343 Studios has finally given us a taste of what’s to come in Halo Infinite’s campaign. During Microsoft’s Xbox Games Showcase, 343 debuted a new CG trailer, followed by a lengthy 8-minute long gameplay demo.
The demo itself shined a spotlight on the combat, weaponry, and traversal. It largely focused on recapturing what the Halo community has been eager to see since Halo 5 while providing new mechanics and other surprises. Master Chief is seen utilizing a grappling hook attachment to pull himself towards enemies and grab fusion coils. We’re also shown that Halo Infinite has a larger, more open map.
There was a lot to unpack in the demo. Thankfully, we had the opportunity to sit down with 343 Studios’ Studio Head Chris Lee, Associate Creative Director Paul Crocker, and Director Jerry Hook in a roundtable walkthrough of the demo. Our time with 343 Studios provided more context as to what we can expect from Halo Infinite upon its release this holiday season.
Lee describes Halo Infinite as being “the most ambitious game 343 has ever created.” As seen in the demo, this is the first time we’re able to step out and explore a fully realized Halo ring. The footage shown during the Xbox Games Showcase takes place roughly halfway through the campaign. If seeing Master Chief climb into a Warthog and jump over hills made you reminisce of those early Halo: Combat Evolved days, you’re not alone. 343 Studios is treating Halo Infinite as a “spiritual reboot” by providing fans familiar touchstones but pushing the franchise toward at the same time.
There’s a familiarity seen in Halo Infinite’s gameplay demo, especially when drawing comparisons to Combat Evolved’s ‘Halo’ mission. Though, once you begin scratching beneath the surface, there’s a lot of new components at work. Of course, the biggest addition to the gameplay so far is the inclusion of the grapple shot. This pick-up item can not only be used to pull themselves closer to enemies and launch items at said foes. No, the grapple shot plays a larger role in how players can traverse the open areas. It enables players to free themselves, avoiding linear movements. The grapple shot can be used to flank and find higher ground when obtainable. Halo Infinite seeks to provide the opportunity for freedom in its moment-to-moment gameplay. Through the TACMAP, we’ve gotten a taste of how expansive the Halo Ring may be. “We’ve designed the ring to be a place players want to explore,” Crocker said. “But we’re super conscience that we don’t want a game that’s so big that people feel like they can’t complete it.”
In the demo, Master Chief is tasked with taking down three anti-air guns, which is what triggers his onslaught against The Covenant. “We have a storyline that pulls you through and encourages you to do that but doesn’t force you to,” Crocker added. 343 Studios has teased there will be activities to complete and additional missions, but all at their own pace.
Even when in the context of talking about a more open, ambitious Halo, 343 Studio still wants to develop a Master Chief-centric story. This means it will build off the ramifications of the end of Halo 5 and continue this arc. 343 Studios has very much said that Halo Infinite has a conclusion but it also “looks to the future”.
While Halo Infinite is still very much a Master Chief adventure, Halo Infinite’s demo does include a few new faces. The previous trailer shown of Halo Infinite, which takes place at the top of the game, introduced us to “The Pilot”, played by Nicolas Roye. 343 Studio has designed The Pilot to be “the most human character” they’ve ever created. The dynamic between him and Master Chief is mean to juxtapose each other. Where Master Chief is the best soldier the universe has seen, The Pilot represents us, the player.
However, that’s not all. At the end of the demo, we’re introduced to Escharum, the war chief of The Banished. While Master Chief will continue to combat the usual suspects of The Covenant, including Grunts and Elites, the Brutes are back in a more menacing fashion.
The Banished is a splintered faction comprised of Brutes, originally introduced in Halo Wars 2. In the game, The Banished was led by Atriox. Here, in Halo Infinite, The Banished have occupied the new Halo ring. Escharum has targeted Master Chief and challenges him to reclaim the ring. While The Banished have a rich backstory, 343 doesn’t want to exclude those who haven’t played Halo Wars 2. “We don’t want people to have done the homework to come into this title,” Crocker said.
We still have not seen or heard much from Halo Infinite’s multiplayer offering. However, Lee did state that the studio will be “shipping multiplayer at launch alongside the campaign.” That said, there is still a few months before Halo Infinite’s scheduled to release to go over additional details and flesh out more components of the game.
Halo Infinite is scheduled to release this holiday season on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.