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Iconic video game franchise Halo is back with Halo Infinite

  • Set to release later this year, Halo Infinite is the sixth big title in the best-selling Halo video game franchise

Halo Infinite follows the series protagonist Master Chief on new adventures in alien worlds
Halo Infinite follows the series protagonist Master Chief on new adventures in alien worlds

It is hard to believe that the first installment of the highly successful Halo gaming franchise was released almost two decades ago. Halo: Combat Evolved, which was unveiled alongside the original Xbox gaming console in 2001, kickstarted one of the highest-earning video gaming franchises ever. On 23 July, Microsoft revealed an 8-minute gameplay preview demo of the franchise’s next title: Halo Infinite, which is set to be out later this year along with the new, next-generation Xbox console.

Set in the 26th century, Halo follows the journey of the cybernetically enhanced supersoldier Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, the main protagonist of the series, as he attempts to learn more about the massive ring-shaped artificial worlds, called Halo. Like the Covenant and the parasitic Flood in the past editions of the game, Master Chief will come face to face with a new faction of the enemy, the Banished, in Halo Infinite.

In a recent post explaining the game’s campaign mode, Chris Lee, studio head for ‘Halo Infinite’ at video game developer 343 Industries said the demo takes place several hours into the story of ‘Halo Infinite’ and that the Banished, led by the character war chief Escharum, are the Master Chief’s “most formidable opponent yet."

An initial look at the gameplay and official screenshots shows just how far the series has come in terms of the animation. Halo Infinite is designed on the Slipspace gaming engine, which, Lee says, has let them pack in “10 times the processing per pixel, creating the most visually rich game" the studio has ever made “to go with the most open and expansive environment to appear in a Halo game."

A still from the 8-minute gameplay preview of Halo Infinite
A still from the 8-minute gameplay preview of Halo Infinite

But it’s not been a smooth ride all the time for the franchise. “Microsoft may have more at stake with the new Halo than just driving sales," a recent Bloomberg report explains. “The last two installments, from 343 Industries — the studio Microsoft created to shepherd Halo after its originator Bungie split off from the software company — were polarizing among fans. Halo 5 was panned by some for a short and unsatisfying story," the report adds.

Quite a few fans of the series also took to social media to express their initial disappointment with the graphics seen in the gameplay demo released on Thursday. Some even pointed out visible differences in the graphics quality seen in ‘Halo’ titles on the Xbox 360 and the demo, which was played on the upcoming Xbox. Screenshots from a Halo title 10 years ago looked more realistic and sharp than what was on show in the recent demo.

But the Bloomberg report does add that Halo Infinite “appears to be a departure from the series in some notable ways. It has a large, open world map, suggesting non-linear gameplay that will let players finish objectives in whatever order they choose."

Along with the familiar alien world setting and open world maps, there’s also a return for some familiar weapons in the game. Some items like the assault rifle, plasma guns and warthogs are reminiscent of the early Halo titles. This time around, the Master Chief is also armed with two new pieces of equipment, a portable shield and a grappling hook. Lee says that the game has always been defined by its “sandbox"—referring to the collection of weapons, vehicles, and characters that make the gameplay more immersive and self-evolving. “This new equipment, along with various new weapons, open up more freedom and flexibility for players to showcase their own playstyles."

While technically, Halo Infinite is the sixth major title in the Halo series, Lee says the storyline will be exciting and entertaining even for players who have never played a Halo game before, almost like a “spiritual reboot", he adds.

The global pandemic also reportedly affected the game’s development but it is expected to be released in the fourth quarter this year. Apart from the Xbox Series X and Xbox One devices, it is expected to be available on Windows 10, Xbox Game Pass for PC (Beta), and Steam.

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