The Xbox Games Showcase kicked off with the most anticipated title of the event, Halo Infinite. The Gameplay demo confirmed theories discussing more open level design along with showing off new weapons and equipment such as the grappling hook. These are the many other ways the formula has evolved and to live up to the franchise’s history.
Much of the criticism of Halo 5’s story centered around the lack of Master Chief as a consequence of focusing on another protagonist. 343 Industries has taken that feedback to heart and rewritten the experience to bring our favorite space marine back to the center stage. Taking place two years after Halo 5, Master Chief is rescued by a lone pilot in deep space and returns to a shattered UNSC force. He must find a way to reconnect with whatever is left of the UNSC and help his pilot companion get off the Halo while being pursued by the Banished.
Halo’s missions have always had a sandbox quality in their scope but for the first time in the franchise, the campaign will feature true open-ended locations. Behind closed door demos confirm the redesign of the mission structure from what fans have come to expect. The map will have main objectives that must be completed to progress the story while also showing optional objectives and extra content. The extent to which this will be implemented is yet to be seen. This could be limited to a few locations such as in The Last Of Us Part Two or it could be as expansive and unlimited as The island in Ghost of Tsushima, slowly unlocking massive sections of land to explore as players progress the story. While skeptical at first that this might add bloat to the game, Halo has always placed an emphasis on vehicle traversal unlike most first person shooters. This can complement a sandbox-style setting, leading to natural exploration opportunities such as cruising the Warthog or flying in a Banshee.
With the addition of optional content, players must have an incentive to seek areas away from the main path other than the thrill of encounters. This is where Master Chief’s new tools come into play. While taking a look at the environment on the map, another tab titled “Upgrades” was seen in the menu, leaving the interpretation that optional objectives will reward players that invest the time into tackling them. One of the new showcased equipment items was a grappling hook. It gave Chief the ability to vertically maneuver while also giving him the chance to close the gap on enemies and reach the energy sword’s effective range.
The Halo Platform
In an interview with IGN, Studio head Chris Lee revealed that Halo Infinite will be the last standalone Halo product the studio produces for the foreseeable future. 343 Industries will be focused on growing the experience overtime as a platform. Rejecting the formula of numbered entries prevents the segmentation that the latest titles have struggled with and allows 343 to plan the next decade of content. Halo Infinite is not a live service game reminiscent of Destiny, but the platform will be updated technologically and with story experiences. Ray Tracing support is already planned for post-launch but how far this engine will evolve in the next ten years remains to be seen. Chris Lee also mentioned the experience is bigger than the last two titles combined, which can be great if the proper steps are taken to pace the experience properly without filler. Time will tell if 343 has landed in the sweet spot in creating an engaging, evolving world or a bland endless live service.