(Pocket-lint) - Halo was a radical new arrival when it first splashed onto the scene, but is now, years later, very much one of gaming's most revered franchises. It's been helping Microsoft to sell consoles since the first Xbox, and it looks like Halo Infinite will do the same for the Xbox Series X, albeit not until a year after launch.
We've now seen gameplay of the next iteration for Master Chief and the rest of the gang, and we've gathered everything there is to know right here for you.
Halo Infinite story
We know a few key details about the story in Halo Infinite - principally that it's the next major game in the series, even if it's ditching the numericals of earlier titles.
As if to confirm this fact, all of the marketing that's so far surrounded the game has focused heavily on John 117, otherwise known as the near-mystical Master Chief. Microsoft's in-engine reveal trailer from 2019 confirmed as much, showing him being awakened from an icy space slumber.
Halo 5 had players chopping and changing between the perspectives of Master Chief and Spartan Locke, which created some nice contrasts but also arguably diluted its story a little. That looks set to change, as 343 Industries has confirmed that Infinite focuses more heavily on Master Chief.
343 has also admitted that by the end of Halo 5 things were starting to get a little confusing for players who weren't up to date on the lore from a host of previous titles, and says that Infinite should act as a better starting point. That almost sounds like soft reboot territory, but we don't think it'll be that harsh.
In terms of story, though, we also know that the game will see a return by the antagonists of the less widely-played Halo Wars 2, the Banished.
Halo Infinite gameplay
We've now got our first look at gameplay from Infinite, in the above trailer, and the demo's suitably impressive as far as its freedom goes. It's a wide-ranging bit of gameplay, encompassing a bit of story, some vehicle traversal and a whole lot of shooting.
Pre-release images, though, taken from the game's box art, had already led a lot of people to draw conclusions ahead of time. The prevailing theory is that Infinite might be either an open-world game or at least have some degree of player control over what objectives to tackle next - with blue pillars of light in the distance signalling points of interest, and the trailer looks to support that.
In fact a recent blog post confirms this - developer Joseph Staten confirms the game might seem open-world, but is closer to having simply massive levels, and won't include elements like crafting that we've come to expect from other open shooters (thankfully). He says that the core gameplay loop will be sizing up some enemies, coming up with a plan of attack before executing it and retooling for the next fight, which sounds both familiar and enticing to us.
However, we do know that there will be a day-night cycle, and different weather conditions that can roll through areas, so there's clearly scope for lots of different ways for the same levels to look. That surely means you'll be spending a lot of time in some of them.
Since the trailer dropped, there's been a healthy amount of criticism of the visual fidelity of the game, which Microsoft and 343 have defended as still a work in progress ahead of a new Fall 2021 release.
In particular, 343 has published a blog post that explains a lot of the rough edges that people saw when they freeze-framed the trailer and confirmed that the art style is not up for change, although the level of fidelity will be higher at release. It also makes light of the many "Craig" memes doing the rounds after a deadpan shot of an Elite set people's imaginations alight.
Getting back to the gameplay, though, the pilot character introduced in the "Discover Hope trailer" above, meanwhile, could well be useful to drop Master Chief onto mission targets. It's all a bit fanciful, but the demo certainly looks broad.
What will take a little longer to get details of is the multiplayer offering, always a huge part of a Halo game's appeal - that's going to stay under 343 and Xbox's hat for a little longer, it would seem. We know it's part of the package, and have seen some screenshots, but not much more.
Halo Infinite platforms
We know that Xbox is positioning Halo Infinite as a huge title for the Xbox Series X, which is sensible given its wide appeal, but you might not realise that it'll also be coming to Xbox One.
Microsoft says that it doesn't want to force anyone into upgrading to play the latest games immediately, so as part of its Smart Delivery programme, Halo Infinite will come to both current-gen and next-gen consoles. A purchase of either version will net you compatibility backward and forward.
On top of that, we know that Infinite will also be launching on Xbox Game Pass, further broadening the range of people who'll be able to play it at launch, and making Xbox's membership programme even more attractive than it already is.
Halo Infinite release date
That's pretty massive news from most angles - it deprives the Xbox Series X of its main flagship title for an entire year, for one. However, it's largely been met with support from fans, who'd generally rather play a better game than an earlier game.
We don't have a more precise date than that, at this stage. We do know, though, that Xbox and 343 Industries considered a bunch of ways to avoid the delay itself, including the option of releasing Infinite serially, for example releasing the multiplayer separately from the singleplayer.
Frankly, we're glad they decided not to pursue that course and will keep our eyes peeled for news of the actual precise release date when there's more to report on that front.