Halo: Infinite is on the way, but don't expect it soon.
Coming Dec 31, 2020
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It's been almost three years since the release of Halo 5, so it was exciting when Microsoft opened its E3 2018 showcase with a trailer for Halo: Infinite. But as we later learned, the video was a "game engine demo" that was meant to show off the capabilities of 343's new proprietary Slipspace engine, and it was not necessarily representative of the game itself. With that in mind, we're rounding up some key details about Halo Infinite and its developer to help clear up some lingering confusion and give you a snapshot of what the game is.
Not A Game Yet?
The Halo Infinite trailer released during the Xbox briefing was a tech demo meant to show off what the Slipspace engine was capable of achieving. In a blog post that all Halo fans should read, studio head Chris Lee said 343's ideas for Halo Infinite are so ambitious that it had to make new tech to realise that ambition. Everything in the trailer is running in-engine, but it doesn't necessarily represent what the game will be. Lee stressed that 343 still has "a long way to go" until launch. He added that he is sure that Halo Infinite will "evolve" between now and launch. This is all to say that what you saw at E3 was not Halo: Infinite the game but instead a snapshot of what Halo: Infinite could be. It was an impressive-looking demo, showcasing a gorgeous world and sprawling environments, as well as a variety of new creatures. Halo 5's 24-player Warzone mode offered a first look at larger-scale Halo, and it's exciting to think about what 343 might do to push things further with the new engine.
The Halo Infinite trailer at E3 was presented as a first-look at the game, but it wasn't that, and Microsoft should have done a better job at making that immediately clear. No one from the 343 leadership team stood up on stage to talk about Infinite, and that felt odd given the size and stature of the Halo brand. Fans are clearly thirsty for more news and details on the next game, and it was a big bummer that we got nothing of the sort on stage. We would have liked to have seen someone like 343 founder Bonnie Ross or Halo franchise manager Frank O'Connor tell fans what Halo: Infinite is all about and why they should get excited about it. It does not inspire confidence in Halo as a franchise that so little was said. Additionally, we are told that Microsoft is not doing Halo interviews at E3 this week.
While Halo: Infinite may not be a game yet, we do know some important story details about it. Halo Infinite is a follow-up to Halo 5: Guardians. It picks up after the events of that game, and tells a more Master Chief-centric story, according to Lee. He explained that 343 is aware of the concern some fans had regarding how Halo 5's story strayed too far from Chief. Indeed, that game's campaign split up time between playing as Chief and Agent Locke. Some wanted more focus on Chief, and it's good to hear Halo: Infinite will deliver that. The Halo universe is a rich tapestry, replete with storytelling opportunities, so it's exciting to think about what 343 might do with Infinite's story.
During the Xbox briefing at E3, Xbox boss Phil Spencer announced that Microsoft is working on new consoles that will follow the Xbox One. Media reports at E3 suggest that one of these is codenamed "Scarlet" and it could launch as soon as 2020. This is especially intriguing and noteworthy in the context of Halo: Infinite. With 343 stressing that Halo: Infinite is a "long way" off from release and the general comments on its technical ambitions, there are some who believe the game might not come until the next Xbox. Microsoft hasn't commented on this.
"New And Unexpected Directions"
Lee, the 343 studio head, said in the blog post that 343 is "making changes to how we approach things" with Halo: Infinite. This could mean a number of things, but the quote stands out in the wake of reports this week. Reports claim Halo: Infinite will be two separate releases. It is rumoured that Halo: Infinite could split up multiplayer and single-player. Noted Microsoft insider Brad Sams said he's heard from sources that single-player for Halo: Infinite could launch in late 2019 with the multiplayer portion arriving in 2020. This would indeed be a big change for Halo. In the same blog post, Lee said he looks forward to taking players in "new and unexpected directions" with the new Halo game, though whether this pertains to a delivery model, the story, or something else remains to be seen.
You'll Get To Play Early
Lee said 343 hopes to develop Halo: Infinite alongside the community, making changes to the game based on fan feedback. To that end, 343 will hold "flighting programs" for the game where people will get to play early and provide feedback to 343. If this sounds familiar, it's because 343 is currently doing that with Halo: The Master Chief Collection as it rolls out new features. Halo: Infinite's beta tests are not coming anytime soon, but Lee said you can expect them to start small and grow over time. Microsoft already has the Game Preview program where people can play unreleased games, but never before has this happened for a franchise as large as Halo. It is exciting and encouraging to see 343 incorporate fan feedback in this way, and hopefully it can lead to a better game in the end.
A New Art Style
Halo Infinite will have a new art style that appears to be evocative of the original game. Nicolas Bouvier, who has been on the Halo team since Halo 4, is Halo: Infinite's art director, and the overall aim of the new style is to "draw significant inspiration from the most iconic and historic parts of the Halo franchise." At the same time, 343 will be trying to "modernize" and "take advantage" of the power of Xbox One consoles to make the game look great. Master Chief's helmet is meant to be a good example of the new art direction for Halo: Infinite.
By all accounts, Halo: Infinite will not be fully released anytime soon. In the blog post, Lee said he understands waiting is difficult, especially now that it's been so long since Halo 5. He stressed that 343 is taking as much time as it needs to make "the right game." Not only that, but the blog post with all the details is titled "Our Journey Begins," which--along with everything else we already mentioned--suggests that Halo: Infinite is a long time off. The pre-release testing periods will soften that blow somewhat, but it's the final product people really want, and that sounds like it is not coming anytime soon. Halo is one of the biggest and most beloved franchise in gaming, with a huge community of dedicated fans. No one would want 343 to rush the next big game out, but it is somewhat disappointing to know the next game is still a long time away from release.
Keep checking back with GameSpot for more on Halo Infinite as more details become available.