It's been two decades since we began the fight in Halo: Combat Evolved back in 2001, and almost one and a half since we finished it in Halo 3 only for the fight to inexplicably continue under the banner of 343 Industries in Halo 4 and beyond. The story of the original Xbox "killer app" continues in Halo Infinite, picking up the storyline where Halo 5: Guardians left off. When will the game launch, what will it be about, and what does it all mean for the future of the franchise? Read on to find out everything 343 has revealed, and everything we know, about Halo Infinite.
What is Halo Infinite?
Halo Infinite is trying to keep several plates spinning all at once. While financially successful, the newer Halo titles developed by 343 Industries - primarily the mainline titles Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians - have had a lukewarm reception by long-time fans who were invested in the franchise back in the Bungie days. While technically adept, it can't be denied that the patina of the franchise as a titan of both genre and industry at large has dulled. Halo isn't quite the "biggest thing" like it was back when 3 was launching. 343 is not blind to this, and has been hustling to bring back those glory days.
Halo Infinite is a direct sequel to Guardians, picking up Master Chief's story. According to 343, it is also a 'spiritual reboot', which is a fancy phrase that basically means going back to the things that made Halo great in the past - or at least trying to. All the marketing material we've seen has been heavy on the nostalgia, calling back to the aesthetics, themes and motifs of early Halo, as opposed to the different direction 4 and 5 took.
Not only is Infinite both direct sequel and also reboot, it's also a definitive lynchpin in the future of the franchise. There is a lot riding on the reception of Halo Infinite - this game will either push the IP back to the big leagues, or it will be the final nail of the coffin of a gaming legend. Between spin-offs that didn't make any lasting impact and expanded media attempts in TV and Film fizzling out, the mainline shooters are the sole foundation of the franchise (for now!) and this upcoming launch is the test to pass.
When will Halo Infinite launch?
This is the question many fans are asking themselves, and rightfully so. As a brand, Halo is inseparable from the Xbox, and everyone assumed Infinite would be the perfect launch title for the Series X/S to truly sell the next gen console. 343 and Microsoft, who are again publishing, thought so too, and originally the release date of Halo Infinite was November 10, 2020 - same as the new consoles. However, after a gameplay demo shown off in July 2020 was poorly received with a great deal of criticism aimed at the graphical fidelity, and some complaints lodged about the gameplay itself as well, 343 decided the game needs more time in the oven.
After spending a while in delay limbo, the developers finally announced when we can expect Halo Infinite - Fall 2021, give or take a year after the initial launch date. Hopefully the extra year gave the development studio the time it needs to brush up the visuals of what's supposed to be a blockbuster sequel in a series with a reputation like Halo's. There is, after all, a lot riding on this game's success. 343 Industries' official stance regarding the graphics controversy was clarification that the studio was already working on improvements before the demo was shown, however some the complaints lodged against the visuals were the result of art direction, not graphical shortcomings and will not change. We have yet to see any updated gameplay footage.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic cast its shadow over the same period of time that the game got delayed, and the developers have to work on improvements while observing appropriate precautions - likely meaning working from home - this is no doubt a challenging situation. We hope that amid the pressure and difficulties, the talent working on bringing us this entertainment product do not need to crunch and have the chance to ensure their mental well-being.
What is Halo Infinite about?
The storyline, as much as we know, is abandoning many of the elements introduced in 4 and 5 in favor of a more familiar setting - and villain. The action will once again take place on board a massive Halo ring, the inner surface of which is lined with an artificial terrestrial environment. The enemies Master Chief will face are both new and old, to some extent. Halo fans who've dug into the lore or played the real-time strategy spin-off Halo Wars 2 will be familiar with The Banished, a faction of hostile aliens comprised of the same species as the Covenant Brutes.
The Banished are former members of the Covenant who broke off from the alien theocracy sometime during the initial war against Humanity. When players encounter this faction in Halo Wars 2, they have a thirst for conquest and a plan to capture The Ark, also known as Installation 00. The Ark is special because it can control the entire Halo Array, and power like that in the hands of a warmongering alien army isn't good news for humanity.
While The Banished are stopped in Halo Wars 2, they aren't destroyed. Now, it seems they are back with a new leader - War Chief Escharum - with slightly less ambitious designs. This time, they've only conquered a single ring, but still pose a threat. It's up to Master Chief to respond to this incursion. In many ways, this is a return to form - while not technically part of the Covenant anymore, The Banished are familiar enemies, both as former Covenant troops and as opponents from Wars 2. The maps are mainly going to be set in the artificial environments of the Halo Ring, just like in Combat Evolved. Maybe relying on these nostalgic elements is what the game needs to woo back the older fandom.
There is, however, a "but". Rather big "but" that might change everything.
Throughout the development cycle of Halo Infinite, several key developers in decision making positions left the company and there were management shakeups at the Microsoft-owned development studio. Between all these replacements, it isn't clear how much of what we think we know about Halo Infinite is up to date, and how much of what developers - such as creative director Tim Longo - said in the past remains true. We doubt that the amount of time that has passed permitted 343 major shakeups, but several details may have taken surprising turns.
The degree of corporate restructuring that bogged down 343 was so severe, that for a time many fans doubted that Halo Infinite would ever be finished and released at all. Luckily, those worries have been put to rest, but we still don't know what exactly to expect. There were rumors about even more staff changes at 343 last fall, but these didn't amount to much ultimately.
Are there any official Halo Infinite trailers?
Yes, three even! That said, two of these are cinematic teasers, and one just basically just audio with an animated waveform. Considering the changes we assume the game is going through, it makes sense that other trailers haven't been released - they probably wouldn't reflect the final product anyway.
While not a trailer per-se, there is the infamous gameplay demo as well. However, since this is the exact footage that sparked the controversy which led to the delay, it is hardly anything to go on anymore.
We imagine some of the new gameplay additions will remain however. The main takeaway was that Infinite will feature new traversal mechanics, which involve a grappling hook attachment that is new to Master Chief's Spartan power armor.
Will Halo Infinite have multiplayer?
Of course! The huge influence of the Halo franchise on multiplayer FPS games cannot be overstated, as this is one of the few series that rightfully claims the descriptor "genre defining". It just wouldn't be right for Halo Infinite to be singleplayer only - though the approach to multiplayer is different this time around.
Halo Infinite multiplayer will be free-to-play from launch, requiring no purchase of the main game which includes the single player campaign. Instead, multiplayer will be monetized through microtransactions, but Microsoft is taking a careful approach to avoid the ire of players. Cosmetics will be the only items players can purchase with real money, and all items will also be made possible to earn through gameplay without spending at all. Halo Infinite will not feature lootboxes.
A list of weapons that will be available in Halo Infinite has been made public, but we aren't sure if it still is up to date, what with the changes the game has undoubtedly gone through ever since:
- Plasma Pistol
- MK50 Sidekick
- VK78 Commando
- Pulse Carbine
- CQS48 Bulldog
While not confirmed, it is rumored that Halo Infinite will feature a battle royale mode, like so many other AAA shooters these days.
What platforms will Halo Infinite launch on?
Halo Infinite will be available on PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Gamers purchasing the game on either generation of Xbox will be able to play the native version of the game on the other generation of Xbox consoles at no additional cost, and Halo Infinite will be available via Xbox Game Pass from day one.