Infinite is on the Horizon

At long last, Halo: Infinite is set for release in early December. Halo: Infinite is the sixth entry in the mainline series of Halo games originating with Combat Evolved back on the original Xbox in 2001. That Infinite coincides with the 20 year anniversary of that initial revolutionary FPS is but one of the added pressures 343 Industries has had to contend with in bringing the new title up to par. 

All or Nothing

In spite of the warm regard Halo: Infinite’s multiplying mode has been basking in over the duration of its open public beta, fans and critics alike are cautious with respect to how Infinite’s single player campaign will fare upon release. This is understandable given its immediate predecessor, Halo 5: Guardians, was slated for a poorly implemented story-line that resulted in a cliffhanger nobody wanted or expected, earning it a place among the worst endings in the history of video games. Below we take a look at some of the latest news to emerge from the 343 Industries camp that holds out the promise that Infinite may be the most fully realised Halo game since Bungie handed over the reins.

Shadow of Bungie

Bungie left the franchise following the release of Halo: Reach, a prequel spin-off that hit the shelves in 2010. That game was praised for both its storytelling and novel game mechanics. Without a doubt, 343 Industries, a subsidiary of Microsoft Game Studios formed from ex-Bungie staff, had big shoes to fill when it took over development of the franchise from Bungie, following their decision to part ways with Microsoft in order to work on the Destiny games.

Their first outing behind the wheel, Halo 4, was commended for bringing new life into the multiplayer mode, increasing the pace of gameplay and taking a leaf out of Call of Duty’s books with respect to levelling and customisation features. However, reviews highlighted that the campaign storytelling was not at the level of the previous games. As mentioned above, this same storytelling pitfall re-occurred in Halo 5, prompting players to lament the loss of Bungie’s creative direction.

A Long Road

When Halo: Infinite’s gameplay was initially unveiled to the world in 2020, it marked one of the worst PR disasters the studio, and the Halo name, had ever faced. Fans and critics alike pointed to the poor graphical fidelity and cartoonish character models as signifying the potential death knell for the series. For the game that was all set to be the new Xbox Series X/S’ flagship, this was a disaster. While it was true that the resolution of the textures on display in that initial gameplay footage was extremely high, the failure to integrate sophisticated next generation lighting effects into the engine, such as the ray-tracing witnessed on recent titles like Cyberpunk 2077, was a huge mistake.

It made the game look out of date before it had even left the starting gate. This led to 343 Industries and Microsoft to delay the game for a full year in order to address these criticisms and craft a game worthy of the 20th anniversary of the franchise. As a further sign that Microsoft were committed to delivering a game that could rank alongside any of the highpoints of the series to date, they hired in Joseph Staten, the former Bungie creative lead that had worked on the campaign stories for the first 3 Halo games, to oversee the project.

Prioritising Storytelling

Just how well these steps will pay off will remain to be seen. Early indications from journalists who have had the opportunity to play several hours of the story-mode point to major improvements in this area over the previous two games. The backbone of the Halo story has always been the relationship between the sci-fi super soldier protagonist, the Master Chief, and his on-board tactical AI Cortana.

Following the events of the previous games, the disappearance of Cortana ought to be weighing heavily on Master Chief in Infinite, and this is something critics have been picking up from in their gameplay previews. Master Chief seems more tired and world weary than ever before, as befitting an intergalactic warrior who has time and again saved humanity, and is now reckoning with the loss of his only confidant.

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