(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 plenty of 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 release date
This is the big news on the Infinite front - having missed the Series X's launch, it's been confirmed that the game will launch in Fall 2021, up to a year later than it was first expected.
That's pretty massive news from most angles - it's deprived 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.
It's now finally been confirmed that the game is launching on 8 December 2021, after multiple leaks from retailers and store pages in Taiwan and elsewhere spoiled the news ahead of its confirmation at Gamescom 2021.
We also know that Xbox and 343 Industries considered a bunch of ways to avoid the first delay, including the option of releasing Infinite serially or releasing the multiplayer separately from the singleplayer.
It's now been confirmed that even with the sizeable delay into December 2021 there are some big omissions at launch - Halo Infinite will release without either a co-op mode for its campaign or its popular Forge mode, both of which are planned to arrive in updates roughly six months after launch, pending further delays. That's disappointed many fans, splitting people between those who'd rather just play earlier and those who'd prefer a fully complete product.
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 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 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 multiplayer
As part of its massive E3 presentation in 2021, Microsoft made a fairly sizeable announcement about the multiplayer portion of Halo Infinite, as well as showing off gameplay of it for the first time.
The multiplayer segment of Infinite will be fully free-to-play, potentially opening up the game to a huge audience of players who don't want to commit to buying the game or a Game Pass membership.
We think it's a brilliant decision in an age where free titles like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone are hugely dominant, and can't wait to see how players embrace a potentially expanded community.
Beyond that, the gameplay looks frenetic and fun - the trailer puts an emphasis on those moments of unpredictable outcomes that make Halo's sandbox levels such a joy to fight in. There's also a look at how you can customise your Spartan with different armour and paints, making for plenty of options, along with the usual array of powerful and varied weapons.
Since this trailer dropped, 343 has started a programme of testing that's let players in to try out the game against bots in the first instance, and it seems to be going down really well, so things are looking positive for Infinite's free multiplayer.
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 backwards 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.
However, the game will also be a big one for Xbox's presence on PC - a recent blog post confirmed that it'll have a full PC version with ultrawide support and advanced graphics options. Plus, there will be crossplay and cross-progression between Xbox and PC, so that you're never stuck on your own because of the platform you play on.