Early today, I was part of a group who met virtually with Chris Lee, Studio Head of Halo Infinite; Paul Crocker, Associate Creative Director of Halo Infinite; and Jerry Hook, Head of Design for Halo Infinite. We were all treated to a narrated gameplay demo of Halo Infinite, followed by a Q&A session.
Let’s first take a look at the Halo Infinite gameplay demo and what insight the developers had to add to it.
A narrated look at Halo Infinite gameplay
The narrated gameplay demo was that which was shown at the Xbox Games ShowCase. However, both Chris Lee and Paul Crocker offered some great insight into the demo. The 8 minute demo shown takes place roughly halfway through the game. The pilot is a very important character in Halo Infinite as the team wanted to create a character that was juxtaposition to Chief.
Master Chief is the universe’s greatest soldier who protects humanity at every point. And, the pilot is the most human character that has ever been created in a Halo game. He is the most “normal” guy that the developers could place in this crazy position. The moment that Master Chief steps outside in the demo at the 2:11 mark, is the first time gamers get to experience a fully realized Halo ring.
Familiar but different
The developers wanted this moment in Halo Infinite to be just as special as when gamers first crashed onto the mysterious Halo ring in Halo Combat Evolved. The idea is to make Halo Infinite feel different, new and fresh. And, to bring back that sense of wonder, mystery and hope.
Chris and Paul went on to explain that Halo Infinite is the most open and expansive environment in a Halo game that has ever been created. In fact, it’s several times larger than that last 2 Halo campaigns put together. As a result, it gives players a lot of choice and freedom as they play through the world.
The team enjoyed adding new gameplay elements to the game such as the equipment system. You’ll notice the first example of the equipment system at the 4:10 mark in the demo. The Drop Shield gives you temporary cover on the battlefield, which can be used to counter grenades. It also allows Master Chief’s shields to regenerate when you are in the heat of taking fire.
The second example is the Grapple Shot at the 4:18 mark in the video. It gives you a lot of manoeuvrability and access to new locations in the game. It also allows you to use it realtime in combat. Additionally, the Grapple Shot gives gamers lots of alternative routes in which they can approach problems from different directions and change their playstyle on the fly depending on what is happening in the game.
You can see this in action at the 5:40 mark in the demo where Master Chief goes around the main path that is leading up to the AA Guns so he can surprise the Banished from behind.
War Chief Escharum
War Chief Escharum appears at the 6:50 mark and is the commander of the forces of the Banished. They are occupying the ring and are excited from a warmongering point to have to go up against Master Chief who has returned to take the ring back.
Halo Infinite developer Q&A session
The second half of my time with the Halo Infinite team developers was a Q&A session about the game.
Q: Will there be a recap for those gamers who have never played a game in the series before or for those that don’t follow the lore closely?
A: Halo Infinite is built as a spiritual reboot and that means we don’t want people to have to have done homework to play this game. There will be no “previously on Halo” recap. On the other hand, Infinite is a continuation of the events in Halo 5.
The game starts with Master Chief floating in space in the aftermath of a mysterious battle who is saved by the new character, the pilot. Everything that happens after that point is new to both of those characters. So, you are going on the journey with Master Chief and the pilot and learning about what happened and where they are going in the future.
Q: Is Halo Infinite separated into chapters? Does it make you go from one place to another? Or is it going to be all open?
A: As you know, the campaign for Halo Infinite is larger than both Halo 4 and Halo 5 combined. It is huge! There is a whole world to explore in the open-world and there is a lot more beneath the surface for the player to find.
We want gamers to come and experience the journey that they have loved in previous Halo games but also find new gameplay and experiences as they explore the ring. At the same time, we don’t want to make a game so big that gamers feel like they can’t complete it.
We have a storyline that pulls you through and encourages you to explore but doesn’t force you to. The player can experience the ring at their own pace and encounter new things to find new act ivies and missions. The main focus is a Master Chief adventure that continues from the events of Halo 5, that has a conclusion and also looks to the future.
Q: Some fans were disappointed by the graphics and visuals in the demo. Do you have any comments on that?
A: It’s really important that fans take a look at the 4K demo video that is available now. As part of the spiritual reboot process, we have looked at some of the icon art styles from different parts of the franchise. We really want to nail those visuals to bring iconic elements into the game.
Naturally, we are still very much into development and have a ways to go to polish and tune the game. This is definitely a work in progress. Halo Infinite will look and play incredible when players get their hands on it this holiday.
Q:What does spiritual reboot mean in terms of gameplay, story and campaign?
A: The challenge you have from a design perspective to respect such a long lived franchise is pretty big. What we did with both our characters, our behaviours, as well as our weapons is to take a look a look at the franchise as a baseline and say “Hey, what were those best elements?”. When we put together the sandbox for Halo Infinite, we made sure that every weapon has its roll.
And, in the ring, you’ll find some pretty special things that can change that dramatically. We’ve also enabled our AI to use the sandbox more against you than you have ever seen in the past. I think this will create a very strong combat loop that gamers will really enjoy.
Q: Is dual wielding back?
A: *Laughing* We’re not going to reveal all the secrets of the game. The main thing is, Master Chief is going to have access to a broad range of weapons. More than we have had in any other Halo title to date. That will allow a ton of player choice, which is central to the designs that we wanted to enable.
Along with your equipment, you are going to be able to approach and scavenge on the battlefield. This means you can play the best way you want to play. This is really critical for us because if you are somebody who likes to be a front line, charger assault person, you can use that Grapple Hook to get you into combat.
Alternatively, if you like standing back and using riffles or snipers, you can do that as well. The hope is that you are able to enjoy Halo Infinite and play it in the best way you enjoy.
Q: What are the differences between the Xbox One and Xbox Series X versions of Halo Infinite?
A: We started Halo Infinite with an ambitious vision to bring these new experiences for our players. We knew early on that we needed to build a new technical foundation so that we could achieve those ambitious goals. And, that’s when we decided to invest in creating the SlipSpace engine. The SlipSpace engine was built very early on to support the Xbox One family of devices, Xbox Series X and PC.
This allows us to build in parallel and create an optimal version of the game for whatever device you are playing on. Couple that with Smart Delivery and you get the best version of Halo Infinite for the platform you are playing on. We want to make sure all players get to experience the game and have an experience that is optimized for their device.
Q: Will Halo Infinite be fully playable on Project xCloud?
A: Yes, Halo Infinite will be fully playable on Project xCloud.
Q: What can you tell us about Halo Infinite multiplayer?
A: We aren’t sharing details about the multiplayer experience just yet. However, we will be sharing those over the coming months. We are shipping multiplayer at launch alongside the campaign to make sure players get the full experience when they pick up Halo Infinite this holiday.
Final thoughts from the developers
Chris: Halo Infinite is the most ambitious game that 343 Industries has ever created. It’s this ambition of building the most open and expansive gameplay experience for players to have unprecedented freedom while experiencing a Master Chief story. It’s something that is really exciting to bring online alongside the launch of the next-generation with Xbox Series X. We are really excited for people to put their hands on a controller and feel this new experience later this year.
Paul: I would like everyone to know that we built Halo Infinite for everyone. We built this for returning fans, new fans, and for people who don’t know anything except that Master Chief is a character that shoots things on a Halo ring. We want to bring these players in so that they can understand the magic and soul of Halo and come with us in the future for new adventures and stories.
Jerry: I’m really excited that we get to bring our Steam community with us, our PC community with us and all of our fans on whatever Xbox you are playing on. Halo Infinite has a lot of new things and at the same time have tried to respect the legacy of Halo as best we can.
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