Halo Infinite wants you to remember the good old days. Late nights playing couch co-op, dazzling alien worlds, frenetic firefights, and one seriously badass supersoldier wearing a suit of iconic green power armor. Halo Infinite, the spiritual reboot of the venerable Halo series, is a direct sequel to Master Chief’s story from Halo 4 and Halo 5, but from a design standpoint, Infinite is going back to its roots.
On Thursday, 343 Industries revealed the first look at Halo Infinite‘s campaign mode, featuring a Westworld-esque trailer and an eight-minute gameplay demo set on a sprawling Ringworld. And you know what? Their plan is working. To needlessly paraphrase the late, great Marcel Proust, “No sooner had the Spartan armor mixed with the cries of murderous gun-toting aliens graced my screen than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me.”
That extraordinary thing was a sense of wonder, excitement, and anticipation—the kind I haven’t exactly felt for a Halo game in quite some time. I felt it once more on Thursday afternoon when Nerdist joined a small group of journalists for a virtual Q&A with the game’s developers to dive deeper into the ambitious, open-world game set to launch on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC later this year.
The game is gigantic
Halo has always harbored a sense of grandeur and nowhere is that more apparent than in Infinite. According to a post on Halo Waypoint, “The scale of the environment accessible to players [in Halo Infinite] is several times larger than that of the last two Halo games combined.”
Those sprawling vistas in the gameplay demo weren’t just for show, it seems. You may have also noticed the presence of a tactical map full of different discoverable locations. According to Halo Infinite Studio Head Chris Lee, in addition to the main storyline, there will be “opportunities to discover hidden rewards and assault Banished fortifications in brand new ways.”
Lee told us, “For the open, expansive experience and campaign, we really wanted to create an experience that delivered on that promise that players had when they first set foot on the Halo ring in [Halo: Combat Evolved]. You’re filled with this sense of mystery and wonder and there’s this new universe to explore and discover secrets that the Forerunners held in different aspects.”
Halo Infinite associate creative director Paul Crocker added, “It takes place in a huge world that is open and expansive. We have a storyline that pulls you through it, which is effectively unlocking certain areas. But once you progress through it, you have the ability to backtrack and explore. There’s a lot to find out in the world.”
Lee continued, “So for Infinite we really wanted to create this ring and fully realize it for players to explore. Infinite will be the most open and expansive campaign. It gives players the freedom to experience this rich Master Chief story, but deviate and find a lot of things that are on the ring. Players will be rewarded for that exploration with upgrades and different equipment that can give you more strategies and tactics to take the fight to the Banished.”
Halo Infinite is the last Halo for a while
Speaking with IGN in advance of the Halo Infinite gameplay reveal, Chris Lee revealed that this could be the last standalone Halo release for quite some time.
“Halo Infinite is the start of our platform for the future,” Lee said. “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.”
“For content for the future, Halo Infinite continues Master Chief’s saga from Halo 4 and 5, and it’s really the start of the next series, the next generation of gaming for Halo,” Lee said when asked about these plans for the future during our session. “We look at this as a platform that will grow over time, and we’ll continue to bring new stories into it. It’s important that each story is self-contained and that it will tell a complete story. You won’t have a need to have multiple releases to have a full story of beginning, middle, and end. We don’t have specifics that we’re sharing today around how it will unfold, but we are thinking about how we do that for years to come.”
History is in Infinite’s DNA
If you felt a wave of nostalgia watching the gameplay demo earlier, that was a conscious choice. From the color palette to the way weapons and items are designed, Halo Infinite is a love letter to the Halo series designed to make you remember that same visceral thrill you felt way back in 2001.
“This really speaks to the spiritual reboot concept that we started this project with,” said Lee when asked about the game’s brighter color palette. “We really wanted to take the learnings from Halo 4 and Halo 5 and then take that really look across the history of the Halo franchise, and embrace the most iconic elements, and bring those forward for gamers today. We really want to make sure this is a game that feels great to our longtime fans that have been playing Halo games, as well as a great entry point for new players.”
“The visual language hearkens back to some of those iconic looks we’ve had in Halo, and I think Master Chief’s design, that we’ve talked about previously, really is a great example of that from the past,” Lee added. “Looking in the world today, you can see it’s a world that’s filled with hope, that’s filled with wonder and mystery, and that was really important to be able to embrace that and bring it forward for fans today.”
Choice is your greatest weapon
If you’re anything like me, you went absolutely hog-wild when Master Chief busted out a grappling hook in the gameplay demo, using it as both a traversal tool to access higher ground and as a weapon to propel himself towards enemies like a meat rocket. As it turns out, items like the Grappleshot and that nifty deployable shield wall are just the tip of the iceberg for Master Chief’s arsenal in Halo Infinite, and they’re representative of a core design ethos based around giving players the freedom to play the game exactly how they choose to play, according to Halo Infinite head of design Jerry Hook.
“Our sandbox is something that we spent a lot of time on, and we absolutely spent a lot of time on the style of the art and that went to our weapons and the slickness of the weapons that the original iconic Halo brought to the franchise,” Hook told us. “It also went to the iconic way in which the weapons feel.”
“What you’re going to find is, as [Master Chief] explores the ring, you’re gonna find a lot more equipment,” Hook added. “You’re also going to find upgrades for the equipment. All of it not about power, but about options for the player. That’s critical to what we wanted to provide. It’s about ensuring players are able to make the choices that they wanted to both in the moment, as well as throughout the game world to be successful in the way they want to play the game. That is critical for us and also critical for how the legacy of Halo has really been brought to the forefront for Halo Infinite.”
The Pilot does have a name
As we saw in the game’s trailers and Thursday’s gameplay demo, Master Chief isn’t alone on this massive ringworld. He is accompanied by an extremely stressed out pilot, who seems to play a major role in the game’s story. Well, we can proudly confirm that the pilot does, in fact, have a name.
“Yes, the Pilot has a name, and yes you will learn what it is. His name is actually not that important in the grand scheme of things. But it was an amazing moment for us because we had a bunch of different names for him through the development of the game, but the actual character’s name was actually named by our actor who plays the Pilot. He was ’round my house at our last sessions and we were talking through what his name was, and he was like, ‘I don’t want to call him that! We should call him this.’ So we were like, ‘That’s cool, let’s do it!’ So yes, he has a name.”
I guess some secrets will just have to wait until we actually play the game…
There will be couch co-op
For many gamers—myself included—it released a wave of nostalgia for late nights spent playing couch co-op in this incredible sci-fi series. Thankfully, Halo Infinite sounds like it will include local, split-screen co-op as well, according to Jerry Hook.
“Classic Halo—my son and I sat down and played all the [Halo] games on the couch,” Hook enthused. “We have spent a lot of time not only in split-screen, but doing co-op as well. Halo Infinite is going to bring co-op to you. You’re going to be able to explore the ring absolutely with your Fireteam. Keep them together, have a blast, make it your ring, and defeat the Banished.”
While we’re still champing at the bit to see the multiplayer in action, at least we can take solace that co-op lives on.
Halo Infinite is available for the Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on Steam this holiday season.
Featured Image: Microsoft/343 Industries