at many of Halo Infinite's open world-style gameplay systems, a new list of Halo Infinite enemies, fresh hints about the story, and more. Here's an overview of everything we know about Halo Infinite's campaign.

Halo Infinite story: What we know so far, (mostly) spoiler-free

Halo Infinite Master Chief

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Halo Infinite's story will follow the events of Halo 5: Guardians, which saw the AI Cortana return and use ancient Forerunner war machines called Guardians to take control of the galaxy. The long-time Halo companion believed that the "Created," or AIs, should lead and protect the universe. Based on dates located in Halo Infinite trailers, the game will take place in 2561, three years after Cortana's takeover.

IGN shared some gameplay footage and hands-on impressions of the Halo Infinite campaign, which you can see below:

Halo Infinite's campaign opens near a damaged Halo installation known as Zeta Halo, the design of which was heavily inspired by the Pacific Northwest according to the February 2021 "Inside Infinite" blog post. In the introductory cutscene debuted at E3 2019, a stranded UNSC soldier known as "The Pilot" saves Master Chief from the vacuum of space.

The Chief next traverses nearby debris and discovers "The Weapon," a Cortana-like AI that claims that the original Cortana was deleted after infiltrating Zeta Halo, and locked down for deletion on the UNSC Infinity flagship. However, Chief did not complete this task, indicating that someone or something else has attempted to delete Cortana. The subroutine that was designed to delete The Weapon after concluding her mission also failed, adding further mystery to the situation.

The Pilot claims that the UNSC "lost" a conflict prior to the opening of the game, and based on the official July 2020 gameplay debut, the Banished faction has returned as an enemy faction from Halo Wars 2. We can assume that a three-way battle between the UNSC, Banished, and Created resulted in the UNSC's defeat at Zeta Halo, with a severe amount of damage to the ringworld — ultimately leaving the Banished as the victors.

Halo Infinite

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

It appears the overarching story of Halo Infinite centers around tackling Banished forces on Zeta Halo, finding a way back to Earth, while uncovering the mystery around Cortana and The Weapon. The game's primary antagonist will be War Chief Escharum, a high-ranking Brute and right-hand man of Atriox, leader of the Banished. Players can also expect to encounter smaller antagonists, such as Jega 'Rdomnai, a deadly Elite leader and trusted officer for Atriox.

Dialogue in the gameplay debut also reveals that the Banished have allied with a mysterious individual called the Harbinger. The Harbinger appeared in the campaign overview, claiming that "The Forerunners' lies are at an end" and that "she is the harbinger of the truth," noting that Master Chief "is not the future." The Banished and the Harbinger seek to control a location on Zeta Halo dubbed the Auditorium, which we don't know anything about yet.

Halo Infinite brings an increased focus on the Master Chief, in line with previous comments from 343 Industries leadership, following the mixed reception to Halo 5: Guardians. Current footage implies that Halo Infinite will explore a new side of the hero, with a greater emphasis on nuanced body language, visible and audible displays of emotion, and meaningful dialogue.

Halo Infinite campaign: How gameplay and missions work

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Compared to previous games, Halo Infinite features a much less linear approach to the gameplay experience. The "Tacmap" screen seen during the campaign's gameplay 2020 unveiling and the 2021 campaign overview (pictured below) shows multiple different side objectives such as enemy bases, taking clear inspiration from open-world titles like Far Cry and Assassin's Creed from Ubisoft. Some other side objectives include rescuing captured Marines, taking out Banished minibosses, and capturing bases of your own that you can use to call in weapons or vehicles.

Outposts, rescue missions, and bounty targets suggest all the usual staples of an open world.

The Halo Infinite map appears to feature various locales that unlock as the main narrative progresses. The world looks set to open up upon stepping foot on Zeta Halo, with both main missions and various side objectives, to extend your time on the ringworld.

Source: Xbox Game Studios Halo Infinite's map screen seen during the E3 2020 gameplay debut. (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

In a developer Q&A video, 343 Industries also announced that each level would have several dynamic gameplay elements, including dynamic weather and a day/night cycle that alters enemy behaviors and patrol paths. This emergent system also adjusts which weapons the Banished use, based on the Chief's own loadout. Some of these systems were visible during the campaign overview video.

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Like previous Halo games, Halo Infinite's campaign will feature a sandbox-oriented focus that gives each weapon and vehicle unique advantages and disadvantages, encouraging players to routinely try out new gear and figure out the best ways to use it. In Halo Infinite, the equipment system from Halo 3 will also make a return. Items mirror those in multiplayer, including the Grappleshot to traverse locations, the Threat Sensor to see enemies through walls, and Drop Wall for added protection.

Equipment pieces will also be upgradeable via the use of "Spartan Cores," which are items that players can likely find and earn as they play through the game. Upgrades will improve the effectiveness of equipment and, in some cases, may even expand the functionality. For example, one upgrade shown in the campaign overview adds electric shock damage to the Grappleshot. This gives it the ability to stun enemies and (presumably) EMP vehicles every time the player grapples onto them.

In terms of what enemies will be in Halo Infinite, everything we've seen so far indicates that the Banished will be the primary enemy faction encountered throughout the campaign. Since the Banished was formed by previous members of the Covenant, this means that players can expect to go up against the Grunts, Jackals, Elites, Brutes, and Hunters that made up the bulk of the Covenant ground forces in previous games. One new enemy shown off in the new campaign overview are the "Skimmers," which appear to be small flying creatures that bear resemblance to the Drones from previous Halo games.

There's also a chance that the Flood will be in Halo Infinite since it has ties to Zeta Halo in the franchise's lore, but this remains unconfirmed at this time. Players might encounter Forerunner enemies (or allies) like Sentinels and the Prometheans as well.

Is the Halo Infinite campaign open world?

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

While Halo Infinite's various non-linear and dynamic elements sound a lot like what you'll find in an open-world game, the developers at 343 Industries have stated that Halo Infinite isn't "fully open world," but rather a series of open and expansive levels connected together by the game's narrative. In other words, think of the game like a Halo version of Metro Exodus.

Halo Infinite isn't 'fully open world,' but rather a series of expansive levels tied together by the narrative.

As players traverse each level, they can expect to encounter many different sub-biomes like swamps, highlands, and war-torn "deadlands" that were devastated by previous battles. We can also expect caves, caverns, abandoned structures, shipwrecks, and other points of interest that will contain interesting collectibles like audio logs and written notes or messages. Presumably, these collectibles will provide context about what happened on Zeta Halo before the events of the game. 343 Industries has confirmed that players will be able to return to previous levels if they want to explore and look for missed collectibles.

Will there be a Halo Infinite campaign beta?

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

While it seems like Halo Infinite's beta tests will primarily focus on the game's multiplayer experience, there's also a decent chance that there will be a beta test for a small slice of the Halo Infinite campaign as well. 343 Industries has been adamant that the beta test flights have been very helpful for both Halo: MCC and Halo Infinite so far, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the developers want to test the campaign.

As of right now, there haven't been any announced plans for a campaign beta test, and according to the developers, the next test will focus on Halo Infinite's Arena and Big Team Battle multiplayer. If 343 Industries does eventually announce a campaign beta test, make sure you follow our coverage of the Halo Infinite beta schedule for details.

Will there be Halo Infinite campaign DLC?

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Microsoft and 343 Industries have proudly proclaimed that Halo Infinite represents "the next 10 years of Halo," but while the developers have established plans to update the multiplayer with new content over time through three-month-long seasons and the Halo Infinite Battle Pass, no details about the campaign expansions or DLC have been shared.

Regardless, it seems incredibly likely that Halo Infinite will eventually get some form of campaign DLC, much like Halo Wars 2 did with the Flood-themed Awakening the Nightmare expansion. The Halo Waypoint app, briefly tested alongside the first Halo Infinite technical test, also referenced "campaigns," indicative of more to come after release.

Halo's universe is rich with great characters, and if fan-favorites like the Spartans of Blue Team or the Arbiter don't appear in Halo Infinite's main campaign, there's a good chance that they'll return in post-launch campaign DLC. These expansions may even include some unique customization items that you can use in multiplayer, though only time will tell.

Your thoughts

What do you think of everything we know about Halo Infinite's campaign so far? Do you think Halo Infinite will end up being one of the best Xbox games available? Halo Infinite preorders are available right now, so you can purchase access to the campaign ahead of its Dec. 8 launch (the multiplayer will be free to play).

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.