Halo Infinite
https://www.343industries.com/

Halo Infinite: Will 343 Industries Finally Deliver?

The last Halo game I played was Halo 4, the first title to be developed by 343 Industries as opposed to Bungie.
The game was remembered as a mixed bag at best, a decimation of the franchise at worst. While my own thoughts on the game were mixed, one thing was for sure: I wouldn’t buy Microsoft’s latest console just to play Halo anymore.
2015’s Halo 5: Guardians continued to divide the fan base, further fuelling the community’s rejection of 343i as the torchbearer of the series.

For the first time in years, though, I can say that I’m interested in Halo again. Seeing the studio’s engagement with the community and reading the developer blog posts has instilled a sense of hope in me. Maybe they might get it right this time. Ultimately, they have to.

The FPS genre has changed a great deal since the release of Halo 5. Halo Infinite’s release marks a key moment in the longevity of the franchise, a chance for re-invention.

Yesterday, 343 Industries conducted a 45-minute Q&A with Halo Infinite’s key developers. It’s an interesting time for the franchise, no doubt.

Will Halo Infinite be open-world? Sort of…

Last July, fans got their first glimpse of Halo Infinite’s gameplay. While the community was almost universally underwhelmed by the visuals, the appearance of an overworld map excited many. 

The map was akin to those used in shooters like Metro: Exodus and the Far Cry series. It featured markers denoting points of interest, the ability to set waypoints, and the option to view separate missions. 
A clear departure from its usual linearity, this is something entirely new to Halo.

The devs delved into the topic extensively during the Q&A; predictably, fan questions about Halo Infinite’s open-world elements dictated most of the 45-minutes discussion. First in his attempt to describe the new approach was gameplay director Troy Mashburn. He had this to say:

I think that when you talk about open-world or semi-open world, there’s a lot of preconceived ideas of what that means; are you gonna be gathering leather and crafting, those sort of things? That’s not what we’re about. We were inspired very early on from missions like The Silent Cartographer from Halo Combat Evolved.

Mashburn is referring to the fourth mission of the first Halo game. The level was impressive at the time for its size and allowance of tactical freedom.
He went on to describe how the team aims to instil the level’s sense of player choice within Halo Infinite:

We wanted to capture the essence of … player choice. … so I think when we talk about world size, it’s good to understand how we got to this size of the world that we have. In Halo 5, on Veridian, there’s a mission where you’re driving a Scorpion up a road. … Once you complete that mission you leave the Scorpion behind and you go onto the next mission. What we started to ask ourselves is: what if you could keep that Scorpion? What if you could drive that Scorpion to the next mission and use it again?

Halo Infinite’s missions will be more open-ended in the way the player approaches them; they can be tackled using a variety of different tactics from multiple angles and elevations:

What if instead of going through the front gate of that [next] mission, you can drive that scorpion up on the hill and around the backside, and blow up that wraith that’s parked there before the enemy even knows you’re around.

A balancing act


Being able to take vehicles with you after a mission confirms one fluid environment, but this isn’t going to be a Ubisoft or Bethesda style open world. Exactly what form it will take still remains unclear.

One question asked how the devs plan to prevent players from skipping further ahead in the story; what sort of player boundaries does a semi-open-world enforce?

John Mulkey, lead world designer, took the mic to explain:

The way that the game is structured … the way that the primary narrative runs through the game … you don’t have the opportunity to jump ahead and sequence break … the game embraces this to a degree.

Speaking on how Halo Infinite handles primary and secondary objectives, he gave this example:

You can see over on the ridge there’s a location [primary objective] that you’re going to be heading to, but then off to the left there’s a UNSC fort operating base that’s now been over-run by Banished. … I look over to my right and oh man, there’s some green smoke that’s popped that’s coming over that ridge over there; that’s probably a group of marines that are battling for their lives against Banished forces”.

From what we can tell of this new approach, it has the potential to capitalise on Halo’s strongpoints: tight, tactical combat with intelligent A.I. opponents. One huge world with Silent Cartographer-style action certainly holds promise.

it’ll likely be a difficult balance to strike, though. Giving players more freedom than they’re used to but not total free-rein is a fine line to walk.

Legacy

Following the aforementioned dissatisfaction with the aesthetic, the team doubled down on the legacy styling of the original games. Infinite was supposed to release last November alongside the Xbox Series X, but was delayed until Autumn this year for an artistic overhaul.

The visual depiction of Zeta Halo is based on the Pacific Northwest. This is the same area Bungie drew upon for inspiration when making the original Halo. Justin Dinges, campaign art lead, touched on the world’s sub-biomes and artistic direction:

We have some high altitude pallets, we have some more wetland pallets … some war-torn areas; we refer to those as The Deadlands, where you can really see some storytelling going on. … we actually have cave systems in the game as well, so you can go exploring in some really dark, kind of moody areas and see what you can discover.”

The game will also have a day-and-night cycle and be populated by alien wildlife.

The Q&A didn’t delve into weapons much, but what the devs did say is sure to rattle some fans. Lead sandbox Designer Quinn Delhoyo confirmed that duel-wielding — a feature that fans have been begging return since Halo 3: ODST and Reach — is, “not on the cards right now.”

Whenever you set out to make a game the size of Halo Infinite, there’s just so many things you can do. I think we have a very talented team where we can do anything, but we can’t do everything.” Delhoyo explained. 

The team is reportedly putting its focus into fine-tuning the gunplay and polishing the weapons instead. 
This is also the reason given for why there won’t be any playable Elites, as the developers are focused on fleshing out Master Chief’s new ark. 

“Believe”

Halo Infinite seems to hit upon a similar gameplay style as Metro: Exodus: A mixture of linear and non-linear experiences in the pursuit of a seamless, more organic world, while still providing a tightly woven narrative and central objective. 
Infinite will also handle all of its pivotal story moments within the engine. There won’t be any traditional cutscenes, according to Mulkey.

343i understand that they need to try something new in order to compete with modern shooters. The Call of Duty series — and the 15 years of beige coloured military games it inspired — is decidedly out of favour with many FPS fans.
Halo remains unique enough from those games to stand on its own, but still shares a lot of the same foundational components and gameplay mechanics. 

Although bound by the same tropes, Respawn had the initiative to prioritise player movement with the Titanfall series. They tactfully tuned the gameplay into something new enough to excite players, feeling like a refinement of the style as opposed to just being another bland military shooter.

Of course, it was DOOM, in an almost poetic return to form, that shook the genre to its core in 2016 and again last year. DOOM Eternal is widely considered to have been one of the best first-person shooters ever made, in part due to a rejection of the mechanics that Halo and Call of Duty popularised.  

Halo Infinite has tough competition and a lot to live up to, but development does seem to be going in the right direction. In the wake of the disaster that was Cyberpunk 2077, 343i received retrospective praise for having the guts to show their game in an unfinished state. They took criticism on board, listened to their fans, and last month revealed overhauled graphics.

Show us what you’re made of, Spartan

At the end of the discussion, the panel was asked if they were each having fun during the development of the game. It was, of course, a unanimous yes, but there was also a sincerity to their responses that shone through.
If there’s one thing that comes across clearly from this Q&A, it’s the earnest degree of passion and excitement the team has for the game. 

No one can say until release whether Infinite will successfully realise the concepts described above. The explanation of the mechanics was somewhat confusing, even contradictory at times, and how everything will knit together still remains unclear. 
That said, it’s an exciting time for fans. This is a spiritual rebooting of the franchise, as Troy Mashburn said, making the game pivotal in determining what Halo is within the current gaming landscape. 

343i have done a great job engaging with the community through the regular and in-depth Inside Infinite blog posts. They’ve been transparent with their supporters, somewhat of a rare quality in today’s video game industry. You can pre-order Halo Infinite here (affiliate link).

Having never fully lived up to the efforts of Bungie, its time for the team to show us what they’re made of. Let’s hope we have another DOOM Eternal on our hands.


If you enjoyed this article, why not check out our other work such as PS5 is Officially the Fastest Selling Console in US History or Reach for the Stars — Stellaris Kickstarter Hits £1 Million. You can also get even more content on our YouTube channel. Thanks for reading VeryAli!

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