The reaction to Halo Infinite’s gameplay reveal has been very interesting; by in large seemingly dominated by Craig memes owing to the underwhelming visuals of what is, without a doubt, the Xbox’s flagship title. Despite the obvious disappointment, shared by myself, in the graphics department, it doesn’t take much to peer into the general sentiment that is actually overwhelmingly positive in other areas. Halo under 343 has mixed successes; Halo 4 was well received for its single player story but critiqued for foregoing the Halo identity in its crucial multiplayer component by desperately copying its competitors. With Halo 5, 343 created an excellent component but the campaign was so woefully off-target from not just Halo 4’s quality but the standard that is expected from Halo fans that it put a damper on the entire product. With Halo Infinite however, the developers have been extremely candid in recognising both shortcomings and are intent on delivering not just a worthy Halo game but one that will stand the test of time and remain relevant for years to come and I believe that they can do exactly that, for the reasons set out below.
1. Zeta Halo
This may not mean much to you if you’re not a hardcore Halo fan but the significance of Halo Infinite being set on Zeta Halo should not be overlooked. Arguably, the most significant events took place on this ring and housed some of the most important characters in the Halo lore. As you will see from our video above summarising just one of the reasons why this is so relevant, this is the Halo ring that has been discussed for years in Halo canon.
First and foremost, if at any time the Flood were going to make an appearance it would be now, on this ring. Zeta Halo is home to the Palace of Pain, a series of Flood research facilities where experiments were carried out on ancient humans and the flood by the Forerunners to find a cure for the infestation. The Halo community has been banging on about bringing back the Flood for years and I am absolutely confident that they will come back in Halo Infinite albeit in a different form.
Zeta Halo also was home to incredibly well realised characters such Mendicant Bias, a contender class Artificial Intelligence that was responsible for making Zeta Halo fire onto a planet and releasing the Primordial.
The Primordial is said to be a hybrid between the Precursor (the deity like super race that created ALL sentient life in the Halo universe) and the Flood. It is on Zeta Halo that Mendicant Bias interrogated the Primordial leading to a 43 year long conversation in which Mendicant Bias was convinced or corrupted by the Primordial in what is dubbed the ‘logic plague’. Mendicant Bias’ is said to be buried deep within Zeta Halo’s core.
The lore in Halo is so deep that a traditional Halo game would just not do it justice and that is why Halo Infinite being a 10 year long supported title makes sense. There absolutely is enough meat on the Halo canon to accommodate that as long as it is implemented well.
2. Open World
Perhaps the biggest change ever in a Halo game and one that, I believe was always Halo’s destiny (no pun intended here) to arrive at. Even in the days of Halo: Combat Evolved, there was a desire to explore more of the Halo ring world and a feeling that a true Halo game would let players explore it unimpeded in one of its many vehicles. How the open world is going to be implemented remains to be seen but with a game world touted to be several times larger than Halo 4 and 5 combined, that desire could finally be realised if the open world is constructed in a meaningful way with attention to detail and enough love poured into it to satiate even the most hardcore of Halo fans.
With 4 player online co-op already confirmed, exploring the Halo sandbox with friends could be a real joy. Imagine exploring together on air and on the ground with 3 other mates and trying to find the secrets of the Forerunner installation. I hope the missions we get do not just simply fall into your traditional open world tropes but have some purpose to them too but adding that Halo formula to an open world already makes Halo Infinite a far more exciting prospect than Halo 4 and 5.
3. The Essence of Halo: Combat Evolved
343 have said that they are going back to the roots of the franchise and delivering a true Halo game. I went back to complete the Halo: CE campaign from scratch again to better remind myself what that felt like and having done so and carefully examined the Halo Infinite trailer, I can say without hesitation that this looks and feels like Halo at its core. Going back to watch Halo 5’s campaign gameplay is such a painful exercise in comparison to this and makes you wonder what actually led 343 in that direction but I think the Slipspace engine has enabled them to do what they are with Halo Infinite.
There is still a lot that we haven’t seen yet and I hope that at launch, Halo Infinite is a fully realised launch title despite 343’s plans to support and enhance it over the next decade. However, the gameplay loop, the feel of the new weapons, the reactions of the enemies as they get shot, the music that harkens back to the orchestral scores of the original games, the grappling hook; witnessing all these things have me as hyped for a Halo game as I can remember. It is such a shame that the visuals are so below par though; had that not been the case most gamers would have lost their minds, particularly if the 2018 engine demonstration was reflective of the actual quality shown here. Whilst I expect some improvements in the visuals at launch, I do not think they will be fundamentally different to allay that disappointment. Nonetheless, the important thing is that 343 appear to have finally succeeded in bringing back the spirit of Halo; something that I believe, even Bungie failed to capture after the first game. I have waited years for Halo to bring back that sense of wonder, mystery and intrigue fand I am so excited that we may finally get it back. That is why Halo Infinite could be the best Halo game in years; removing the limits of old whilst retaining the spirit of it. Don’t let us down 343!