Halo 5: Guardians didn’t win over a large portion of its intended audience in 2015. The story campaign was controversial among longtime fans; plus, for the first time, 343 Industries had Bungie’s Destiny to compete with. Faced with the decision of whether to make a quick, middling sequel or go back to the drawing board with its flagship shooter, Microsoft chose the latter route. The real-time strategy game Halo Wars 2 landed in early 2017, and Halo Infinite was announced with a tech demo in 2018. Two years later, 343 has unveiled an eight-minute look at the latter’s gameplay, which you can watch below.
“What does Halo mean to us?” was the question driving the studio behind Infinite, 343 head Bonnie Ross told IGN last year. Today, we finally see the fruits of their labors—this is a new era for Halo. Reminiscent of the expansive, quasi-open-world levels from the original Halo: Combat Evolved, Infinite feels fresher than the series has in years. You can feel the influence of games like Destiny, and even Breath of the Wild, in Halo Infinite’s open world and all-new design sense. Just as many critics saw Breath as a reinvention of the original Legend of Zelda from ’86, Infinite immediately looks like a return to what worked best in Bungie’s 2001 killer app.
“Several hours into the campaign,” Halo Infinite studio head Chris Lee tells IGN, the Master Chief will be free to explore a large section of the game’s Halo ring. He’ll unlock new weapons and equipment—like a grappling hook—as the player progresses through the story, changing the rhythm of combat as well as traversal. “There’s definitely a sense of freedom that you haven’t had before,” Lee adds. “You will get to choose your path there. But we do also want to tell that story, so while you’re doing that we want to keep the story moving forward versus, like, a nonlinear story.”
On the narrative side of things, it sounds as though Chief will be taking on two big bads: a Banished Brute called War Chief Escharum and something more mysterious—the Harbinger. Anyone who’s played Halo 5 or Halo Wars 2 will probably assume this to be Cortana, Chief’s former AI companion, and her fleet of Forerunner weapons. If Cortana’s half as power-mad as she was in Halo 5, things are sure to get out of hand when she shows up in Infinite. Let’s hope Chief can rekindle their relationship before she decides humanity has outlived its usefulness.
“This is my last fight, a true test of legends,” Escharum tells Chief in the new eight-minute gameplay demo. “A story that will outlive us both. Set a fire in your heart. Bare your fangs. Fight hard. Die well.”