The Halo series is more or less synonymous with the Xbox, ever since the very first game Halo: Combat Evolved for the first Xbox console. The feeling of exploring the ring world, the perfect balance between the weapons and the addictive multiplayer mode are some of the elements that have etched themselves in the memories of many players. Not since Goldeneye 007 had we experienced a fps that really did well on consoles.
Halo 2 and later Halo 3 took the concept further with multiplayer games via Xbox Live. However, after completing the prequel game Halo Reach, original developer Bungie handed over responsibility to Microsoft. They in turn started the game studio 343 Industries, which has managed the series since Halo 4. With lessons learned from both parts four and five, as well as The Master Chief Collection, 343 hopes to attract both new and old fans to the upcoming Halo Infinite.
The big Xbox Series X screening on July 23 began with a presentation of Halo Infinite. As soon as the demonstration starts, we experienced deja vu. The Master Chief is on board a small spacecraft, about to crash into the surface of the ring planet. This after the ship was shot down by a giant cannon. Once in place, after an unusually long discussion with the pilot in Halo terms, Master Chief begins to explore the planet. The surroundings reveal that a great battle has taken place.
We see giant, degraded spaceships along a large, open field. When our protagonist looks up at the sky, we glimpse the rest of the surface of the annular planet. It is not long before we are met by beeping sounds from small, annoying “Grunts” that Master Chief shoots down immediately. Shortly afterwards, a ship whizzes by and our hero decides to jump into an iconic Warthog vehicle and then takes up the chase. Surely the scenario sounds familiar?
A “spiritual restart”
343 Industries coined the term “spiritual reboot” to describe the new Halo Infinite. The idea is to offer a game that includes elements from 343’s own Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, while also being influenced by Bungie’s original games. The aforementioned crash landing scene, for example, is deliberately created to recall the introduction to Halo: Combat Evolved.
However, the developers point out that the story will be intact and that Halo Infinite’s campaign will continue where we left off. But it will also be adapted so that even beginners can keep up, without having to study in advance. This time, the plot revolves around a brand new ring planet invaded by the antagonists The Banished. The group is led by the gorilla-like “Brutes” introduced in Halo 2, with much more iconic “Covenants” and “Grunts” as infantry.
An open ring world
Of course, Halo Infinite also contains completely new elements. The biggest difference compared to previous games is that we will now be free to explore the ring world the best we want. Just like in other open-world games, we have access to a map with exposed missions, enemy bases or sights. The ambition is to make the world more alive than before.
For this, the developers 343 Industries have implemented daily cycles and a rich wildlife life, two elements we got to see during the premiere. Another new feature that will give the exploration a new dimension is the duck hook. With the accessory, the Master Chief can swing towards places that were previously inaccessible. Anyone who wants to explore in the old honest way will also have the opportunity, as the developers have promised that the new “sandbox” will be adapted to all different playing styles.
A long-awaited situation makes a comeback
Unfortunately, we have not seen anything from the multiplayer mode yet as the 343 intends to uncover it at a later time. One guess is that they further develop the most popular modes from Halo 5: Guardians, such as Warzone. Another is that they adopt the Battle Royale approach, which is popular among other free-to-play games.
However, we are pleased that another classic mode has been confirmed, namely the ability to play through the campaign with a split screen. The lack of this feature in Halo 5: Guardians aroused great anger among some fans when it went. For those who prefer to play online, it will also be possible to get through the campaign with three other friends over Xbox Live.
The end of traditional Halo games?
“Spiritual restart” is not the only keyword 343 Industries shared. At least as common is the description of Halo Infinite as a platform, rather than a game. Here, the developers simply believe that upcoming Halo adventures will be developed as a supplement to Halo Infinite. 343 intends to keep this platform as the base for everything Halo-related over the next ten years.
Any continuation of the campaign will thus be released as downloadable material in the future. In a way, this shift can also be compared to Microsoft’s other plans for Xbox as a gaming service. Whether this is a successful move for Halo remains to be seen. But from what we’ve seen and heard so far, Halo Infinite has all the prerequisites to become 343’s very best game to date.
Halo Infinite is scheduled to launch in 2020 and will be released for Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC (Windows Store and Steam).